Over the past couple of weeks I've started noticing a disturbing (to me) trend in our little community and I wanted to get the ball rolling on what (if anything) to do about it, or (entirely possible) I'm the only one who is concerned. I think the 'tl:dr' summary boils down to something like this:

"We've started to have people stop by who are more familiar with 'the way things are' over at Stack Overflow, and appear to be making assumptions that things work exactly the same way over here at photo-SE and are making unnecessary waves because things don't work completely like Stack Overflow at photo-SE."

Now I'm not a member of Stack Overflow, so I'll freely admit that I only know 'the way things are' over on Stack Overflow as a result of 2 things... What people who are participants of both stacks have told me in chat, and witnessing directly some of the inappropriate behavior by experienced Stack Overflow members who have joined photo-SE, and their highly confrontational reactions to what might as well be called 'best practices' that we at photo-SE have developed for our community which deviate from the 'best practices' over at SO.

Specific examples of these sorts of inappropriate reactions (for OUR particular community... I'm not implying 'inappropriate' in a judgmental way) include comment threads such as the following:

Again, I'm not judging... I think that every reaction that these users had probably would have been the right reaction if they were to questions/answers over at Stack Overflow... Seemingly the disconnect only comes into play because this isn't Stack Overflow! There are probably other examples of these kinds of disconnects, but these are the ones that I'm personally aware of because they've been happening on questions that I've personally asked.

I've been pondering this evening what to do about this because it is clear to me that while we both use the same 'engine' to run our two sites, in no way is the photo-SE community a child site to Stack Overflow, and the assumptions that both communities are the same with the same 'best practices' is clearly false. So with that said...

Quesion #1:

It makes me wonder... Should we (or even can we) address and clarify this difference within the FAQ or somewhere else on the site? It doesn't have to be complicated... I'm thinking something along the lines of: "The photo-SE may have different community 'best practices' than you are used to. Please tread carefully until you have a handle on the differences and when in doubt please defer to those who have been members of photo-SE for a while." Or something to that effect... Just something with a bit more 'weight' than a comment where we can reference new (to our stack) users if they dive in with incorrect assumptions about 'the way things are,' or 'the way things should be.'

Question #2:

Or... Does someone else have a better solution? It seems quite likely that this problem will continue to crop up as more folks from SO come and visit photo-SE? Maybe the big differences or the things that 'make us unique' should be clarified somewhere... In a thread on Meta, perhaps?

Question #3:

Or... Am I just out to lunch? It's possible that this really is just me, nothing additional needs to be done, and things can be handled in comments or by mods on a case-by-case basis...

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the question by the way. These questions are fundamental to the 'ethos' of a site. In a couple of years everyone will "just know" how it is here, but only because people like you are asking these 'fuzzy' questions now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjol
    Feb 11, 2011 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ fwiw the three referenced questions seem fine to me, at least with a cursory look \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2011 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Inappropriate is pretty much a judgemental word, by the way. In a small community a large number of self answered questions by the same few people will generate an unrepresentative and rather monotone 'discussion'. In fact it will be a blog, with a paternalistic style. In this way the asker doesn't actually benefit from the asking (because they believe they already know the answer), only from the 'kudos'. If you want to generate discussion, sure ask, but don't immediately answer yourself, as that is likely to shut discussion down, not open it up. \$\endgroup\$
    – time4tea
    Feb 12, 2011 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @time4tea: Inappropriate = 'not appropriate.' The only judgement inherent in the word is what you bring to it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2011 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @time4tea: Discussion is not the point of Stack Exchange- correct answers are. If I ask a question to which I have the best answer then whether I post my answer immediately or 'wait a while' is totally moot. I am not so arrogant as to think that I know he best answer for every question that gets posted on photo-SE, but for me to 'give others a shot at answering just to be a sport' on questions I've asked where I do know the right answer... Well that's just silly, and a waste of others time as well. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2011 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think, reading your answer, that you might very well be under such an impression! Any how, good luck! \$\endgroup\$
    – time4tea
    Feb 13, 2011 at 9:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't mistake my confidence in the knowledge and experience I've acquired over many years of study and practice for arrogance. They're two completely different things. Good luck to you too! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14, 2011 at 23:09

4 Answers 4


@alexandrui is wrong even by Stack Overflow standards. Search meta-meta for 'linkrot'

As for @greg, his theories about question quality may be derived from Stack Overflow, but his attitude certainly isn't. Be nice (or don't be a jerk) applies everywhere...

And the fundamental difference (as I see it) between Stack Overflow and here is not qualitative, it is quantitative. This is a small site, where 'seeding' with interesting questions (especially ones which are delving into new territory for the site) are entirely valid and desirable.

Concerning @time4tea: again, on Stack Overflow, there is no bar to asking and answering your own questions, so - as you say in your comment - logically there is no bar to asking questions you know the answer to. In the past I've struggled with something, found the answer, then posted both question and answer on Stack Overflow because I considered that it would be useful to someone else. Jeff thinks so too.

