Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. However an environment does not become toxic on it's own. The people who uses the platform along with unwritten laws keeps making things worse for developers and newbies.
Everyone knows about it, them too!
One thing before I continue,
IF YOU’RE A BEGINNER, JUST IGNORE THE TOXIC WORDS.
Every now and then I would review and answer questions on stackoverflow regarding web scraping and puppeteer. And I know how much toxic stackoverflow can be.
Me? No I am not Jon Skeet, I am just a small human with mere 5k reputation on SO. Many doesn't even know my name.
The toxic environment is on both side. Newbies feels overwhelmed. However I can certainly feel the rules and regulations are there to stop wasting everyone's time. Everything you write on stackoverflow will help someone in future just like someone else's answer helps you.
If you want to ask for help, be prepared to get rejected. You have to learn through rejection. Maybe your question will be bad, maybe it's already answered many times before.
This applies to any and every platform, no matter how newbie-friendly they are, it's chaotic whenever there are thousands of people involved. This also does not mean the platform is toxic. There are happy and grateful people who asks valid questions and get proper answer.
Here are some important points to avoid when asking for help.
"Can you please write the whole damn code for me?"
This question asks for help. It's good that they asked for help, asking takes courage. However, no, the people on the internet does not have time or will to work for free. You need to find a very specific problem and ask about it.
"I cannot share my code nor my research done till now. Heck I cannot even share my problem."
Kindly no! Please do share what you did till now! Please tell us where you stuck. We do not know mind reading. We need to understand what's wrong and how we can help.
It shows us your research and effort. We are more willing to help those who works hard. Your research will help you and others who comes to same problem.
"Can you solve all problems I mentioned?"
All questions on same page,
- Why it shows infinite while loop?
- What is promise.all?
- Where do I get $$?
- How to get outerHTML?
All these shows us you did not do a single research, took a big project/task you were not supposed to take and feeling overwhelmed.
Actually it's better if you can break your problem into multiple chunks. Do not bombard the whole page with questions, you will get downvoted right away. If you split the problems into pieces, it will help others know exactly where to help. Maybe multiple people will help about multiple sub-topics.
Yes, that's all. Internet is full of toxic people. And if you want to learn within that, you need to know how to ask for help,
- Do your research.
- Ask very specific questions.
- Value time, yours and others.
- Respect people.
- Share your knowledge.
Have fun programming!
Top comments (22)
I heap plenty of the blame on S.O. They have so much data on users and their interface looks like it did 10 years ago. They could be channeling the OP into great answers with some machine learning and the community could be much more effectively directed into areas that match their skills.
Instead, everybody is dumped into this giant free-for-all board where the signal to noise ratio has reached such a high level the service's very utility is being questioned.
They are a victim of their success which is great, but they need to innovate their way out and stop blaming their community and new contributors for the problems.
It's my fault for focusing on SO. I got similar questions on Facebook, Twitter, email. People asking for help in the wrong style. They assume if it takes so little time, them I should just help them by doing it for them.
Helping one or two doesn't matter much, but it definitely adds up.
The reason I reply on GitHub issues and various questions I'd because someone else will be greatly helped in future.
I went back and used those answers for myself many times.
Did you ever got a request like, "Can you Google about fetch api and explain the whole thing to me?", I got few of them.
How can machine learning help here on my personal inbox 😅?
Depends how you look at those type of things - I've gotten them too (especially from my students). If you see one request here and there, it's hard to make sense of it. But look for patterns. It's telling you there is a hole in the knowledge graph of code out there. You can help fill it.
Biggest category of need I see right now is with serverless, GraphQL, AWS Lambda, DB-as-a-service (like Firebase). Also animation is hard, anything with CSS transforms/transitions, @keyframes, D3 will get attention. Lots of people are embracing these technologies, resources aren't good enough yet.
I agree on knowledge gaps in new things. I try my hardest to understand and answer them.
I don't agree on knowledge gaps on things like promise.all, fetch api etc. There are hundreds of tutorials available.
I have gotten responses like, "if you can explain in 10 minutes, why should I watch a 15 minute video? Why can't you explain instead of giving me a link?"
Internet made some people assume everything is easy and everyone has freaking free time in their hand.
