StackOverflow and Lack of Transparency

Posted by Peter Kellner on November 24, 2012 · 4 mins read

 

Job Well Done

I have to admire StackOverflow in many ways.  The creators have done an awesome job of building a community where people can come and help each other in a safe place.  Of the many things StackOverflow has done well is to make it’s site index very well with search engines which means people like me often find answers to questions there when searching the web.

 

Why Participate?

Over the years, I’ve participated quite a bit in many different forums and almost always, that participation has started based on a feeling of “wanting to give back” after finding so many useful answers.  I’d like to say it’s because I just feel the need to help others, but like most of us, I’m swamped busy it seems all the time and find myself doing just what I have to do to survive.  I end up looking at participating in forums almost with a feeling of debt that I somehow feel the need to repay.  I understand others participate for lots of other reasons including recognition, learning and many others.  I have plenty of respect for all reasons to participate.

 

What Bothers Me

So, you’re probably wondering why I titled this post lack of transparency?  First, let me first say I may be wrong and if I am, please post comments and let me know.

What bothers me is that it seems almost everyone on StackOverflow can come to a question or answer you posted and vote your question up or down anonymously.  I have no issues with people voting a post up.  Kind of like when someone says do you mind if I tell you how much I enjoy your writing?  The answer is of course not.  It’s the voting down anonymously that bothers me.  I recently posted a question on StackOverflow regarding some code I wrote that just did not feel right.  It did the job, but it just felt awkward and clumsy.  I struggled with it for about 15 minutes and then it occurred to me that others may immediately see the flaw so I posted the code here:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/13532704/looking-for-a-clean-way-to-convert-a-string-list-to-valid-listlong-in-c-sharp

Two people anonymously voted down my question.  I know “stick and stones…” but still, it bothered me.  How did I either offend or irk someone with my question?  Was it too simple or obvious? Am I that stupid?  Was I abusing my posting privileges?  At any rate, it did bother me and that is my point.  I feel cheated not knowing or being able to ask those who voted down my question why they did that.  For all I know it could just be an internet troll going around wanting to make people feel bad.

 

What Should Be Done And Conclusion

My first choice would be get rid of “Vote Down”.  There is nothing wrong with “damnation by faint praise”.  However, if there needs to be a vote down, there should be some checks and balance as well as accountability.  If you are going to get up on a platform and yell bad things about someone else, don’t do it with a mask on.  Take credit for your criticism and stand behind with constructive reasoning.

StackOverflow is an awesome community. IMHO, this would even make it better!

 

My 2 cents.  I guess it should not bother me to be voted down, but it does.