We all love Computer Science Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!


My overall but subjective impression is that the quality of the questions is not so good, but the quality of the answers is very good. To elaborate:

Regarding the questions:

  • There are so many questions that appear to be just homework questions or other problems from a textbook that have been copy-pasted into the site, with no other indication of effort. So many. I find this depressing. It makes me feel depressed about participating and answering questions when the site is flooded with these kinds of questions.

  • Many questions are extremely localized or very narrow in the audience who will find them useful. (Perhaps as a result of being homework questions, they seem to have little practical utility. There seems to be almost no one else other than the poster who will find them helpful, except for people who are looking to quickly find answers to their homework problems.)

  • Many of the questions are about subjects that are already covered in standard textbooks, and the questions feel slightly lazy to me (like the poster was not willing or able to spend some time in the library looking for relevant material in textbooks; if they had done that, they probably could have answered their own question themself).

  • The level of English and writing in the questions is variable: sometimes excellent, sometimes poor.

Regarding the answers:

Overall, the answers tend to be great. The site should be proud of the quality of answers here. There are many well-written and helpful answers. The answers are often insightful, explained concisely, and look like just what someone asking that question would have needed. There seems to be a large community of helpful people who understand the topic area extremely well and are doing a great job of answering questions. (In the case of homework questions, perhaps too good a job...)

These are just my personal impressions. Others may have a different impression!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I agree. The solution should be obvious: all who are annoyed by overly lazy, localized questions, help moderating! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 19 '13 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael I don't answer homework questions because it would bore me and annoy my colleagues. Everything else is a trickle that won't get me to 500 rep any time soon. $\endgroup$ – David Eisenstat May 22 '13 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidEisenstat I understand. All of us can help change that by asking more involved questions! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 22 '13 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ I also find it annoying that theory.cs.stackexchange.com keeps dumping homework questions on cs.stackexchange.com. If the homework questions aren't good enough for the folks that get paid to teach computability and complexity theory, then why would systems and ai faculty/grad-students want to answer them? $\endgroup$ – Wandering Logic May 27 '13 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @WanderingLogic: Most likely they would be cross-posted anyway, if they receive no answers. Anyway I think, the split bewtween cstheory and cs.SE is bad for this site. However, it's not only the HW questions, but also mid-level question that don't get asked or answered here, because the main audience only reads cstheory (e.g. cs.stackexchange.com/q/10576/6716). $\endgroup$ – frafl May 27 '13 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ There have been a few non-homework questions over the last days that were treated poorly. People, if you want non-homework questions (esp by practitioners), be prepared to mold ill-posed questions into shape! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 28 '13 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ @WanderingLogic: We can talk to the cstheory mods about that; some of them are active here, too. The danger would be, of course, that they would shut down question we would like (they are known to be, well, quite zealous). $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 28 '13 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ @frafl: This is another discussion entirely (new thread?) but I don't think the separation is bad for us per se. We have just not really been able to attract much non-TCS traffic; let cstheory have hard TCS questions, there should be more than enough left for us. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod May 28 '13 at 7:33

Final Results


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