So, ask away. I had never heard of freelensing, and learning about it really made me want to go and try.

I think that would satisfy Jeff's criteria of "making the internet a better place".

PS. You might consider hanging out occasionally on http://meta.stackoverflow.com, as lots of this stuff has already been debated there. And if you're ever in any doubt about the 'official' line, you can do worse than popping in to The Tavern, where you will generally find knowledgeable "meta-heads" 24/7. (Note: you will need 20 meta-meta rep to actually be able to say anything there)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Benjol: I very much appreciate the links... They're like 'ammo' for not feeling crazy about my views on asking and answering questions, as well as on 'community building' and shaping photo-SE into a place that's maybe radically different (but that's OK!) than Stack Overflow. :-) Since I only play in the photo-SE wading pool, I haven't always had a good sense of where to find similar discussions that other stacks have worked through. I suspect that these sorts of questions will need to be asked and kicked around at some point for every stack as they grow and become their own communities... \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2011 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jay, to be honest, so far in this discussion, I don't think we've strayed that far from Stack Overflow. I advise looking at 'meta-meta', not because all sites should slavishly follow Stack Overflow, but because lots of the issues are common, and have already been debated there. No point reinventing the wheel! \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjol
    Feb 12, 2011 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jay I'd like to vote this answer up more than once. Link rot is a big problem on the web in general and on Stack Exchange in particular. You should always summarise the page you link to. \$\endgroup\$
    – ChrisF
    Feb 12, 2011 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Couldn't agree more, and that is generally the 'policy' that has been encouraged around photo-SE (and apparently on other stacks as well)... \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2011 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not super fond of the ask and then immediately answer, if but Jeff likes it, no problem here. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Feb 13, 2011 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca, I have to admit that most of the time, even if I think I know the answer, I'd wait a while, just to see if anyone has a better answer. And, in fairness, @Jay didn't do this anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjol
    Feb 13, 2011 at 6:51

For what it's worth, I've learned quite a lot from several of these "jeopardy-style" questions, so as far as I'm concerned, the content is good. If we need to start policing the way people ask questions so that they conform to a rigorous set of guidelines in order to keep people well-behaved, then I guess that's fine, though I personally would be disappointed to see this.

As far as the "feel" of this site vs. Stack Overflow, I think it does feel a little different here, but I'm not convinced that this is inappropriate. I've been a member of SO longer than I've been a member of P-SE, and I can assure you that the things I'm looking for on SO are just a little different than the things I'm looking for here. When I ask a question on SO, it's super-specific, and most of the time, I can test for a "right" answer (my stuff runs or it doesn't run, etc.). On P-SE, there are questions like this, but the overwhelming majority of questions benefit hugely from some discussion -- answers tend to be much more subjective (and if you don't like subjective, you'd better find another hobby).

I understand that there's a risk that P-SE could end up turning into a community blogging platform if we're not a little bit careful, but honestly, this is a part of the Q&A problem that the SE sites in general need to work out. Anyone who's been paying attention to Quora's growing pains understands how important it is to get the "reputation" and "moderation" parts of these sites right. I appreciate the fact that P-SE is a place where I've got a pretty decent chance of learning a few things about photography just by tuning in once a day, and I'd like to see this continue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 "and if you don't like subjective, you'd better find another hobby" Couldn't agree more... While it seems like on SO it's 'the norm' to ask NO subjective questions (because it's far easier to ask only objective questions about programming), 'the norm' here at photo-SE is instead to ask good subjective questions (blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective) and those who come from stacks with 'less tolerance' to the subjective side of questions and answers may need to adjust their expectations lest they become frustrated with how 'not like' SO we are... \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2011 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to be clear, I'm not sure that we don't have a little more work to do before we understand where we're drawing the line. Photo critiques, for instance, are specifically excluded from P-SE. Was that done to try to keep us from sliding too far into "subjective" debates? \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 11, 2011 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ For sure, and I'm not suggesting that we need to get all crazy and just allow anything and everything... Simply that we're probably a more likely candidate to make frequent use of the criteria outlined in Robert Cartaino's "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" article, as opposed to SO, where because of the topic I'm betting the line in the dirt can be drawn far more firmly without killing the community. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2011 at 2:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Far be it from me to suggest that anyone get crazy.... Yeah, I think I know what you're talking about. \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Lambert
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:15

NOTE: the following comments were transferred here from this question, as they weren't specifically about that question but debating the culture of this community. They have been added here because @Jay refers to them in his question above.

I'm not really sure what you have against my questions @greg, but this is the second one that you've posted nasty comments on over the last couple of days, and I don't appreciate it. Since you're new around here, I'd like to point you to the FAQ: photo.stackexchange.com/faq - specifically the section entitled 'Be Nice.' Let me suggest that you try contributing to the community as I and many others are doing instead of simply standing to the side being critical of others. Or go elsewhere. Either way works for me. – Jay Lance Photography yesterday

if you're going to create fake questions for "the good of the community" you should at least mark them as community wiki. compared to the other stack exchange sites this one seems desperate and kind of cheezy with content like this. – greg 14 hours ago

plus you mention the faq, which clearly states You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. It's actually highlighted. And the sentence following further discourages content of this type. – greg 14 hours ago

@greg: Huh... based on quantity of votes my questions and answers have received it seems like the photo-SE community has been pretty happy with the quality of content I've produced so far... But I suppose to you that just implies that 'the community' is just too stupid to recognize good questions and answers when they see them? I have a thought... Why don't you try being a part of the community for a while before you attempt to speak for it, or be its policeman? – Jay Lance Photography 14 hours ago

Thank you for putting words into my mouth, and thank you for having so much internet rage. You're right, seeing as I just started here at photo 4 days ago, I've had plenty of time to get off my @ss and start inventing hypothetical questions. Look, all i'm saying is, coming from other stack exchange sites that have a healthy atmosphere of real question and answer, questions like this make this site a bit contrived and cheezy. Plus content like this is against the very faq you didn't even seem to fully read. – greg 13 hours ago

You don't personally get to determine what questions are 'real,' and what questions are 'fake,' which ones are 'good' and which ones are 'bad.' That's the job of the community as a whole. Based on the response of the community to both the questions and answers that I provide, you're simply wrong. – Jay Lance Photography 13 hours ago

@greg: Playing "jeopardy", as we call it here on StackExchange, is a perfectly valid way to get useful questions and answers into a site. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jay seeding questions he thinks are useful. If, for whatever reason, the community decides that a question is NOT useful, all members with 3000+ rep have the option of voting to close a question. If you think a question is not useful and should be closed, feel free to rep up and vote for closure with a valid reason. If enough people agree with you, a question will be closed. – jrista♦ 10 hours ago

If you wish to discuss the policies of this site, you should also feel free to begin discussions on meta.photo.stackexchange.com (click the 'meta' link in the top bar of this site). That is the proper forum for discussions such as you and Jay are having. Before continuing this discussion here, please start a discussion thread in Meta about this question. Having observed Jay for a while now, I do not believe he is in any way trying to violate policy or illegitimately build rep. On the contrary, I believe this question came out of a discussion in our chat room, and it is entirely valid. – jrista♦ 10 hours ago

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, @chills42. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2910
    Feb 12, 2011 at 3:10

This is the web, so get used to links. I truly believe that the link I posted (which gives you the original site and a title) has enough information to locate the resource linked in case of a breakage (and if not, ask someone to help). Of course, a short description of the content that can be found at the destination is a bonus.

Since the sites I pointed to are giving much more information than all the other answers on the mentioned question, I assumed (as I always do) that the quality of the linked resources is much more important than the presence of a nice summary. Maybe it's my mistake, but the point of the photo-SE should be to help you learn about a given subject, and I helped in my personal, maybe inappropriate, way.


  • a summary doesn't help you at all if the link is broken
  • some resources can't be easily summarized:
    • a video showing you the actual results of a tehnique
    • a forum
    • a visual guide
    • an article full of tips, advices, and image samples
  • a link can be posted to 255 sites, and any required updates can be made in a single place (wow!). What would you like: an outdated answer from 2007, or a link to an article updated last month?
  • this is a community, so it's not unusual to update broken links, even if it's not your answer (see https://stackoverflow.com/posts/677242/revisions)

Go ahead, make it clear in the FAQ that links are not encouraged, and save the time of a few others like me.

Just Another Update

@jrista and all others: did you even bother to follow the links and compare that with the other answers on photo-SE about free-lensing? Just curious, maybe something is very wrong with my way of understanding the OP question. Those links point to a lot of information and sample results (both images and video), and could have the dangerous effect of learning something useful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One word. Linkrot \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjol
    Feb 11, 2011 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate your argument, and certainly the quality of linked resources is important, but I personally want to be able to go to one page and get all the information there instead of following links all over the place. If I wanted to click links, I'd just use google :) \$\endgroup\$
    – chills42
    Feb 11, 2011 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would disagree with "a summary doesn't help you at all if the link is broken". On the contrary, summarizing the correct part(s) of a linked site can directly answer the Photo-SE question you are providing an answer for, and the link can provide "further information" or greater clarification. If you are summarizing useless information from a link, then your summary is wrong. If you can't use just a summary to answer the question directly, summarize what you can, and add your own answer as well as a link and summary. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 12, 2011 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chills42: if you knew how to use google, you would have learned a lot more than from the answers on photo-SE about free-lensing \$\endgroup\$
    – alexandrul
    Feb 12, 2011 at 10:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alexdrul - if that's the case, then it sounds like you should provide a better answer... \$\endgroup\$
    – chills42
    Feb 12, 2011 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chills42: and the linked resources from my answer didn't provide you enough information about the subject? \$\endgroup\$
    – alexandrul
    Feb 12, 2011 at 14:32

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