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I am getting (slightly) fed up with all the questions of (mostly) unregistered users, which go like: 'I want this or that, please implement my code' or 'Here is my code, what is wrong?'. I agree that banning unregistered users from asking questions is bad.

So I was thinking: Is it possible to add a filter to the Questions page and only show the unregistered users if a (registered) user wants to?

Now, I understand that this might give problems for unregistered users not to get their questions answered (which is the same as banning them), but this is/can be prevented by:

  • As each registered user can choose to filter out or not, there are probably enough users left who are willing to write or debug these problems.
  • Showing a warning when an unregistered user submits a new question, telling that not all registered users get to see the question. And, that it might be a good idea to register before asking the question. (might result in less unregistered users...?)
  • Building a filter which passes only X% of the unregistered users questions.

I understand the 'sensitivity' of this subject. But having registered users losing their interest in answering questions would be worse than this feature request I think.

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I like this. I think it would be good as an option that defaults to "off", i.e. you see everything. Or maybe make it a perk at 1000 rep that expires at 10k rep? I kind of think 10k+ users should have to look at the unregistereds to keep them in line. –  JNK Aug 8 '11 at 18:44
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This problem isn't at all limited to unregistered users. Lots of newly-registered users do this as well. Just because you see user23083502 as their user name does not mean they're unregistered. –  Cody Gray Aug 8 '11 at 19:07
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@JNK: I don't much care for that idea... Why should 10k+ users be the only ones who have to take the time to edit and improve these crappy questions? Shouldn't everyone with edit privileges share in the burden? Isn't that one of the primary reasons why we give you edit privileges, so that you can help improve the site? Pushing all the burden off on 10k+ users seems like a bad idea on multiple levels. –  Cody Gray Aug 8 '11 at 19:08
    
@Cody Gray: I do not look at the users name, but at their account to find out whether they are unregistered or not. With this request I tried to find a solution for all the low quality questions which seem to be flooding SO (lately). Especially point #2 might help in this situation as the unregistered user is made aware of this a problem if the warning is correctly formulated –  Veger Aug 8 '11 at 19:28
    
    
@Veger: Yeah, I thought it was a typo :) –  Piskvor Aug 8 '11 at 19:41

2 Answers 2

I disagree with this suggestion. One of the defining features of StackOverflow and the other StackExchange websites is that unregistered users are real users, just like everyone else.

The only way to filter questions is by the question itself (tag, popularity, "hotness") not by the user who posted it. This is a good thing. We aren't in the business of providing assistance only to members of the club of registered users.

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Unfortunately, some people do seem to be in the business of only providing answers to those who meet their arbitrary criteria (e.g., registered account, accept rate ≥75%, etc.). I think you're completely correct in observing that that misses the point. –  Cody Gray Aug 8 '11 at 19:14
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@Cody: while I absolutely agree with lonesomeday, any user is perfectly allowed to chose not to answer any question. For me, it depends on my mood: If I'm in a good mood, I'll answer and/or improve a question. If I'm in a bad mood, it'll take a particularly well-written or interesting question to get me to answer. So why should I blame someone who has chosen only to answer questions that fit his arbitrary quality standards? (Now, to berate someone about those arbitrary quality standards is an entirely different thing). –  Joachim Sauer Aug 8 '11 at 19:28
    
@Joachim: I have no problem with someone being selective on those questions they choose to answer. We all do that. I'm talking about be-rating or banning only. –  Cody Gray Aug 8 '11 at 19:31
    
@Cody Gray: true, I notice that I am (starting) to make such a distinction as well... Hence my feature request in order to prevent me getting pushed away from SO due to this... Same might happen to other users due to the same reasons? –  Veger Aug 8 '11 at 19:32
    
@Cody: then I misunderstood. Sorry. –  Joachim Sauer Aug 8 '11 at 19:33

In addition to what lonesomeday has already posted, namely that it is important to remember that "unregistered users are real users, just like everyone else" and "we aren't in the business of providing assistance only to members of the club of registered users", I'd also point out that we have mechanisms in place already that attempt to solve this problem.

First, there are heuristics that attempt to detect what are considered extremely low-quality submissions, and force the user to improve their question before the system will accept it. They receive the following message:

Oops! Your question couldn't be submitted because:

  • Sorry, we can't accept this question.

(It's possible that we've improved the error message since then to spell out exactly what went wrong. I can't find a link confirming or denying that at the moment.) This does help to catch the worst of the worst: the questions with long, unformatted code blocks, the questions shorter than a single paragraph, the questions with really bad titles, etc.

If you're seeing patterns of exceptionally low-quality questions that are not being excluded by this mechanism, please open a new feature request so that the team can improve their filter.

Second, the number of questions that a user can ask is rate-limited. One can only ask 50 questions over a 30-day period, 6 questions over a 24-hour period, and 1 question over a 30-second period.

Third, users who are guilty of consistently posting low-quality questions are eventually automatically and permanently banned from posting any more questions whatsoever. Instead, they see the following message when they try:

Oops! Your question couldn't be submitted because:

  • Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account

I know that this feature is working quite well because I see a new question here on Meta at least once a day from someone asking what they're supposed to do now. It warms the cockles of my heart each time.

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I did not know of these heuristics. Seems hard to implement them I suppose. But would it be a solution to tighten them a little? –  Veger Aug 8 '11 at 19:37
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@Veger: Yes, perhaps. Like I mentioned, if you're seeing patterns of posts that are really low quality, consider opening a feature request so that the filter can be improved. It is difficult to predict everything that could possibly go wrong. And you're in good company in not liking this. I work very hard to edit/improve the questions that I can, and flag/close/delete the others that I can't. I know that I'm not alone in this. Many people use their earned privileges constructively to help improve the site. So I understand the frustration, but I still oppose an outright ban without an offense. –  Cody Gray Aug 8 '11 at 19:39
    
Now I know about them I can keep it in mind in order to find a pattern. –  Veger Aug 8 '11 at 19:42

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