I have been observing this for 3 days now. You will find tons of new members who ask silly, already answered, homework kinds of question. They either do not take the pain of going through the FAQ or simply choose to ignore it. Now we have preventive measures implemented in the site such as closing of questions or putting them on hold. But, this also fills the question tab with low-quality questions. Sometimes the experienced community members answer such questions, giving some freedom, but I think this issue has been aggravated in the recent week.

I think some new and more robust measures should be taken against this problem.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ There is this awesome feature on Stack Overflow called Triage, I think we should have this feature too, It will increase the workload but it shall make the community a little better. \$\endgroup\$ May 28 '16 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Linux&Unix, if I am not mistaken, a low-quality, closed or on hold question without any answer with be deleted automatically? after a short while. \$\endgroup\$ May 30 '16 at 7:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aaditya Sahay What is this FAQ thing you're talking about? Maybe something from the ancient history? \$\endgroup\$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jun 3 '16 at 9:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrejaKo, the FAQ or help center is for members of the community to read and should read before posting a question or an answer, if everyone would do this AND follow it then these problems would go away. If you've never visited the help center then your part of the problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Jun 3 '16 at 20:22
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @laptop2d I've been on this site basically from the point it got out of private beta, so I know the rules. Actually, I was making a not-so-nice and not-so-obvious comment about the way the old FAQ has been ruined by the help center. Back in the day, FAQ would in an extremely clear way list list what is on topic and what is off-topic here. Since the switch to help center, I was unable to clearly find the list in an accessible location. Yes, it's still there in the 2-minute tour, but the page draws attention away from the list and not toward it. \$\endgroup\$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jun 3 '16 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Furthermore, the I've been unable to actually see where it says that for example duplicate questions are off-topic, and I did do a concentrated search for that. In my opinion, this is again one of the failures of what we have. Next, we do have a section with, let's call it "in-depth" explanations, but information density there is so low that it's practically unusable. Why do I have to go through ~10 pages to see what can easily fit in maybe one or two? \$\endgroup\$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jun 3 '16 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrejaKo It doesn't really say that duplicate questions are off topic, it says do research electronics.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask I agree, its kind of buried deep. I can't remember but I think when you have a first time question there is more information, and more of the help center shows up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Jun 3 '16 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The very same debate has currently gotten triggered at SO as well. I think it will be of interest to follow how that goes, especially since the SO debate was triggered by a mod, so it should hopefully carry more weight. meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/324220/…. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Jun 9 '16 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your goal to prevent bad questions, or to better follow through on removing them? \$\endgroup\$
    – Keegan Jay
    Jun 10 '16 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JayKeegan Prevention is always better then cure, but we can't prevent them can we? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10 '16 at 7:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AadityaSahay Well there is a conspicuous lack of concrete rules on the Ask a Question page. There are some vague guidelines in a block of text (in a panel which absolutely does not draw the eye, I've only just noticed it). Also frankly, you guys don't follow your own rules - for example, a broad question is totally OK as long as a top contributor finds it interesting, but not acceptable at all if it is boring or naive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Keegan Jay
    Jun 10 '16 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ What you may find some silly question etc... may be actually very usefull to other. I have started to use electronic stack exchange since a few weeks, I am really happy and amazed with the speed people are replying allowing other to leverage their expertize in the field of electronic. Answer to my questions saved me precious time and avoided many mistake. What may sometimes looks silly question for expert, may be normal questions for others newbies. If you find some questions not interesting, then just don't reply it that's it... \$\endgroup\$
    – chris
    Jun 11 '16 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chris Stack Exchange is a place for quality questions and answers, There are some clearly mentioned guidelines to asking questions. I don't have problems wit silly questions, I have problems with questions that violate the guidelines of the site. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12 '16 at 9:45

Yet another review queue isn't the answer. There are already so many to ignore as it is.

people don't follow the rules because:

  1. They don't know there are specific rules. They are used to "forum" sites, so just barge in here and blurt out whatever is on their mind.

    I don't care about the dweebs here. It's their job to answer my question.

  2. They know there are specific rules here, but don't bother reading them.

    I need help now. I don't have time to read the rules.

