This is in response to the Stack Overflow Meta question: Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late?
In my opinion the problem that Stack Overflow is currently facing is caused by a lot of new users that are characterized by user Mysticial as "help vampires". They care nothing for the site and just want their code fixed. They don’t research (or very little) and provide less than the minimum information needed. Most of the times the questions are very basic and can be answered by an intermediate programmer in a few minutes.
In a normal forum, users would not yield any responses. Not so on Stack Overflow: you get reputation for answering questions and therefore even theses badly researched questions get answers within under a minute. Mystical calls these users "reputation whores".
The problem is that "help vampires" and "reputation whores" create a vicious circle: they both need each other and therefore the circle continues to spin.
The outcome of this situation: the site is flooded with a high number of low quality questions, experienced programmers who are interested in learning something don’t see the forrest for the trees. Even though questions can be voted up, they don’t stand out enough to gain momentum.
a) Create a "beginners test"
This would create a higher burden for low reputation users before they can ask their question. They need to invest more time and rethink their action before they get to post something.
A few ideas what that could be:
- The user needs to give 3 search queries that he used either on Google or on Stack Overflow that didn’t yield results.
- If they don’t include any code, they must confirm that they are asking a non-code question. See this proposal on Stack Exchange Meta.
- Specify the time that they took to research the problem (while this can be easily faked, it makes the user reconsider if they had taken enough time for the problem)
b) Have experienced users review a question, before it goes online
There would be a process where a new user asks his or her question, but it doesn’t go online. Higher reputation users read the question but are unable to answer it, and give feedback if the question has enough information or has been researched enough. Finally, the question get’s thrown into the shark tank.
It would be fine to give these reviewing higher reputation users even more reputation for reviewing this: they are helping to improve the site, this is actually what the reputation system has been designed for: to make the site interesting, not for feeding the "help vampires".
All in all it is remarkable that despite the current situation, Stack Overflow has reached the quality it has. The reputation and badge system has for sure been a very big factor in this but it is very appalling that in order to reach a certain reputation level, you really have to feed the "help vampires".
You can find me on Stack Overflow as akirk.