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SO started off as a site for interesting programming questions.

Although the odd "help me please" localised debugging help question would pop up once in a while, this was inevitable so we just sort of lived with it, right?

Now it feels as if the vast majority of questions are those which we might "close: reference" or which are just so hopelessly lazy as to be offensive. I've begun downvoting them and voting to close as localised with extreme prejudice, but not everybody seems to share this view so most just get answered and the single-visit offenders keep on piling up. Barely any of them bother to format their posts, or to write full English sentences with punctuation and grammar. The overall quality of new questions is shockingly poor.

The balance has been lost.

So can we decide, once and for all, what this site is for? Is it a support site for newbie "I didn't debug my code" "problems", or is it a site for programming questions? Is it feasible to enforce it either way?

Too localised. No, I won't help.

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closed as off-topic by James, ProgramFOX, Martijn Pieters, Scimonster, nicael Mar 14 at 19:29

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I'm fairly certain that there are whole companies that have started outsourcing their research and tech support onto SO because it works. That needs to stop – Pëkka Sep 7 '11 at 13:06
Maybe we should stop it from working! – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:07
I also feel that they quality has gone down since all teh facebook posts started appearing – ghostJago Sep 7 '11 at 13:27
can you provide examples? is it within a certain tag? certain types of users? this is darn near a data-less rant.. – Jeff Atwood Sep 7 '11 at 13:37
@Jeff: The jquery tag might be a good place to browse. You will generally find such questions under domains with a low barrier to entry: HTML, jQuery, PHP, even C#. – Jon Sep 7 '11 at 13:48
@ghostJago: That's not true! Yesterday I saw one quite well-written facebook question. – mario Sep 7 '11 at 13:52
@Jeff: It's a discussion, which is why I tagged it discussion. Browse new questions for yourself: it's plain to see. I see no merit in reproducing Stack Overflow's question list here for you. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:56
@Jeff there has been a considerable increase of really lazy questions, notably in the PHP tag. Check out my last 15 "very low quality" flags for examples... nothing of this is new, but I can confirm the subjective impression that the quantity has risen over the past few weeks. I don't know why (And I don't think much can be done on the tech end of things - these are cases that need to be community moderated, which is why I welcome this post even though it may be a bit ranty) – Pëkka Sep 7 '11 at 14:15
Another example in objective-c: stackoverflow.com/q/7332695/11976 – Philip Regan Sep 7 '11 at 14:16
@Eat more Twisters: "I don't know why..." Maybe it is coinciding with the new school year? – Philip Regan Sep 7 '11 at 14:21
@Jeff Atwood here is a good link to see bad questions: facebook.stackoverflow.com – bkaid Sep 7 '11 at 18:14
@Jeff Atwood I noticed this especially with the Objective-C tag. Many questions are either exact dupes about memory management or their answers can be found within twenty seconds in the documentation. Also, most of them are wrongly tagged "Xcode", which is just an IDE but that is off topic. – Elyse Sep 7 '11 at 21:18

12 Answers 12

up vote 61 down vote accepted

It's not a support site; downvoting and closevoting crap is perfectly right, and there should be more people doing it. I've started doing the same thing.

I have also discovered the joys of the "very low quality" flag. With a 500+ flag weight, I find these are reacted upon quickly - kudos to the moderators for that.

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To be fair, the team is constantly doing a lot of hard work to prevent low-quality questions from entering the system. However, there's always a huge portion of bad content slipping through the cracks that simply can't be detected with heuristics of any sort. That's where a healthy downvoting and closevoting culture comes in. – Pëkka Sep 7 '11 at 13:17
Unfortunately, I notice that the most trivial questions typically get the most upvotes. Which might be because there is a bunch of reputation hunters who love trivial questions, even if they require some guessing on their side due to missing context. These questions never go into the negative unless it is really not clear what is being asked. – Wladimir Palant Sep 7 '11 at 14:47
What if every person who answered a question that was later closed lost some reputation as a result? – Chris Frederick Sep 9 '11 at 18:04
@Chris: Noobs who are passing through SO for a one-time "fix my code plz" don't give a damn about that. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 9 '11 at 18:47
@Tomalak No, I meant to penalize people for answering "fix my code plz" questions. A disproportionate amount of reputation is rewarded for easy answers to questions that have been asked time and time again. – Chris Frederick Sep 9 '11 at 18:49
@Chris: Oh, sorry, misread that obviously. I don't know about that. I don't think that's the real problem here. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 9 '11 at 18:51
I too have noticed the trivial question rep bonanza (heck, I profited from it myself by answering a question from someone who needed two conditions in an if in C#). Let's face it: we have more than one communities. At least 2: the experts and the newcomers. Newcomers, without stereotyping, will either come and leave or stick around and hunt down these questions and raise in the ranks. Whether they wise up or not remains to be seen. I'm not worried. But I think we need to consider this fact: there's more than one Stack Overflow "community" now. – MPelletier Sep 20 '11 at 15:24
If Stack Overflow is not a tech support site, then why doesn't the FAQ say it plainly? – MPelletier Sep 22 '11 at 10:08
@MPelletier: A very good question, and one which I'd hoped this meta post might resolve. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 9 '13 at 16:05
@ChrisFrederick I've actually posted that suggestion on Meta - Penalize those who answer Debug My Code questions, but it got down-voted a lot, so I guess the community does not agree it should be done. – sashoalm Aug 27 '13 at 11:53

