Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A life ban from Stackoverflow

So, today I decided I'll spend an hour looking at StackOverflow and helping out where I could. It has come to the rescue on a few occasions in the past so I thought I'd return the favour.

I signed up and started looking at the > 3 million questions. Bound to be something in there I can help with. I looked at the newest questions and clicked through. Many of the questions are poorly phrased, some aren't even asking a question and others just want the code; they don't want to do any thinking, they don't want to write the code, they just want the code sent to them.

So I tackled a few questions, some on mongodb, some on jquery, some of java and some javascript.

Some question gets answered so quickly, so you have to be quick. The reason is your post can be deleted if it is deemed a duplicate answer and deletion count against you. There were a couple of occasions where there was less than a minute between my answer and a similar answer were posted and one of them being deleted as a duplicate. 

As a new user I cannot post comments. I didn't think anything of it at the time, so I put my requests for further information in the answer boxes. I had a few responses and started to earn a few points. Then I started to get lambasted for not answering the question and just asking more questions. I've always thought it is difficult to answer a question if it is unclear what is being asked. Eventually, whilst posting an answer to a mongodb question and the 16M BSON limit I received the message stating my account was now banned from posting and would never be reinstated; a life ban.

So basically, I had to earn 50 points before I can comment. But I can't earn any points until I understand the question or there is at least enough information in the question for it to be answerable, or at least until it is actually a question.

Apparently this has already been discussed here

I guess that is the good deed of the day shot down in flames. I'll think twice before I attempt to help again.

So, should we boycott Stack Overflow?

Hell no! It has saved my life on a couple of occasions. They could/should however make easier for people (esp. those new and/or under 50 points) to ask for clarity in poorly phrased questions, or in some instances ask the asker what it is they are actually asking.