# Should we be more exclusive?

I mean this kind of thing is all over but here's an example from today:

I mean there can't be a more stereotypical noob entry "I just wanna make a game" type question.

It's a bad question because it's not specific, and what's more is it's breaking the first 3 of the FAQ principles:

Yet people are voting it up, hailing it as a great question. Why?

I'm not so concerned with this specific question, but what it means about this site's community. Either it's crowded with noobs who think "Yeah that's a great question wish I asked it", OR the reception of some of the more clever guys on here is too lax. "Oh ask anything you want, there are no dumb questions."

I don't mean to turn newbies away, but are people too accepting? Should we be more exclusive? Why does this type of FAQ breaking question get such a critical acclaim reception?

• And commenting on your reasoning for voting to close those "popular" bad questions will get you personalized answers like this :). Maybe we should have an age limit on the site :). – MichaelHouse Jan 13 '13 at 18:47

Well, this is simply my opinion, and while I'm not exactly a high-scorer within SE in general, I am a user.

I used to be a big user of gamedev.net, but left due to the new layout and I got sick of questions that were so localised that they might as well have had an address where to send the answer! In short it was pointless even viewing them; so, I gave up and just started to use SE. After getting used to SE a while I spotted GDSE and used that for my fix as I enjoy simply browsing the sensible questions and answers as there are clearly some very clever people on GDSE, sadly there aren't as many quality questions as I would hope that could demonstrate just how many people of such calibre there are.

I've observed (either for wrong or right) that the signal to noise ratio for GDSE appears a little more skewed than the other SE sites. It appears that the 'noise' type questions tend to be ones that are too localised to be any good to anyone other than the asker, or questions that would require an epic novel to answer! I don't like to categorise people, but I would imagine that most (not all) of the closed questions were asked by people who had minimal experience of general development, were quite young and immature and were hoping for a quick solution for their new super game. Similarly, I wouldn't be suprised if the number of people who are capable of putting a well formed and meaningful question together are about the same number of people who can answer such a question as gamedev is a little more specific than a C/C++ question on SE. Unfortunately, the number of people who care little about asking (or rather caring about) the quality of a question is much higher than the other two groups!

I agree with what you say - in fact I came to meta.gamedev.SE now to ask something very similar and found your question! Saying that, there is nothing wrong with a new user being completely ignorant on a subject, however they either fall into the category of wanting to learn about the subject or will just come back tomorrow with question number 2. Distinguishing between the two is simple, the question and the way it is written gives it away - handling it... well that's a different matter.

I would hope that GDSE could be a little more exclusive, but a big issue is that people are quite happy to put quite a bit of effort into answering what is essentially be a terrible question, only for it to be accepted, then later down the line closed; I'm assuming so they get a few points. Granted, that's their business to waste their time with somebody who doesn't appreciate it but such actions can only encourage the asker that abysmal questions are tolerated - closing or even deleting the question after any sort of answer has been posted is well... the words horse, door and bolted come to mind!

As for the upvoting of useless questions, I would probably say it is nothing more than a result of people upvoting questions which are the sort of questions they would ask. It speaks volumes of the general crowd GDSE is attracting (although to be fair, it seems that game dev in general attacts such people looking for an "easy win").

It would be very nice to stop such questions from appearing to begin with. The thing is, if somebody comes to GDSE and knows nothing about general development, or any other disciplines of game development, then they are hardly likely to ask questions/give answers that could be classed as gems. Obviously, it's not possible to test somebodys knowledge on game development (that kind of defeats the purpose of having a GDSE!), but game dev isn't isolated from other disciplines, so I don't know if there are any reasonable methods, but perhaps one (granted, it may be a little far fetched) is to ask for a minimum reputation on a relevant SE site before questions can be asked. It's trivial to get say for example 150 points on SE even just by asking some sensible questions, I imagine that would be enough of a barrier to stop these half-baked questions as effort is required which is exactly what most people who ask these sort of questions aren't prepared to give.

