Everything I hate about Stack Overflow or: Some people need to get a life and get out of their parents basement
First off, I love Stack Overflow. It is an invaluable resource to me. If I have a question about Objective-C who do I call? Stack Overflow (key Ghostbusters song). Even 2 years after learning Objective-C I still find myself visiting Stack Overflow almost every day. I feel confident in saying I would be at the development stage that I am today without it.
However, I also despise Stack Overflow!
Around 10 years ago before I became an Apple developer I was a web developer using Microsoft based ASP.NET programming. I loved web based programming and I loved the idea of Forum software, but I noticed at the time a huge lack of forum software to run natively on Windows servers using MS SQL Server back ends. So I created Carbon Communities. Carbon Communities was a ASP based fully featured forum/bulletin board software suite that I was very proud of and spent countless hours of life developing and maintaining. Carbon Communities was moderately successful, and had potential to be even more successful but I had developed a distaste in my mouth for forum sites and it transferred over in a lack of desire to keep up development. My distaste didn’t come from the people who bought the software, rather it came from the users. Never before had I witnessed so many snot nosed, pubescent, geeky punks rise to levels of such empowerment. true keyboard warriors! Behind their keyboards in their moms basement they were invincible and cared nothing of the consequences of their actions. Typing in all caps and armed with a handful of chirps they could single handedly take a valid discussion and turn it into a useless free for all.
2008 Enter Stack Overflow. From the Stack Overflow wiki “The website serves as a platform for users to ask and answer questions, and, through membership and active participation, to vote questions and answers up or down and edit questions and answers”. It is not they I feel that there isn’t much for me to contribute to Stack Overflow it is just that there is already soooo much info already there. Anyone with a reasonable amount of searching skills can find the answer to 99% of their questions already answered. So the dilemma begins, looking for a job in the iOS industry many recruiters look at your Stack Overflow rating to gauge your knowledge and participation in the community. So how do you build your rating if you don’t have any original questions to ask and don’t have the skills to answer others questions because you are just learning yourself and when you cannot participate in the Stack Overflow community via comments because you don’t have a high enough Stack Overflow rating? I felt like a penniless kid in front of a candy store hands out in front of me begging for someone to give a small piece of candy. With no rating you cannot comment on any of the questions or you cannot upvote questions that you find valuable and helpful to you. You are essentially left as that poor kid looking through the window at the candy shop.
Occasionally I would have a question that I earnestly could not find an answer to on Stack Overflow, YES! This is my chance, I get to participate in the community. I ask my question and get rewarded with a small penance. Its not enough to do anything on the site, and the question is so unique and localized that it doesn’t warrant 400 up votes. So I sit there tightly grasping my meager earnings. Along comes a new question that I have and again I cannot find an answer in Stack Overflow, YES! So I ask my question and await my answer but more importantly await my meager earnings for asking an original question, let the rewards roll in! But wait, what is this I didn’t gain anything I lost reputation points…WHAT???? Some jackass comes along, with his high and mighty 1000 reputation points, doesn’t have the answer to my question but also doesn’t like the way I worded something on the question. So rather than asking for clarification he downvotes it and flags it for deletion. In one fell swoop he single handedly crushed all hopes I had of ever becoming an active member in the community.
Over the last year I have had a chance to contribute in a minor manor to the community and have earned myself a whopping 128 reputation points. I still find that there really isn’t very many questions that I need to ask because if you just search there is a good chance it already exists on Stack Overflow . And I certainly cannot justify spending all day trolling Stack Overflow for the small chance that someone is going to ask a duplicate question without searching and that I can faithfully throw an answer at them within the first few minutes to build my rep. However occasionally I’ve come across questions that are slightly older and answered already, but they answer is vague or incorrect and was just accepted because there was no other answers. For example I was having an issue changing my BundleID in itunesConnect for a game I am developing. So first I tried to do it the expected way, then I tried everything else in my power to change it (the unexpected ways), then I asked my friend Google which basically takes me to Stack Overflow results, and then I start following related links from within Stack Overflow looking for an answer. No Luck. I found others that asked the question, but the answers were so asinine that if they ever pulled their heads out of their own self entitled assess long enough they might realize that they never even read the question. Next step call Apple support, while completely sidestepping the obvious fact that there is a bug in itunesConnect I was left with an non acceptable option (recreate the game and leave the old instance in itunesConnect indefinitely) or a work around option. Neither option was great but at least I had a definitive answer. Me thinking that I am going to share this info like a good member of the community prefix my post with something like “I know that this question is already answered, but …”., queue the warm and fuzzies because I’ve gotten a chance to selflessly contribute to the community I love.
On the side of the Stack Overflow site is a small section of posts that get posted in the Meta section of the site. In my opinion the Meta section is an area you can go to to show how big your weenus is once you get to a moderator rep level. So in this column I see a post (and probably the final straw and real reason for writing this blog post). the title was Preventing “This is a late answer” preambles. The post itself is nothing short of peacockery at its finest. Lets all get together and mock the little people while calling attention to this plume of feathers that protrude out of our asses! But the real hit home asshole comment came from a user name Nathan who brags about “frequently hits Recommend Deletion on meaningless similar answers added years later”, and again I was reminded of those pubescent keyboard warriors in the bulletin boards. it appears that Nathan with his 2100 rep points has taken it upon himself to be police, jury, executioner and crusher of dreams on Stack Overflow. Well Nathan if you took a breath, stopped policing “Stack Overflow”, “Meta Overflow”, “Role-playing Games Overflow” and “Science Fiction & fantasy Overflow” you might realize that being a giant dinkus doesn’t help community.
That’s my rant, time to get some fresh air.