  3. They did read the rules, but just don't care.

    It's worth a try. The worst they can do is not answer my question, and maybe throw me out. Someone may answer anyway before that happens. I don't plan to be back here, but if I do I can always come back as a different user. I've got nothing to loose.

I think most fall into #1 and #2. A solution for those is to force new users to read the rules. This should be a page that comes up as part of the registration procedure. You have to click "yes I've read the rules and will follow them" to proceed. After that you get a quiz on the rules. You have to pass to continue, else you get dumped back to the rules page.

The deliberately evil #3 types will always be with us, but I think they are the minority. Those will eventually be dealt with by closing, and banning the user after enough bad questions.

Ultimately, the only way to deal with the #3 types is to make sure they don't get what they came here for, which is answers to their questions. The bigger problem is the behavior of other users. Unfortunately, there will always be some wannabe that can't resist looking smart and tries to answer a bad question. We need to make this more difficult and costly. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Prevent answers on questions with negative score.

  2. Hide existing answers to questions with negative score.

  3. When a question is closed for other than being a duplicate, the net rep for each answer is -5 regardless of whatever votes it had.


Here is a great example of what I am talking about. The original question was crap, and was being handled accordingly. Then some misguided do-gooder answered. Even worse, another misguided do-gooder then grossly edited the question. The net result is that the OP dumped crap on us, and with no additional effort of his own, got the desired result.

We need to make this unpleasant and costly for the do-gooders. I did downvote the answer, but that got swamped. Unfortunately there is no recourse against the user that grossly edited the question. It seems solutions #1 and #2 above would have dealt with the issue well enough, and solution #3 would have made the first do-gooder stop and think before answering a clearly bad question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, making it mandatory to read the rules would perhaps be somewhat simple to implement. Require that users need the "Informed" badge in order to post a question. For those who didn't know, "Informed" is the badge you get for reading the whole tour page. The tour is just missing the EE specific rules at the bottom. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Jun 1 '16 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ StackOverflow Triage is somewhat different from other review queues: it removes the question from the front page. If the question successfully passes the Triage, is goes to the top of the front page. It's not unlike your suggestion #2. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 '16 at 21:35
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm very skeptical that making people read the rules is really going to fix anything. How many times does software come with a license (EULA) that won't let you continue with the installation until you've reached the bottom? Did you actually read the entire license, or did you just scroll all the way down so you could get on with what you wanted to do? \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Jun 2 '16 at 3:46
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO: Right. That's why my suggestion also includes a quiz on the rules after you claim to have read them. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2 '16 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I really like the idea of "punishing" answers to bad questions. They only encourage bad behaviour, and from what I know, there's really no drawback doing so, it just gives you 25 easy virtual internet points. We (as in, the community) can not really influence the behaviour of new users, but we can influence the behaviour of members. Figuring out exactly how such a "punishment" should look is more difficult. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Jun 2 '16 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ezra_vdj Where did you get the idea that people love videos? Why would I want to listen to some idiot waffling about something for several minutes, when I can in 90% of cases read the exactly same thing in less than 30 seconds. \$\endgroup\$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jun 3 '16 at 9:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The answer for your last part that works on Stack Overflow is delete votes, 20k users can do it immediately and 10k after 2 days that the question has been closed that will delete the question and all answers. Unfortunately nobody seems to do that here and if you take a look under tools probably close to 100% of the recent delete votes are mine and nobody else seems to look at them. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Jun 5 '16 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the last addition (as I'm the second do-gooder. Wait? Since when is doing good unappreciated on a SE site?): No! OP didn't get the desired result.OP wanted to know the resistor values' reasoning and an explanation why those were chosen. We referred him to the datasheet.Then I answered what was good from that question. I together with another user we focussed that question and thus enhanced it to being useful. We might not have helped that single user much (maybe we did, I honestly don't think we should be thinking in terms of sanctions on a site like this), but the site as whole. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5 '16 at 14:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Punish "do gooders" for trying to improve content? If someone wants to spend his/her time making a question acceptable, that's their choice. If the result is still bad, flag/downvote it. Problem solved, next meta-topic... \$\endgroup\$
    – JimMSDN
    Jun 6 '16 at 12:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jim: The point you are ignoring is the message that sends to the OP and bystanders. It says you can post crap and get away with it because someone else will fix it for you. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6 '16 at 18:06
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I think you miss my point - who gives a s**t if someone wants to spend their time turning someone else's crap into viable questions? Not what I (or, it sounds like, you) would do that - but if the result is good (a big "if") and the person who made the improvements is fine with it, where's the harm to the community? I've learned in life not to try and deter someone else's desire to do "good", even if I disagree with it, as long as it doesn't affect me. I'd suggest we all do likewise. \$\endgroup\$
    – JimMSDN
    Jun 7 '16 at 2:16
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jim: As I said, I give a crap, and so should anyone else that cares about this site. No one post is more important that this site. It is important that those that come here and post crap are not welcomed. We have plenty of questions here. It's not like one more question makes much of a difference. Fixing a bad question gains at best one question. But the cost is a bunch of noise on the site, and essentially encouraging more bad questions. That's the harm to the community. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '16 at 10:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jim: Actually one person upvoted and two downvoted. But, downvotes here on meta are different. They simply mean disagreement, unlike on the main site where they mean you smell bad, are a living brain donor, and that your mother was a four-legged furry animal. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '16 at 12:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I just re-read your statement "there will always be some wannabe that can't resist looking smart and tries to answer a bad question". Here's another perspective: someone with more limited knowledge can only answer simpler questions. If they want to contribute at all, then by definition they can only answer simple questions. It gives them experience and a sense of contribution to the community, which are IMHO valuable byproducts. \$\endgroup\$
    – JimMSDN
    Jun 7 '16 at 12:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jim: So let them answer simple but well written questions. The quality of a question is orthogonal to its technical level. This discussion is about low quality questions, not about naïve ones. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '16 at 12:28