Obviously, this isn't exactly perfect, consider this question by philllies. Its his first question on GDSE and while I don't quite understand it, it is very clear that it is well thought out and he cares about the content... Then there is the other side of the coin. Actually, I've just checked and I don't meant to pick on him but the questions that author makes (4 so far, all negative votes and only two closed), won't be improving within a year, along with a profile that reads:

I'm 13 and incredibly cut! XD

Andy Harglesis


As I say, I certainly don't mean to single him out (I only found his question randomly), but this is why GDSE is having these, for lack of a better term, quality control issues as accounts like this exist are tolerated rather than just been given a short ban with a quick link to what questions are acceptable on GDSE.

• "although to be fair, it seems that game dev in general attacts such people looking for an "easy win"" It's hard to build a community of people that are serious about game development without attracting people like them. And in many cases, people who are serious about game development will take the time to help those people, remembering the days when they were like them. And not realizing that their tolerance of this behavior brings down the quality of the site. – Nicol Bolas Jan 5 '13 at 8:51
• "Obviously, it's not possible to test somebodys knowledge on game development", I think it's pretty clear most of the time based on the type of question that they're asking. – Tetrad Jan 10 '13 at 22:46
• Note that “Andy Harglesis” is a generic name used by 4chaners, 9gaggers etc. for trolling purposes. I know we should judge contributions and not users, but I can’t see anything good coming from those accounts. – sam hocevar Jan 26 '13 at 22:31

Lots of votes on a question usually means that a lot of people can understand the problem set. Easy/"noob" questions generally fall into this realm, mainly because more people can comprehend and possibly want to see an answer to a question like "how can I make a quick game" rather than "how do I set up springs in cocos2d" (for example).

If you look at the list of all questions sorted by vote count, you'll see that a large number of the super high voted up questions are all closed. https://gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions?sort=votes This is hardly a new predicament in the Stack Exchange universe. You'll see on programmers, for example, they went with more of a community wiki approach. I suspect Stack Overflow has some logic under the hood to make their older questions like https://stackoverflow.com/questions/84556/whats-your-favorite-programmer-cartoon not show up in those lists.

• Really, what we need is more users with high enough rep to cast close votes. It often takes us a couple days to amass enough votes to actually close a question. – Trevor Powell Dec 11 '12 at 2:33
• I think the cartoon question is not shown because it is locked for historical significance, rather than just closed. I do not believe we have anything special to Stack Overflow to handling these kinds of things. – Grace Note Dec 24 '12 at 13:56
• As a long time lurker, I agree with @TrevorPowell. Enforcement of policies and general maintenance of the site does seem to take quite a bit of time. I would also add that editing of questions for general clarity, basic grammar, syntax, language, etc., seems almost non-existent. My point is that quality in general is becoming an issue, I'm starting to find more answers to game related problems on SO than on here. – user24851 Jan 23 '13 at 15:08

Stack Overflow is not a democracy. Stack Overflow, and the Stack Exchange network, was built on a series of guiding principles set down by its founders. Among those principles is a zero tolerance policy for crap.

First among that is the belief that a question must justify itself. Yes, a crap question can yield good answers, but that is not sufficient reason to leave a crap question around. If someone wants to turn it into a good question, fine. But we do not waste time with crap questions just because they might lead to good, useful answers. We want good questions; we punish bad ones.

That is part of the founding principles of Stack Overflow. Of Stack Exchange. Of all of the successful sites in the SE network.

SO exists because forums were a terrible way to deal with questions. And one of the reasons for that is exactly this: every post is equally valid. There's no way to stop the flow of crap. There's no way for a community driven by principles to shut down nonsense before it does its damage. Eventually, people get tired of answering the same garbage over and over again. And they leave. This is the forum life-cycle, and it is something SO was designed to stop.

But for all of SO's great technology, what fundamentally makes SO work is the zero tolerance the SO community has for garbage. On SO, it began with its founders and the initial beta users. That culture spread among the initial crop of public users. And now, the SO community, moderators, and founders alike will tolerate no compromises on their principles. And without that, SO would be a cesspool.

