Stack Overflowed

Michael Richter writes, Why I no longer contribute to StackOverflow. post

Michael has three complains but the one that caught my attention was his section titled bad community, a repeat, as Shirky predicts, of a group as its Own Worst Enemy

Quote Richter

I've been on the receiving end of sudden bouts of negative votes before. Consider this question about 'goto' constructs, for example. As of this writing it has 72 up votes and 13 down votes. It is simultaneously one of my most popular answers as well as one of my most hated ones. post

The people who hated it weren't content, however, with merely voting it down. No, after I posted that answer I had a mysterious downward turn in my reputation as downvotes appeared all over my answers.

People got so upset at my mocking one of the Holy of Holies of computing that it wasn't enough to just downvote the answer, they had to punish me. (Their selected means of punishment was as highly amusing as it was highly ineffective.) This is not the way a community of mature users acts.


Richter goes on to describe the authoritarian nature of the in-group that accepts responsibility for maintaining order and defining acceptable norms.

"This happened at Wikipedia and it's happened at StackOverflow. StackOverflow was once fun. It is no longer. StackOverflow once had a tolerance for things a little outside of the norm. It does no longer.", he says.

Strangely I encountered Richter when I thought I wanted to become more involved with Stack Overflow as a support mechanism for federated wiki.

Is it possible to design a social structure with real-time feedback of any form that is not self-destructive?