If you really feel that strongly about bad questions stop answering them.

Also the premise that Stack Overflow started off as a site for interesting programming questions is nonsense.

Here's the Joel On Software post titled Stack Overflow Launches. I don't see anywhere that interesting questions are the key. In fact, it's really clear about the problems that Stack Overflow is trying to solve. Namely that, when you have a programming problem, prior to Stack Overflow it was really hard to find the answer.

You know what drives me crazy? Programmer Q&A websites. You know what I’m talking about. You type a very specific programming question into Google and you get back:

  • A bunch of links to discussion forums where very unknowledgeable people are struggling with the same problem and getting nowhere,

  • A link to a Q&A site that purports to have the answer, but when you get there, the answer is all encrypted, and you’re being asked to sign up for a paid subscription plan,

  • An old Usenet post with the exact right answer—for Windows 3.1—but it just doesn’t work anymore,
  • And something in Japanese.

Also, this question from three years ago is worth another look, Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

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@Peter I can't vote yet, but symbolic +1. See my comment above, I think it's exactly what you bring up. Thank you! – wp4nuv Sep 20 '11 at 14:47
@wp4nuv I'm pretty sure you meant to address me and not Peter. I know it can be confusing, but Peter's name is there because he was kind enough to edit my post to fix up my grammar. If you click on the date/time link next to the word edited you can actually see the revision along with a revision comment. Also thanks for the symbolic +1 – Some Helpful Commenter Sep 21 '11 at 1:42
@wp4nuv +1 I laughed out loud clicking on your first three links. – Robert Martin Nov 13 '11 at 18:30
Here, here! The existing mechanisms are adequate for weeding the worst questions. And, some of us enjoy the mild puzzle of wading through an occasional "noob" question. – Awesome Poodles Dec 31 '11 at 23:24

To all elite master gurus, Samaritans, specialists and newbies

May I suggest as a more than a newbie (you can see my profile but a newbie to frameworks) to divide Stackflow into HEAD-TAGS of Debug Assistance, De facto Code Standards, Software Product Discussion, (Feature Comparisons and recommendations) Security of Programming, Guidelines(Pros and Cons, Dos and Dont's, Howtos)this can be read-only to Noobs and contributed by and approved by fellow guardians) Architectures and Frameworks Discussion,

Isn't it great

So Newbies stay in Debug Assistance initially building up to X no of reps while having read permissions only then for the next X reps allow gradual access to ask questions in other forums too.

BTW is it possible to link the current common questions to previous similar questions in archives answered by our Oom Shining Ones. :)

People in this community should be given Mentor status too (talking about possible future involvements)

every noob we come across, they many not know what their backgrounds are, and they aim to cut down the steep learning curve, some in real-world get cheated by their wealthy academic business gurus by providing just a measle of basic programming understanding.

So I request StackOverflow Moderators to tag all code assistances and those who want to volunteer to mentor the newbies be given that privilege and others just keep away from downtone boring questions.

