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This question:

Convert short month names to their longer counterparts [Ended]

Is going to end up getting closed, based on the close vote rate I see, despite not only meeting every single objective criteria in both tag descriptions...

... but also, based on tone, quality, and number of answers, clearly providing a fun and entertaining challenge for at least a handful of people which, if I'm not mistaken, is the entire point of PCG.

But why was it closed? Because there are a handful of people here that don't particularly enjoy "popularity contests". That's totally fine, those opinions are reasonable and valid as far as opinions go, but "I don't like popularity contests" is not a valid close reason, and arbitrarily slapping on a nonsensical "too-broad" or "not-objective" (when both are categorically false for this question) doesn't disguise that reason.

Further, not one, but two people felt that it was both appropriate and productive to go down and downvote every single answer on that question. Whether you like a question or not, punishing every answerer is not appropriate. The type of user who does this is the type of user that PCG has catered to through its poorly defined close reasons, tags, and philosophies.

PCG is a brilliant idea on paper, but its execution has left it one of the desolate corners of the SE network. Granted its still in beta, but it doesn't seem to be progressing like it should.

Personally, I'm going to find enjoyable programming puzzles elsewhere. Not in an "I'm taking my ball and going home" kind of way, but in a "PCG isn't actually all that fun or interesting" kind of way. The problem isn't the overall quality of challenges that people post; the problem is that this site is either unattractive or downright repelling because:

  1. Poorly defined and inappropriate close reasons lend themselves to constant misuse and misinterpretation,

  2. A poorly defined and narrow philosophy leaves users without a framework for expectations, and so confusion results at a deep level: Fundamental etiquette and purpose concepts are frequently argued about on meta (the kinds of concepts that should have been solidified before PCG even went live, such as "what is the purpose of this site"). Tags exist for question categories that half of the users feel shouldn't belong on the site, and so nobody knows what's actually supposed to go here. There is a clear desire for PCG to be a fun and interesting outlet for code puzzles, and it is constantly suppressed by mismatched and weak expectations and philosophies.

  3. Poor moderation. Most of the moderators that I have seen here strike me as totally great, reasonable, opinionated and highly intelligent people who should probably not be moderators. Unfortunately, that statement is always going to come across far harsher than I mean it, and I apologize! However, there does not seem to be enough moderator command presence (as they call it in cop shows); the moderators are more like general opinionated users, which would be fine if they weren't responsible for defining the philosophy and environment of this site. The community can't even agree on what kinds of challenges it actually wants on this site, and the moderators really need to be the ones to step up and flat out state what this site is all about; the moderators should -not- be the ones participating in these debates. The diamond carries with it a responsibility to set the tone of the site, and users (like me) place a lot of weight on what you have to say; when you can't even clearly define or agree on what this site is about, it manifests as a general lack of coherence, direction, and etiquette in the community you are responsible for.

In any case, I do have some potential ideas for more organized close reasons and some other general suggestions, but after seeing other people get turned away from this site, and finally experiencing it for myself (and the -2 downvotes on every answer -- you guys should be ashamed, and hey moderators, jump in and adjust those users privileges accordingly, throw it down for a change -- look at the good natured fun and creativity present in every answer on that question, and convince yourself that the PCG philosophy is to stop that in the act, and to create an environment where users downvote those answers -- you have a problem that you need to fix if this site ever hopes to get out of beta), I think that my PCG attention span ends at roughly the same point as the period at the end of this sentence.

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    \$\begingroup\$ well, it's just code-trolling this community is confused about. Please don't go away. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Apr 2 '14 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ About the downvotes of the answers: this is definitely a case of serial downvoting that probably won't be noticed by the algorithm so it should be flagged for mod attention and you're absolutely right about it not being right. About code-trolling being appropriate for this site, this is up for debate (I personally felt the need to add the tag to my ignored tags but don't feel the need to close every one of those questions). These two things being said: it would be nice if you didn't throw a tantrum (cf chat) just because someone voted to close your question. \$\endgroup\$ – plannapus Apr 2 '14 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Be aware that both [popularity-contest] and [code-trolling] are being tolerated as an informal experiment to see if changing the rules of the site in that way will lead to a state in which we could graduate. The sites official rules still call for an "objective winning criteria" (where objective means something that you can judge from the submitted code, not from the site). \$\endgroup\$ – dmckee Apr 2 '14 at 14:06
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PPCG in three acts


Act 1: Happy Times!

