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Is it just me or have the last few weeks seen a huge upsurge in people asking how they should design software , how they should code it, showing us their code and asking us to fix it?

There also seem to be many more questions asking us how software works, how to fix software install problems, etc?

1) am I just imagining this, or are others seeing it too? TO me, it's not just a minor increase, but a huge surge.

2) if so, is there anything we can do about it?


Sweet beans & collard greens!!

I am absent for a few weeks, owing to a new contract, and ..

enter image description here

Something has to be done about this but what? I work on the weekend too, so I can't see me working my way through that. In fact, I can't recall ever seeing a double digit review queue on this site :-(


[Update] I have been asking people who post wrongly why they do so. I didn't get an answer until now. Until finally, @Eric answered, on this question "I'm really sorry.I want to ask question at stackoverflow.com ,when i push the "Ask Question" button at stackoverflow, it linked here".

Any idea what is going on? I imagine that he accidentally pushed the wrong button, but it sounds like that is easy to do. Ought we to ask S.O to redesign some dialog?

  • 2
    I experience the same, but I have been out of the 'First questions' queue for a while. I'm now revisiting especially to help weed out those questions. Is there a badge for voting to close XXX times ;-) ? – Jan Doggen Jan 18 at 12:13
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    To me it feels as if 8 out of 10 questions fall into that category. Whenever I walk the "new questions" announced in our chat room (which is twice a day, morning and evening), I close as much. – Izzy Jan 18 at 19:41
  • Yup, I see that. Is there anything that we can do about it? – Mawg Jan 18 at 21:07
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    As I mentioned on chat, since three weeks we are receiving like 4 times more questions than before. Many new people so we have some education to do. We are getting popular ^_^ – Nicolas Raoul Jan 19 at 3:28
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    I've noticed this too. It seems like a dramatic increase that started a few weeks ago. What is driving all these off-topic questions to our community? – RockPaperLizard Jan 19 at 5:56
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    New year's resolutions? – Mawg Jan 19 at 23:33
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    I come on regularly, but not noticed... until today. As @Izzy, observes - seems to be 8/10 of all posts. 3 explanations: malice - some fairly subtle trolling going on; wormholes - questions for SO/SU falling through a tear in time & space to SR (or some other technical issue); ignorance - some well-intended 3rd party is pointing people in our direction under the mistaken notion that this is the venue for such queries. While the 3rd might seem most likely, I do think it is the wormholes. – CJM Jan 28 at 13:35
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    @NicolasRaoul The point is that that education will for a large part be wasted time: first-time users that post e.g. an off-topic programming question will see their question closed, and then often leave and not come back. Those people may get a sense that they have to check on (other) SE sites for being on-topic, but that does not benefit this site. The harm has been done, Google will send more and more people. – Jan Doggen Jan 31 at 21:32
  • "some well-intended 3rd party is pointing people in our direction" - can any moderator look at incoming traffic and see whence it originates? – Mawg Feb 1 at 7:34
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    There has been a new rush of these starting somewhere around 20 March – Jan Doggen Mar 26 at 15:09
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    Please note: a duplicate to this one has a nice SEDE query showing actual numbers. – Jan Doggen Mar 29 at 12:15
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    I just wandered around and found SoftwareRecs at present a good place to hunt for helpful flags, primarily "off-topic" ones. Looks like a real problem to me (we do get some OT questions on Android, but less than 1/day). – iBug May 31 at 12:15
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    It is getting much worse. Is there no way to stop it? – Mawg Jun 14 at 9:06
8

On 2018-12-19, the test of the Ask Question Wizard started at Stack Overflow.

  1. In the first step, this wizard asks the users what type of question they have:

    What type of question do you have?

  2. If they select "I need a software recommendation", they are informed¹ that such questions are off-topic on Stack Overflow, but on-topic on our site here:

    The Software Recommendations community is here to help you with a software recommendation.

    The link goes to https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/help

  3. If they select "Other" → "Show me other options", our site is listed², too:

    Software Recommendations: For software recommendations

    The link goes to https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/


According to Nicolas Raoul’s answer, the traffic started to increase on 2018-12-20, so it seems very likely that the cause was this test.

The Ask Wizard is now live (the screenshots above are from today). Jon Chan (SO developer) said in the comments that they are monitoring what happens to the traffic to our site:

What has this done to the traffic on software/hardware rec. and SU?

We'll see. It's one of the things we're monitoring over the next few weeks and in the long-term.


¹ I don’t know if the test version used the same wording, the linked Meta post didn’t document this.

² According to some comments on the linked Meta post, the wording might have been different at some point of the testing phase.