Compare the market.com, compare the stackoverflow.com, SIMPLEs

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"divide Stackflow into subforums" - Stack Overflow isn't a forum to begin with and tags already provide a flexible taxonomy for question – Flexo Nov 13 '11 at 13:29
-1, in this Debug Assistance area are users required to spell words completely? – user7116 Nov 13 '11 at 13:29
NO 6 Letter, assistance on why the code is nt working thats all, some noobs cannot interpret error messages, so a basic explaination will be sufficient. – AuGhost Ice Nov 13 '11 at 13:46
@awoodland, while u were busy posting ure comment i changed it. Sorry for the late revision. – AuGhost Ice Nov 13 '11 at 13:49
Anyways I am impressed on how quick you were to downvote me so quickly. – AuGhost Ice Nov 13 '11 at 13:51
@AuGhostIce: On meta, downvoting means disagreement. Don't take it personally. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 13 '11 at 17:30
I'm not 100% against this; it wouldn't work on SO, but I do rather like the idea of forcing newbies to remain in "debug assistance" taxonomy until they can prove that they're worthy of contributing intelligently. Then again, what would rep mean in a debug-only site area? Could we really rely on it to mean anything of the sort? – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 13 '11 at 17:31
@Tom rep means reputation, I should hv been more clear on that. – AuGhost Ice Nov 16 '11 at 7:31
@AuGhostIce: I know what "rep" is short for; I'm asking what the accrual of it would mean in your proposed model. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 16 '11 at 9:46
@Tom ability to assess code intelligence or subject matter able to resolve and justify in agreement with the Mods. Question on "wouldn't work on SO", "nt 100% against", "like the idea". Stop being so emotional abt it. I am pretty sure there will be lot YESs in this 60786 top contributers of SO. – AuGhost Ice Nov 16 '11 at 10:12
@AuGhost: What? I have absolutely no idea what you're on about now. And I certainly don't understand your comment about being "emotional"...?!?!?!! – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 16 '11 at 10:13
Sorry, what you suggest simply won't work and is against the very "core" of Stack Overflow. – Shadow Wizard Nov 16 '11 at 10:15
@Shadow then its a question of when SO is ready to change the "core" – AuGhost Ice Nov 16 '11 at 13:33
@AuGhostIce why change winning formula? SO is currently on the rise and there's really no need to change anything in its core. – Shadow Wizard Nov 16 '11 at 13:46
@Tom sorry thats the vibe felt in those words. – AuGhost Ice Nov 16 '11 at 13:52

Bad questions really isn't specific enough: There are two types of bad questions. There are "you do the thinking for me" questions and there are "I couldn't figure out how to Google this" questions.

I think these need to be treated differently. The former is just plain lazy. It should be down-voted. The latter happens because the poster legitimately doesn't understand the topic enough to know that they're asking a simple question. I don't feel he should be down-voted for lack of understanding.

As a possible solution, instead of requiring a higher reputation to post questions, how about a new flag that categorizes a question as a "novice" question, i.e. a question that's easy to answer. New users to the site will be mainly responsible for answering these questions or linking them to the appropriate SO article that the OP wasn't clever enough to search for. New users would need to correctly answer one (or more) of these "novice" questions before they can ask any questions themselves. Additionally, if a novice question remained unanswered for too long, it would be opened up to the greater SO community.

This kills two birds with one stone. The number of low-quality posts would decrease because of the increased barrier to entry. Additionally, the simplistic posts that are easily answered by anybody are separated out as well, and new members can hit the underhand pitches. If a new member can't answer any "novice" questions, well maybe they need to go back and hit the books.

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Just throwing this out there: would a "Stack Overflow For Noobs" Stack Exchange proposal help cull the "bad questions?" I mean, some of us bleeding hearts feel for the beginners having trouble declaring a variable or writing a proper if clause, even if that's way way below the usual pay grade of the average, long time Stack Overflow user.

This may actually have some traction given what Jeff said in SE Podcast #18 (at approximately 47m 45s) with regards to the two Math sites on Stack Exchange:

I'm kind of wondering if this graduate versus everything else is the correct compartmentalization of the topic. You know, because the people who are really serious—like the way we've described mathoverflow.com, is it's for questions you would ask your math professor that your math professor does not know the answer to. [...] And the way we grow communities...one of the rules we use to determine "does this content belong on the site?" is "Would you be offended to see this question on your site?"

I think that we may be approaching the point where that final question would be met by a resounding yes for the majority of questions asked on Stack Overflow today.