Which is what GDSE is becoming.

The culture of SO was very clear, as laid down by its founders. But the culture of GDSE continues to have forum-like elements. Permissive. Let that question go, because it might "yield good and useful answers." No principles, no rigid rules and regulation. Just let anyone ask pretty much anything; only stop the most egregious of problems.

Just look at MSO. This question would never have been asked on Meta Stack Overflow. Instead, it's inverse question is usually asked: why don't we allow more poll questions? Why don't we allow more of these questions? Why was my question closed in 5 minutes? And so forth.

And in most cases, MSO users will quickly downvote and expurgate such questions. The community has said in a clear and convincing voice that there will be no retreat, no surrender, no compromise on its core principles.

That GDSE's community can't/won't do the same is a damning indictment of GDSE as a whole. It shows that we don't have enough high-rep users who follow the SO principles. It shows that our culture is damaged, cancerous, riven with those who do not stand for what makes SO great.

Moderators are supposed to be the last line of defense. They're supposed to do what the community can't, act as a failsafe when the community can't achieve the goal alone. They should be the janitors, taking out the trash. But because they see the community as "divided" on the issue, they sit on the sidelines and let the crap build and grow. They see bad questions but won't use their moderator close votes to close them, simply because they don't feel there is a community consensus on the issue.

In short, it is the failure of democracy: one side gets its way by simply being obstinate. All it takes to keep this site down is for enough members of the community to say that "garbage questions are fine." If enough of them do, then the moderators won't act, and our one fail-safe is sabotaged.

I don't really see a way out of this. So long as enough of the community clings to this forum mentality, where we believe that everyone should have a voice no matter how stupid, where we allow anyone to ask just about anything no matter how insipid, where you can get away with bad questions so long as someone comes along and blesses it with an undeservingly good answer, then GDSE will be a forum. A rathole of filth and garbage that few people would ever use as a viable resource.

Or, to put it another way, the fact that some people disagree with the SO principles does not mean that they are right. It does not mean that their voices and opinions need to be appeased. And it does not mean that their opinions should be allowed to hold back moderators from doing their jobs and getting rid of what needs to be gotten rid of.

Either we take a hard line stand against garbage like most SE sites, or GDSE should stop pretending to be a Stack Exchange site.

StackExchange isn't a community; See the About page. We have a duty to close questions which do not meet the guidelines laid out in our FAQ. It's important.

StackExchange is a system specifically designed to collect and archive expert knowledge forever, and to make that expert knowledge easily and freely accessible via internet search engines.

By providing this expert knowledge freely, the Internet becomes a richer resource and indirectly makes the world a better place for everyone. The rules set out in the FAQ are there specifically in order to assist in achieving these goals; they're specifically designed to try to generate questions and answers which can become useful Internet resources for lots of people and remain accurate and useful for decades (if not longer).

If we're going to ignore the rules in the FAQ and treat (for example) lolcats pictures as being on-topic and worthy of archiving forever just because the "community" likes them, then we might as well drop the whole "expert knowledge" pretense and just be Reddit (or less charitably, 4chan), stop our "archive answers forever" policy, and simply think of the site as a source of light transient entertainment, rather than as a part of an effort to create long-term good in the world.

Because honestly, that's all we'd be.

