SE Podcast #32 - Jarrod Dixon and Josh Heyer

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With the recent "REP-OCALYPSE" that happened over the weekend, we thought it was a great time to do another podcast - so come join Joel, Jarrod, and Josh as they talk about some of the recent changes to the site and the motivations behind them.

  • JOEL: This is not necessarily a podcast, but it might turn into something useable, perhaps in the form of a podcast, maybe. The goal is to talk about all of the questions that are getting closed, aka REP-OCALYPSE NOW.
  • Part One: there has been closing and deletion of very popular old questions going on lately. Are we happy with how this is going? What are the other options?
  • This has come to a head because it got noticed all of a sudden thanks to the global reputation recalc.
  • SHOG: This is a perfect storm. Prior to the rep recalc, an SO mod got it in his head that he should go clean up these old popular questions, since they're totally inappropriate for the current standards of the site. He posted on MSO about it. Then, this rep recalc made a whole bunch of people painfully aware of a bunch of their stuff getting suddenly deleted.
  • A lot of the stuff that got deleted was worthy of getting deleted. Some were valuable, though, and were worthy of discussion and possible salvation.
  • JOEL: There are a few categories that the lynch mob is after that should stay open (They're interpreting a particular rule too zealously.) One of these is talking about separate questions that all have the same answer. One of them is three different [identify-this-game] questions that all refer to the same game.
  • SHOG: If you ask a bullshit joke question and it gets good answers, great! You broke the "only ask questions you really need the answer to" rule, but the page is now improving the internet. It has value. Good job!
  • JOEL: An example: the center cannot hold. The activity in the answers should be protected, not the questions. Hidden features questions tend to devolve. They lose value after the top ten or so answers.
  • JOEL: So! There have been a lot of bad questions that were deleted, and some higher quality ones that are hotly contested. So what about programmer cartoons, or boat programming questions? They get a million views. They bring people into the network. Making those pages be Page Not Found is violent! It breaks the internet a little!
  • SHOG: A theory: this is a lottery. Most of the time you post stuff, and it goes nowhere. Sometimes it strikes a chord, people go crazy over it and generate a great page.
  • JOEL: There are no new questions that this really affects. If somebody asked "what's your favorite Pascal question" today, it would get closed in a second.
  • Eric Lippert wrote a great answer a year ago on a question that pissed people off - it was a duplicate and a homework question and all sorts of terrible stuff, but the amazing answer redeemed the question.
  • SHOG: We don't want to encourage people to gamble. We can encourage them to put their money in the bank instead!
  • JOEL: Back to the question. What is bad about keeping these lottery winner questions around?
  • JOEL: New example: the programmer cartoons. It benefits us because there are lots of views, and because people laugh! It's better than googling "programmer cartoons" because we have voting.
  • JOEL: Programmer cartoons questions get closed. So is it okay to keep the weird exceptions around just because they were very successful?
  • Concept #1: Famous RFC about TCP/IP over Pigeon that wasn't serious. Did it break the internet? Did this one not real RFC turn all RFCs into Reddit?
  • Concept #2: Purim Torah on Judaism SE. On Purim, you are required to break rules and get drunk. Purim Torah is a humorous fake discussion of Jewish law that you discuss as if it were serious. The Judaism SE community has decided to allow it during/around the time of Purim. Some of the questions are very funny.
  • An example of a "Purim Torah" Stack Overflow question: What is the name of this operator: "-->"?. This question wins the lottery! It's okay that this happens occasionally. Every culture ever has a holiday in which certain rules are relaxed a little. Purim, Halloween, April Fool's, Thursday, Naked Friday...
  • SHOG: Now. Stack Overflow isn't linear. As it gets older, more and more of these old questions keep cropping up. You don't need to keep adding funny programmer cartoons to that one question and bumping it up. That's why we have locking!
  • JOEL: There is a larger class of questions that we should be discussing. Stuff that's no longer on topic, but still has amazing answers. For example: career questions.
  • Are we on the same page that there exists a class of question that's awesome enough that it can't be deleted? What do we do about people who just noticed that their amazing internet artifact was deleted, and they're mad?
  • When frequent flyer miles became a thing, travelers were wary of using them because they didn't want their number of miles to go down, so they would continue to be treated well by the airline. The airlines realized they had to start printing their lifetime earned miles, so people wouldn't be afraid of "losing" those miles.
  • JARROD: Nick Craver is working on that right now! If you have reputation from something that sticks around for 60 days, the rep "locks in".
  • JOEL: Maybe pageviews should also be taken into account. Another idea: archiving stuff.
  • JARROD: Here's Pekka's idea about archiving stuff: hosting our own archive of stuff that's been deleted but shouldn't go away and become a Page Not Found.
  • JOEL: This is not for everything that got deleted, or else it would be spam spam spam. But this is for stuff that gets heavily linked to from elsewhere on the internet that we shouldn't just take away. We're not ashamed of these questions, this is just part of our history

Well that's it for this week's podcast - join us in the coming weeks as we get back into the swing of things and test our new formats. See you soon!

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