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This is not a rant! These are my initial thoughts in a discussion which I'm hoping other people will want to engage with. I want to hear your opinions on the following questions which I put to you.

I have been using stack overflow and ask Ubuntu on and off for a few years now. I used to use stack overflow much more regularly, but then I experienced a phase of unpleasant exchanges and decided I would try and avoid the site in future if possible.

This hasn't worked out all that well for me, as now when I use it I tend to ask more awkward questions because I can't find the solution myself - this tends to lead to arguments or confrontation regardless of how one phrases a question because the so community seems to have a high percentage of users who react badly to awkward questions. (Keep in mind this is just my personal experience over a few years. You might think differently and not agree.)

Perhaps this is a controversial statement? Call it trolling or just offhand or perhaps confusing and unconstructive comments if you will, but my personal feelings are that I will be treated much more politely on ask Ubuntu than stack overflow.

Why do I compare these two sites? Mainly because I haven't used the others that much. I feel as if I have enough experience of both to make the comparison.

What is the cause of this? Are Ubuntu users more harmonious as their operating system of choice is less likely to cause outbursts of rage than other operating systems? Is it that ask Ubuntu is just geared towards being noob friendly and so we are more patient here? Or is something else going on?

I want to know about other peoples experiences of other stack exchange sites. Is this pattern repeated elsewhere? Do you agree with my feeling that stack overflow can be hostile at times or have you never experienced this yourself? I guess its possible that it's just me, or my interpretation of the users there, or that I've just been unlucky, but I dont think this is the case.

Finally, is there anything that can be done? Should we even try to do something? Perhaps it would be better to do nothing because there isnt enough of a problem here to worry about or because it isnt morally right to try and influence other users behavior? What do you think about these points? When moving a discussion to chat, a pop-up appears reminding users to be polite - so there is already a system in place, perhaps due to past problems.

Perhaps sometimes cultural differences come into play also. It would seem difficult or impossible to homogenize the cultural expectations of a global user community.

Why do I ask on meta here and not stack overflow? The reason is simply that I think here this question will produce less negativity than in stack overflows meta. I suspect putting it here, although obtaining less responses, is less likely to descend into chaos. (But let's see what happens, I could be wrong on this too.)

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    I think the volume of the two sites makes a difference. Stack Overflow receives orders of magnitude more traffic than we do. – Nathan Osman Jul 31 '16 at 1:37
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    Personally, I think AskUbuntu is generally more friendly. Users here are more polite and more understanding to newbies. That's one of the main reasons why I stayed here. I only go to stackoverflow when I can't find help with my programming questions. Otherwise, I am hardly motivated to go there. In my experience, people there don't have much patience for newbies and people who are clueless – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 31 '16 at 1:39
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    SO has a huge number of answers, so any new question, regardless of programming language, is expected to be able to demonstrate why previous answers don't help. That is a non-trivial amount of research a typical new user doesn't bother doing, so a majority of new questions gather downvotes and negative comments by established users very quickly. – edwinksl Jul 31 '16 at 1:42
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    Yes. The SO people were very cold toward me, and I've stopped askign questions for that reason. – Android Dev Aug 3 '16 at 1:16
  • Interesting; I've had exactly the opposite experience. Almost all of my Stack Overflow questions have been well received, while almost all of my Ask Ubuntu questions have left me feeling rejected and discouraged. I've deleted most of my questions here as a result. I would like to think that it's just the specific questions that I'm asking, but after it's happened so many times, I've found it harder to make myself believe that. – Sam Estep Aug 5 '16 at 15:58
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    AskUbuntu is more friendly IMHO. In many of the other communities the "experts" sometimes call questions "too broad" and close them. Maybe it is because they don't know the answer ;) ;) When I mix up the Linux things they have shown mercy on me here :) ;) – ycc_swe Aug 8 '16 at 11:36
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    @ycc_swe You raise an interesting point - I have found several times that questions on SO (both mine and others) are closed because they are either "too broad", and there perhaps isn't a single easy answer which can be given, or closed because some people see them and don't want to answer. (Possible reasons may be the question is very specific and might not be useful to anyone else in the future, or the answer is complicated, or the people that see the question first and hit the close vote don't know the answer and don't want to find out.) – user3728501 Aug 8 '16 at 12:07
  • @SamEstep - I'm sure you know this with 7k+, but deleting your questions can get you banned. – Android Dev Aug 8 '16 at 21:14
  • @AndroidDev I don't understand that rule - if they're your own questions, why shouldn't you delete them? – user3728501 Aug 8 '16 at 21:50
  • @AndroidDev Really? This answer on MSO seems to suggest otherwise. – Sam Estep Aug 8 '16 at 22:03
  • Well I was going to ask the same question , a few days ago I posted a question about mod_wsgi on SO and in a few minutes I got a reply from a mod_wsgi developer but I dont know why before I could mark it as my answer the topic went on hold. I edited the question to be more specific and know what instantly it got 3 downvotes and I was forced to delete it. Such a useless community , full of what we call 'intelligent ' people. – hellozee Aug 9 '16 at 10:21
  • @KuntalMajumder - My experience was similar. I asked a few good questions earned some rep, all was good. Asked a question that in their eyes was bad, got -22 votes, and I deleted it. That was a really bad idea. I got a 5 day suspension. – Android Dev Aug 9 '16 at 11:47