• But man, it is a community. The regulars and high participators dictate the culture of the "place". – bobobobo Dec 20 '12 at 20:52
• related: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/11/… – Tetrad Dec 24 '12 at 20:09
• Communities are what people make them, not what you make them. You can't declare "this is not a community" while people actually make one happen. Well you can, but it can drive people away. – Tim Holt Dec 30 '12 at 8:27
• @TimHolt Dude, did you really mean to imply that I'm not a person? – Trevor Powell Dec 30 '12 at 17:23
• @TrevorPowell +1, though we can agree to disagree on the aspect of community. It is a community with rules, just many concepts of community in real life. Break the rules? Consequences, and not just for you, but for those who have to enforce them... which we are only too aware of as we trawl through the hundreds of reviews that each new week brings. – Engineer Dec 31 '12 at 2:03
• @NickWiggill I think we agree entirely. I was overstating my position in order to drive home the idea that at StackExchange (unlike Reddit/Slashdot/4chan/SomethingAwful/wherever), the process makes the community, rather than the other way around. In retrospect, "not a community" has ruffled some feathers more than I intended. But "StackExchange isn't primarily a community" just sounds wishy-washy, don't you think? :) – Trevor Powell Dec 31 '12 at 3:03
• @TrevorPowell I see your point now. Wishy-washy or not, it would have been more accurate to say it thus! True, it is primarily a knowledgebase. – Engineer Dec 31 '12 at 3:07
• "StackExchange isn't a community; See the About page.". The text on that page doesn't suppport this: "Stack Exchange is a growing network of individual communities..." followed by 8 other uses of the word. – e100 Jan 9 '13 at 18:38
• @e100 ...that's a really good point. I'm kind of stunned that I didn't see that while posting this answer. Regardless, the usage of "community" on the page I linked is very specific. In the link, the word 'community' is used this way: "we bring together individual communities of experts on very specific topics." I think that's a very different thing than the tyranny-of-the-lowest-common-denominator community which you find on other sites, and which is what this question was about. – Trevor Powell Jan 10 '13 at 6:19

There have been so many of these sorts of questions already. The more that mods shy away from doing their duty -- which I think is clearly defined -- the more acceptable bad questions become. It's a bit like when you see one parent who wants the kids to have a good degree of discipline, while the other parent is letting them do exactly as the please. It just doesn't work.

I really don't think it's acceptable that we with mod privileges, who've gained our status on this site knowing that there are rules to be followed, now think we can debate the rules? The rules are pretty clear, though as discovered today in this question, one can do one's duty and then discover that the FAQ doesn't accurately reflect what we as mods know the rules to be (in this case, I'm referring to rules that evince themselves via the "close" panel but not in the FAQ -- which leaves me feeling a tad let down by the site).

In fact the number of posts like this, where the scope is basically, "Please help me fix a bug that nobody else is ever going to have again" is quite overwhelming. This is why I've been advocating for a while now that this site link directly to gamedev.net from the FAQ. The problem is, this is almost certainly against SE policy.

So yes, I absolutely think we should be more exclusive as the rules make it clear we should be.

We can, but we risk being jerks.

Moderation is very harsh here IMO and not always on topic with what the actual community wants.

Let a question sit for a day and see how the community at large reacts to it. THEN moderate it as you think this is reflected. This may be a noob question to a mod, but maybe to others it's a very valid one.

Communities are defined by the community, not by someone laying out a set of rules that define it. Unless that is you want to risk being an elitist club.

