Comment améliorer la démocratie de Stack Overflow ?

How to improve Stack Overflow democracy, culture, moderation, frustration and bad feeling?

I posted today this question on meta.stackoverflow.com about a widely notorious problem that is very clear, atomic, on-topic and high.

Original question: How to improve Stack Overflow democracy
Archived question: How to improve Stack Overflow democracy.htm

After near two months on Stack Overflow as a volunteer that answer questions doing my best to help other coders, and succeeding, I found that the problem raised by many is like with any democracy.

Because Stack Overflow is a democracy. It is the reign of the majority, not the truth and the law. Democracy is great and humans have not found a better political organization to manage a society.

However, sometimes it can causes problems. Serious problems. Because when a group has the majority and it does the things wrong or it opposes to the truth and the facts and the proofs because of opinions or ignorance, there is a critical problem. It is why some people found Stack Overflow elitist, rude and aggressive that sometimes wrongly rejects and even deletes good questions and good answers even without considering the language barrier.

Democracy works fine when things are done right and when there are goodwill and kindness. Nevertheless, when a group goes up to despise, harass and insult some who is kind and right, or wrong, it is as undesirable and a very wrong thing as a dictatorship is. I saw that it happens regularly on Stack Overflow as well as real bad questions or answers. There is nothing more wrong that a bad reaction to a thing because of opinion or xenophobia. Having an opinion on a thing is not knowing this thing. One can prefer a method that can be good or bad, but an opinion is always based on unknowing and deciding about what is this unknown thing instead of study it to really know it.

Let me say I like Stack Overflow and there are very good and nice people. They are many. However, there is also a few that are not and that have big powers to depress, to censure and even to insult with impunity.

Here are some articles about the problem.

People complains a lot on the web about that.

It is why so many newbies start their questions by "I'm new, I don't know how to expose my problem, be gentle with me, please".

Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change
by Jay Hanlon, Stack Overflow Team

What a very bad day at work taught me about building Stack Overflow’s community
by Sara Chipps, Stack Overflow Team

Stack Overflow Culture
by Jon Skeet

The decline of Stack Overflow
by John Slegers

Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late
by Robinicks

About young and old programmers
by Robert C. Martin

Stack Overflow reception
by Wikipedia


I know this post will get some downvotes but I never mind, I must open the question to be conscientious and to respect the law in force that says to testify wrong things, and because I want a better Stack Overflow. Downvotes and close or delete will only reflect the problem.

It was closed and marked unclear 1 hour later by three privileged users.

It was deleted by three other privileged users 2 hours later.

It got 76 views and 21 downvotes in 3 hours.

Here are comments the question causes:

What exactly is your question/proposal? Rehashing those other linked questions would need to have a specific focus that they themselves and their answers don't already cover. If you want to answer those questions you can, if not what specific thing do you want to know about them? If you find something rude yourself, flag it.

It's not a democracy. It's a business that users volunteers to contribute to its websites and run them. What examples do you have of the abuse of powers?

"... opinion is always based on unknowing ..." wow, it seems you're using an extremely narrow definition of opinion. Anyway, your question, in essense, boils down to "How to be good?" and I'm afraid, no one is an expert on that (except Jon Skeet, obviously). What kind of answer do you expect to receive here?

It has absolutely nothing to do with democracy, and everything to do with the fact that Stack Overflow is a moderated website with strict quality standards. Does that often catch folks off-guard? Yes. Could we do a better job of expressing that in the UI? Probably. But unless you can cite specific examples and make concrete suggestions on what can be improved, this isn't going to be a constructive discussion.

Downvotes and potential deletion reflect problems with the wording of your question i.e. that it is broad, unclear and unfocussed. Saying "downvotes prove my point" has been tried as an argument many times and has never been true. Votes are a quality control mechanism, you should use them as a prompt to write a better question.

Only five power users are required to close and mark a question as duplicate, off-topic or too broad. Only three to delete a closed question...

Stack Overflow has tons of visitors each days. But few power users. Privileges are won by the reputation of the answers which increases with time. Some are hiding behind anonymity. Collusion about opinions is thus sometimes as easy as that.

Many users complain about that. Many are afraid of Stack Overflow. Many consult the site every day to find answers to their programming problems. Some post one question and no more, being disgusted. Some stop to answer too for the same reason. Some answers downvoted and criticized become marked as the solution expected, that sometimes does not prevent some users from flagging the question too broad or off-topic or incorrectly duplicated... Some bad answers are sometimes upvoted and marked as accepted too. Fortunately that is not the majority of cases, but some members do this recurrently to systematically belittle others answers or certain questions they dislike, and they do that without proper reason. Sometimes a question is locked and it is impossible to flag a comment to have an administrator intervention on a lie, an harassement and an insult that remains as-is available to all while power users having high reputation can delete all the target defense attempts thus creating misinformation and discrediting.

Likewise sometimes a user ends up with a few who will downvote all her/his answers which are just because something did not please them so they do this to she/him systematically.

Some members also use multiple accounts to distort the race for reputation.

There are more than ten millions registered users but only tens of thousands of regulars for all languages, so for one language there is a small active community, a few tens to a few hundred.

So users playing the role of moderators need sometimes to remember the goals of Stack Overflow that are in this order:

  1. Help programmers by learn and convey the art of coding.
  2. Maintain a well database.
  3. Gain reputation or anything else like communicate with colleagues.

They are not here to be a god.

I saw about half a dozen little harrassments in two months and about two or three minor insults. But a recent incident was remarkable and done by three users at the same time against someone who did nothing but try to explain a code behavior as well as she/he can with courteous. Most comments against the target were deleted one or two hours later as well as the answer that was deleted. But the insult, that got several upvotes, remains as-is as a comment in another acclaimed answer, even flagged as it is. It was deflagged, reflagged and again deflagged by some users. The qualification of a user as a pig thereby remained visible to all visitors during 10 hours and was finally deleted. The original poster of the question said one day later that this acclaimed answer doesn't explain anything and she/he thanked the target to have explained with a comment on the question.

Thus I witnessed a baseless lynching by about three people to impose whatever. It is why I searched information about Stack Overflow community practices and found these articles raised by some of the Stack Overflow Team members themselves. So I felt the need to post this question on Meta to advance the debate about this problem since others questions about that on Meta were flagged off-topic or opinion based and closed or deleted.

Therefore I decided to create this article:

  • To share this problem because some high privileged users on Stack Overflow refuse to debate and dismiss any discussion about the behavior of a minority that cause the complaints of the vast real majority.
  • To address it to the Stack Overflow Company which was thus prevented from receiving this question since Meta is reserved for the communication between the users and this company regarding the subjects of the website operation.