Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

What would you like to do?

Biggest things I don't like:

1. SE isn't set up well for one on one help... but it's trying to do it anyway

(And a one on one help system is very awkward to work with if you're trying to document stuff)

To be honest as somebody who mostly uses the "archive" side of SE, this only affects me indirectly; I think Selfie Q/A would stand a better chance if SE went in the full "archive" direction instead of this weird mix that overwhelms reviewers. Maybe if SE was stocked only by those wanting to document, we would get more votes, and edits because there would be less content to moderate and we'd be going more for quality instead of quantity.

To be fair, 1 on 1 is useful for the OP (and SE, occasionally...)

  • It is true that it's possible to get very high quality advice on your specific problem here by asking a question
  • It is true that sometimes one-on-one help creates quality questions
  • It is true that one on one help is very valuable, maybe irreplaceable for a programmer. Sometimes a programmer really just needs somebody to explain something in the context of their specific application or goal. Especially when they are first starting out

... but it's not the same as documenting something.

However... my opinion is, the goals of one on one help (pushed indirectly by the welcoming initiative) and the goals of making a knowledge repository don't really go together. I think we have two categories of questions, ones that can be used to document something, and ones that are likely to really only help the asker and nobody else.

It seems like we have two sites...

  • If the goal is to make a knowledge repository, I would advise making it much harder to post questions; treat it as a contribution, as in, "I found something that I want to document, let me add it to the knowledgebase" and change the flow of question asking significantly. I would be happy to contribute these kind of questions, if it were not for the sad state of selfie Q/A on this site.

  • If the goal is to make a one on one help forum, use the same "ask question" page and move all of that to a different site entirely. I would be happy to participate in this as well, I enjoy teaching and I will be happy to point people in the right direction here and there.

... but we really have one site with a confusing goal

What we have right now, though, is a marketing department trying to maximize participation, a question page for one on one help, and a archive intended for permanent knowledge. I think if SE continues on this path, people looking for one on one help will be frustrated because people are telling them things they don't understand and need explained to them, and people looking to build a knowledge repository will be forever trying to keep these kind of people off of the site, while SE does everything it can to convince users that this system works as a whole, when it doesn't.

I could put the suggested edits and audits as other majorly flawed aspects of SE, but really I'm kind of just repeating this point; there's just too much content to moderate, posted by people who aren't trying to document anything. If the "one on one help" aspect was eliminated, maybe reviewers would have less on their plate

2. The Roomba

This was first, until I thought about it and decided that the low vote participation and the saturation of one on one help posts may have caused the Roomba to need to exist.

FWIW, I think the Roomba is alright if SE is going to be a one on one help site, but it's a bad fit for a documentation site.

Here's a copy of its policy of when to delete:

[ A question will be deleted if...]

A) If the question is more than 30 days old, and ...

has −1 or lower score has no answers is not locked ... or ...

it was closed and migrated to a different site ...or...

it was migrated from a different site, and then rejected ... it will be automatically deleted. These are termed "dead" questions (RemoveDeadQuestions, RemoveMigrationStubs in the case of a migration or RemoveRejectedMigrations in the case of a rejected migration).

B) If the question is more than 365 days old, and ...

has a score of 0 or less, or a score of 1 and a deleted owner has no answers is not locked has view count <= the age of the question in days times 1.5 has 1 or 0 comments isn't on a meta site

What about it?

I am generally okay with the script auto-deleting closed posts, I mostly take issue with it deleting 0 score posts.

I'm also okay with users manually deleting posts, I respect this site's rules for what stays and what doesn't; but it's my opinion that the Roomba is an overly blunt and imprecise instrument that is actively harmful to some other goals the site.

I think this deletes posts that it shouldn't because of low question voting participation

In general I think too few users vote on questions, if everyone voted on questions like they should, then I wouldn't really have a problem with this policy, but what I've observed is, there are many useful posts with zero score that.

