Episode 2: Programming Stack Exchange Challenge

Programmers Stack Exchange
Programmers Stack Exchange

Last week I wrote a post about CSS naming conventions, while trying to start up my review of the Programmers Stack Exchange site. Writing the question got me all excited about the wonderful answers and insights I was about to gain. Unfortunately my question fell to the 2nd page of the site quite quickly, with a meager one upvote, and one (though well-written) unsatisfactory answer.

For a week I debated whether to skip Programmers and review a different site, but today this problem struck me as an opportunity! This is a great way to test the bounty system. So I decided to put 100 of my current 106 reputation up for a bounty, looking for any answer that can provide me with something more solid than the “personal-preference” argument.

While waiting and frantically F5-refreshing the question I have some time to write about the site. One fun side-effect from the reputation system already became clear though: I can’t upvote any answers on the site anymore, because the 100 rep bounty I gave up dropped me below the 15 rep threshold you need to pass to be able to upvote things.

Current Statistics

Just like last review, first we dig up the current facts for this site:

Fact Programmers.SE
Questions 17,311
Questions with no upvoted answers 225 (1.30%)
FAQ (questions with most links) 4,241
Top 3 questions 313 votes, 275 votes, 275 votes
Questions active last hour 10
All-time rep for top 3 users 37.4k, 34.7k, 31.1k
Meta questions 1,004

Bigger than Cooking SE, but still quite the “little brother” to Stack Overflow.

My Questions

Next up, my questions. Even though I often have questions that feel like a great fit for Programmers SE, once I’m halfway writing them I tend to delete them again. The reason is simple: even though the “good subjective” kind of questions are the bread and butter of Programmers SE, I’m probably too exact to ask a subjective question. However, the one question that got this post rolling is still worth noting:

My Answers

Like many people I have a certain mental threshold before I post anything on a public site like Stack Overflow. However, I was determined to overcome or ignore the threshold for the Stack Exchange Challenge. Nonetheless, at the time of writing this, I came up with zero answers.

Perhaps in the future I will answer a question or two (heck, I may even answer my own question), but until then, this section is shamefully empty…

Interesting questions

Now this is the good part of Programmers Stack Exchange. Although often subjective or even “whiny”, there are quite a few questions that are interesting or plain fun to read! Some questions i enjoyed:

Community Wiki

Some fun ones on this site:

Conclusion

This particular Stack Exchange is a fun site. It’s a fine line though between subjectivity and questions following the “good” Q&A format. This fine line will probably keep me from becoming a regular poster. However, I can highly recommend the level of interaction I’ve currently settled on: follow them on Twitter for the occasional fun-to-read question that pops by.

Episode 1: Cooking Stack Exchange Challenge

Cooking Stack Exchange
Cooking Stack Exchange

Last week I announced the little Stack Exchange Challenge that I’d designed for myself. In this post I will be doing the first episode, featuring the Cooking Stack Exchangesite. This post should be the first in a series. I’ll try to stick to a format, though it may evolve a little over the episodes.

Important note: in all cases, I try to go through the site and actually contribute as a well-behaved member of the community. I’d love to be able to ask questions, answer some, and will up and downvote if it seems appropriate; but only if it is appropriate! Afterwards, I’ll summarize:

  • The questions I may have asked.
  • The answers I may have given.
  • Some questions that I found interesting and subsequently upvoted.
  • Noteworthy “community wiki” questions and answers.
  • A conclusion.

So, let’s move on to the Cooking site.

Current Statistics

First up, the current “fun facts” for this particular sub-site:

Fact Cooking.SE
Questions 5,336
Questions with no upvoted answers 56 (1.05%)
FAQ (questions with most links) 1,617
Top 3 questions 134 votes, 72 votes, 59 votes
Questions active last hour 3
All-time rep for top 3 users 27.6k, 23.4k, 19.1k
Meta questions 386

Not the biggest SE site, but still a decent volume of knowledge.

Photo's for the dishwasher-fish-recipe
Photo’s for the dishwasher-fish-recipe

My Questions

To be honest, my choice to do Cooking SE for the first episode was because I wanted to answer a particular question. When I wanted to do so it turned out that I needed to have earned at least 10 rep before I was even allowed to answer that question. Not to worry though, there were two actual questions I still had from my own cooking experiments in the past few weeks, so I came up with these:

My Answers

This section was the reason I picked Cooking SE first: I was very eager to provide an answer with empirical evidence for one particular question:

My wife and I were laughing uncontrollably when it turned out the experiment was successful. It was extremely fun to write this particular answer. Afterwards, I felt the urge to thank the creators of Stack Exchange, and so I did via Twitter. To my surprise and excitement @CodingHorror a.k.a. Jeff Atwood almost immediately retweeted this to his 65,000 (!) followers. What followed were several retweets, favorites, upvotes for the answers, and wonderful direct responses about my answer. This made me realize: I love the interwebs!

Interesting questions

There were several very interesting questions on this site for a home chef. Don’t expect any recipes (which are probably subjective and thus off-topic), but do expect very practical tips. Some questions I enjoyed:

Community Wiki

At first sight, there was just one real “ultimate list” question that caught my eye:

Conclusion

The Q&A format of Stack Exchange seems perfect for a particular type of cooking questions. Once you’re used to the fact that things like recipe-requests are off-topic you’ll start to appreciate the practical aspect of this site.

Probably because it’s a sister site to things like Stack Overflow, several top users note in their  bio that they’re “fulltime computer guy, part-time amateur chef“. That probably means I’m going to have a lot of fun there!

Stack Exchange Challenge

My new hobby: the great Stack Exchange sites.

In the 90’s most of my questions on software development were either answered by friends and family, trial and error, or books. I’ve always loved reading books on this topic. Most of my books have some particular animal on the cover, from the company with a man on a mission. In addition to books, the new millenium lured me to the Google Groups on C#. It seems at the time of writing this only a “new” Google Groups exists, which is a good thing: even though I enjoyed reading and posting there very much, the spam drove me (and many others) away.

Of course, just Google Search remained a very decent source for answers to development questions. In recent years, the search results have slowly started to point to one particular site: Stack Overflow. The various interesting sister sites quickly grabbed my attention.

I can highly recommend looking at the sites they have, and joining some of the discussions. Overall, the communities seemed very friendly to me as long as you put effort and thought in your questions and answers. Personally, I’m seriously considering to set myself up for a challenge and investigate one site a time, with perhaps a blog post on my findings. Now where shall I begin?