• Totally agreed that moderation here is very harsh, or rather, very strict. I prefer not to think about whether a question follows the rules, but whether it can inspire an answer that will benefit the community. To me, that is better than just "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" because often they are very specific and don't offer anything useful to other users. – Kylotan Dec 29 '12 at 10:47
• Moderation is harsh? Since when? This isn't the first time crap questions have been discussed. Our moderators only close the absolute worst of the worst. They prefer to "see how the community at large reacts to it." That's terrible for the quality of the site. You're talking about a question that is undeniably against the rules remaining on the site for a day. No. That's unacceptable. If this were SO, the question would have been closed and deleted inside an hour. – Nicol Bolas Dec 31 '12 at 1:42
• @TimHolt What's at issue here is not what certain people want, nor what they think the topic should be; the topic has always been a knowledgebase for game developers at large -- and that means Q&A that will be useful to others, in future. The site is the authority and always has been, and as mods it is up to us to play to those rules. Suggesting that certain disruptive individuals' wants are important, is like saying that if a school full of kids agree by democratic vote that they'd like to trash your house and garden, they should be allowed to do so. It just doesn't make sense. – Engineer Dec 31 '12 at 1:56
• If you want a sense of the divide on this issue, note that my post has 4 up votes and 4 down votes. – Tim Holt Dec 31 '12 at 2:51
• @TimHolt: "note that my post has 4 up votes and 4 down votes." That proves nothing, save the fact that the site is going down the drain. Go to MSO and suggest that they start allowing language comparison questions or whatever. That is a site where the "elites" have won; they're very clearly and strongly focused on being a quality site, and when crap shows up, it is quickly and effectively dealt with. People who disagree don't go there. And SO is successful because of this, not in spite of it. That's top-down leadership. It works. – Nicol Bolas Dec 31 '12 at 6:19
• @TimHolt: Game Development, as a sight, needs heavier moderation than usual, because every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks that they can make the next great game. If these people follow the rules and ask thoughtful, useful questions, that's wonderful. If they're chattering monkeys, asking pointless nonsense like what tools they should use, then they're part of the problem, not part of the solution. To let such people run free is to invite others to do the same. SO purges this stuff quickly, so people rapidly learn to play by the rules or begone. GDSE doesn't, so it's filled with a lot of crap. – Nicol Bolas Dec 31 '12 at 6:22
• Just sayin... as they say. Your own series of fairly harsh responses @NicolBolas are the kind of thing that I don't personally agree works. For starters, as soon as you view your community as "chattering monkeys" or clueless n00bs or whatever disparaging name you want to give them, you've failed as a moderator (IMO). If a classroom of students isn't understanding something and is failing to follow the teacher, it's rarely the collective failure of the classroom, but often the failure of the teacher. – Tim Holt Dec 31 '12 at 21:32
• @TimHolt: "are the kind of thing that I don't personally agree works" It doesn't matter if you agree that it works; it does work, because that's exactly why Stack Overflow is successful. That's why Stack Overflow has a lot of highly-skilled users that continue to support the site: because it is actively hostile to garbage questions. And the lack of that hostility is why I spend much more time there than here. "often the failure of the teacher" Exactly: the failure of the moderators who are not properly moderating those "students" properly. – Nicol Bolas Dec 31 '12 at 22:14
• Sorry, but I totally stick with my "moderation is harsh" assessment. We close lots of questions that could yield good and useful answers (eg. legal questions that people are scared to answer), and allow lots of questions that are pretty worthless (eg. 101 people asking for an opinion on some entity-component system minutiae). I don't like free-for-alls on sites like this, which is why I've been a moderator over on Gamedev.net for about a decade and have closed many threads, but here the moderation is often too strong in my opinion. – Kylotan Jan 1 '13 at 22:55
• @Kylotan: That a question which could "yield good and useful answers" is not important. Legal questions are forbidden because there's no way to verify any of that information. It could be some guy trolling. It could be anything. If you try it and the information's wrong, you get a lawsuit, not a compile error. The risk is too great to go promoting potential misinformation. – Nicol Bolas Jan 5 '13 at 2:46
• @Kylotan: Bad questions might yield good information. But that's not the point; bad questions are still bad questions. Questions about "entity-component system minutiae" are on-topic if they're reasonably factual. The problem is that nobody actually closes them. We have this permissive attitude on this site that allows many highly opinionated questions to remain open. We let anything go, and that's why I say that moderation isn't harsh at all. It's lenient, because it allows many low-quality crap questions in. – Nicol Bolas Jan 5 '13 at 2:49
• @NicolBolas: legal questions are not forbidden. We've covered this here before. If you're uncomfortable offering that advice, don't offer it. As for the rest, sorry, my opinion is the opposite. – Kylotan Jan 5 '13 at 21:01
• I'll say it again. The depth of discussion plus the large amount of both up and down votes is an indicator here that this is not something one can just vote yes/no on. It's pretty divisive (clearly), and I think deserves more thought and discussion. – Tim Holt Jan 6 '13 at 7:02
• @NicolBolas said, " That's why Stack Overflow has a lot of highly-skilled users that continue to support the site: because it is actively hostile to garbage questions." I'd say it's successful because people get questions answered and find answers to questions. – Tim Holt Jan 6 '13 at 7:04