Proposal: Stack Overflow Academy

This site already exists at https://stackoverflow.com/help.

Failing that, there is always http://meta.stackoverflow.com.

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    possible duplicate of Boundary between Stack Overflow Academy and Meta Stack Overflow? – Logan M Jul 31 '14 at 23:48
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    @LoganM Incorrect. This is a topic on the boundary between Stack Overflow Academy and the help center. – Jason C Jul 31 '14 at 23:49
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    The help center isn't a Q&A site, so regardless of whether it serves the same function, it isn't a valid target for an Area 51 duplicate close vote. – Logan M Jul 31 '14 at 23:58
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    @LoganM And yet every single example question for this site is answered in the help center (or on meta). Since I can't see much detail being added to descriptions of questions on SOA aside from the one-sentence questions already in the titles, the help center search box serves the same purpose. The only thing SOA is is an excuse for new users to not spend 5 seconds searching existing resources. – Jason C Aug 1 '14 at 0:10
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    Assuming I'm understanding you properly, you're basically saying "why don't people check the help center and if that fails ask on meta?". That doesn't seem essentially different from "why don't people ask on meta?" to me. But I don't particularly care either way, so if you think it is, I'll respectfully bow out. – Logan M Aug 1 '14 at 0:15
  • @LoganM How is that not different to you? Is "why don't people search on Google and if that fails ask on SO" essentially the same as "just skip Google and ask on SO" to you? The only thing SOA does is encourage people to skip trying to find help center (and meta) content on their own. It's interactive help center search. Then they are introduced to SE thinking that is acceptable and we have to deal with them continuing that attitude on SO. It's a help vampire's fantasy. – Jason C Aug 1 '14 at 0:17
  • While I disagree with you, I think you did the right thing by posing this as a discussion question, but you should have done that before downvoting most of the example questions: blanket issues should be discussed before being applied to existing circumstances. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 20:58
  • @AstroCB I see zero need to obtain community census before casting my own personal votes, up or down. The only reason I downvoted most, rather than all, of the example questions was that the list disgusted me to the point of not wanting to look at it any more. – Jason C Aug 2 '14 at 21:19
  • @JasonC I'm not contesting your right to your downvotes; I merely meant to suggest that doing exactly what you described out of nothing more than disgust is a bit irrational. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 21:25
  • @AstroCB You don't downvote questions on main sites because of lack of research on the part of the asker... ? Granted, the asker is hypothetical here, but the downvotes weren't votes of disgust - they were how I would vote on such a question if I had seen it on the site: zero attempt shown at using existing resources. I only stopped out of disgust. – Jason C Aug 2 '14 at 21:25
  • @JasonC Area 51 example questions are just titles: it's a bit unfair to judge research effort (or lack thereof) from just that. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 21:28
  • @AstroCB Which reminds me; the other criticism I have of SOA-appropriate questions is that not much more can be added to them in a description. What else could you possibly say about e.g. "How do I ask where to download Eclipse?". Perhaps you would attempt to describe how you have already attempted to find out how to ask a question (<- joke)? If you had the ability to describe that, you wouldn't need to be on SOA in the first place. I fear 99% of these questions will have a body that reads "Like the title says...". (I.e. If you can ask a good question on SOA then you would never go to SOA.) – Jason C Aug 2 '14 at 21:40
  • @JasonC I assume specific details for a particular question that clarify the issue will be included: not ideal for canonical questions, but this isn't a site that necessarily requires questions to be (and most questions on SO aren't). – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 21:42
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    @JasonC Exactly: this is for the users who care enough to ask. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 22:14
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    @Jason: The target audience for a proposal isn't the people asking but the people answering questions. If this proposal seems a waste of time to you, then you aren't in the target audience. And as I hope I made clear in my answer, this is just one of several angles we are pursuing to solve what we acknowledge is a weighty and difficult problem. As an aside, I'd recommend taking some of the ideas represented in the comments and editing them into your question. The text of the question seems inadequate to describe your concerns. – Jon Ericson Aug 2 '14 at 22:36

As you might have noticed, the proposal was created by our very own Shog9. The idea came up when discussing an idea for providing mentoring opportunities for people trying to get into programming. It is related to the triage system we've been kicking around. There exist people who might be able to ask interesting questions on Stack Overflow, but are hampered by the (very appropriate) customs that have developed over 6 years to protect the site from problem askers.

