In the past with FreeBSD as a web and mail server, and more recently with Linux, both as a server and on the laptop, I occasionally ran into small and somewhat bigger problems. Installing, reinstalling, updating, upgrading, configuring, fine-tuning; things can go wrong, puzzling questions can arise.
I routinely googled, and eventually I could always solve everything. You find people having the same or a similar problem, and read how they solved it, or what suggestions others made, more or less relevant, to solve it.
It is quite fascinating and rewarding to see that happening, how partial and incomplete knowledge of many becomes a powerful tool, up to almost any task. Wisdom of the crowd, that seems to be the expression these days.
When I still worked as a professional translator (I’m now retired), I experienced the same, in various forums first driven by e-mail, later also on Facebook: nobody knows everything, everybody has some knowledge gaps, but when enough people meet, kindhearted people all willing to share, there’s nearly always someone who knows. That’s really great.
In those translation forums, I benefited and contributed. In the IT forums however (IT = Information Technology), for a long time I only found answers, and had none to share. Call it parasitic. I don’t think that should be a problem, because the idea is, you share if you happen to know. If you don’t know, that’s just how it is and that’s OK too.
Recently I did have some IT answers to share. I had solved a few problems for myself, and thought others could benefit from reading about how I did it. I felt quite enthusiastic about it. So I set about adding replies to existing questions, on StackExchange.com and StackOverflow.com. But it was not a pleasant experience I had there. I think it’s useful to document what happened.
The first time the issue was that I couldn’t install Linux Mint on an HP Pavilion laptop. Again, because I had had this problem before, twice, with earlier versions of the OS.
A solution – or in fact only a workaround, that doesn’t address the
real cause, which is still unknown – is described in various
places on the web, and involves adding
pci=nomsi in some
grub file. However, that
workaround is only effective after the installation
has succeeded, not before and during the installation.
I remember having seen an item, on StackExchange I think it was, where the workaround was amply described in several variants, the item had been closed by a moderator for being solved, but just before, as the last ‘answer’, someone mentioned exactly the problem I had had: an endless interrupt loop and its logging, which made the installation of Linux Mint completely impossible.
Unfortunately I don’t manage to find that exact discussion thread and that last ‘reply’ again, not in my notes, and also not when googling. But I clearly remember having seen it, and that it strongly motivated me to post my own solution. To share knowledge and help somebody. I couldn’t though, because the item was closed. So in a new thread, I posted an earlier version of what I later elaborated to this article for my own website.
I posted it on Monday 20 March 2023, at 9:15Z, that’s 10:15 my time zone, probably just before I realised my website would be a good place for the much longer, more detailed and better written article I just mentioned. It is dated 20 and 21 March 2023.
Only on 1 April 2023 (yes, April Fools’ Day; but that’s a coincidence and this is a serious matter), so almost two weeks later, I noticed there were comments to my post. Notifications had come in via Gmail, where I have an account I don’t use much and so don’t often check. I prefer using my own e-mail server. I quote the messages here:
“Hi! Welcome to this community! This is a question and answer site, and your post in the question field seems to be more of a blog post, and not a question! Could you take the answer part from your post and move it into the answer field below? That would make your post fit the format of this site. Self-answered questions are highly welcome, but they do need to fit the clearly separated question post –> answer post formalism. – Marcus Müller Mar 20 at 9:33Z”
“Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. – Community Bot Mar 20 at 21:33Z“
This annoyed me, and right away (as I remember it) I posted this rather sarcastic reaction:
“I posted my question and answer in the hope it might help others who encounter the same problem. For myself, it is already solved. I had rather added my description and solution to an earlier question, which was closed, but where some people clearly still had a problem, for with [sic, should be ‘which’] I probably have the solution. Just trying to help. If that's wrong, please ignore me. – Ruud Harmsen (2023-04-01 15:36:13Z)”
That comment is no longer there, probably deleted by a moderator, before or after the whole post was reinstated (why?) after having been deleted completely. See below.