11 Answers 11

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We are a busy site too. Not SO busy but busier than almost every other Stack Exchange site.

When people mention the size of SO —I've seen several conversions on MSE about politeness there and SO— I see it as just a crutch for rude people to excuse their actions as being for the greater good. Being rude doesn't help. You can do administrative things in a helpful and courteous way.

I think there are a few reasons we're better than most:

  • We're from a community that demands considerate, respectful and responsible behaviour. Ask Ubuntu demanded this from near the beginning too, well before SE's "be nice" rule was introduced. It doesn't always work but this is our base setting.

  • We're a mature community. Subject matter and coincidence means that the whipper-snappers are buffered by us old codgers. They stop us getting too cranky just as we stop them playing music too loud.

  • The mods do a super job (bias disclaimer) at stepping in if they see people being unreasonable. We try to educate and rehabilitate but if that doesn't work, the nastier elements are quietly excised and expelled.

  • I like to think that some of us actively push this community to be nicer than the system mandates. By default things can be a little clinical for new users. I regularly suggest people comment and engage with the problems rather than just voting. It's not just nice, it makes things better too.

  • The British stiff upper lip. We are here and we have tea. Yes, yes, I know many of our users aren't Brits but try not to hold that against them. It's [probably] not their fault they fell out in the wrong country.

Are we the most polite site? I don't know. I know we can do better so I'd love to imagine there's a SE site out there that's already nailing this.

Whatever the reason, I'm chuffed you thought this enough to write about it.

Welcome to the family. Help yourself to tea.


Libertarians might summarise —yes, with an s, have some more tea—that as:

Power-drunk mods summarily punish people who don't act as they demand.

There's some truth in that. We wilfully crush people's "freedom" of speech (privately owned site, doesn't apply here anyway) in order to keep things groovy. I think that's true of all sites though. We just do it in style.

