I find in my long experience with many SE sites that there is a pervasive attitude of taking everything very literally and seriously. For example, when I write a question or answer on CSE, I certainly don't think it through in the way that many of the regulars do. Often I have a more casual and overall idea in mind than something extremely specific. In the question about chatbots, isn't it possible that they could be used in education two ways: to provide answers, and as a project? Wouldn't that be using them in education? Must it be split in to two questions? Breaking it apart would seem rather... pedantic, to me.

Oftentimes my wording is taken in such an overarching and perhaps even threatening way, that it seems to have a "chilling effect" on interactions. If I say that I cannot solve all problems, it seems to be taken that I do not care, or that I think we should throw students to the wolves. Must words be taken to their illogical conclusion? I do not think so. Perhaps they mean "just what I choose them to mean - neither more nor less."

My biggest issue with SE overall (aside from chat being permanent and searchable) is that people are extremely literal and concrete in their thinking. On an educators site, I expected something more than that. (Something vague and ill-defined that I cannot put in to words precisely.) Can a site like this be more liberal and less literal?

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    $\begingroup$ Since it's been overlooked, inadvertently I'm sure, Welcome to CSE. I'm pleased to see your quick hop into Meta to discuss things. Your post, and language, let me know you're not "new" to the SE-verse, and have probably seen some of the worst, while also seeing some of the best. Please pop into chat once in a while, quiet as it may be often and see what's going on. This is new site and maybe you can keep it from becoming to starched collared to be useful. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2018 at 3:41

1 Answer 1


Both here and in Chat we tend to be quite informal, even joking with one another and going off topic. However, we treat the Question stream more formally. It isn't an email list, nor a chat stream. It, here and elsewhere on Stack Overflow, is intended for serious questions and well thought out and supported answers.

Moreover, we view (we being the regulars, at least) the answers as being valuable in the future, not just to the original questioner. They should stand the test of time and interpretation in similar context so that a future visitor can gain from the captured wisdom

This is one of the reasons that we have the Sandbox area in Meta, so that potential questioners can get advice from others on presentation, and sometimes on narrowing, of the issue.

We have a bit of a bias against questions that are too "broad", though that is sometimes hard to define and not everyone agrees, especially about particular questions.

But a question that clearly asks for two different things complicates matters. If it gets voted up or down, it can be hard to know just why. If a responder answers just one of the questions it makes it harder for a future visitor to go through the answer stream for guidance.

I didn't complain about the chatbot question on the basis of "use or build" even though the answers to the two parts are clearly distinct. There was value in asking that it be split, though the regulars aren't likely to do in on their own, but will ask the OP to do so.

If the questions are clear, precise, and presented with background - especially on context - it is easier to formulate good answers. Moreover, it is better for future visitors, who are really, IMO, the main audience for this format.

Other parts of SO are less "friendy" than we are here, actually. We (long time users who have made a commitment to the site) try to guide the newer users. We have a culture of respect and kindness. But when an answer sounds like it is counterproductive in teaching we are obligated to point it out. Even if the person didn't intend the meaning that was heard, a future visitor might be misled that there was some consensus on an answer if it isn't challenged when necessary.

Note that one of the things we respect here is the idea that the OP of a question owns his/her words and ideas. It has occasionally been suggested that one of us edit a poor question to make it "better". But since this requires some clairvoyant power to interpret the intention of the OP, I universally object to it. Instead, I suggest that we get the OP to do an update, often by inviting the person to the Classroom. Note also, that I have no power there, other than to persuade. I'm not a moderator, nor will I ever be.

BTW, Lewis Carroll dealt in ambiguity of language. Here, not so much.

  • $\begingroup$ It is also possible, of course, to participate here under a pseudonym as I do. We are careful to respect those, even when we personally know the real person behind the avatar. Dual membership is a bit frowned upon here, but (I think) only runs afoul of the rules if you use a second account to vote for your own posts. A mod could clarify that, of course. Apparently not even the mods have access to some aspects of your profile, such as your email address, etc. For legal reasons, there are those who do, of course, but I've never seen interference by the higher powers. $\endgroup$
    – Buffy
    Jun 12, 2018 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ For the record, a bit of earned reputation is needed to speak in Chat, unless invited by a mod. But the requirement is quite low. You can lurk there, of course. $\endgroup$
    – Buffy
    Jun 12, 2018 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ Two accounts are allowed as long as you're not using them to vote for yourself, get around a ban, or do anything else you couldn't do with just one account. $\endgroup$
    – thesecretmaster Mod
    Jun 12, 2018 at 17:55

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