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I am mostly active on ServerFault, but have lurked here on and off. I'm also active on meta.SE and a few other SE sites.

On ServerFault and other SE sites, there are issues with question quality and discussions of what to do about it, so I've read with interest the posts here on meta.EE about whether you're being too harsh in dealing with bad questions.

My impression as (largely) an outsider is that there seems to be a pretty good concensus that bad questions should be swiftly downvoted and/or closed. Based on a fairly look at some statistics for the site and looking at questions over the past several days, it seems to me that it works - the percentage of questions that seem "bad" to me is lower than on, say, ServerFault.

What I'm wondering is what the regulars here think - do you think your method of dealing with bad questions is working? Are you able to keep up with the number of bad questions and shut them down and keep them from swamping the good ones?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, you might look into Programmers.SE too. Similar tough attitude, imo. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 20 '14 at 5:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Yeah, I've seen comments about Programmers also being tough, but I've never been active there. Here, I have some idea who some of the regulars are, in the past I've read a lot of the questions her and have some idea of what good and bad questions look like. \$\endgroup\$ – Ward Nov 20 '14 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow I was just browsing the first few pages on SF and there really is a lot of crap, I hope most questions are from people setting up home servers / blogs and they're not working on any servers actually important. \$\endgroup\$ – PeterJ Nov 20 '14 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can't get a usefully unbiased answer from asking a question in a forum with a membership heavily influenced by the result of implementing it - of course the people pushing for it are going to think it is a good idea, and since they've mostly drowned out and outright attacked everyone else, that's the only message you'll hear. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Nov 20 '14 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do we want a high good-question-ratio quickly, or have as many good questions as possible? Of course, you don't want bad questions. But what do you do with a bad question? Do you vote it down and close it ASAP, or do you just close it? Do you leave a comment to help the user improve his question? Different approaches have different impacts on the users and the chances they will try to improve their questions. In the end, you want to end up with many good questions. I feel like this site doesn't provide good feedback to new users - but I'm hardly an active user anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly related: Why are electronics SE questions getting down-voted so often? \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 22:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ So long as comments are polite, it's ok if a the site is a little tough. Some bad questions get some rude comments and that diminishes the site. \$\endgroup\$ – geometrikal Nov 25 '14 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some questions get indeed rude comments. I agree that the comments should always be polite no matter how bad the question. Also there are some questions from new users that show potential and they never get the chance to be improved. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 27 '14 at 4:27
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Nobody has a inherent right to post here.

Interestingly, the site founder(s) would seem to disagree. Logging out, one sees the banner:

Stack Exchange: How it works

Bad English is still annoying

Regarding English, shouldn't it be "an inherent right"?


I didn't mention the user I quoted as this is a general remark against these ideas.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe this should be a comment, not an answer. Discussing a comment to an answer in another answer, that's overcomplicating things. \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ PkP, I find your attitude at least blunt. That being said, on the content: 'Or at least don't edit my answer in a way that makes it look like an attack against a person' - if you don't want to make it look like an attack, then don't quote, rephrase instead to make it really a remark on an idea, not to a person. Also, more importantly: how exactly do you see this as an answer to the question 'is the strict attitude towards questions working?'? \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, I don't think you're getting my point here. This is not the main site, this is meta. We're not necessarily seeking consensus here the way we are seeking it at the main site. Some bluntness may be required to press an issue, especially when the issue is the bluntness that is appearing here at EE.SE. And as I said, I don't like arguments, I like to be civil and work towards consensus. But it brings out the bluntness in me to see that some of the highest-awarded individuals in this numbergame site can sometimes be the most bluntest. What does the banner say of the founders' opinion of it? \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Nov 21 '14 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even though it's meta, answers should be answers, comments should be comments. If you want your own discussion about whether or not anybody can ask a question, open your own question - but I really don't see how this answers the OP's question. \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, let's end this here. If I really must explain myself (which kind of defeats the point of the answer), I wrote the answer to provoke a reaction. To accomplish it, I needed to format it as I did, with the quotes and the picture attachment. I don't see how I could have made it as a comment. Now, please, let's give it a rest. My heart is getting tired pumping blood to my forehead, which is about to explode. I'm not that young anymore :D \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Nov 21 '14 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I can't force you to continue discussing of course. I can only say that compared to what I have seen (and I've been around some time now on SE) this post is strange as an answer. You could have made it a comment by @-ing the quoted user and referring to the image. I wouldn't like being quoted but not being named. And still, I don't see how this answers the question. But yes, let's leave it a rest, because I'm not going to convince you either :) \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 23:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh crap, now I myself can't give it a rest. My answer is exactly to the point of the OP's question. He asks if the strict attitude works for us. An experienced user demonstrates his strict attitude by stating that there's no inherent right for anybody to post here. And I just can't let that remark slide as it goes against the very core idea of SE, since that banner where it says that "Anybody can ask" is what the newcomer sees when he is writing the question. Ok, right, it doesn't answer the OP's question, but I think it's right on point anyway. Maybe that SE policy banner needs change... \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Nov 21 '14 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see, now I start to understand the point you're making. We could have debate over the question if this is an answer to whether it's working or not, the strict attitude - but we won't! I can see how this answer is related and deserves more than a place as a comment. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, and sorry for any dead braincells and blood pressure! Good night! \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Nov 21 '14 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PkP Buy yourself a virtual beer on me or whatever you drink. Or a real one as desired. (I'm a teetotaller so virtual Coca-Cola is good enough (Bundaberg Gingerbeer is better)). I'd like to see high and improved quality as much as eg Olin would, even though I've never seemed to be able to convince him of that. | But I cannot reconcile this with a trail of (figuratively at least) broken and bleeding would be members, people driven off and abused and having life made exceptionally hard for them - as what is hard not to see as being as much a dominance games as a 6-sigma desire. Whatever. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Nov 23 '14 at 8:44
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An interesting factor is that most of the vigilantes here either