OK, I shouldn’t have been so rash, I should have given it more time and thought. But it is honestly what I felt. I probably also posted an additional comment that linked to the longer article meanwhile on my site, which I mentioned here before. I don’t know when and how, because it’s no longer there and I didn’t make a note. Further comments by moderators or other participants, one of which mentioned that link:
“Welcome to U&L. As advised, this is a Q&A site. The question and answer should be separate, and the answer should be in this site. External links are OK as reference - including your own site. Please check the Tour, Asking and Answering in the Help Center - specifically "How to ask" and "How to answer"; and some older questions with accepted answers to learn how this works. Then edit your Q & A accordingly. – Peregrino69 (2023-04-02 08:52:53Z)”
“While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review – Kusalananda♦ (2023-04-02 13:14:09Z)”
Why did these comments annoy me? Because I had made an effort to say what I had to say in a clear and useful manner, with clear words, correct terms, relevant details, a clear and understandable structure. Yes, somewhat like a blog post, which indeed it later became, on my own site. What’s wrong with a blog post? I couldn’t handle the criticism. That’s foolish pride, I know. I do see that now. So here it is: sorry.
The bot saying “it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking” probably just didn’t understand what I wrote. Well, that’s how bots are. And why get angry with a bot? They’re not alive.
On 3 April 2023, after returning home from being elsewhere, tired, hungry, and somewhat emotional over a personal, but completely unrelated matter, I looked again, and saw this:
“This post is hidden. It was deleted yesterday by Kusalananda♦.” [where “yesterday” = 2 April 2023].
This really enraged me! I was trying to HELP OTHERS, sharing the solution I found. An incorrect closure of a thread which should have been still open, had prevented me to post it there, where it belonged. So I made a new post. And then a moderator DELETES MY POST, so others having this problem cannot see it!!! Moderators think their petty format rules are more important than having USEFUL CONTENT.
This time I was more sensible, I didn’t immediately start typing, I had the wisdom to wait until the next day, after a night’s sleep. Later that evening I already decided to swallow my pride, split the post into a question and an answer (easy to do!), and re-post it as such. That became this one, entitled “HP Pavilion x360 Convertible, installing Linux, endless IRQ and logging loop”. Dated 2023-04-04 05:24:59Z, that means seven thirty in the morning my time zone (Bravo, meanwhile in Daylight Saving Time). The post is still there, and it was followed by some on-topic discussion.
So far so good. No harm done. Meanwhile the deletion of the original combined post, “Installing Linux on HP Pavilion 360, preventing loops that eat all resources”, was apparently reversed, with the nastiness removed, so now there are two essentially identical posts on the same subject, both by me. Not very practical. But a minor problem. Let’s leave it at that.
While trying to post my new post, for a moment I thought I should do it in StackOverflow, instead of the correct StackExchange. I find both names smart and funny, but also confusing. I keep mixing them up.
While there, I noticed another problem. Worse this time, and not my fault, in my opinion. The topic was what I think is a widespread and longtime browser bug. I have described the problem on my own site here, this is how I judged it, and workarounds are here. Other people had the problem too: I found four links, three of them leading to Stackoverflow.
I posted a short comment, probably to all three, but with certainty to this one: “pushState and back button works but content doesn't change”. My comment was:
“I had the same or a similar problem in my site,
which uses only static HTML and CSS. So I suspect this problem
but is actually in the CSS, combined with what I see as browser
bugs. Strangely those bugs are present in all major browsers,
and have been for years. But maybe I’m wrong, and it is intended
and correct behaviour?
My description of the "back button" problem, and attempted workarounds, is in my article https://rudhar.com/sfreview/backbutn/en.htm more specifically starting here: https://rudhar.com/sfreview/backbutn/en.htm#BackButtonP”
Above it, there was this:
“This post is hidden. It was deleted 6 days ago by blackgreen♦”, and the moderator had explained:
“Please don't post identical answers to multiple questions. Instead, tailor the answer to the question asked. If the questions are exact duplicates of each other, please vote/flag to close instead. – blackgreen♦ Mar 28 at 11:25”.
This got me outraged. I was trying to HELP PEOPLE by posting a link to my detailed descriptions of workarounds, and then a moderator HAD THE NERVE TO DELETE IT, just because of some petty formal rule. What kind of moderation is that???
