Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fan mail: wow your so stupid

I’m out in Redmond this week, meeting with our worldwide team as we prepare for the new fiscal year. Each team shares a few key learnings from the year, maybe offers a bit of training. I co-presented a fun talk about Windows Azure and architecting for resiliency.

Afterward, a few of us were talking about how we disseminate these nuggets of wisdom. This led to a discussion around blogging and, eventually, StackOverflow. For those not familiar, StackOverflow is a programming Q&A site. The community is self-managed, and both askers and answerers earn reputation points and badges. It’s a fun place to share knowledge and help others. Anyone can vote a question up or down, and the original question owner may choose to mark your answer as “the” official answer (yielding even more rep points). If interested, you can check out my profile and peruse some of the answers I’ve provided. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how often I go back to my own answers, to remind myself how I solved a problem in the past…

I mentioned how StackOverflow is community-driven. Well, as reputation increases, so do associated privileges. One key privilege is the ability to moderate questions that don’t fit the published Q&A format. For StackOverflow, it’s all about asking programming questions. It’s not a forum to start religious debates (e.g. “Which cloud is better: AWS or Windows Azure?”). These questions can lead to some hostile answers, none of which can really be quantified with terms such as “kicks butt” or “is as worthless as navel lint.” So… as community leaders, we are asked to moderate these off-topic questions, and are able to vote to close a question (along with stated reason).

What about the fan mail?

Ok, on to the meat of this story: Fan mail. I recently voted to close a question, as it was an open-ended request for opinions about which cloud would scale better for a given scenario. I won’t reference the specific question or person, as I don’t feel it’s necessary to call this out.

The person asking the question wanted the Community At Large to provide a very detailed answer on many, many what-if’s of a fictitious app scenario, none of them programming-related.  The question was eventually closed, as 4 other moderators voted as well. And that’s when the original poster tracked me down, via Facebook, and delivered a lovely message to me:

wow your so stupid I ask a in deep question about cloud computing on stack and you close it before I receive any answers.... coming from a azure expert too wow wonderful I was expecting more srsly

Normally, I’d let this one slip by and just ignore it. But… thinking about it, I wanted to share this and offer my thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Stack Overflow is a voluntary participation site. Nobody’s paid, we don’t get ad revenue, and we do what we do because we want to and enjoy doing it. If others benefit from answers I (or others) provide, that’s awesome! If I choose not to answer a particular question? So be it: My choice.
  • If you’re not going to play by the rules, accept the consequences. In this case, there are other forums to post an opinion piece. The original poster could have even blogged about it, tweeted, and asked the world to join in on an opinion-laden debate. Maybe I would have joined in the debate. Maybe not… At least there’s a home for these types of discussions.
  • If you’d like to provide feedback to me, please do! Even in a public comment on my blog. However, if you are going to take this route: I ask that you keep it civil. Name-calling is not going to help.
  • If you still feel compelled to call me stupid, the least you can do is get your grammar, capitalization, punctuation and spelling correct.

Ok, rant over. Thanks for listening!

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