With this recent spurt of activity on meta, a number of opinions have come out. A number of these describe some rather radical changes.

(please pardon me if I ascribe rather extreme positions)

On everything should be open

There are instances where people seem to be opposed to closing any question for any reason.

  • Many of these people who are 3k and above have few if any close vote reviews

This suggests that either everything should be open or that they are comfortable with what is closed. This is sometimes refuted by numerous "reopen" votes without any "leave closed" reviews. From this, I can only conclude that there is the perception that everything should be open and there should be no moderation closing things - everything can be salvaged, somehow.

On down votes

There are suggestions that there shouldn't be downvotes for users with less than a certain reputation.

  • Somehow this suggestion has 10 positive votes at the time of this writing (and 11 downvotes)
  • This is done in the name of "welcoming users"
  • People seem to take down votes personally

Down votes are a necessary feedback to users and part of the design of the system. There is a threshold where questions don't show up on the front page if they are below a certain level (people complain about seeing too many closed questions on the front page that they don't want to see? Down vote them.)

As mentioned,

We have a system for dealing with lousy answers This is where your argument fails. Yes, it's absolutely true that we have a system for dealing with lousy answers, but that's irrelevant if no one is actually using that system. Next time you see a closed question you think should be re-opened, moderate the answers first. Use your downvotes on crap answers that attempt to answer the question and your flags on answers that don't attempt to answer the question. Questions can easily get re-opened if people actually did something about it instead of just talking about it.

Downvotes are part of reopening good questions.

On closure reasons

There is a consistent misunderstanding about closure reasons

  • I understand this is something that Stack Exchange is going to address
  • Many people complain about something being closed as off topic when it was closed as non-constructive or not a real question.

Not everything is closed for off topic. Many of the questions of "I don't understand why this was closed" within are you still confused... had to deal with not the scope, but rather with the structure of the system.

One such examples was How can I learn algorithms and data structures of any type?

I am a novice computer science and engineering student. I am learning Java but i want to learn from the basics so I want to learn algorithms.

Where to start that?

This was not closed for scope reasons but rather that it is not a real question. It was overly broad. Attempts were made in the comments to try to figure out what is actually being asked - if there is some way to narrow it down. It took nearly an hour between being asked and closed and the original questioner was gone not to be seen again within 3 minutes of the question being asked.

Another question of confusion was My Company Wants To Get Into Mobile Development — And Use Multi-Platform Frameworks that has with in:

What do you guys think about this? No one at my company has any experience with any of the mobile development frameworks. We're starting basically from scratch. I know a bit about iOS, a few people know a bit about android but it amounts to little.

Would love some input from some experts :D

This question is polling - asking for lots of ideas. Not an answer.


There is lots of history

There is lots of history to what Progammers.SE was. Get over it. The site has not been that way for a long time. Go through the top users in the past year - The vast majority where not here in September of 2010. These are the people that are here now. Trying to tell us about how wonderful it was back then and how bad it is now - we don't think its that bad now, and what you try to tell us that we are missing, we don't think we really want.

You want to tell me about how wonderful the site was back then? Sure. I have fond memories of BBS's and that his of a 1200 baud modem connecting. Some of those old BBS's became telnet sites when slip and isdn became more common and web sites with forums and live chat later on. Its not the same place.

This isn't the same place of July 2010. It isn't likely to become so again.


Lots of ideas, not answers

In my mind, what people come to Stack Exchange for is an answer. They come to Programmers.StackExchange for a reason too - they want an answer. They don't want to reddit programming or ask slashdot when they have a question about programming. We offer something special here that people come here to find.

Stack exchange doesn't have polls. It doesn't have endless threads of comments. It wasn't designed to.


Stack Exchange and Social Media

I've said this before, I'll say it again. Read A group is its own worst enemy by Clay Shirky.

This isn't just because I think its an essential thing to read when trying to understand a group of people... but because this was part of the considerations when creating Stack Exchange and how it is built - and thus, how we can work within it.

Back in Podcast #23

Atwood: Maybe. But the cool thing about this is this is not just me, because that would be boring. It is actually me and Clay Shirky. You know, Clay Shirky is one of my heroes.

Spolsky: Oh...

Atwood: Yeah I know, it's awesome. So we get to talk about like building communities online and I get to talk about StackOverflow, you know, and all the lessons we've learned and, get to present with Clay. Obviously he's an expert so. That's one of the people that I have emailed actually, because I thought that would be good, because he is from New-York city as well. So we could A) show him the site and B) talk about the thing we are going to do together in March, because he needs to see the site to have some context. I mean I did meet him and talk to him about this earlier a few months ago, I think I mentioned it on the podcasts. But that was before we had sort of even going to beta, so there's really not a lot to show him. But I would love to show him in person. So we'll see if I'll hear back from him, I do not know.

Programmers.StackExchange.com runs in the Stack Exchange framework. It was designed with Clay's writings in mind.