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    «not their fault they fell out in the wrong country» ROTFL :D Well, at least I can still be European in the future. :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 1 '16 at 0:35
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    We're not moving. We'll still be European. – Oli Aug 1 '16 at 5:36
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    @Oli I see you keep talking about tea, but what about coffee? Will bad things happen to us coffee people? – edwinksl Aug 1 '16 at 5:42
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    The funny thing is that when I started, the first impression on AU was much more rude than on SO. If I remember well the bounty on a question of mine by Jorge was what made me believe in the site, and kept me here. Without that experience, I think I would have left. The site looks more friendly top-down than the other way I believe. – Jacob Vlijm Aug 1 '16 at 7:20
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    @edwinksl please tell me that you are not one of those people who considers American mugs filled with dirty water to be coffee. :D OK joking apart, coffee is noble and nothing bad will happen to us. – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 1 '16 at 9:52
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    @AndreaLazzarotto Coffee is abysmal in the US, but I have got to make do with what I have. There is no question I am European at heart when it comes to coffee although I am not in Europe physically. :D – edwinksl Aug 1 '16 at 9:55
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    @edwinksl unfortunately I have experienced bad "coffee" almost every time I went north of the Alps... Do not put too much trust on all Europeans on this issue. :) The solution for this very bad bug is buying an espresso machine. – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 1 '16 at 9:59
  • @JacobVlijm I have been looking bottom-up on both SE and AU for a while and I can categorically say the situation does not look pretty in SO at all while it is way better in AU. In SO, people who don't provide MCVEs can basically expect tons of downvotes and snide remarks. – edwinksl Aug 1 '16 at 10:01
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    Coffee is an acceptable beverage for the swift delivery of caffeine but it seems to only have two states: hipster and awful. I own a ceramic burr grinder and an Aeropress so you can easily infer which side I lean towards. I don't roast my own beans (matron!) so I'm still a few steps off buying my first coffee-monocle. Conversely, you don't have to don a top hat to enjoy drinking tea. Tea has class of its own. And there is clear distinction between different, good teas that you don't have to spend £100+ to enjoy at home. – Oli Aug 1 '16 at 10:17
  • @edwinksl what is an mcve? Anyway, experience was different for me. Both AU and SO. – Jacob Vlijm Aug 1 '16 at 10:59
  • @JacobVlijm It stands for minimal complete verifiable example. The details are at stackoverflow.com/help/mcve. I hope AU is now friendlier than it was back in your days. :) – edwinksl Aug 1 '16 at 11:00
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    @edwinksl I must say almost daily, I run into situations (looking at new users) that I would feel as quite un- welcoming. We often forget situations look different to us because we know the way, the way to mods, the way to meta, the way to let people know we don't agree with a voted decision. Newcomers don't, I can assure you. The site feels quite different then. I remember being totally pissed because on of my first questions was marked as a dupe, after I explained why it wasn't. The message "ask a new question" isn't very encouriging then. See it happen on a daily base. – Jacob Vlijm Aug 1 '16 at 11:20
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    ...Even when a voted decision is correct, we should take more effort to point the way "what next". That's why I tend to leave a comment, to ask if the linked dupe solves the issue, if not why not etc. – Jacob Vlijm Aug 1 '16 at 11:24
  • @JacobVlijm You raised good points and I think the best way is to somehow ask the new users how they feel while using the site, since most of us active on meta aren't new and don't truly understand what a new user knows/prioritizes when using AU. I appreciate that you follow up with OPs and I think that's something we all can/should do more often. – edwinksl Aug 1 '16 at 11:31
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I try to avoid posting or commenting on SO for the same reason. Very negative attitude in many regards. The Askubuntu community here, even with the difference of size, which should not and has not affected the overall attitude in the community towards newcomers and old, tries to be positive, welcomed and offering a helping hand.

I personally avoid doing anything on SO even if I was the creator of something or had the answer because of the amount of negative competitive mindset which is a bit distorted and affects heavily on users of the site making a lot of people avoid the site. I have known many good developers that would not use it because of this particular welcoming behavior.

I have tried being very friendly, polite even cheerful, but that only brought me issues. Am also aware am not the only one which is why I try to help here with as much as possible in a friendly manner and a cooperative way. Wish I could be part of the community team of SO to give some pointers as to the way of managing several levels of users (from new users to old and from teenagers to adults.)