In my opinion, the solution isn't more review queues, the solution is to stop the crap from entering the site in the first place.

These problems also exist on SO and have been debated endlessly there. You always end up with different camps:

  • The "elitists" (among which I apparently belong) who wants to restrict new people's site access and do things like mandatory review before a new user's question is even allowed to enter the site. Or at the very least implement quick ways to easily remove the crap.

  • The "meta-task huggers" who think that it is a human right to spew any kind of crap onto the site, and that the problem isn't the new users, but the lack of 42 different review queues through which the crap should be refined by hundreds of high-rep users.

Then there is the site owners who think more crap -> more traffic -> more cash. The site owners control the developers and therefore the developers appear to have their hands tied. So they either remain silent or side with the meta-task huggers, implementing all manner of strange review queues.

SO therefore has no less than 8 different review queues, with different degrees of ineffectiveness.

For the specific case of new users posting crap, you have the "first post" review, which doesn't do a thing, and the "triage" review, which gives a collection of completely random posts that are spat out by a very confused computer algorithm. None of these block crap, all they do is to keep various meta-task huggers busy.

There have been discussions on SO if "gold tag" users should be allowed to instantly close questions. They can currently do so, but only to duplicate questions. But I think this system of "gold tag" moderators might be less applicable to EE, since the tags tend to have much broader scope here.

So please don't look at SO for solutions, it suffers far worse from crap than EE does, and there exists no viable solutions to the problem there.

It is obvious to me that the only viable, long-term solution is to block the crap before it enters the site. Smarter algorithms that go through the post before it can be posted is one option. Review by humans before new posts are allowed on the site is another.

One concrete work-around solution is to give out more moderation rights based on overall rep, to "trusted users" (20k rep). For example, allow them to instantly close/delete any question.

Overall, I think the SE model for moderation of new user posts needs improvement and a much stronger quality focus, so debates like this should probably rather be brought up to meta.stackexchange.com.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey Lundin, I heard you, debates like this should go to meta stack exchange. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2 '16 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lot of the new user posts would be easy to filter, like if it doesn't have proper puncuation or spelling for example would be a red flag. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Jun 3 '16 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @laptop2d or an upper-case dictionary word longer than 3-4 letters. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 12:53

It's exam season on the Northern hemisphere. I suspect that's part of the reason for the tide of poor questions in the past week.