2011 - Nov. 2013

Not much traffic on the site, but our small community is happy and thriving, and when a new question is posted it's almost always high-quality and enjoyable.

Act 2: The Dark Era

Dec. 2013 - Jan. 2014

A wild code-trolling appeared!

Systematic invasion and sneak attack of the site by . Within that one fateful month, the site was devastated, with tons and tons of code-trolling trash posts bombarding the site and new, uncomprehending users blindly upvoting and answering them.

Act 3: This Means War

Feb. 2014 - Mar. 2014

In early February, was almost completely under control, and had brought out the next ugly beast: . Not the tag itself, but the low quality questions, the "I'll just slap on pop-contest and call it a day" type.

So we began a war on popularity contest, and it continues today.


To address your points in order, now:

  • "But why was it closed? Because...": Unfortunately, some users may misunderstand the reason that we're closing some of these, but speaking for myself and probably many other meta regulars, I have not yet cast my close vote on that specific post.
  • "Further, not one, but": That's quite unusual, and it's certainly a misuse of the voting system, but should you really let two rogue users bother you this much?
  • Item 1 in your list: Only because we need to get some of the trash low-quality posts off of our site. I'm all for adding a few new custom off-topic close reasons to help with this.
  • Item 2: See Act 2. The flood of new users in December has left the community divided.
  • Item 3: No no no no no. Moderators should do as little as possible! Moderators are the janitors and the human exception handlers of the site, and I really admire them for being so hands-off and letting the community go its own way. If it weren't for them being so relaxed, might not even exist today!
  • "hey moderators, jump in and adjust those users privileges accordingly" - That's not even possible. It's not even possible to find out who those users might be.

I think you just need to calm down, step away from the computer for a few hours, and let this cool down for a while. Maybe go outside. It'll help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Feb. 2014 - Mar. 2013" <- I feel like this is a typo, but I'm not sure. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Z. Apr 2 '14 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeZ Hmm, just maybe. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Apr 2 '14 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you mean "So we began a popularity contest, and it continues today."? :) \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Apr 27 '18 at 14:50
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First, thank you for voicing your opinion. This is the way in which our community grows, by having its users express what they want and don't want to see here.

Second, a community is ever-evolving, and its expectations of what fits the site or doesn't likewise is. In the early days of the site (2011 to 2012), popularity contest questions were not considered acceptable. But since then, such questions have gained popularity (har har), especially with the introduction of code trolling. So whatever opinions I have about popularity contests (and they are well known and frequently articulated), there is no turning back the clock.

Third, there is an important principle about moderation at Stack Exchange. Moderators are supposed to enforce the will of the community, not their own personal opinions and agenda. (Though, of course, moderators are also members of the community and are entitled to have an opinion too.) Furthermore, they are supposed to be generally hands-off, and not get involved in close/delete votes (leaving them to high-rep users instead) unless a post is egregiously off-topic (e.g., "send me teh codez") or offensive. This is all detailed in A Theory of Moderation, which all moderators are expected to abide by:

We believe deeply in community moderation. That’s why we appoint Pro Tempore Moderators and, ideally, democratically elected community moderators for every site in our network. But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!

(Emphasis in original.)

Moderators do not have the ability to see who downvoted which post. Serial downvoters (and serial upvoters) are detected by the system automatically on a periodic basis and their votes will be nullified automatically. So such actions have very little long-term effect.

You have clearly thought a great deal about the mechanics of the site, and I appreciate your sharing of these thoughts. Stack Exchange might not be the right venue for implementing these ideas, and I understand your frustration and wish to be elsewhere. I wish you the best, wherever your Internet travels take your next.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I keep meaning to post a meta-question on the formal status of [popularity-contest] and [code-trolling], but I am very busy in "real" life right now (and for the foreseeable future). I suspect that you are right about not being able to turn back the clock, and the extra traffic may be worth it but we desperately need some kind of quality control in those tags. Actually, I think that [code-trolling] question are bad almost by definition---the whole point is that they are lazy question. \$\endgroup\$ – dmckee Apr 2 '14 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree about the need for quality control, and a formal post to meta about it would give the high-rep users guidance as to how to vote. I'm pretty sure Doorknob (or some other vocal user here) will get around to making such a post, so don't burden yourself too much. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Jester-Young Apr 2 '14 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dmckee, they're bad by definition because they automatically fail the rule that every question must have "a clear specification of what constitutes a correct submission". "Code that works, but is useless" is not a clear spec. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Apr 2 '14 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Third, there is an important principle about moderation at Stack Exchange. Moderators are supposed to enforce the will of the community" While true, you've missed a massively fundamental point here. As you describe it, every SE site is a completely open slate with no philosophy and no base rules, and everything is acceptable everywhere. Obviously that's not true. Moderators should do as little as possible, but at the same time, you need to maintain at least some cohesiveness in the site, and set up a concrete foundation for the community to build on. It's not a complete free-for-all. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason C Apr 2 '14 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JasonC I did say that egregiously off-topic or offensive posts will be acted on swiftly. However, when it's more contentious and less clear-cut, such as your recent code-trolling question, I refrain from taking direct action (despite requests from multiple users seeking to burninate it). \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Jester-Young Apr 2 '14 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisJester-Young As a modertor, the correct direct response to those users requests would be to point out that the question fits into all the rules as currently specified on the site, and (subjectively) seems to be attracting fun answers. Then you go and reevaluate the rules if you see fit. You don't just sit there and let arguments stew. The question is concretely in the bounds of the sites current posted rules. It's pretty clear cut. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason C Apr 2 '14 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ You also should have identified the fact that nobody bothered to post a explanatory close comment in the question comments and seen that as a red flag that the only thing "wrong" with it is that some people don't particularly enjoy that challenge category -- not a valid close reason. You need to stop that kind of thing from stewing, that's your job. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason C Apr 2 '14 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ When "not constructive" flags on comments on questions like "The worst two tags. In one question. I would love to downvote this more" are declined by moderators, I believe it clearly shows where the problems with this site are. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason C Apr 4 '14 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonC My moderation style is that I am very conservative about handling comment flags. That is, unless I clearly see a reason to remove the comment, I err on the side of letting it stay. Other moderators may or may not agree with this. (Off the record, I'm glad you're not a moderator here; your style would be tyrannical.) \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Jester-Young Apr 4 '14 at 1:00
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OK, calm down. Have a cup of tea :-)

A few observations:

  1. PCG is anything but a "desolate corner" of the SE network. The latest stats at Area 51 show that its performance is excellent in all respects, except for the number of questions being asked per day.

  2. There may be a few people who don't like them, but the PCG community is generally in favour of keeping code-trolling questions. I certainly don't see any reason to close the question you mentioned.

  3. In fact, a recent status report by a Stack Exchange community manager mentioned that the appearance of code-trolling questions has greatly improved our site traffic, and that the introduction of new puzzle types should be positively encouraged. (I've put those bits in bold text to make sure everyone can see them.)

  4. If a question has been unfairly flagged, a brief post to meta can work wonders. There's really no need to rant.

  5. Inexplicable downvotes do happen (someone recently downvoted all the answers to this question, for example), but are always kept in check by the other votes. Don't worry about it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Re point 2, I do wonder whether a fresh count would find a change in opinion: or in other words, whether the people who were in favour of code trolling are still around. Re point 3, Grace's comments on my answer seem to at least partially retract the statement which you're highlighting. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Apr 2 '14 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor The month names question currently has eleven upvotes, four downvotes, and four close votes. So by the look of things, code-trolling is still generally in favour but not so popular with the moderators. I think it would be a mistake to delete this category. \$\endgroup\$ – squeamish ossifrage Apr 2 '14 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason I've downvoted kolmogorov-mania is because it was "output this seemingly random sequence". Not because the concept, but because there seemed to be no pattern at all. I've never touched the answers. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Apr 2 '14 at 23:22

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