The Overflow #117: New podcast hosts, the CEO on PagerDuty, and horrible code on a deadline
Welcome to ISSUE #117 of The Overflow! This newsletter is by developers, for developers, written and curated by the Stack Overflow team and Cassidy Williams. This week: our new crew of podcast hosts, the CEO who still takes his turn on PagerDuty, and the existential horror of working with abysmal code when a deadline looms.
From the blog
Welcoming the new crew of Stack Overflow podcast hosts stackoverflow.blog
We’ve got a new team of hosts and some big plans for the future.
Rewriting Bash scripts in Go using black box testing stackoverflow.blog
When rewriting software in a new language, how do you test that your new and old programs do the same thing?
Why David Barrett, CEO of Expensify, still takes his turn on PagerDuty (Ep. 420) stackoverflow.blog
The team talks with Expensify CEO David Barrett about how computer graphics and video games inspired his career, how Expensify built their stack, and why this CEO still takes his turn on PagerDuty.
Disaster recovery for GitHub data promotion
Recover lost GitHub data in a few clicks and meet your disaster recovery legal requirements.
Working with very bad code but on a deadline workplace.stackexchange.com
Can an RNA vaccine change your DNA permanently? skeptics.stackexchange.com
“Even if this did happen, it most likely would just result in the cell producing spike protein continuously, which would trigger the immune system to kill the affected cell.”
What is the oldest digital processor still performing non-educational duties in its original environment? retrocomputing.stackexchange.com
Look to interstellar space or Bletchley Park.
Is the initial gravity of the black hole the same as the mass of the object that created it? astronomy.stackexchange.com
“Black holes do not actually have ‘stronger gravity’ than other objects of comparable mass.”
Links from around the web
Say hello to selectmenu, a fully style-able select element css-tricks.com
Anyone who’s ever had to style a select element knows this has major potential.
A11y automation tracker a11y-automation.dev
This is a great one-stop resource for accessibility information, testing tools, and related errors.
Node.js reference architecture github.com
Big companies have a lot of opinions about codebase architecture. Here’s a massive resource on the subject from IBM and Red Hat.
Anatomy of a JWT fusionauth.io
You may have heard about JSON Web Tokens (JWTs), but do you understand what they are under the hood?
Onboard, organize, and bring your team up to speed in a jiffy. Try Stack Overflow for Teams.Tags: newsletter, the overflow, the stack overflow podcast
Stackoverflow is a great help to millions of developers around the world. But like any huge organisation, whit success also problems grow. in the case of SO in moderation. I see 2 problems: 1) Stakoverflow moderation faces the same problem like a police man: He must constantly decide who is right or wrong and punish the once he feels are wrong. Even if he is 99% right, he will be often also be wrong and offend the people he victimizes. But worse, over time he will get used to be right and having to enforce his will on uncooperativ law breakers. It becomes a habit to enforce his views. And he will be supported by the other police men, who feel like him. Something similar happens in SO moderation. To become a moderator, one has to spend a substantial part of his time on SO to become moderator and then review thousands of questions of answers. Again, they can’t help develop the attitude that they defend (the quality of) SO and that they are always right, even if they aren’t. So over time, they frustrate more and more contributors, who can “flag” their decision, which then will be decided by a group of police men, with the same attitude problem and little time to look at details. Of course a group of police men will protect their friend and go into attack against any complainer.
2) Meta is supposed to discus problems one encounters with SO. But Meta is really a frustrating place to mention any critic on SO, because the that place is dominated and controlled by the moderators. Out of reflex, the attack the poster and suppress any meaningful discussion by marking the “question” as a duplicate. One problem here is that wanting to dicscuss a problem with SO moderation is not really a question, but Meta demands that it is formulated as a question, which makes it easy for the moderators to mark a complain as duplicate, without looking at the details.
On my reddit post, 2/3 upvoted my post, 1/3 downvoted it. This shows that SO has indeed a problem and is frustrating many contributors. I wrote 87 answers on SA, but got only moderation problems with 2-3 cases. Unfortunately, it is these 5% of moderation problems which generate such a great frustration, that the 95 successful answers become irrelevant. So from SO, probably 99% of the cases are handled well. No system is perfect and the 1% error rate cannot be avoided. But unfortunately, this 1% is responsible for widespread frustration (although the happiness with SO outweighs the frustration). I have 3 suggestions for improvement:
1) SO needs a place where SO problems get discussed without being policed by the moderators, but a third party. A bit like the Facebook ombudsman.
2) Improve the language. Do not automatically assume that the contributor writing the question or answer is always wrong and the moderators right. Formulate it as a possibility and make more obvious / user friendly how a disagreement can be addressed. After 9 years of using SO, I always thought “Flag” means that I will flag a post with questionable content, like child porn, and I definitely did not want to flag my answers as such. Even worse is the wording in the reviewing process. Sometimes, the SQ software gives the reviewer an answer which was already settled by a group of other reviewers. If that groups makes a different decision, the software scolds the reviewer that he did not invest enough time for the review. I’m 65 years old with lots of SW experience. I hate it to get blamed for not making my work properly, when I spend actually half a day looking at the answer to be reviewed, the question, the other answers provided and what else I could find on the web. After that frustrating experience, I felt SO is not appreciating my time and I better spend it for something else.
3) Find a way back to your core values: “Create space for different voices to be heard”, “by being empathetic” (that lacks with many moderators), “Nurture healthy communities where everyone is encouraged ” (don’t frustrate contributors unnecessarily.
I am not sure if I post this in the right place and would appreciate an email response from SO.
If you are interested to see some problems SO moderation caused, check my post on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/csharp/comments/tf7ec3/stackoverflow_has_too_many_selfrighteous/