A Group... goes into many points of online communities. The one I've tried to bring to a forefront (there are far too many essential things in the article - for me to try to explain them all would have much more than the text I've already written, and I suspect by this time you are a bit weary.)...

And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe's law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

We can't have a question that can be answered by 100 different answers. Jeff considered the issue of scale when he designed Stack Exchange to make it difficult to have conversations in comments (and has apparently been thinking of things in for discourse - which apparently had been nagging him for a long time).


So, what do you want?

Those of you discontent with Programmers.SE, when considering that this is the way that the software works and that great changes to the fundamental ideals of the sites won't happen - what is it that you actually see Programmers.SE being that it isn't today? How does the site work?

How do we clean up broken windows and trash in the park? What do you do about that guy who keeps asking how to interview for Google and Microsoft and Blizzard and Oracle again and again? What does the FAQ say? How does voting work? Is voting there at all? Do we try to make it so that every single person feels like this is a nice warm fuzzy place? Is there a place for As a programmer, what are the most routine and what are the most creative development tasks?

How does what you perceive as the ideal site differ from reddit? Ask Slashdot? Generic php forum? Can this be implemented in Stack Exchange?

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Ok, I'm confused as to what this discussion should be. ;) Actually this is, of course, well written and most of it I agree and in parts I disagree. However, the think the title may be irrelevant. It might be something along the lines of "Suggestions for this site's activity" –  Adam-E Mar 9 '13 at 12:14
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possible duplicate of Are you still confused about what Programmers is for? –  JeffO Mar 10 '13 at 2:30
    
Can you back some of your claims through Data.SE? In particular, I'm interested to see the basis behind your close / re-open voting claim. I don't necessarily disagree, but I think that there is more to be gleaned from those types of records. –  GlenH7 Mar 11 '13 at 15:45
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@GlenH7 My claims of closure where done by looking at the 'activities - reviews' tabs for people with the rep necessary for close and reopen votes, who have posted comments, questions, or answers in the recent posts. Granted, this only shows reviews, but it does give insight. I believe that Rachel has a Data.SE query that can dig into successful close or reopen votes (mentioned in the context of the recent mod election). –  MichaelT Mar 11 '13 at 18:00
    
As I mentioned in my candidacy for mod...I wasn't even aware that I could make reviews. Someone pointed out that I had one review at the time. That was only because there was this big glowing 1 next to the review menu that made me click it. (Think it was for a first time post review). That number never showed up again so I didn't go into reviews again until it was pointed out to me. So I think the argument about reviews is faulty. –  Mike Brown Mar 12 '13 at 21:39
    
@MikeBrown Yours was certainly not the only lack of close votes in reviews that I noticed. There are people who only have reopen, leave open and edit reviews without having cast a single close vote through the reviews. –  MichaelT Mar 12 '13 at 21:44
    
I'm someone who very rarely votes to close, but will often vote to reopen. The main reason is that I don't agree with a great number of close attempts I see, but also I feel this site has plenty of close-voters already and does not need 1 more. Its normal for the 10K tools to show me the max number of recently closed posts (50) all from within a day or two, but the recently reopened post list will only contain a handful of posts that date back to a few weeks ago. –  Rachel Mar 20 '13 at 13:13
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3 Answers 3

On everything should be open

I don't think anyone believes this. Even the most liberal of the inclusionists has a limit on the amount of water-cooler nonsense they can tolerate. For some, that water mark is really high, but it's still there.

On giving new users a break from downvotes

The simple fact is, you have to treat everyone equally. It's not fair to veteran users to be treated any differently than the new users. Discipline without teeth is not discipline at all; if there are no consequences for bad posts, then the bad posts will continue.

On closure reasons

These are in the process of being overhauled by SE. The new close reasons will be kinder, gentler, more educational, and probably won't use the word "closed."

On unanswerable questions and the strictness of closure

I've been giving this a lot of thought since I asked my last question here on Meta. I've begun experimenting with the way I use close votes and answer questions, using this guiding principle:

Can I answer this question in a meaningful way that is interesting and relevant to others?

Here's why: Being strict has not improved the quality of questions being asked here. If anything, the overall quality of questions has gone down over time. The diligence we've exerted to keep questions tightly focused has not improved the quality of questions other people ask, and neither has constantly arguing over the site scope. Absent interesting questions to answer, there's no reason to participate.

I come here because it is fun and educational to rub shoulders with other people who have interesting ideas about programming. We can't have that if people are constantly being turned away without a commensurate increase in participation by those who know how to ask great questions.

