StackOverflow.com - Don't hate the player, hate the game

by Ivan Hamilton 9/11/2008 7:09:00 PM

This is a follow up to my original StackOverflow experience. Bear in mind, this was based solely on my initial interaction with the site (I've gained a little more experience since). I'm not knocking the whole concept, and I know it's "still in beta". Anyway, that post gained commentary on J&J's podcast #21.

Firstly, for Joel, I'm the 1 in 10 who has no stake in anything. I have no interest in the failure of StackOverflow. I don't think it's a bad idea, in fact I loved the idea. I still do. I'm just rethinking the implementation, as I don't think the problem is an easy one. I think I cared, because I believed in the idea so much. As for the effort in registering a domain name and throwing a site up... 20 minutes & Paint.NET.  Ivan needs a girlfriend? My fiancée thinks I spend enough time listening to Joel, without having to hear from him that she's not fulfilling her duties.

Jeff suggested two options:

  1. Leave comments - I didn't have to rep to do this at first. But after earning a little rep, I had already run around and done this. And what I found most amazing, is that two of three of the authors have come back and changed their answers (but personally I have doubts that this would stay the case once the novelty wears off).
    So how do I like the game now? Not much, but I'm hopeful. I'm left feeling a little empty (I know... whinge, whinge, whinge). I don't like the idea that an incorrect answer will sit there at the top until enough people bug the author of it to get it edited. Maybe I feel it's unjust that a top rated answer is later changed to say "Whoops. I'm wrong. What Fred said below it right", yet Fred gets no cred. Maybe I'm just pissy that I don't have the rep to go and change these things on a whim. Maybe I'm pissy that to get that rep, I'd need to give "popular" answers... "Survey says!"
  2. Vote it down - I would, but it hurts my rep to vote answers down. As Jeff's stated before, the site is setup to be "anti-down". Many of Jeff's comments draw parallels to gaming, and voting something down damages your own reputation. No gamer would set themselves backwards for no gain (I also think, there's not enough down-voters to correct these situations).

I do agree that you should never look at any site and take the "accepted" or top rated answer as lore. As it's not hard to check all the answers to see if what you're after is mentioned there. Well, not hard for some of us in our "areas of expertise", but I've worked with many people before who have taken code from "Expert Q&A" sites, and wondered why it didn't work. They didn't understand the answer, so couldn't understand why it should have worked, and therefore couldn't fix it when it didn't. I worry for these people... maybe they're just lost.

Jeff makes many references to Wikipedia, but Wikipedia has massive guidelines on it's content. And from Wikipedia, here's what I think StackOverflow may be missing: Verifiability. I don't know how you get people to, firstly answer, and secondly vote, based upon such criteria, but I'm worried that without it, it's too open to group opinion.

I've seen some great answers on StackOverflow, and hope to continue to.  But I'll stand by my original point. How many times did you watch "Family Feud" and ask yourself "What random drug smoking monkeys did they survey to get that as the most popular answer?". Be wary of the popular posts.

P.S. Jeff, I love you man. Joel had the daggers out, but you were there for me. ;-)

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9/16/2008 6:06:07 AM

I wouldn't let Joel get you down. He was just being silly.

I think it would be cool if you setup crapoverflow to be like "Digg" to bookmark all the questions that were answered wrong and selected as correct. Then your system could choose the actual correct answer that may not have been selected for voted on. Just an idea, if they don't want to fix things, themselves.

-Jason

JasonMichael

9/18/2008 2:50:43 AM

By the way, I've voted quite a few things down in StackOverflow and it hasn't affected my reputation much...

Here's some news that I saw 'slashdotted' today, about how Tim Berner's Lee wants to have a trustworthiness rating system developed for websites:

<link>http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2008/09/how-to-measure-websites-iq.html</link>

JasonMichael

9/18/2008 2:53:31 AM

Sorry - once again - the Tim Berners-Lee article about website trustworthiness ratings:
http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2008/09/how-to-measure-websites-iq.html

JasonMichael

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Great write up - Thank you for sharing..

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