Now we've worked hard to improve our help for new users. We reformatted and expanded the traditional FAQ into a more comprehensive series of help articles. Even so, help remains rather general and purposely concise. A new user ought to be able to find answers to their own questions, but that does require some study beyond what is needed to understand the programming problem well enough to ask about it. For people who learn best by doing (and that's a real strength of the Q&A model), handing them a link to a bunch of words to read isn't as helpful as we might hope.

In addition, the help center is editable by a very small number of people and (with the notible exception of the on topic guidance) is nearly identical for every site on the network. If you need very specific help about how to participate on a site, you probably are better off asking on meta. Shog explained why meta might not be sufficient for the particular purpose this site is intended for. The long and short of it is that even after splitting Meta.SE from Meta.SO, such questions are often treated as little more than noise since there are other activities on a meta site besides individual help.

We recognize that this is an experiment and, perhaps, a misuse of a Stack Exchange site. Assuming the proposal proceeds to commitment and nears launch, we community managers will vet the idea. (In case you are concerned, we are currently divided on the wisdom of launching this proposal. All of us have at least some reservations.) If the site does make it to private beta, it'll be treated like any other launch. (We shut down 1 in 5 sites that reach beta.) If this becomes a clone of MSO (or the help center), we'd hardly keep investing in it.

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    Yes, people who are so utterly bad at asking questions (and mysteriously unable to consult any of the thousands of easily searchable resources on the matter) that they require an actual Q&A discussion to teach them will be great additions to other network sites, and will definitely have the motivation and ability to ask on SOA (which might as well just be a short FAQ because every single "how do I ask X" question reduces to two or three actually different questions tops, and I'd bet they're all covered by self-answered questions in the first 24 hours of the site's existence anyways). – Jason C Aug 1 '14 at 18:37
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    In the new spirit of introducing new users to SE network sites by encouraging them to ask straight away instead of doing even the most modest prior research (e.g. why search the help center when you can just ask on SOA), as this seems to be the new philosophy shog is going for, I've made you a graphic you can use on the SOA main page: i.stack.imgur.com/QJZl4.png It's not just a misuse, SOA by its very purpose undermines what SO had strived to become because all you're doing is sending a message to new users that it's OK to not bother with the most basic of searches and help reading. – Jason C Aug 1 '14 at 18:39
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    @JasonC The very purpose of this site is to encourage searching and teach people how to do that. This proposal is not in any way definite, as Jon mentioned: treat it as just another Area 51 proposal, because that's exactly what it is. It's not getting any extra help from SE, and it will live or die by its own merits. This is not another Help Center: it's a way to teach people how to use the Stack Exchange model effectively. It would be moderated just as any other site would, handling the duplicates and issues you mention. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 20:51
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    @AstroCB And the very existence of this site is counter to its purpose. Look at the example questions. Not only can they all be boiled down to about two or three actual questions with specific subject matter substituted in Mad-lib style, but all are already answered in existing easily-searchable resources, which this site can only be treated as a substitute for. Every question in the example list is an example of somebody who could not be bothered to read any of the myriad of "how do I ask a question" resources on the internet, or topic examples in the help center. – Jason C Aug 2 '14 at 21:24
  • @JasonC That's fair: you are entitled to that opinion, and it's the reason these sites go through this process. These questions come up on Meta all the time and very few are put under the scrutiny you mentioned. If the site fails, it fails: we'll learn something from it. – AstroCB Aug 2 '14 at 21:31
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    @AstroCB Yes but my personal "fear" (loosely) is that this particular proposal, moreso than your standard bad proposal, is of the type that can potentially attract enough "Yay, helping new users is good!" bandwagoning followers to make it into beta, because this one feels good to follow, despite how crappy it is for the overall vibe of SE. – Jason C Aug 2 '14 at 21:47
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    @JasonC so helping users is bad? – Joshua Drake Aug 21 '14 at 20:41

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