  • Cannot tell a zombie from a person who does not use English as their primary language

  • Can sometimes tell but would much the rather kick them down the stairs or demand that they grovel than admit that the primary problem is a language one, and may be as much the vigilantes blinkered monolingual mindset as the fault of the questioner.

Along the way we have had some quite intelligent and worthwhile people who could have become valuble contributors in reasonable time frames, driven off by the vigilantes actual or assumed lack of understanding.

The quality of questions which is allowed is very variable and, if you can put a line of words together competently it seems you can get away with some very low grade questions. Add unusual language presentation and you are liable to be gone by lunchtime.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You forget to that this is a English language site. Foreigners do get a little slack, but in the end bad English is still annoying regardless of the reason. Nobody has a inherent right to post here. Being able to write clear and non-annoying English is a prerequisite. It may not be your fault that you can't do that, but the reason why is irrelevant to whether reading your post will be annoying. The same goes for native English speakers that just can be bothered. Off with their heads and -1 to the lot of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Nov 21 '14 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the bigger problem is a lack of understanding of how the site works. Far too often we see "how to write johnson counter in vhdl" or ""suggest me op amp for class ab amplifier" type questions. Whether this is a product of laziness or a language barrier (comprehension of the FAQ) is hard to say, but at the end of the day the questions suck. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Nov 21 '14 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olin: It's "an inherent right", and "and just can't be bothered", [emphases mine]. Off with their heads indeed. \$\endgroup\$ – EM Fields Nov 22 '14 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung I see people claiming that they cannot understand questions which I find perfectyly clear OR as clear as others which are notionally written in good English. These claims are re understanding - not quality of language used. These claims may in some cases be disingenuous but I think they often reflect an "Ugly American" (using that term in the classic sense) attitude where the readers have a cloistered and self referential perspective of reality and are unable to handle quite conprehensible and only slightly unusual variations in word use. Some of the loudest moaners (no names) also \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Nov 23 '14 at 8:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ .... frequently misspell words or abuse the language generally. But complain when others are perceived to fail 'proper standards'. I have long actively avoided pointing out such errors. Maybe it's time to start -1ing am=nd commenting, as Olin suggests. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Nov 23 '14 at 8:36
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I think that so far the system has worked, even though I suppose it made a few victims. And there is also the never-ending debate whether we should be friendlier or more strict.

Probably the fact that there are fewer users than on other sites helped, too. (Perhaps also the reverse is true)

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You answered your own question. The fact that we end up with fewer bad questions than SF and that we are tougher on them suggests that this is both working and and useful.

I'm not on SF, so I can't compare the two sites. My impression of SE compared to physics, photography, and the great outdoors is that we get more crappy questions here as a fraction of the total than those other sites. Just this morning I spent time dealing with crappy questions (https://electronics.stackexchange.com/q/139358/4512, https://electronics.stackexchange.com/q/139365/4512) instead of writing good answers. It feels like this is sucking up more time here than on other sites I'm on. I think this mostly due to site volume. As a site matures, it attracts disproportionately more zombies trying to eat our brains because they've discovered there are lots of brains here.

The only solution is to be ever-vigilant and to react quickly and decisively to bad questions. Apparently it's working relative to SF where they are less vigilant and more tolerant, and the zombies therefore feel more entitled and get more positive feeback from positive results.

Don't ever feed a zombie. All his friends will come too and try to get the same.

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Your write up only explores one aspect of the question posted in the title. Perhaps you should explore the flip side of the coin. Has the attitudes here towards questions adversely or positively attracted good questions?

I for one see a great diminishment of good questions. I'm not certain where the lack of questions originates from, but certainly the amount of snark that is manifested here can't help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I strongly disagree, I think the quality of questions here has improved since I joined in July 2012. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Nov 21 '14 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung there must be a connection! \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 21 '14 at 22:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CamilStaps In my observation, 2 important shifts have happened between mid-2012 and now. (1) By early 2013, we have accumulated a critical number of 3k members, who are capable of closing and reopening questions. Before that time, the moderators had to do the bulk of closing. (2) In Spring 2014, the Arduino.SE became a viable alternative . That had contributed to peace on EE.SE . \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 21 '14 at 23:22

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