Blog: Codidact

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Bug triage as entry point

I'm the main person doing bug triage for Codidact, which means I go through bug reports and requests that our users have made on our sites and, for the ones that will require code changes, file and tag GitHub issues for our developers. I tend to do these in batches and, unless it's urgent, with a delay -- sometimes the community wants to discuss different solutions first, so we let that play out.

I've been doing a batch of triage over the last few days. Sometimes a bug looks small and easy and I think "you know, fixing that would be less effort than writing it up and tagging it". Sometimes that's actually right. (I have three small PRs open right now.) Other times my attempt to fix it is followed by me writing up the bug. :-) Either way I'm learning stuff, which is pretty cool. Mostly I've been learning about front-end stuff, focusing on the "V" in "MVC". I hope to advance to Ruby/Rails; there are features I want that we haven't gotten to yet and maybe some of them are small enough for a beginner.

Someone asked me if triage is a chore. It's not; I actually like doing what I'm doing, because it's not just copying but analysis and refinement. I'm finding that I can bring a fair bit of architectural knowledge and history to the process. A bug report is a symptom, and sometimes the issue I end up filing is different (with a paper trail). I might not write much code, but I'm pretty happy with my GitHub contributions. :-)

Three weeks into the Stack Overflow strike

I still don't have time for deep commentary (just got back from Origins; post about games to come), but there have been some developments since the Stack Overflow moderation strike began on June 5:

Data dumps

From very early on, Stack Overflow Inc. has published a quarterly data dump of all of the content (with attributions etc) from all network sites. This was the explicit insurance in case Stack Overflow turned evil in the future, like Experts Exchange, the company that led to SO being created, did. That stuff all uses the Creative Commons license and is meant to remain available.

Someone noticed that the June dump had not been posted on schedule, and asked a question about it. One of the people who was part of the 10% layoff in April replied, saying that the dumps had been disabled at the end of March with an annotation that they were only to be restored at the direction of the "Senior Leadership Team" (this usually means C-level executives). That drew some attention.

The company spent several days ignoring, then brushing off, then making excuses for this unannounced change. Nothing they said was credible. The strikers added "restore the data dumps" to their list of demands. After almost a week, the June dump was posted. No public promises have been made about the future yet as far as I know (though, see "was away for several days" above).

Spam overflow

With about 1500 curators (including about a quarter of moderators network-wide) on strike, and more importantly with the volunteer-run anti-spam automation turned off, the junk's been piling up. Reportedly, employees are now spending time handling spam, cutting into their day jobs.

While we're told that discussions are happening between representatives from the moderators and the company, they don't seem to have made much progress. A moderator told me that the company committed to keeping the data dumps coming, but it sounded like it was specific employees making the commitment, so the promise might not outlast their employment.

Rules for thee but not for me

In addition to violating the moderator agreement in a few ways (leading to the strike), the gen-AI-hype-chasing company recently announced that they are going to launch a site for "prompt design" (I am not making this up), but they're not going to use their existing process for creating communities because it doesn't work well, so instead they're looking for people to be part of a behind-closed-doors steering committee or some such, with the goal of launching the site by July 26.

The CEO is giving a talk about gen-AI hype at some conference on July 27.

Meanwhile, people who are trying to launch communities using the current process would like a word.

Meanwhile, over at Codidact...

Stack Overflow Inc. has given us a gift. We have lots of new participants and new activity, and some active efforts to build new communities here. Nice! We've gotten some questions about differences and was starting to think that we need an "immigration guide" and then someone reminded me of this early post asking about differences -- with a new answer from one of our new users. Nice.

It sounds like we might also attract some contributors on GitHub, which would be great. We have many things we want to do and not very many people.

Seder-inspired questions

An online Jewish community I'm fond of has some unanswered questions that came out of Pesach this year. Can you answer any of them, dear readers?

  • Why do we designate specific matzot for seder rituals? We break the middle matzah; we eat first from the top one and use the bottom one specifically for the Hillel sandwich. Why? What's the symbolism? (I'm aware of the interpretation that the three matzot symbolize the three "groups" of Jews -- kohein, levi, yisrael -- but that doesn't explain these positional associations.)

  • If your house is always kosher for Pesach, do you have to search for chameitz? That is, is the command to search for chameitz, period, or is it to search for any chameitz that might be in your house, and if you know there isn't any you skip it?

  • Why does making matzah require specific intent but building a sukkah doesn't? When making matzah (today I learned), it's not enough to follow the rules for production; you have to have the specific intent of making matzah for Pesach, or apparently it doesn't count. This "intent" rule applies to some other commandments too. But it doesn't apply to building a sukkah; you can even use a "found sukkah", something that happens to fulfill all the requirements that you didn't build yourself, to fulfill the obligation. Why the difference?

I tried searching for answers for these but was not successful. I have readers who know way more than I do (and who can read Hebrew sources better than I can). Can you help?