  • As mentioned in my answer, in my experience, in being (un-)friendly, I don't see much difference between the sites. Also, on SO, simple questions can be asked as well, but practically all the simple questions you can think of are answered already. Finally, I don't really see the correlation between age groups and levels of skills, nor what you could (or should) do with that. I believe there is no reason (AU and SO), why both a 16- and a 65 year old user could not participate. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 31 '16 at 21:07
  • @JacobVlijm I believe you misunderstood the whole point here. There is nowhere in my answer about denying participation for age groups but how to handle different users, specially new users coming to the site that might find it difficult or confusing, which it IS a reason to study it and there is a correlation between age groups, skills and way of interacting on the site. – Luis Alvarado Jul 31 '16 at 22:13
  • I agree. The Ask Ubuntu community is a lot nicer. – ubashu Jul 31 '16 at 23:54
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    Most SO users are suffering from a severe case of Dunning Kruger, not the novice version, the expert version. Experts with Dunning Kruger assume that novices are fully capable of operating at a much higher level than they actually can. This is why they are so abusive to novices. – doug65536 Aug 8 '16 at 0:30
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my personal feelings are that I will be treated much more politely on ask Ubuntu than stack overflow.

It's the same for me. Although I work as a professional software developer, I rarely engage in SO. I mostly search for information there while I am debugging some code giving obscure errors, but I rarely contribute.

Why is that? Basically because I encountered the same problem as yours, but also because most of the time someone else was quicker and wrote exactly what I wanted to post. ;)

Are Ubuntu users more harmonious as their operating system of choice is less likely to cause outbursts of rage than other operating systems?

<joke> We are Linux users. We are better people by definition. :P </joke>

Do you agree with my feeling that stack overflow can be hostile at times or have you never experienced this yourself?

Yes, definitely. Some people there are terrible. Once I dared to tell to a more experienced user (I mean with more reputation) that he was wrong about something related to NTFS data recovery, a topic which I covered both with my MSc thesis and a software I developed.

He took the time to go through all the SE websites where I posted some answers related to this topic (including AU) just to downvote them. I contacted support but they did not acknowledge this or fixed it, because it didn't happen on the same site but across sites.

However, I'd also like to try to be fair and understanding when it comes to good SO users sometimes seeming unfriendly. There are a lot of questions (and answers) on SO that make me understand some of the bad reactions or rants:

  • Many questions (especially on SO) by new users show that they didn't bother to search (even on Google) as they are exact duplicates of other questions.
  • There are answers that include code which is not working. Even worse, sometimes you can see it doesn't work just by reading it.
  • Some users routinely try to "over achieve" (I don't know if this makes sense in English). What I mean is that they want to create an advanced application / solve a complex problem by themselves but their code contains many errors showing they completely lack any experience either with programming in general or with the language / tools they are trying to use. When this happens, they do not acknowledge it but think they are great and something else is broken.

The last one IMHO is the worst and what generates some flames. Here on AU we deal with "normal people" who want to use a computer which runs Ubuntu. Therefore it is normal that some of them do not have any academic or work experience related to computer science or programming.

Conversely, on SO we deal with software developers or at least programmers (which are two completely different things). In either case we expect that users should be able to:

  • perform minimal research / debugging
  • understand error messages if they are clear enough (Line 25: syntax error probably doesn't need yet another SO question if your line 25 is the only one in the entire source code not ending with ;)
  • have a very rough idea of the complexity of a problem

My point is:

If we are both SO users and you are trying to develop a complex AI software based on neural networks, I don't want to explain you how to write a proper for loop. You should know it already.

Unless, of course, there is a very subtle bug in your loop coming from a corner case specific to some library you are using. But you get the point. :)

Finally, is there anything that can be done?

This is a problem of SO, not of AU. We don't have these issues here hence we do not need to deal with them.

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    Now that I think about it, the example I posted maybe was from a user on SuperUser rather than StackOverflow, however he was also active on SO. Nevertheless, the gist of my answer remains the same. – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 3 '16 at 23:32
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I find it hard to compare both sites, the scopes are quite different and so their users, although I believe many people answering questions here also use SO as a source for their knowledge. While the majority of the questions here is practical, SO is more theoretical, I feel.