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Would like that too. If there was a separate Noob.SE where it would be easier to move 'improvable' questions to, we could filter out lots more. And this incidentally might be more educative. But I guess this idea is not very popular, as it can easily backfire - once it exists it might attract more crap. – mario Sep 7 '11 at 13:50
But the noobs will still just come here first. Noobs are attracted to experts, not noobs. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:55
@Tomalak: Yes. But the probability on getting a question closed is higher on SO than on Noobs.SE - It might turn out to be beneficial for the lazy folks to post there first, as their Gibberish-English is likely better understood by likeminded. – mario Sep 7 '11 at 13:58
@mario: But they don't know that. Half the problem is that they just post on SO as a first resort, without bothering to think about the real appropriate place for it... or how likely their question is to be answered vs closed. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 14:03
@mario: I don't think creating yet another question dumping site to the internet will fix the issue. – Mat Sep 7 '11 at 14:05
@Tomalak: This is only speculation, but my assumption is that Noobs.SE might itself become attractive for friends of half-assed inquires. The actual benefit for SO would be a new broad moderation feature that allows a quick-migration+deletion from SO to Noobs.SE. Still a manual filter, but could combat the massive influx and thus the appearance that such questions are tolerated here. – mario Sep 7 '11 at 14:08
Alternately, a "Move to Quora/Yahoo Answers" link. – MPelletier Sep 7 '11 at 14:15
+1 for this, can't understand why it was downvoted. And +1 for "Move to Yahoo Answers" link, ROTFL. – Fabio Sep 8 '11 at 20:19
@Fabio: It can go either way, I'm oddly un-opinionated by how that proposal would resolve. But I never thought making it someone else's problem would be so popular. It would be the right way to go if it weren't so wrong. – MPelletier Sep 8 '11 at 20:27
@mario: Noobs don't realise that their questions are half-assed. They're noobs. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 9 '11 at 18:10
@Tomalak Some do, but it's definitely a minority. There used to be a noob tag on SO. – MPelletier Sep 9 '11 at 18:21
@MPelletier: I'm not sure how you could measure that it's a "minority". The ones who don't aren't here... – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 9 '11 at 18:23
@Tomalak Well, if the noob tag was still around, you'd see that some people are humble/enlightened enough to know they are noobs, which is different from your garden variety noob, who does not know better. I'm merely speculating that they (the knowledgeable ones) are in lesser numbers. The actual numbers are... not available at this time. – MPelletier Sep 9 '11 at 19:42

The Stack Overflow FAQ is written in terms that explicitly permit this though:

We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem

So a new poster with a PHP programming problem posts a bit of code, seems to match.

Example: how to get the json working with php

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This meta question is not about "what's in the FAQ?" I want to discuss deciding once and for all what that FAQ entry actually means, and whether it really represents what we want SO to be; included in this may potentially arise a proposal to change what the FAQ says. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 20:23
"my code doesn't work" is not a "specific programming problem" – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 22 '11 at 10:34
For many they are the same, the problem is specific to the poster, their program does not work: a programming problem. Some really terse semantics if the implication is for anything else. Therefore the line should be expanded with further clarification. – Steve-o Sep 22 '11 at 11:52
Yea, I believe it means specific as in not-too-broad, not specific as in localised to one case and one case only, which can never help anyone else. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 22 '11 at 12:30
Just to revisit this briefly, there is the scale of "specific topic / broad range of topics", and there is the scale of "localised problem / problem that has wide likely interest".. and the two are orthogonal. A user may be having a really specific problem with an error message on line 26, column 1, where a semicolon was written out of place, but this is also far too localised as it's just some personal frak-up, rather than to do with a language itself. Conversely, "how do I open a bank account for my new pet guinea pig called Horatio" is too broad and too localised (and of course OT!). – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 13 '11 at 17:34

There is something I don't comprehend. One day it's "let's make SO a n00b (or should I use a more politically correct Junior Programmers?) friendly place, no let me google it for you, no try to google it, we want SO to be the summa of all the programming knowledge", the other "it's so full of Junior Programmers that are too much lazy to even try to debug some code or google".

Now. I AM an elitist. I DO think that if you haven't tried for at least one hour and done another hour of google you should prefer death to asking to SO. I DO hate Regex questions and I DO think that persons too much lazy to study themselves Regexes AND still wanting to use them should 1) Do what generations of persons did and write simple state machines or quite often simple substrings or 2) Study Regexes or 3) Do what they should, begin a profession more apt to their capacities, and still I try to follow all this do-goodism (even because it would be useless to do the alternative... There are always do-gooders that help Junior Programmers... ).

Please, what I hate more than lazy Junior Programmers that write in English worse than Google Translate is hypocrisy.