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My completely unscientific observation: this approach is working. Because I'm no longer always casting the first close vote to push the question into the review queues, some questions which are edge cases are now staying open, and a few folks have come into Programmers over the last few days who have actually posted some interesting questions to answer. It is entirely possible that my prior approach was having a disproportionate effect on the number of questions that were being closed. –  Robert Harvey Mar 9 '13 at 19:01
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Also, changing the platform is the wrong approach. There is enough flexibility in the SE framework for most everyone to be happy with Programmers, or at least, happy-er. –  Robert Harvey Mar 9 '13 at 19:06
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I had for the longest time felt the front page was empirical evidence that the form and level of strictness being applied by a subset of this community was yielding the opposite effect that part was intending. To the point I had asked a few folks to experiment by taking hiatus from Q downvotes and closures for a couple weeks. You're previous Q on meta was the first thing to sway me to stop caring if a Q would be beneficial to others. I down and close voted more this week than ever before. Now this position from you makes me feel like you pulled a Freaky Friday on me. –  Jimmy Hoffa Mar 10 '13 at 1:48
    
What is more likely to encourage a new user to clean-up their first question, down votes or constructive commments? Is the goal to improve the quality of their questions or just run them off without a second chance? Treating someone the same is not always equal. –  JeffO Mar 10 '13 at 2:25
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What is more likely to encourage a new user to clean-up their first question, down votes or constructive commments? -- Both. Down votes without an explanatory comment are not instructive, and comments without downvotes or close votes are not persuasive. –  Robert Harvey Mar 10 '13 at 3:10
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@JimmyHoffa: Crappy questions are still crappy questions. Show no mercy for those. This is just for the borderline ones. Some questions are still not answerable in a meaningful way. I'm still going to close questions, but some of them I'm going to wait and see if they really attract crappy answers or not. Those that do, I will close-vote and flag with a vengeance. –  Robert Harvey Mar 10 '13 at 20:18
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“Can I answer this question in a meaningful way that is interesting and relevant to others?” I am very glad to see you adopt this attitude. It is a lot more constructive than rejecting questions that don't look like they're “solving a real problem”. That is at best a reasonable guideline for askers, but it's not precise enough as a guideline for what makes a good question once it has been asked. –  Gilles Mar 10 '13 at 21:41
    
I have followed a similar philosophy with my close votes. I have not voted to close some marginal questions simply to allow the question a chance to become meaningful and relevant. It means I have let some questions ride that I probably shouldn't have, but there have been a few that have taken off because the answers found a more meaningful question underlying the original one. –  GlenH7 Mar 11 '13 at 15:40
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Well, I can only speak for myself, but lately the programmers.se has turned into a site I don't really even want to visit anymore. Maybe the cause is great and such, but I honestly can't find anything interesting for me here anymore.

I haven't been visiting/contributing much for the past year, and I think I'll stop doing it completely from now on.

IMHO, the good thing in good-ol-times was that every single topic was covered here, and you could see different views, no matter if the topic was good or not, specific or broad. And search engines did a great job of finding interesting information on these sites.

With the new, narrowed scope, I don't really learn that much from visiting the site anymore. Sorry...

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I feel your pain; and I'm sorry to see you go. –  Jim G. Mar 11 '13 at 12:34
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+1, I'm in the exact same situation. It's been a long time coming but I finally hit the tipping point last week & I don't see myself visiting this site in the future. I've spend the last couple of days tweaking my favourite/ignore tags on StackOverflow and that's where I'll be spending my time henceforth. –  MattDavey Mar 11 '13 at 13:37
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Stack Overflow too was at one time an everything goes. However, that didn't scale well with the intended goal of StackExchange. Smaller SE sites can handle the fuzzyness of scope better than larger ones can. For awhile, P.SE was able to handle this fuzzyness of scope. It is important to consider that not all types of questions work well in the SE format - some types fit better on forums where dense conversations can be held (and some questions don't fit well there and are best asked on an SE site). –  MichaelT Mar 11 '13 at 13:39
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I find it curious when questions with 20+ upvotes and several highly voted answers (such as this) get closed. The community has deemed the question as being valid. It has attracted good answers (again as deemed by the community) so why is it closed?

I just think that the community is a bit more amorphous than what some are trying to force it to be.

For many of the questions that get asked, there isn't going to be a canonically correct answer for all time (which is the goal for StackOverflow), and I'm okay with that because we're still learning about our craft. Depending on when you consider the start of programming, it's a 50 year old profession. We still have people involved in the profession who were doing it from the start and we still have a long way to go before we can say that we truly know how to do this properly.

I don't like the "do my homework for me" questions that basically are nothing more than a retype of the assignment. But if someone is legitimately trying to engage with the community and get advice from his peers, well we have too few people who call themselves programmers who won't even be bothered to go that far. So yeah I'm going to bend over backwards to invite them into the conversation. The more people we get clued in, the more we grow as a profession. I view programmers.se as a portal of stewardship primarily and a repository of knowledge secondarily.

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+1, yet another question closed unilaterally by a single moderator. There are far, far too many of those - high-rep users can VTC, but since they're not, it seems obvious that the community wants something different than what the moderators want. –  Izkata Mar 16 '13 at 19:53
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