Followup to "Dear Stack Overflow, we need to talk"

In 2018 I posted Dear Stack Overflow, we need to talk after SO took some serious Twitter-driven steps against their own communities, moderators, and users. Three years later I got a reply from someone who'd struggled as a new SO user. This was my reply to that comment.

Thanks for sharing your journey. I, too, was an active contributor for many years (not so much on SO but on several of the other sites), and I had to learn the rules and the process and the culture like you did. Individual communities vary, but I had some great experiences.

In recent years the company has taken some (IMO) serious missteps, driving out a bunch of their (former) top contributors. It felt like the company, instead of working with the community in partnership, found the community to be a burden. They lost the community focus they once had, unfortunately.

Some of us decided to try again, putting the community first with an open-source platform and a non-profit organization. We're small but we've been able to build some exciting new tools on the Q&A foundation, and we're building a network of communities that are community-run. We have a Software Development community; it doesn't get 6000 questions per day like SO, but it gets questions and they get answers. Perhaps you'll add it to your rounds, popping in occasionally to see what interests you there too? You can learn more about the project at

How sad -- the 800-pound gorilla is afraid of the little guy

Gosh, Stack Overflow thinks our little open-source project is a threat to them. I'm flattered! Also saddened.

For several years, Stack Exchange has allowed some of its sites to control some (local) ads. Communities can nominate ads that they think will be of interest to their own members, and if enough community members agree, those ads run. Mi Yodeya has ads to promote Sefaria, its own publications, and some other resources. Science sites have ads for professional and research organizations and publications. Several sites have ads that promote other related SE sites. Stack Overflow has ads for open-source projects looking for contributors.

The general philosophy is (or was) that the people building a site are the right ones to decide what to promote on that site -- they know their audience better than the company does. (Which, if you've seen some of the other ads the company runs across the network, is self-evident.1)

This week the company announced a change in qualifications for these community ads: Read more…

Building Codidact Communities

ArtOfCode, the team lead for Codidact, recently wrote Building Codidact: Not Just Tech. It begins:

I’ve been working on Codidact for the last 18 months or so. We’ve built up from nothing, planned what we wanted to do, put systems up, started work, changed course, re-started work, switched systems, and welcomed and lost a whole load of team members along the way. We’ve served just under 5 million requests and 50GB of data in the last month — which is not vast scale, but it’s certainly much bigger scale than anything else anyone on our team has worked with. We’ve all learned a lot along the way: our team is still small, and we’ve all got other commitments; while everyone has things they’re good at, we’ve all had to learn bits of other areas to be able to support each other as well.

Art wrote about evolution of the platform and team, and of the things that happen to grand plans when they make contact with reality. In this post I’m going to focus on the community side — people and sites and features and evolving needs and what I’ve learned along the way.

I’m Monica Cellio, Community Lead at Codidact. Read more…

On the ritual foods of the Purim seder

Shameless self-promotion:

As we know,[1] the evening meal for Purim starts with Wacky Mac, a dish that features four pasta shapes: wheels, shells, spirals, and tubes. What is less widely known is how we are to eat this ritual item. Like the Pesach seder a month later, the meal has specific requirements and specific meanings! And like at the Pesach seder, your child should ask you to explain why this night is different from all other nights and what the laws and customs are and what they mean. It is only because of the other celebratory aspects of this holiday that in most families the child is too inebriated to ask (and the parents too inebriated to answer). So prepare yourself now, so you can both fulfill the commandment and explain it to your child.

First, we must examine the symbolism. [...]

See the full article at Judaism Codidact.

Pass the wine! :-)

P.S. For the programmers, we have this question on type systems and the use of void -- more answers welcome!

The season of Purim Torah

Purim Torah uses the style of traditional torah but is, err, different. Some years ago Mi Yodeya began a tradition of accepting Purim Torah questions, which of course have to be answered in the same style, for a couple weeks a year. Last summer, active (or formerly-active) community members from there founded Judaism Codidact, which we hope will keep growing. It's off to a good start.

We've just opened a place for Purim Torah on the Codidact community. Because Codidact has the concept of categories, we can segregate it so it's hard to confuse with the serious Q&A. And because Codidact supports other types of posts besides questions and answers, we've set it up to support articles too, so that Purim-flavored d'var torah or talmudic analysis has a place.

The category is new so there are only a couple posts so far. I asked a question that arose out of yesterday's torah portion, which has gotten a good answer (that prompts more questions), and I just adapted my best-received past Purim Torah answer into an article on the ritual Purim meal and its symbolism. I'm looking forward to seeing what else shows up.

Perhaps some of you have questions or essays in this spirit to share?

These links will only work during the few weeks surrounding Purim each year, but I included the post in this blog for the explanation.

GitHub graph

My GitHub history got a lot less sparse in 2020, and especially in the last few months of the year. It's great to be a productive member of my first open-source team!

activity graph


Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here. Read more…