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    Added a request meta.stackoverflow.com/a/381872/512728 – Jan Doggen Mar 27 at 9:51
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    That would be very annoying since the problem is related to b[O]ts. I've come across web buttons like captcha. The buttons might be updated when the problem occurs again. – onurcano Apr 4 at 15:15
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    I have taken to asking those who post wrongly why they do so,and it is as @Unor says. See, for instance, this question, where the OP told me "When I tried to post this question on stack overflow I found myself in popup form which asked me for an topic of my question. Hardware, software, other and 3 more. So I clicked software and here I am." Now -- what can we do about it? – Mawg May 15 at 10:30
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    her is another who seems to have been mislead by the wizard. He says that he thought he was posting at S.O – Mawg Jun 25 at 20:30
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    An anohter – Mawg Jul 29 at 6:44
8

I suggest expanding the list of sites in the Close Vote reason Belongs on another site. That will at least give the 'offenders' more information than Blatantly off-topic (which they would have to read the tour for to understand why - and we know how much people read).

It would still require discipline from close-voters to distinguish questions that would be off-topic 'over there' as well (a bad question is a bad question).

  • I will second this, as it has been frustration me for a while. I think that anyone who votes to close because a question belongs on another site can either figure out which, else just close as off-topic. – Mawg Jan 18 at 19:31
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    In my experience, most of those questions are too VLQ to be migrated. A few might qualify for SuperUser. I'm not that active at any of the possible target sites that I'd migrate anything over (I do from time to time migrate between here and Android.SE as those are the two sites I'm really familiar with). Are there enough users familiar enough with any of the target sites? Far too often people migrate because of the name of the site (on Android.SE we often get "crap" from SU just because it mentioned Android)? If so, which targets? – Izzy Jan 18 at 19:45
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    Well, I am familiar enough with S.O :-) And, to be brutally frank, SuperUser is a generic dumping ground with - to me - no discernible ethos other than "I have a problem whit a computing device or program" – Mawg Jan 19 at 9:23
5

To assist in quickly moderating these blatantly off-topic questions, I've updated the Saviour of Lost Souls userscript which we already use to moderate similar questions on Meta. The script will add a button to the post menu

which (upon confirmation), does the following (provided you have enough reputation):

  • downvoting the question (because it needs to have a score of -3 or lower for fast deletion)
  • flagging or voting to close the question as off-topic
  • leaving a comment in the following style:

Hi [lost soul], welcome to Software Recommendations! This question does not appear to be about software recommendations, within the scope defined on meta and in the help center.

  • if the question is closed, vote to delete it

You can install the userscript with this direct link.

  • Oh good userscript developer! – iBug May 27 at 4:51
5

The Ask Question Wizard now makes it easy for anyone to find our site:

enter image description here

Positive consequences

  • Much more people hear about our site than before. A portion of these new visitors stick and start answering questions too.
  • More diverse questions, some asking for software in fields I had never heard of before.

Challenges

We ALL need to educate these newcomers. Please:

  • Upvote the good questions, they are examples to follow.
  • Vote to close the bad questions.
  • Comment to help askers understand the tricky rules of this site. I use and recommend Izzy's canned responses widget, easy to install and use.

Chronology

  • From December 20 to February 19, with the wizard on, the daily number of questions was 5 times more than usual, with a bit more answers than usual too.
  • From February 20 to March 22, with the wizard off, the number of questions went back to pre-wizard levels (a bit higher actually). The number of answers went to pre-wizard levels (a bit lower actually).
  • Since March 23, the daily number of questions is 7 times more than usual, with a bit more answers than pre-wizard levels.
  • Some of the questions, especially about software design, we very interesting - just badly off-topic :-/ – Mawg Mar 6 at 7:44
  • I noticed last week, though, that 25% of the question on our front page wee on hold, so obviously we still have a problem/some educating to do – Mawg Mar 6 at 7:44
  • 25% is not bad, at the peak I was closing most of the questions. – Nicolas Raoul Mar 6 at 7:49
  • 255 is bad, as it is keeping a number of good questions from the front page. – Mawg Mar 6 at 8:02
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    @Mawg Keep in mind that a question with a score of -2 or worse does not appear on the front page, and question downvotes don't cost any rep, so if users here are closing lots of questions, they should be downvoting them as well. That will help Roomba clean them up as well as keeping the front page clean. – TylerH Apr 18 at 20:38
  • "question downvotes don't cost any re" interesting. I am sure that downvoting costs rep on some sibling sites, or maybe used to but now no more – Mawg Apr 19 at 6:15
  • "a question with a score of -2 or worse does not appear on the front page" - I just looked, and this front page question is -3 (that may have changed by the time you read this, but my eyes don't deceive me) – Mawg Apr 19 at 6:24

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