I have heard some justifications that the Roomba is good because "if nobody cares about your question there's no point in having it here", but this fails to account for anonymous users or users without sufficient rep to vote; these users outnumber us voting users many to one.

I don't see the harm in leaving low vote questions around.

The other point I want to make is, a question with few views, and no votes is in my opinion, highly unlikely to bother anyone. These are the kind of questions that will only show up if you search for them on Google or something; what difference does it make if we leave them here?

In my opinion whether a question is answered or not should have no bearing on whether it stays, either; questions without answers have helped me personally by seeing the setup of another person that also had the same problem, and plus, if I were to solve the problem, I'd answer it. It's just a matter of time until somebody sees it and answers.

The Roomba garbage collects obscure, hard to find information

If a tag has few participants, or when you really get into the weeds in something (getting into details that most programmers will never touch), there is a very real chance that the most precious information that takes the longest time to research is the exact kind of thing that the Roomba will go after. Why does a post need to be at least X popular to exist?

The Roomba makes selfie Q/A an even worse and riskier experience

  • If I find something that i think will help somebody on the internet, how do I know how many people it will help?
  • If I take one hour of effort and type something up, can I be sure that it won't be deleted?
  • Why wouldn't I just post this on a company site or blog instead of having to do this "market research"?

That's part of the reason why I have never posted a selfie Q/A, even though I have found a lot of things I'd like to document.

What I'd recommend

If you must have a Roomba, I'd say it should only delete excessively downvoted posts, maybe something with a unanimous 5 downvotes or more (as in, not a single upvote).

It is my opinion that we should err on the side of not deleting questions; a deleted question is no longer indexed by Google, can't be answered, and is pretty much just taking information off of the internet. As a Google searcher I would far rather see a question with little community support than 0 results (which has happened to me quite often).

I think real people should have to look at these posts and make sure that there's zero value lost; by deleting a question, we are saying nobody will ever use this information until the end of time, we should take it seriously.

That way it still gives users without delete votes (like me) a way to eventually nuke a post.

Also... if this was implemented I'd like it to automatically delete highly downvoted answers too. It's hard to delete junk answers from the site.

Copy link

Tyler-H commented Jul 11, 2019

Personally I don't think there is an issue with the Roomba deleting the non-closed questions it deletes. Specifically, it doesn't delete questions that have been answered or voted up by anyone, and it allows for an entire year for this. It also won't delete if there are at least a few comments or a high number of views. That last bit covers the 'anonymous' concern you bring up. As far as the rest -- there isn't really any value in keeping the question around for anyone if it doesn't have an answer.

Regarding your concerns about participation with the Roomba hanging over you -- I don't think users should be so concerned. If you spend a lot of effort on something, and no one answers or upvotes or whatever... that's OK. It's no black mark on you or anything; people just aren't interested or able to answer that question. If you're in it for fame, internet points, or to get knowledge out there, then you're probably on SO for the wrong reason. If you just want to share a cool thing you found, then yes go share that on your company site or personal blog.

Regarding "I would rather see a question with zero answers than see no search results"... why? What value does the first give you, let alone value over the second outcome? If you see a question with no answers, you can upvote it (if you're a registered user with 15 rep or whatever it takes). If you don't see a question in the search results, then you can go ask it, and maybe it'll get answered. I find this outcome is better than just upvoting old questions, because as time goes on, usually there are more people who can answer a question, not fewer. And the Community user doesn't bump every single inactive question that needs it, and certainly not at any reliable rate or order. So it's much more likely that an unanswered question will get an answer if it is deleted and then re-asked by someone else later on, rather than the original remain undeleted, but with an extra vote. Maybe if votes bumped questions as "activity", but I think we have an entirely different filter for that already ('active' or 'hot' or both?).

Also, I'm not sure I buy the claim that the site is saying ' nobody will ever use this information until the end of time ' -- deleted questions are not gone forever. 10k users and mods and employees can see deleted questions and undelete them either with the help of others or unilaterally, depending.

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment