# Magnifying glass misconception of what Code Review is about

Recently, since our logo change, I've noticed an abnormal amount of down voted questions. All of these questions seem to have something to do with either code needing to be rewritten, or a bug in their code.

Now I understand that there is Stack Overflow for a reason, but think of this from a newcomer's perspective for a minute.

You come onto a site called Stack Overflow. I don't know about you, but when I first started programming I had no idea what a stack overflow was, you look around and find another part of the site with a magnifying glass.

Before we continue, let's think about what a magnifying glass represents: finding things, discovering problems, learning more about something (yes, this has to do with what Code Review is).

So as I was, you see this magnifying glass and it's called Code Review. Well, just dandy a Code Review, and you post your question, for example:

I've created a program that asks the user for input, but for some reason when the input is entered it returns false, how do I fix this problem?

Source:

def method
puts "Enter yes"
input = gets.chomp
if input = yes
puts "Yes!"
end
end


It's bluntly obvious what the issue is, but out of nowhere, your question has 6 downvotes, is put on hold, and you're banned from asking questions. All because you asked a question on a site called Code Review.

As bad as this sounds, not everybody reads the documentation on websites. Some people are literally brand new, just getting into programming. I don't know about you, but if that's the way I was treated for my first programming question, why would I want to continue doing it?

So if you're understanding where I'm coming from and agree with what I'm saying, I believe we need to reevaluate this logo change. To newcomers it's confusing, and new people are the reason we are here. Remember that you were once new as well.

I'd love to hear what others think of this and their input on the subject.

• Are you absolutely certain that the logo is the cause of this? We'll get off-topic questions no matter what. – Jamal Dec 1 '15 at 1:00
• @Jamal Well honestly, it could be a number of things, but if you think about it, it makes sense that the logo can be a contributing factor – 13aal Dec 1 '15 at 1:02
• The increased traffic stemming from graduation also inherently brings more off-topic posts. Let's crunch some SEDE data and find out. In any case, I'll post an answer here, there are a number of misconceptions to debunk. – Mathieu Guindon Dec 1 '15 at 1:05
• Just a note: The big amount of downvotes on this meta question does not mean that it's a bad question, it's just that people disagree with what your question is saying. (Meta votes tend to work like this) – Simon Forsberg Dec 1 '15 at 7:52
• Also, not everyone disagrees with you. The current score is +2/-7. – Mast Dec 1 '15 at 16:02
• Well we'll see what happens, I think the fact that people think I'm bashing the design, which isn't what's happening don't get me wrong I love the new design, I just don't think t was fully thought through. – 13aal Dec 1 '15 at 16:19

## Part I: "RTFM"

It's bluntly obvious what the issue is, but out of nowhere, your question has 6 downvotes, is put on hold, and you're banned from asking questions. All because you asked a question on a site called Code Review.

What's bluntly obvious to anyone that bothered spending 35 seconds of their lives reading the /on-topic page, is that the question is blatantly off-topic.

The downvotes don't come from out of nowhere, they come from site regulars that feel at home on this site. For the most part these regulars don't like downvoting, and would rather greet a newcomer with upvotes, a warm welcoming comment and a plush unicorn - but when a new user is asking their "where's my bug" question here because they got question-banned on Stack Overflow, or when they can't be bothered to read a tiny little bit about what the site they're about to post on is all about (and more importantly, what it's not about), then the question is off-topic and needs to get off the front page no matter what - we don't want to look like we're closing every question that's asked here, so closing isn't enough, they need to be either downvoted to at least -4, or outright deleted.

We're not snarky power-hungry jerks looking to poison the life of anyone coming here with an off-topic question: everytime such a post is salvageable, I've seen this community put a lot of effort into getting an iffy post back on track. It even happened that an off-topic question was edited into shape, and went "hot" and generated loads of reps for both the OP and the answerers. But broken code is broken code, and can't quite be saved - asking how to fix a specific coding issue simply belongs on Stack Overflow. Dumping walls of code onto this community and expecting someone to spend half a day finding your bug for you isn't respectful of the community either. And we comment to that effect: it's pretty seldom that a user is left without a single clue about why their post is being downvoted and/or put on hold.

We have a scope that we defined and then refined over the course of 4 years in public beta status, and like every single Stack Exchange site, you can't just look at the site's name (or icon, for that matter) and expect to know what's on-topic and what isn't, and what kind of answers are acceptable and what kind aren't.

Sure, play by ear and skip the manual. But then, don't complain when you get downvoted and closed.

One doesn't get question-banned for a single offense. To get to that point, a new user needs to repeatedly post poorly received questions - turns out, everytime a question gets closed, the message points out exactly why that happened, and links to relevant meta posts and help center pages to help you understand why this is happening, and how to avoid repeating that mistake. We can't force anyone to read the manual. But when it gets to a point where the system itself thinks you simply don't care about the rules of the community you're trying to join enough to even try to ask an on-topic question, the only thing it can do at that point is effectively to question-ban your account.

Reading the /on-topic page takes literally 2 minutes, and then if you read that and still have questions, you can search meta. And if you still ask without reading, we'll point you to resources so you can fix your standing. But we can't fix that for you, and if you don't want to help yourself, we will move on to helping new users that want to be helped.

Remember that you where once new as well.

Trust me, I do. And the minute I started being serious about my membership here, I read the help center and learned the rules. Wasn't hard, and it didn't even hurt.

## Part II: Logo vs. Broken Code

I'm posting from my phone right now so it's a bit of a pain to fetch the link, but if you browse the related posts from the design announcement meta you'll quickly find a meta dating back from the Dark Ages, where the people from the community were giving their input on what the design and feel of the site ought to be - turns out the magnifying glass concept was a clear winner and by far: the SE design team did a terrific job at turning that concept into a beautiful design.

But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or a video game by its packaging, and if you never heard of CR you can't pretend to think you know what it's all about just by looking at its icon, regardless of what that icon is. Same for any SE community out there.

### Close Stats

Here's a comparison between the last 90 days and the last 7 days (and heck, last 2 days as well):

           Last 90    Last 7   Last 2
Closed%:    31.96%    34.49%   34.09%

BrokenCode  66.52%    64.22%   63.33%
NoCode       6.68%     3.67%    3.33%
StubCode    14.45%    11.93%   20.00%


Sure, the closed% bumped up a bit - but that was expected. Do we get more broken code? Nope! Actually, "too much broken code" was identified as a major issue all the way back in June, so that's nothing new either.

The design announcement was 7 days ago - so the last data point (11/28) aggregates that week's activity figures; notice the sudden climb, but also notice the same sudden climb 52 weeks ago as well: activity is up, but it was almost predictable - just like the upcoming December dip for the Holidays. Let's see if this week's data changes the numbers on the scale...

Feel free to query SEDE, you'll find that closed & deleted posts have not gone through the roof in the past week - quite the contrary, these figures actually went down, while total number of posts went up: there is no correlation whatsoever between the new design/logo, and an alleged increased number of closed/deleted posts (although yes, percentage-wise, closed+deleted posts did go up slightly, but nothing worth a panic attack ;). Even downvotes went down from the previous week, while total number of votes went up 80%-and-some.

• I don't know about a "plush" unicorn, but definitely some sort of unicorn. – Der Kommissar Dec 1 '15 at 3:04
• Quite a long answer for someone on a phone :D "everytime such a post is salvageable, I've seen this community put a lot of effort into getting an iffy post back on track" is very true though. =v=)b – Joseph Dec 1 '15 at 3:06

All because you asked a question on a site called Code Review.

People seem to have different ideas about what a Code Review is. This is nothing new, and not directly related to our logo. It seems like some people just think that a "Code Review" includes answering "Why does my code not produce the errors that I want?".

From wikipedia:

Code review is systematic examination (often known as peer review) of computer source code. It is intended to find and fix mistakes overlooked in the initial development phase, (...) keyword: overlooked. If you have already noticed the problem, then you should fix it before getting it reviewed.

I don't know about you, but if that's the way I was treated for my first programming question, why would I want to continue doing it?

Because even if your question is off-topic, we want you to come back and post on-topic questions. Ever seen a comment that goes something like the following? "I'm afraid this question does not match what this site is about. Code Review is about improving existing, working code. Code Review is not the site to ask for help in fixing or changing what your code does. Once the code does what you want, we would love to help you do the same thing in a cleaner way! Please see our help center for more information."

That is why you want to continue come back. We don't put this comment on every question maybe, but I'd say that we're pretty good at adding comments like this. We try to focus on what value you will get if you come back and post an on-topic question.

So if you're understanding where I'm coming from and agree with what I'm saying, I believe we need to reevaluate this logo change. To newcomers it's confusing, and new people are the reason we are here. Remember that you were once new as well.

I do remember that I was once new here. Although I didn't read the help center I did something that I personally found even more important: I read the existing questions. I read good questions, I read bad questions. All so that I could get my own idea about what kind of questions are de facto on-topic on the site. And what kind of answers that questions were getting. Whenever I explore a new Stack Exchange site I try to find some closed questions so that I know what makes a question off-topic for that site.

# So how do I interpret the magnifying glass?

For me the magnifying glass is about paying attention to detail. It's about inspecting the code, highlighting something about it and informing the original writer of the code about what you found.

• I guess everyone interprets things differently then, I do agree with most of what you're saying though. – 13aal Dec 1 '15 at 12:02

Recently, since our logo change, I've noticed an abnormal amount of down voted questions. All of these questions seem to have something to do with either code needing to be rewritten, or a bug in their code.

Saying that without data (for example SEDE) to back that up, is highly speculative. While we're speculating, let me add my alternative theory.

I feel there are more questions in the Close queue, but not more closed questions overall. My theory for the cause is the privilege level changes. Many users lost the power to vote to close, and so questions sit on the Close queue longer, so I get to see them more. Also, while users had the power to vote to close before the design change, they would not always downvote. But now that they cannot vote to close anymore, they do what they still can: downvote. My 2 cents.

I think it's extremely hard to prove that a logo has any effect. Off the top of my head, we would have to do A-B testing, with 50% of users seeing this logo and 50% seeing something else, and then comparing stats. That's not going to happen, so speculating about the effects of the logo seems pointless.

As bad as this sounds, not everybody reads the documentation on websites. Some people are literally brand new, just getting into programming. I don't know about you, but if that's the way I was treated for my first programming question, why would I want to continue doing it?

I used to defend the users who don't read the help center. Maybe because I used to be like them before. But getting downvoted is not the end of the world. The links in the on-hold notice and the comments from other users tell you exactly what you need to do to fix your question. If you follow the advice, then you can turn things around, your question can suddenly get showered with upvotes. But many first posters don't follow the guidance, and some even rage-quit. These are not potential future contributors, these are unwanted users.

• These are not potential future contributors, these are unwanted users. Everybody is a potential user, that's the whole point of a site. some even rage quit These I do agree are the type's of people you don't want, but still having said that, you still want everyone to be a possible user. – 13aal Dec 1 '15 at 12:05

I have long-argued that downvoting Off-Topic questions (as opposed to just voting to close) where the OP appears to simply not know the rules is not the kind of first impression we want to make.

However, voting is a personal decision so I will continue to campaign for lenience towards new users, but it is ultimately down to individuals and the community.

New users are inevitable, people who don't read the Help Centre first are inevitable, whether or not our logo may be adding to that, the fundamental problem is never going to go away.

• This was also my line of thought, until I realised that off-topic questions take up real estate on the front page until they reach -4. Fewer off-topic posts on the front page makes a better impression and sets a better example. – Mathieu Guindon Dec 1 '15 at 1:20
• Down-voting off-topic questions is a "good thing".... it is often more visible to the OP than a close vote (because close votes may take a long time to come in), and down-votes help to clear the junk off the front page. While you are right that the OP's may/will feel "upset" by these downvotes, that's OK, they should also have read the on-topic page before posting. If they are "old" members of the site, then downvote too... they should know better. – rolfl Dec 1 '15 at 1:20
• You guys realize it is possible for the people the created this site to take the down voted questions off the page right...? Having said that, I still personally believe that coming to aka site with a magnifying glass called Code Review gives a different example then intended.. – 13aal Dec 1 '15 at 1:24
• @LostBam that's exactly what I said: 4 downvotes and a bad question is automatically off the front page! – Mathieu Guindon Dec 1 '15 at 1:36