(I'll add that there is a single class of questions I can't hate: the questions about special characters. If a Junior Programmer asks me "what does the @ means before a literal string", the blame is not his, but of the search engine that doesn't support special characters)

(as a second note: what do you pretend from persons that are too much lazy to even create an account ? Do you think they won't be lazy in googling and studying? You DO know quite well humanity, I see! :-) :-) )

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I'm not sure I quite understand your answer. Are you saying that I'm a hypocrite? I've always held the opinion stated in the question. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 19:40
@Tomalak Not you... It's everyone. 31 net persons upvoted Pekka and 22 Anna Lear.... But everyone is against rubbing Junior Programmers against their Juniorness... What if we make them run away? :-) And as I've written, I'm the first one that help noobs instead of punishing them for their noobness, and just to gain upvotes. In the end this is a MMORPG where you are rewarded for responding. Punishing isn't rewarded :-) :-) – xanatos Sep 17 '11 at 19:53
@TomalakGeret'kal To be clear, my response wasn't against you, it was against the collective/the system. Clearly there are bigger problems behind. Junior Programmers still generate money, even if they are Junior Programmers and make junior questions (and even more money than veteran users, because they see ads). You can't live with them, you can't live without them. – xanatos Sep 17 '11 at 20:03
OK, I just wanted to be sure :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 20:24
Something I think many people don't "get" is that there is need not necessarily be a firm, unavoidable correlation between posting low quality questions and being a "junior" programmer. It is quite possible to be a newcomer to programming but to know how to think logically and try to work things out on your own first, including reading a manual. These are life skills that I don't think are unique to advancing through a programming career. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 20:25
More than much else, though, I think it's just that lots of junior people out there see SO and go "oh great, programmers, they'll be able to help me. guys, what is the function to split a string?" Not realising that -- possibly, I don't know -- this is not the place for handholding/teaching, and/or that they are being annoying by not using reference material as their first port of call. I equate it to when people go into a C++ IRC channel asking for help with OpenGL, because "I figured someone here will have worked with it", when that's not what the channel is about. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 20:27
@Tomalak I think it's stupid to lose 5 minutes to write a question and make lose another 5 minutes to the person who will have to respond to it instead of losing 5 minutes to google for it. It's a cost-benefit problem. This doesn't pose well for the questioner. – xanatos Sep 17 '11 at 20:31
It's more complex than that. How much time is wasted by people trying to find a real question through the search? Who wants the SO database full of crap like that? Who's going to go through them all and trim it one day? If the question&answer already exists in a reference manual (in the form of an outright statement rather than a Q&A), then writing it out again here on SO is of no value to anybody. It's just personal ignorance/laziness (not the same as being new to programming!) and it's starting to annoy me! – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 17 '11 at 20:40

I see that these trivial/debug/RTFM questions, in the 90% of the cases, are asked by 1 rep users. What if, as an extreme measure, we require a minimum of 100 rep to post questions?

I remember that my first questions when I joined SO could be answered with a simple search of the board itself. In this way we can impose a minimal use of the site before anyone can post new questions.

If users are forced to answer some questions before posting their own, they will be also forced to learn how to use SO, how to answer (so the kind of answer they should expect from their own questions) and most of all, which are good questions and which aren't.

It's clearly a provocation, but it would remove all this crap from SO.

From the other side, I posted a question related to this one and I saw that there is a lot of people thinking that any kind of question, even the most trivial, could be asked in SO.

In my opinion this could make experts leave SO and transform it into a big game where the most important thing is to gain reputation; this is pretty sad.


I'm also thinking that a new flag reason (maybe with a higher priority in the queue) could prevent all those "please debug this code for me" questions. I don't know if the "too localised" flag applies in those cases.

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not sure about 100 rep...how about just 10? Write an answer that you can convince 1 person to vote for because it's a good answer, or find 5 posts that you can edit and improve to the satisfaction of 2 others... – Jon Sep 17 '11 at 16:45
The exact value doesn't matter here, I'd be more drastic (50 or even 100), but it's not very important. The important thing is how to prevent SO flooding with that kind of questions. – Fabio Sep 17 '11 at 17:03
I like this idea a lot (and would also go for, like, 15, just making sure the person went a bit through the site to get a grasp of how it works, and maybe see bad things happening that he'll want to avoid himself). Also, “low quality” and “too localized” are really meant to be used. – Nikana Reklawyks Nov 18 '12 at 9:38

Edit again: How about: users with 1 rep cannot post until they get the analytical badge.

Edit: How about adding a very obvious link from the Ask Question page for users who are less than X rep and have not got the analytical badge?

After all, the analytical badge is a way to see if someone read the whole FAQ.

In my opinion that's what's great about the democracy of Stack Overflow. I regularly flag and close vote poor questions as you described. But some people do like to help new programmers.

Let's not forget, you can learn things by helping others as well.

