After happily coexisting with many others in the TeX and LaTeX StackExchange I caught myself in need of assistance for a different language than TeX.

Be that as it may, I very forwardly posed my question on StackOverflow, with intended result, my research effort and why the current available knowledge base on google as well as existing StackOverflow questions were inconclusive.

So far I've not had a single person willing to help - merely posing that my question did not adhere to the format and I should probably look elsewhere. After five questions I had the warning pop up that my questions were not of sufficient quality and that I should consider editing existing questions. I used the same format which although not praised until kingdom come on TeX.SE, were accepted as legitimate requests.

This deviates so wildly from the forthcoming atmosphere in TeX.SE that it got me wondering which of these formats was the intended one.

Furthermore, all things considered the format should at least be similar as they serve a similar general purpose - my interpretation of which would be an interactive and growing knowledge base on coding-related questions. (Obviously TeX.SE is slightly broader because it involves code for a very specific purpose, contrarily to the more general approach of StackOverflow.)

If I'm incorrect in these assertions I would also like to know how and where that discrepancy stems from and if its argument can be defended.

  • 2
    Relevant/related: Do we follow StackExchange rules?
    – Adam Liter
    Jun 26, 2014 at 3:14
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    Wouldn't it be better to ask this question on the Stackoverflow meta page? They should be able to tell you why your questions there aren't well received.
    – Jake
    Jun 26, 2014 at 7:21
  • @Jake I'm afraid that this is very related to our site. I suffer from the same problems sometimes, on various sites. Only my like 5th question on SO was really accepted, and still I got stupid comments like YOUR VARIABLES NEED NOT SHOUT and stuff.
    – yo'
    Jun 26, 2014 at 7:47
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    @tohecz: I understand that (I've had the same experience), but I don't see what useful answer to the question could be given on this Meta site, apart from "Every site is different in some ways. You should always check the local customs of the site you want to post to".
    – Jake
    Jun 26, 2014 at 8:10
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    My comment seems to be little off-topic, but I believe, there are lot of forum trolls (at least such guys (and 'girls')) are called this way in German language) around, not only SO, criticizing every term/post, casting close votes, raising the moderator flag etc. You have to live with them, but it is annoying, for sure.
    – user31729
    Jun 27, 2014 at 9:45
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    After reading this question and answer I feel rather downhearted. I need to learn python this year and was looking forward to the incredible help from SO users that one receives here as a TeX novice... clearly not.
    – FionaSmith
    Jul 1, 2014 at 13:15
  • Yeah, the mothership is dead/dying IMHO. One would have thought that splitting it to more specific SE sites would have helped, but no.
    – morbusg
    Jul 4, 2014 at 10:08

2 Answers 2


I think this depends on how you find TeX-SX. I don't know why but we get this holy format stuff once in a while from different users (not you of course) asking us to change our ways (yes all of us) because we don't comply with some half-baked (self conflicting) nerd-angered (first close then ask for clarification) socially-crippled(removing thanks) rules and believe me I'm trying to be nice here.

I came here without knowing what SO was. And I still don't know fully. Nobody told me any format and I didn't feel like obeying one. It was purely interaction based and people told me what the etiquette is and they even once in a while took my opinion seriously (not all of course I have too many hehe).

So long story short, we should be grateful to the initial and current mod team for taking things really considerate and not imposing any structure for sake of rigor though many of them were hard-core mathematicians. You can check questions from 2010 discussing how to proceed etc. I guess we were just lucky and avoided many of the nonsense that you see in other networks.

However, I have to mention that SO is a professional site contrary to their claims. They use their rep points and answers for creating a CV and a Career evidence. So you can expect the bitter taste one gets in there after asking a question. One of the leading problems I have been told or listened in the podcast is that some professional annoyed programmers try to get their job done via asking questions etc. Now that's some nasty behavior that maybe(!) needs that strict resistance. That is by no means the case here and many of those rules are utterly incompatible for our purpose.