Right now there are little resources about Nim language, not even a crash course on YouTube. I can request others to make a video/tutorial for me but I definitely cannot curse them for not helping me rewrite my python code into a Nim code.
when I start typing
stackover...into my URL bar, it already suggests
stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/lua, because that's what I usually browse. Stack Overflow offers you the possibility to filter content however you want already; there's really no need for them to assist you even more in curating the content. It's Stack Overflow ffs, not facebook ;)
Hmm I'm not sure ... I go by the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Nobody's perfect, but SO is doing a pretty good job if you ask me ... I can't come up with a service more useful for devs looking for answers than SO (apart from Google in general).
Actually I would get a little bit afraid if they would throw in AI and algorithms to tell me what is "good" or not. It risks making the service way less transparent, these algorithms are opaque.
I'm happy with what SO is giving me, and by the way I don't see that many examples of toxicity.
Thank you for sharing your experience and kind reply. :)
Yeah likewise, I use it find out if the question or solution has been posted before, but it's the last place I think to post at for help.
My current view towards SO.
This is just me. Some still choose be part of SO because they respect people like Jeff, John skeet and other elites. I don't have that patience nor inclination for idol worshiping.
I here that a lot this day and I happy I got a place to share what I feel.
stackoverflow made me the who I am now.
I have a custom filter and I go through it every day like a twitter feed.
I try to answer questions. but even if i dont know the answer- i still pick up some new terms to google over the night.
newcomers should go through the CoC. If they dont- well, they get reminded. sometimes in less sugary way that they expected. but thats because, by neglecting their responsibility to read the coc and ask a proper question, they are waisting the precious time of thousands of people who go through their SO feed, just like me.
I am a woman, but I never felt inconvenience at SO, and thats actually because of the rules you are so against of. they help to keep the conversation practical.
I learn something new every time I visit stackoverflow, I love it, and I wish it would stay exactly like it is now.
When I am "Googling" for an answer to a coding question, I skip right over the Stack Overflow results because of such toxicity. I'm not the only one either. Being a newbie coder is difficult enough without having to worry yourself sick about being crucified for asking a newbie question. Just my two cents.
This is very true. Even stackoverflow itself mentions about the toxic environment.
It's also true someone's brave question saves everyone's time. :D
This is a much angrier version of how I feel sometimes.
My biggest gripe is asking for help in the wrong place. In other words not knowing the boundaries between different technologies.
I'll still help them because I happen to know the answer even though it isn't directly related to what I am there to help with.
It gets worse because in many other situations I just Google the answer and tell them. Whereas if they knew the boundaries between what different tech does they could have done that themselves.
All comes with experience I guess and I'm pretty sure I must have done that when I was starting out.
IMO, It's okay to ask for help in wrong place, but it's not okay to waste others time.
Everyone was politely asking,
-"Can you share exactly where you are stuck?"
-"Can you share your code so we can take a look?"
If we do not know the problem how the heck we solve it?
People on the internet are people too. If someone on dev.to asked for help but refused to share details or to curse and waste time just because they thought everyone should just work for free for them, then it's not the platform or people's fault.
I felt really dumb when I answered but got a harsh reply that all the time we were just playing in his hand.
I felt stupid not because his harsh reply, but I could've used this time to help someone else who really needs the help.
Thank you for sharing your experience and kind reply. :)
meta.stackexchange.com/ tells much more about thing. Some of the suggestions aren't welcomed...
And, I got > -10 for something from trying to improve the question the wrong way -- That leads to temporarily banned from asking questions like 6 months.
I even ask, Is it worth it to edit to improve question, but it got massively downvoted. (I deleted the question.)
IMO, Stackoverflow is only a product of former glory. Many questions / answers in the past aren't even good, but they do solve many people's problem, as a quick way to Google, so it got upvoted.
Maybe had better ask on dev.to
For anybody who's has some free time for entertainment, Joe Spolsky, the CEO of StackOverflow, had a very energetic and fun talk on this exact topic at the WeAreDevelopers conference in Berlin a few months ago:
Great quality vid:
Stackoverflow newbies need to first read the How To Ask page. It's a shame that it doesn't appear first when an SO newbie clicks on the "Ask a question" button.
I can say from experience that when enough time goes by, you get less and less patience for SO newbies that asks the same "write my code for me" question over and over again, or those that asks a debug question, when the solution is a single search away and often can be found in the first 3 or 4 results when searching the exact title of the question.
The gold standard on the topic:
You talk about its "unwritten laws" but really every rule for SO is clearly stated up front. Even ones about etiquette.
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