In my experience, the average level on both questions and answers is high(er) on SO. Looking at both sites' numbers, your (or my) questions are more likely to be a dupe, and will not be valued "to the top" easily, which might be experienced as less friendly.

Having said that, I quite disagree with you that questions are received "more friendly" here. Just look at the downvotes programming questions often get, or questions accidentally posted on the wrong site for example. The only possible motivation to downvote in such cases is to express OP did a "bad thing"; such a question will be closed as off topic anyway, with or without downvotes.

So, although I can see big differences on both sites, I don't really share your experience that "we" are much more friendly here. Maybe a few examples would make me think differently :)

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    I think it's interesting your comment about ask Ubuntu not being more friendly. Do you have any experience of other stack exchange sites? Perhaps I've just been lucky here and unlucky on so? – user3728501 Jul 31 '16 at 11:06
  • @user3728501 I do have experience with other SE sites, be it much more limited than on AU. I visit SO a lot to read/learn, simply because most of the questions I have there are already answered in an excellent way. The experience however with the questions I did post there where quite positive I must say. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 31 '16 at 11:46
  • @JacobVlijm I agree with your conclusion regarding variance in friendliness between different Stack Exchange sites. I don't spend much time on Stack Overflow so in my answer I took a more generic, overall approach to stack exchange sites in general (although I've only visited 27 of them and actually asked/answered questions at all on only about 13 of them) – Elder Geek Mar 30 '17 at 16:54
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In my personal experience , AskUbuntu is more user-friendly than SO. I have asked several weird questions till now but on AskUbuntu , I never got more than -1 vote on my stupid questions while on SO , my stupid questions often get -5 or more downvotes (2 particular cases) . On SO , people make weird comments while on AskUbuntu I never got that type of comments.

Shout out to @byte-commander , @edwinskl , @chill555 , @Pilot6 , @luis-alvarado who helped me politely.

I would prefer AskUbuntu over SO just because of politeness , weirdness and helpfulness.

P.S. : Above are my experiences till now. I am not a native English speaker so pardon me for any mistakes.

Clarifications: I have 2 accounts on SE. My current account doesn't contain stupid questions mentioned above. Despite downvotes on SO , I was able to get the correct answers for my stupid questions.

  • Thanks for the nice words, it's always a pleasure to help and make people happy :-) – Byte Commander Aug 10 '16 at 0:04
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I don't spend much of my time on Stack Overflow, but I don't think any one community in the Stack Exchange is any more friendly than any other.

People can be perceived as friendly or unfriendly, and there's a lot of cross-membership between the various sites. All Stack Exchange have a Be Nice policy. Be that as it may, everyones personal experience will vary. Even the friendliest of us can have a bad day and perhaps make a perceived unfriendly statement that in retrospect they would prefer they hadn't. Someone with no intention of being friendly could still be very helpful (and be considered friendly due to that.) I try to be welcoming to new users and considerate of the community as a whole. I'm not sure I always succeed, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

On the handful of Stack Exchange sites I've visited, I've found the membership to be overall pretty friendly. I've also had the occasional bad experience. While people are people and we are extremely unlikely to see eye-to-eye on all topics at all times. I do think it's important to be respectful in your disagreements and if you wish to win someone over to your side it's important to cite sources (sharing is a friendly act).

2

You actually reflected my own feelings. There people are less respectful towards others genuine problems and tend to make fun of it. I experienced it just yesterday. The same experience in Linux and UNIX users and superuser. Ask Ubuntu has always been safe bet for me.

Also you are right about cross cultural integration. The words one culture may speak easily can be viewed as offensive in another culture (although I doubt turkey is a cool word in any culture)

Once I challenged a user in Linux and UNIX users that Linux is not an operating system. Only kernels are operating systems. And I gave lots of research links. The user quickly wrote me off as a troll. So much unfriendly type of users over there.

In that sense askubuntu is a great site, much better than other SE sites.