After getting a bit better in Python I can appreciate more the core knowledge there however you have to really develop an ├╝ber-filter for hostile behavior in the comments etc. simply because the competition is fierce there. I will probably never dare to ask a question but I still benefit from the knowledge scattered around here and there.

Disclaimer: I was active in Math.SE and Music.SE but stopped it. Because they follow SO rules and it is pretty dull and boring for my taste. It's amazing that they made music which is always fun to talk about, an academic theoretical obscurity (again for my taste).

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    +1 for mentioning Music.SE, I have the very same feeling :) as for Math.SE, math people are weird, but in a much different way than SO and I see much less anger on Math.SE than on SE. Any btw, I think it was a good thing not to move this to the Meta.SO since your (IMHO really on-the-spot) answer wouldn't be really welcome there ;)
    – yo'
    Jun 27, 2014 at 7:41
  • The fact that the above comment is true is in my opinion a pointer that maybe something has to change. I don't want to force anyone into anything, but Stack Overflow's format clearly leaves much to be desired for newcomers - something that will ultimately kill the format because of the lack of new blood, one would say.
    – 1010011010
    Jun 27, 2014 at 9:27
  • I like this summary. And especially the term Über-Filter (as a native German speaker) ;-)
    – user31729
    Jun 27, 2014 at 9:40
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    @1010011010 I think you do have to bear in mind that the scale of the main site (SO) is vast compared even to say SuperUser, let alone TeX-sx. That means that some things are different as there are few options. I also note that the 'Powers' are worrying about how they avoid 'burn out' by people answering questions on SO: we've not really had to worry about that as our aims are somewhat different, I think.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Jun 27, 2014 at 9:42

Norms on SO are very different from those on TeX.SE. (So much so that I may be violating TeX.SE norms by answering this question. That's not a criticism, but I am not providing a definitive answer, which is a (useful) norm for TeX.Se.) In addition, I think there are slightly different norms in different programming-language communities within SO.

Without more detail, I can only guess about the source the difficulty you experienced with your SO question(s).

On SO, it's often felt that it's wrong to ask a question without providing a MWE and being very specific about the question you are asking about the MWE. That's often required for TeX.SE, too, but I think that the subject matter of TeX.SE also lends itself to questions that don't say more than "how do you do X", perhaps with evidence that you have tried to find the answer before asking, and providing your particular document/software context. That's sufficient less often with general-purpose programming languages, because there are so many different good ways to do something useful--but which is appropriate depends on the programming context.

[You wrote "(Obviously TeX.SE is slightly broader because it involves code for a very specific purpose, contrarily to the more general approach of StackOverflow.)" This makes me wonder whether you asked a question involving multiple programming languages--e.g. about which one to use for some purpose. If so, that would often be considered inappropriate for SO, though appropriate for Programmers.SE. SO is roughly a collection of language-specific programming question sites, but with cross-fertilization from different languages. For example, some answers to Clojure questions include Haskell code, and some Clojure questions are also questions about Java.]

(BTW I've spent a lot of time on SO, but don't feel I've experienced what @percusse mentions. I focus on languages other than Python. This difference in experience may be evidence of differences between language communities on SO.)

  • To be honest, I think this is a very strong counterpoint that I completely miss in my answer. However, this can be also criticized from a newcomer's perspective that it is not possible to comply with many implicit rules of SO no matter how properly justified the current behavior is.
    – percusse
    Jul 7, 2014 at 18:31
  • @percusse, yeah, if it's true that there are different norms in different language communities, that makes it hard to figure out what they are. And if people are obnoxious about it, that's bad--whether there are differences in norms or not. There are minimal guidelines stated in the help pages for SO, but maybe they allow some variation. Maybe I was lucky in my choice of languages in that it was pretty easy, given what people wrote, for me to figure out how not to repeat my early mistakes.
    – Mars
    Jul 8, 2014 at 3:08

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