Many of my Stackoverflow questions have been marked as duplicates even though they were not

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

I’ve written before about troubles on Stackoverflow

This is interesting:

That was when something became crystal clear: my coworkers hadn’t become monsters, they were still the kind and caring people I thought they were. The monster in this case is not one person, it was created when lots of people, even with great intentions, publicly disagreed with you at the same time. Even kind feedback can come off as caustic and mean when there is a mob of people behind it. No matter how nicely they say it, when a large group of people you really respect publicly challenge something you’ve done it can feel like a personal attack.

When I realized this, some of the confusion I had seen about unwelcomeness on Stack Overflow started to make sense. In our developer survey results we read things like this:

“Caustic community for new users. There is no excuse for not being kind!” – 6 years coding

“It feels too scary and unaccessible for new developers” – 3 years coding

“People could be less brutal” – 6 years coding

“The attitude is not beginner friendly. Askers are expected to have done a lot of research before asking a question (re: both question format and content), even if they are completely new to the community or topic. Not everyone can understand or even know to look for documentation when they’re completely new to programming.” – 12 years coding experience

However, when our more experienced users hear this feedback they ask us to provide them with definitive examples of WHERE EXACTLY people are being unfriendly? There isn’t a lot of name calling or anger, why are they being accused of being unfriendly?

People tell us they are afraid to participate because of how mean their peers can be. The way the system is currently built, when you ask a question that could use some editing or is a duplicate, a bunch of people come out of the woodwork to tell you you’ve done something wrong.

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