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    Totally agree. For whatever reason, this community is much friendlier. For example, instead of downvoting, often members of this community will propose edits to clarify my more obscure questions. I've never been treated with any hostility or told that I asked a stupid question, or should have researched more, or told to go away re-read the ____ documentation again on askubuntu. But that happens all the time on the other communities. Whatever the reason, I am grateful. – Chev_603 Aug 3 '16 at 1:21
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    «Only kernels are operating systems» I am not sure you meant to write this. ;) Did you mean that Linux is a kernel thus only a component of an OS? – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 3 '16 at 23:28
  • stackoverflow.com/questions/3403938/…, howtogeek.com/139287/the-great-debate-is-it-linux-or-gnulinux, somewhere I even read that windows is not an OS in true sense, it is just GUI with OS as after thought, and UNIX is an OS with GUI s an after thought – rancho Aug 4 '16 at 18:37
  • @rancho Don't know what you read but that is wrong. Yes linux is not an OS it is a kernel, a kernel is not an OS, just one small part of an OS. Of course Windows is an OS and it has a gui but it is not mostly a gui, there is a lot more going on under the gui, more than the in the gui its self. Unix is a file system type, it has no gui and is not an os but just part of one, unix+linux+other=Ubuntu. – Mark Kirby Aug 4 '16 at 19:05
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I'll add my 2 cents. IMO it's very simple:

  • AskUbuntu is friendly just because we do care of community. We help in order for more people to use GNU/Linux systems. Even if an OP would never appear here anymore, but we helped with their little question, it's a little win because they would get more comfortable with this OS. It does matter also because those peoples are often IT folks, who may at some point start contributing to FOSS projects or an art, which strengthens GNU/Linux ecosystem.

  • Stackoverflow is unfriendly because they don't care of community, which is because nowadays every second PC user is a "wannabe programmer". It's not bad per se, but facts, that there's too many of them, and some OPs not even try to search for solutions, leads to careless attitude. Even if an OP would rage quit, there's always other wannabies. We got such OPs here too, but what did I say? We do care of community!

1

I did a quick check on Stack Overflow questions and most were programmer orientated. On Ask Ubuntu the questions range from neophyte to programmers with most being mid-range experience / skill levels.

Before walking into a bar most people (well not me) try to figure out what social dynamics are inside and if they will be comfortable within.

So.... just expect if you say certain things in Stack Overflow you will be met with hostility just as if you wore a preppy outfit into a biker bar or wore a biker outfit into a business lounge.

0

At least it isn't the operating system of choice, as the questioner speculated, since Ask Ubuntu is much friendlier (personal experience) than Unix & Linux SE. There seem to be different people with different attitudes.

It's easier to ask a question in Ask Ubuntu than Unix & Linux even if it concerned linux in general and not just one distribution. It's pity since the answers would be relevant to any linux users. My personal feeling is that Unix & Linux would like to stay a very closed expert community, while Ask Ubuntu accepts also newcomers.

There may be also some truth what was suggested in comments (concerning not only StackOverflow but also U&L): Abandoning difficult questions may support the feeling of expertise. If you believe you are an expert above others it doesn't feel nice when a newcomer asks something you don't know. It is easier to blame the question was somehow wrong (stupid, too broad, or effortless).

-2

A lot has changed since I asked this question. When I asked it I was considerably more naieve than I believe myself to be today.

I do not think we should be trying to control the behaviour of users. If the users of the C/C++ region of SO are unfriendly and unforgiving so be it.

The code of conduct policies that SE recently implemented are a mistake. In 2016 I probably thought it was a good idea to have a "flag offensive comment" feature. Having been on the recieving end of others using "flag offensive content" buttons within my workplace I now realize that since offense is subjective such buttons were a mistake to implement. In addition, dishonest persons are able to abuse such a button, particularly if algorithms are used for the implementation. Often such abuses are politically motivated. We should not be providing tools which can be used by dishonest persons with political motivations.

Thank you for your consideration.

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