3

I'm one of the top five users on SoftwareEngineering.SE.

About a year ago, I started using Hardwarerecs.SE for mainly two reasons: to discover other SE communities, and because I found the concept of hardware recommendations interesting and useful. I still continued to visit this site from time to time, but without much enthousiasm. From what I've seen, I'm not the only one to lose enthusiasm on this site, and as I understand, this site doesn't have too much active, motivated users.

I recently went to another site, StackOverflow in Russian (ru.SO). I think, a comparison of those two sites from my perspective may be useful to other members, so let me share it here.

The sites themselves are similar. Both have great questions, and both have many questions which are off-topic, badly written, or just not good enough. The nature of the bad questions is a bit different—ru.SO attracts, for instance, a lot of questions from students asking to do their homework, thing which is unlikely to happen here—but the ratio between good and bad questions is the same. Both sites have a very large specter of subjects: in some, I would be knowledgeable to answer, others I wouldn't even understand.

The communities, however, feel radically different. In both cases, I was a new user, and in both cases, the community was a small group of users with high reputation, and a large group of users who are either new there, or who posted just a few questions, maybe some answers. But, at ru.SO, I had an impression that I was welcome there, whereas Hardwarerecs.SE gave me an impression that nobody cares. It's like coming to a party. In one place, people notice you, say hello, react when you make a joke, and in another place, they treat you like you're invisible.

I believe that this impression comes from two elements.

  1. The education of new users. It is not surprising that new users don't know how to use SE properly. They may be habituated to the forums, bulletin boards, where you don't upvote or downvote things, but instead, react. On forums, it is not unusual for someone who helped you to post a “Thank you” message. If a user does that here, he receives a direct and immediate feedback that this is wrong, and maybe in some cases, the alternative—the upvotes—is not explained correctly.

    It is possibly this which leads to situations such as this one. I just can't believe that the person is actually so impolite that he wouldn't even care upvoting/accepting my answer, after I spent about an hour helping him for free, sharing with him the experience which would save him so much time and money. This is, alas, not an isolated case.

  2. The policy for moderators.

    Spending time writing an answer, seeing that it's being upvoted, and the next day discovering that the question just disappeared is not a very rewarding experience.

    It would be perfectly fine for a question which is blatantly violating the rules and cannot, under no circumstances, be kept (such as spam). Removal of a question is an effective mean to (1) tell the user that he's on a wrong road, and if he continues, he'll get banned and to (2) get rid of something which, if kept, would give a negative image of the site. Other questions, however, should just be closed, not deleted. Unfortunately, the current practice is quite the opposite, and I'm not the only one being annoyed by that.

I believe that for the well-being of this site, those two things need to change. You just cannot expect experienced people to waste their time on this site with no rewards, no thank you. You cannot keep them if you ignore them. And without a strong core of motivated and skilled users, this site may have a hard time losing its “Beta” suffix.

I also believe that by working on those two aspects—education of new users and change of policies for administrators in order for them to keep deletions exceptional, and not a choice by default—you may have a chance to keep whatever great members come here to discover this community.

I really hope someone more familiar with this site will consider those two aspects. Before it is too late.

| |
  • Well said, and not a problem isolated to this site. – K7AAY May 7 at 22:34
1
  1. The education of new users. It is not surprising that new users don't know how to use SE properly. They may be habituated to the forums, bulletin boards, where you don't upvote or downvote things, but instead, react. On forums, it is not unusual for someone who helped you to post a “Thank you” message. If a user does that here, he receives a direct and immediate feedback that this is wrong, and maybe in some cases, the alternative—the upvotes—is not explained correctly.

    It is possibly this which leads to situations such as this one. I just can't believe that the person is actually so impolite that he wouldn't even care upvoting/accepting my answer, after I spent about an hour helping him for free, sharing with him the experience which would save him so much time and money. This is, alas, not an isolated case.

This first problem is not a problem that's isolated to this site. Every site, across the SE network, has had or is having this problem, at one point or another. Educating folks who don't know this format yet isn't easy; people tend not to read the help center until it's shoved in their face, and then they don't like the law being laid down. It's a fine balance to strike, and every site struggles with it. It's less obvious on the bigger sites, because the number of times it happens is a smaller proportion of the total; on very small sites like this one, it can be more obvious.

The problem there is that educating new users means people have to take the time to do that. On a site where there are very few active users and moderators, that's not easy - each person might have a little time available for that sort of thing, but without a larger number of people available to do it, there's not enough time to go around.

We've had just 41 active users (users with over 201 reputation) in the past month, compared to RU.SO's 1518, Software Engineering's 404, or SO's 127 718. Raise the threshold to 500 (close vote), and we've had just 25 active in the last month, compared to 1098, 260, and 99 268. We quite simply don't have the people.

  1. The policy for moderators.

    Spending time writing an answer, seeing that it's being upvoted, and the next day discovering that the question just disappeared is not a very rewarding experience.

    It would be perfectly fine for a question which is blatantly violating the rules and cannot, under no circumstances, be kept (such as spam). Removal of a question is an effective mean to (1) tell the user that he's on a wrong road, and if he continues, he'll get banned and to (2) get rid of something which, if kept, would give a negative image of the site. Other questions, however, should just be closed, not deleted. Unfortunately, the current practice is quite the opposite, and I'm not the only one being annoyed by that.

I'll offer exactly the same advice here that I've offered every other time this has been pointed out: our topic guidelines and quality standards are very clearly laid out both here on Meta in the tag, and in our help center. Read up on them, and avoid sinking your effort into things that fall afoul of them; those are the posts that will disappear.

This issue gets raised on meta periodically; someone with experience on other SE sites arrives and has a poke around, and discovers things work differently here and they're not a fan. Cue Meta post saying "it's SE policy to just close, not delete!". Except... on this site, it's not. This is one of the very fundamental things to this site that were laid out right when we first launched: not just that, but it was a condition of our launching that we would lay out strict topic guidelines, following in Software Recommendations' footsteps.

It's been policy from almost day one - policy that's stood us in good stead - that posts that aren't fit for this site get deleted. If their authors want to edit them and let us know, great - we can undelete and open them up again, and that does happen. If we don't do that, (a) a large proportion of the posts on the front page are closed, which isn't a good look, and (b) it appears to users who aren't familiar with this format (coming back to #1 here), and who aren't familiar with what "closed" and "on hold" are, that those kinds of posts are acceptable here.


I am, and I always have been, open to ideas to help that feel more welcoming to new users. That said, "the rest of SE does it this way" is not a good argument in this case, and I've heard it far too many times. Hardware Recs is different; we need a different solution.

| |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .