It sounds like the people running Stack Exchange are the same people
running Wikipedia. They have received a lot of publicity for similar
problems, especially removing edits from new users without explanation.
StackExchange, like Wikipedia, is a poor fit for libraries. Even though
these are great resources, the culture of the people in charge is too
different. We do share a common interest in open information. We do not
share the laissez-faire libertarian philosophy that is the mantra of
"Internet culture." Librarians believe in helping people with very few
qualifications. Internet culture believes in forcing people to help
themselves before giving any help. Once you have RTFM'ed, scoured the
entire web for even remotely similar versions of your question, and spent
hours crafting your question in such a way that it is generalizable and
without any basis in opinion, one of the (young white male middle-class)
True Internet People will float down from the clouds and reveal to the
world their unique and profound wisdom. 99% of people give up before
reaching this point, which is good because it separates the wheat from the
Hosting our own community Q&A site sounds like the best option. OSQA is a
FOSS Q&A platform, but it is a Stack Exchange clone and has the
unfortunate reputation system built in. How hard would it be for us to
build a simple Q&A site using something like Ruby on Rails? It's such a
simple use case that a prototype could probably be whipped up in a few
hours. It would mostly be the kind of simple, canned CRUD pages that can
be generated automatically. Then you just add search functionality and
authentication, and voila.
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 8:54 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] Stack Overflow
On Nov 4, 2014, at 9:12 AM, Schulkins, Joe wrote:
> Presumably I'm not alone in this, but I find Stack Overflow a valuable
resource for various bits of web development and I was wondering whether
anyone has given any thought about proposing a Library Technology site to
Stack Exchange's Area 51 (http://area51.stackexchange.com/)? Doing a
search of the proposals shows there was one for 'Libraries and Information
Science' but this closed 2 years ago as it didn't reach the required
levels during the beta phase.
Some history on the Stack Exchange site:
1. Before 'Stack Exchange 2.0', they used to let other sites pay them to
host Q&A sites. There had been a library-focused site on Unshelved:
2. We got *hundreds* of people from Unshelved Answers to sign up on Area
51 ... but they wouldn't start up the site unless enough people with high
enough reputation on existing 'Stack Exchange 2.0' sites expressed
interest, claiming that they needed sufficient people with knowledge of
the system. I tried lobbying for them to count people w/ experience from
Unshelved Answers, but they wouldn't do it.
3. It took over a year for the 'Libraries' proposal to get enough support
to be accepted; by then, I assume most library folks had moved on.
4. They then named the site 'Library and Information Science', not
After my complaining, they changed it to 'Libraries and Information
Science', but there was still a major problem:
5. As if all of the rest wasn't bad enough, we then had a bunch of
non-library people closing answers because there wasn't a single definite
answer, which was a large number of the questions on Unshelved Answers ...
and most of the 'example' questions were in that category as well:
> The reason I think this might be useful is that instead of individual
places to go for help or raise questions (i.e. various mailing lists)
there could be a 'one-stop' shop approach from which we could get help
with LMSs, discovery layers, repository software etc. I appreciate though
that certain vendors aren't particularly open (yes, Innovative I'm looking
at you here) and might not like these things being discussed on an open
> Does anybody else think this might be useful? Would such a forum be shot
down by all the vendors legalese wrapped up in their Terms and Conditions?
Or are you happy with the way you go about getting help?
I think that the Stack Exchange culture & policies make it a bad fit for
our community. I think that yes, there is a need for such a site, but
that the issues with immediately closing questions without a clear answer
are a *huge* problem. If questions were easily answered, we'd have done
the research and answered it outselves (most of us have LIS degrees and
know how to research things!).
You might also be able to get support from Unshelved again, and if we the
community can put together a site, have them brand it as 'Unshelved
ps. I'm currently the moderator of OpenData.StackExchange.com; I was
previously the moderator of Seasoned Advice (aka.
pps. I also objected when they changed the name of the 'databases'
proposal to 'database administrators', which many of us felt narrowed the
scope dramatically ( http://meta.dba.stackexchange.com/q/1/51 ;
http://meta.dba.stackexchange.com/q/11/51 ). I don't even bother with the
site these days.