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Preface: I submit myself as a super-enthusiastic Stackexchange user.

My Question: Were two key Jeff Atwood blog entries considered when Workplace.SE was formed?

  1. Bikeshed Effect

    Although discussion can meander in any topic, the probability of meandering goes up as the technical difficulty of the topic goes down. After all, the greater the technical difficulty, the fewer participants can really follow what's going on. Those who can are likely to be the most experienced developers, who have already taken part in such discussions thousands of times before, and know what sort of behavior is likely to lead to a consensus everyone can live with. Thus, consensus is hardest to achieve in technical questions that are simple to understand and easy to have an opinion about, and in "soft" topics such as organization, publicity, funding, etc. People can participate in those arguments forever, because there are no qualifications necessary for doing so, no clear ways to decide (even afterward) if a decision was right or wrong, and because simply outwaiting other discussants is sometimes a successful tactic. The principle that the amount of discussion is inversely proportional to the complexity of the topic has been around for a long time, and is known informally as the Bikeshed Effect.

  2. Gorilla vs. Shark


If the consensus is something akin to:

No, these blog entries were not considered. In fact Workplace.SE is a different bird. We actually encourage these types of questions.

...Then I don't think that there's really a place for me on this site. I'll just continue to consume the other amazing properties on the Stackexchange network.

But if the consensus is closer to:

Yes, these blog entries were considered, and we're trying our best to uphold the spirit of Jeff Atwood's guidance.

...Then maybe we have something to talk about.


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    I think NPR's failure was one of the main reasons the subjective guidelines were formed... NPR itself was - partly - an effort to clean SO from bikeshed crap, by moving them out of the way... As for your question, the blog posts apply network wide, they are general Stack Exchange guidelines. – yannis Aug 2 '12 at 11:41
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    This is easily a more ranty duplicate of one of multiple discussions on this Meta: Is “not constructive” really applicable at workplace.SE? How do we define Constructive on this site? or your own What does “Not Constructive” Mean?. – Rarity Aug 2 '12 at 11:55
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    Let's assume for a minute that they were considered. What would you like to talk about that hasn't already been talked about? – Nicole Aug 2 '12 at 14:59
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    @NickC: Good question. [I upvoted your comment.] When I look at the Workplace.SE front page, I feel that most questions violate the 'Gorilla vs. Shark' test. I resisted the urge to list a handful of these questions because I feel like there are too many too choose from, and I wanted to make sure that my understanding of Workplace.SE's charter is at least in the right ballpark. // Also, if I picked a handful, I fear that people would fixate on those and ignore the bigger picture that I'm interested in protecting. – Jim G. Aug 2 '12 at 15:07
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    @JimG. Response below. – Nicole Aug 2 '12 at 17:19
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My response is to your comment:

When I look at the Workplace.SE front page, I feel that most questions violate the 'Gorilla vs. Shark' test.

My question to you is, how do you interpret Gorilla vs. Shark?

Because I just don't see what you are seeing.

Let's review Jeff's list of problems with Gorilla vs. Shark:


I think if you'll take a look at Gorilla vs. Shark again, Jeff posts an example of how a non-constructive:

  • "Google+ vs. Facebook"

could become the non-quite-there-but-salvageable:

  • "Are Google+ Circles better UX for sharing among friends than Facebook Groups?"

You'll notice that a few of our questions are like the last one, and a lot started out that way. And you should also notice efforts by the moderators to post notices on those questions that they need to be improved.

But I see very few on the page asking "what's better" abstractly, even in this case. I see many asking how to accomplish something, or how to understand and deal with a certain situation.

Jeff concludes:

Perhaps this is a red herring. I honestly feel a lot of the “this v. that” questions would be better expressed as examinations of the underlying concepts without all the mock conflict.

I 100% agree with this. And I feel we've actually done a fairly good job of transforming versus questions into "examinations of the underlying concepts". I would welcome any discussion regarding examples to the contrary.

  • +1: Very good answer. If the consensus becomes: 'Most Workplace.SE questions pass the 'Gorilla vs. Shark' test', then I'll be very tempted to mark this as the accepted answer. Thanks for answering. – Jim G. Aug 2 '12 at 18:04
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    I'd argue that "difficult to learn" isn't true here either; many of the good questions here have focused but applicable answers. Plus the gorilla v. shark question was really about comparison questions. I'm not sure I've ever even seen more than a couple "X vs Y" questions on this entire site, so I think calling that the problem is pretty inaccurate. In fact the only X vs Y I've seen are "where should I work" which we uh, just prohibited via the FAQ – Rarity Aug 2 '12 at 18:17
  • And as for experts; experts here are the people who can answer questions. There's no relevant PhDs to attract or Senior Workplace Executives. If we attract people that can answer practical problems and answer them well, there, those are our experts. – Rarity Aug 2 '12 at 18:56
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We have had a great deal of discussion on this topic, and I'm almost insulted to find you both failed to look for previous meta discussions on the topic and assumed this site was somehow designed outside the Stack Exchange ecosystem or without Stack Exchange policies.

I in particular offered to be a pro temp moderator because I was afraid this site would devolve into what Programmers.SE started out as; low standards, a dumping ground for questions other sites wouldn't take for quality reasons rather than topic reasons. Many other members of this site, such as Yannis Rizos, came from Programmers.SE hoping to make this site work where Programmers had initially failed.

As such we have had the following meta discussions on this and related topics:

There are also 35 results for searching "Not Constructive" on Meta (that's one in three questions).

Note I didn't have to look far to find these because they're all in my profile, as I've either answered or asked all of these questions personally. There are surely more I haven't taken a part in. We have also substantially added to the FAQ to carve out some areas that are consistently Not Constructive to clarify this policy to new users and make their closure simpler and by the books.

All of these questions debate Good Subjective, Bad Subjective or "Bikeshed" issues and how that applies to this site. It is blatantly false to say we "haven't considered" SE policy or the SE blog posts on what makes constructive questions/answers.

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    Missed meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124911/…, which predates even the private beta! – Shog9 Aug 2 '12 at 14:37
  • @Rarity: Thanks for your compilation. I know that the Meta community has discussed what constructive should mean for the site, but I'm not convinced that those discussions reflected an understanding of the two blog entries which I referenced, which is exactly why I raised the question. – Jim G. Aug 2 '12 at 14:42
  • @Shog9: That is an outstanding post, and I particularly like your response. I'm going to have to examine that a bit deeper when I have some more time. Thanks! – Jim G. Aug 2 '12 at 14:44

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