StackOverflow has mechanism called Triage. Last time I checked (in Feb this year), Triage existed only on StackOverflow, and unavailable on other stacks. I wish it were available to us too.

Prior art:
discussion about a proposed "quarantine"
lamentation on the lack of friction for new users

  • \$\begingroup\$ We have the same feelings about triage , just posted about it in the comments. Can't we have a milder version of the feature, since we don't receive as many questions as stack overflow. \$\endgroup\$ May 28 '16 at 18:57
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'll see what StackExchange staff thinks about it. (It may take a few days, though. It's a holiday weekend in the US.) \$\endgroup\$ May 28 '16 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think we have enough of a solid user base to support this \$\endgroup\$ May 28 '16 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Scott Triage review ability turns on at 500 reputation on SO. \$\endgroup\$ May 29 '16 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ScottSeidman Can't we have a quiz system in the beginning, A very basic quiz that asks what is a transistor type question and that should remove some of the totally no-google friendly members. \$\endgroup\$ May 29 '16 at 2:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would advise about the quiz not being too complicated. \$\endgroup\$ May 30 '16 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ [I keep repeating this.] A good online EE community is one where new users have to send a photo of their oscilloscope to apply for membership. \$\endgroup\$ May 30 '16 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev I wouldn't be there (not as if I was essential to the community, though) \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    May 31 '16 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ There have been a few posts like this post and answer. I don't think anything will be done, you would have to move a mountain within the community. The moderators\designers don't have time to improve the website. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    May 31 '16 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev. I do not think we need an oversight software program in EE unless it is finely tuned and unobtrusive. By that I mean our initial comments to an OP should get our opinion of their question across quickly. For some OP's this is true; they give what we ask for, assuming they did not present any diagrams or math to begin with. Our ability to diagnose a question filled with observations, speculation and actual questions is not possible with current software. Nick, your request that an OP have a scope, and lets add a DVM, has some merit, but not for those who have only math issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – user105652
    May 31 '16 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Avoid repeating that: it's one of the most possible silliest proposals. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4 '16 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Massimo I don't know why people upvote that silly comment of mine: because of humor, or because of grain of truth. (Try to get your hands on some kind of oscilloscope, though. It's an indispensable tool if you are doing circuits of any complexity.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4 '16 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev I apologize if I overreacted to a half-joking comment, but I didn't complain for me: I'm an experimentalist, I teach electronic measurements at university and it's about 35 years that I work with oscilloscopes, and I know their importance in the field of electronics. However, I recognize that there are many people, even professionals, who can contribute significantly to a community like this, even though they don't use (and maybe never used) an oscilloscope (e.g., experts in circuit analysis and simulation, device physics and modelling, integrated circuits design). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4 '16 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev That's discrimination! We'd lose all the good folk who are ashamed of their small oscilloscopes! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Stack Overflow, not StackOverflow (it is in the last section).) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11 '16 at 10:23

One solution to eliminate low-quality questions may be an additional reason for closing: excessively simple questions. English SE has this. One such question is Difference in usage between “ostensive” and “ostensible” [closed].

The reason for closing is 'general reference' with the following text:

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

This still requires moderation effort and allows the low-quality questions to hit the site, unfortunately.

[Further update]

Looking at Physics SE, there is an explicit call-out for homework problems in the FAQ on Asking. In particular, the first 'forbidden' topic on the list is:

"Do my homework"-type physics questions

Would it be useful to update the EE SE FAQ on Asking in response to the content needs, particularly with respect to assignment-orient problems?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That close reason has a bad reputation for misuse on some SE sites. Well-written basic questions are not so bad. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Every time someone brings up more appropriate close reasons, moderators tell us why it is difficult to do. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is very subjective. At Mathematica.SE, we defined this as a trivial mistake such as a syntax error or something that could be learned solely from the documentation, but no equivalents exist for EE. It does not really help English.SE, either: the site is overwhelmed by trivial "single-word-request"-tagged questions, meaning that dictionary questions are often closed by this rationale, but rarely thesaurus ones. It is a nice idea but I believe that justifying any such close vote as truly objective will be simply impossible for this site. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12 '16 at 0:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OleksandrR. I'm not so sure on there not being an EE equivalent, I've seen plenty of questions where the answer is very clearly explained in a datasheet or the Wikipedia article on the subject and it appears the OP hasn't even done a quick Google. It's different to questions where the OP has done at least some research and can't understand something. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Jun 21 '16 at 12:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterJ you may be right, although I still think subjectivity is a big problem. The overall assessment of these questions seems to me to be that, while one can correct the asker, there is nothing that an answer can really teach anyone. It's easier to make that claim when pointing to an authoritative and universal source or an obvious procedural mistake like a typo. Otherwise it's arguable whether information in a datasheet/application note is obvious/understandable enough, how much electronics knowledge should be assumed, how widely OP is expected to read before asking, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 '16 at 12:07

This problem has been discussed on SO for as long as I can remember. There are reasonable suggestions, many of which, sadly, were never implemented site-wide:

So the ideas are already there, it's up to the mods to put these into practice.

Actively punishing users who answer bad questions is a more delicate topic. I'd say, let's strip rep gains from dupe answers first, and see the dynamics.

  • \$\begingroup\$ From what I've seen so far, dupes are not the biggest problem. "Unclear" or "off-topic" or just stupid questions are. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Jun 8 '16 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Answering a dup is the one forgivable case of answering a bad question. Many users won't be aware of the dup, and it's unreasonable to expect someone to do a search before answering a question. Also, dups just aren't a big problem here. Remove rep and ding all answers a additional -5 if the question is ultimately closed for other than dup reason. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop If dupes represent a small portion of the problem, doesn't it make sense to test answer-deterring measures on them without making drastic changes? And why is it unreasonable to expect doing a research before answering? Sometimes all it takes is to google for the question title. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '16 at 12:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those answering questions are volunteering their free time to provide answers. Expecting them to know or search for similar questions is volunteer-abuse that will quickly lead to them spending their time elsewhere. We don't want to punish someone for providing a good answer to a good question, just because such a question and answer previously existed on the site. Also, the harm to the site is minimal. The new content isn't deleted, just linked back to the previous content. It is still there and can still provide value. The questioner can be dinged because they should have done a search. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10 '16 at 11:15

A simple solution is to have some sort of nominal "cooling off" period (say, 72 hours) from joining to being able to ask a question. Perhaps with a way to waive this if you have sufficient rep in another SE area. If someone is just trying to "hit and run" for, say, an exam question they'll likely have to get their question answered some other way since they're probably under a deadline. No additional work for any existing members.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Asking those that read the site rules and post legitimate questions to wait 72 hours is unrealistic and will probably drive away everyone, not just the drive-by posters. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6 '16 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I don't see the logic in that. If someone wants to be a part of (i.e., take something, namely an answer, from) the community and isn't willing to wait some small amount of time before receiving that benefit, then they're not likely to be a contributor. Exceptions, of course, exist - but I'm new to this area of SE and if I'd been unable to post for a day or two, I would have taken it in stride. Note that I never said any of this was a problem in the first place - on my area of SE we DVed drive-by-looking questions pretty aggressively and everything seemed to work fine IMHO. \$\endgroup\$
    – JimMSDN
    Jun 7 '16 at 2:21
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think most new users come here because they have a question. When they carefully articulate the question, make sure it's on topic, and otherwise follow the rules, that's fine. That's exactly what we want here. What we don't want are bad questions. A 3 day old bad question will still be a bad question. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '16 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're going to have a 3 day wait for first questions, then at least put those questions into a review queue so that members with some minimum rep can approve the question and it gets posted right away. That would be a bunch of busywork, but probably actually more useful than the other review queues, which I largely ignore. (I'd rather be answering questions than doing janitorial work). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '16 at 11:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop The "new question queue" is a reasonable idea - if those administering it wouldn't shy away from the work. If the question isn't processed in the queue in some nominal time (I chose 72 hours - but it could be less, as long as it's not "immediate") it then goes through as today. \$\endgroup\$
    – JimMSDN
    Jun 7 '16 at 12:01

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