I tried to ignore it and not waste time on it. But I kept thinking about it. At that moment I misinterpreted the moderator’s comment as referring to my single reply to the various sub-posts in that single thread. I now understand that in fact it referred to my posting the same answer in three different threads. The other two were probably also deleted. This misinterpretation however doesn’t change my objections to the moderator’s behaviour.
Later that day, 4 April 2023, I tried to post this:
That was exactly my point: I think the root cause of the problem the others were experiencing, is NOT in the various programming issues, but is more likely to be in CSS, and in browser bugs. That's because I had the same problem (reproducible) without any programming, just with HTML and CSS.
Deleting my answer is really unhelpful. It takes away a chance for others to learn about possible solutions, or at least workarounds of _their_ problems (I already solved mine).
It seems the moderator did not properly read or understand my answer, and did not look at the whole issue as posted by others. In my opinion the deletion of my contribution is unjustified and should be reversed.”
There was a threat underneath the editing window:
“Some of your past answers have not been well-received, and you're in danger of being blocked from answering.”
And that had already happened, because when trying to press send, I got:
“Sorry, we are no longer accepting answers from your account because most of your answers need improvement or do not sufficiently answer the question. See the Help Center to learn more.”
So now they were accusing ME of not properly answering questions, while in fact I DID POST a USEFUL AND HELPFUL answer, three times, but the MODERATOR DELETED THEM!!!
This is unjust. This is an insult. I won’t accept such treatment.
And if people in three threads keep having the same problem, no-one posts a real solution or workaround, and I do have one, what else can I do but provide the workaround in all three threads? How can it be useful or help anyone to close some of the threads and post the answer to only one of them?
O wait, I do have a note proving I posted my identical answer
also here. It is no longer there, but I've
seen it, and also how a bot commented:
“Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. – Community Bot”
So this Bot apparently cannot read? My answer linked to my article, which is chock-full of further details, documentation, and testable examples, so that, indeed, others can confirm that my answer was correct. That was exactly my purpose. But StackOverflow’s bots and moderators preferred to delete my contribution.
I perceive this reaction too as unjust and insulting. I just don’t want to be treated like this. OK, it’s only a bot, and bots can’t think. But then it’s a badly programmed bot, that makes the wrong decisions, and that should be checked and corrected.
I found I’m not the only one. Wikipedia has this:
“Trustpilot's page on Stack Overflow, the largest Stack Exchange, shows an average rating of 2.2 stars out of 5, a "Poor" rating. Although 30% of reviewers gave the site a good score, 67% of 136 reviewers gave the site a bad review of 2 stars or fewer. The website was accused by many users of having aggressive moderation that tended to exclude newcomers with lesser programming knowledge.”
I also received a message from moderators, via my own mail server, not Gmail (do I have multiple Stack-something accounts?). I quote some text from it, then say what I think of it.
We noticed that at least some of your posts seem to promote and/or link to a product, website, blog, library, YouTube channel/videos, project, source code repository, etc. Per the help center:
Be careful, because the community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, so be it. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers. Also, if a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details.
I am retired, all I write on my website is there at no cost, I don’t earn any money with it. I used to have Google Ads on it, but that is a long time ago, and even then earnings were minimal.
I posted short answers on Stack-something in order not to flood it with details. The details and long explanation I put on my own site. This too I did to help. But it isn’t appreciated.
The e-mail also contained this:
“If you do include a link to something, then the link needs to be directly relevant to the question and/or answer (i.e. a specific page that is about the issue(s) in the question and/or answer).
That is exactly what I did. Didn’t you notice, moderators? No, you probably didn’t, because you don’t really look at what you object to, you probably only follow automatic signalling by bots, and follow petty formal rules. Content and quality doesn’t matter to you.
What has happened, even though in the first case I made mistakes myself too, has not encouraged me to become a regular contributor to StackExchange or StackOverflow (well, it seems at least one of them has already blocked me).
If ever I find solutions that might be useful for others too, I’ll spend time and effort to produce good blog posts on my own website. I trust that people will find them using Google or other Search Engines.
It’s a miracle there’s still so much useful and usable material on StackExchange and StockOverflow, seeing how moderators do their best to keep it out, and to discourage people from posting their answers there.
See also Stackoverflow has too many self-righteous moderators on Reddit.
And see Why StackOverflow sucks, which is from 2012, so 11 years old. The problem already existed back then.