So I suppose my answer is that due to the democratic nature of the site, there is no need to redefine what Stack Overflow is all about.

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But democracy doesn't work! – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:03
I'm all for helping others. I spend a lot of time teaching language newcomers on IRC. It's just that SO is not the right place for that. At least, not IMO. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:03
ghost - you make a good point, but answering lazy questions teaches lazy askers that they can come back whenever they are stuck, no matter how trivial the problem. While I totally agree that the democratic nature of the site shouldn't be changed, that's a worrying trend and threatening the whole site. – Pëkka Sep 7 '11 at 13:03
"How about adding a very obvious link from the Ask Question page" -- We already punch users in the face with a full-page instruction manual teaching them how to ask questions, and it does nothing – Michael Mrozek Sep 7 '11 at 13:23
Let's prohibit people from asking questions until they have read through a whole slideshow, or something. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 14:04
@Tomalak Let's prohibit users with only 1 rep from asking until they've done something first. This will dissuade people who only have trivial problems. – ghostJago Sep 7 '11 at 14:13
@ghost: It might just prompt them into writing their questions as "follow-up posts" i.e. answers on previous questions. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 14:15
I think either way presents its own headaches. If you require new users to do "something" first, then I think ghost is right - they will add them on to existing questions. On the other hand, the current system has it own flaws. I think the big question is which is easier to manage by the community in the long run? I think forcing the user to do something first might be a better approach. It prevents the passing user from just asking a question with no intention of being an active member of the community. – Guthwulf Sep 7 '11 at 15:04
Further limiting 1-rep users will only have so much effect. There are plenty of users with a few hundred points that just keep asking lots of lazy questions. There are at least a handful with thousands of rep points. – Josh Caswell Sep 7 '11 at 18:30
I finally signed up on SO yesterday in order to post a question to which I have yet to find a reasonable answer. While I hope my question will not be taken as "lazy", I must admit that any attempt at limiting posing questions to newcomers may backfire, as they will undoubtedly go somewhere else with their issue. I've been helped quite a bit by what may seem like "lazy" questions in SO; it seems to me that knowledge sharing is the core of SO. Perhaps new sections compiled with what appears to be the most requested information might help. I will admit that lazy people will never search well. – wp4nuv Sep 20 '11 at 14:45

I support your strong stance for closing and down voting and I think it is important that it is well understood that this is not a lazy support system: the crap content needs to be removed. There have been great improvements in reducing this content automatically but ultimately it needs a great community/moderator base to properly manage it.

One of the key points that Jeff/Joel have always reiterated (links anyone?) is that the site will hardly attract experts if there isn't a level to engage them. I'm sure great content is being created and that experts want to be here and are engaged, but if enough rubbish comes along, people might lose that great feeling they get from SO (SE) or just be slightly less bothered to visit the site.

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I've seen a few experts leave over the last six months or so. I myself am beginning to tire of it all... – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 7 '11 at 13:23
I've added most of the low-entry-barrier tags to my ignore list for this reason. There's just too much crap in them. – hammar Sep 17 '11 at 18:34

Forgive my ignorance, but is there a tag for newbie questions? Could this assist those developers that do not want to see the newbie questions by filtering them out? I realize some newbie questions will not be tagged correctly but that is more of a moderator/community related issue than an issue with SO as a whole.

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See here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/60852/… – Mat Sep 7 '11 at 14:16
How about a filter that hides all questions from users below a configurable threshold? – Chris Frederick Sep 9 '11 at 18:06

From experience on a smaller scale at Programmers, I'd say enforcing only good quality questions on SO is next to impossible due to sheer volume.

The best we can do is keep the worst questions out and attempt to strike a balance between useful and useless-but-not-yet-closed. The community voting systems are working pretty well for that, I think.

So, nothing wrong with downvoting (question votes are free!) and voting to close as you feel appropriate. That's exactly the right thing to do.

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+1 for the point about scale being an issue. As the site becomes more popular, it is going to attract a wider range of programmers, eventually including a "lowest common denominator". – Philip Regan Sep 7 '11 at 13:13
+1 for "question votes are free!"... didn't realize that, will pay attention to it next time a question needs downvoting... – Jonas Heidelberg Sep 14 '11 at 18:01
+1 also as I overlooked the fact votes are free on questions. I also agree with your answer that its simply balance, and not enough people knowing (maybe) that question votes are free (that could be a BIG factor in eliminating 'stupid' questions. – Jakub Jan 1 '12 at 1:36
I like this answer. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 9 '13 at 16:06

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