Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

On StackOverflow, I started by answering questions, not asking them. Even though I'm no huge expert, there are plenty of questions that are easy enough that I can answer them easily or with a little bit of research and testing.

I've only been looking at meta for a couple days now but it appears there are a lot of new users who have trouble asking quality questions.

I feel that my experience answering questions allowed me to post higher quality questions when I did have something I needed help with.

So, I propose that new users should be encouraged to answer questions for a while before they start asking them so much. Is this a good idea?

share|improve this question
The bar is already slightly higher; new users must now register to ask questions, at least on Stack Overflow. – Robert Harvey Feb 2 '12 at 17:46
@RobertHarvey I'm sure that's a good step, but registering doesn't provide a learning experience for the user, which was what I was trying to get at. – pseudocoder Feb 2 '12 at 17:49
up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. Unfortunately new users who ask poor quality questions seem to be the same group of folks whose only interest is getting answers to their crappy questions, not building a quality repository of useful programming information.

  2. I'm not sure that forcing new users to gain a certain amount of rep by answering questions first will improve the quality of their questions, although it will certainly discourage them from asking their poor questions in the first place.

share|improve this answer
1) I think this is a reasonable line of thought. 2) Discouraging posting of poor questions was the result I was looking for. My theory is that users will either learn from the experience or get frustrated and leave. Either way, question quality improves. Thanks for your input! – pseudocoder Feb 2 '12 at 18:15
Also thanks for the link, I did search for this topic before I posted my question but I think the "help vampire" question addresses the issues I wanted to explore here. – pseudocoder Feb 2 '12 at 18:17
@pseudo you may also be interested in… which was rejected (and I think correctly rejected in retrospect) for the reasons Robert is outlining here. – Jeff Atwood Feb 2 '12 at 20:43

There is a mechanism for this, although it's roundabout and definitely doesn't constitute "encouragement" -- it's more like "probation". Users whose question quality is extremely poor, as judged by an automatic filter, will not be allowed to post further questions. One of the ways to regain access is to contribute to the site by posting some quality answers. The obvious problem difficulty is that this is entirely reactive, not proactive as you are suggesting.

It seems to me that it'd be a fine idea to phase this block in, rather than only revealing it after the user has crossed the threshold. The first n questions, however many the filter needs to start judging, would be "free". If the quality is low, the user could be presented with messages encouraging helping others by posting of answers too. The user could certainly post total crap for answers too, but that doesn't help clear the question block (and there's an answer block, too, essentially the same mechanism as the question block).

As Robert points out, many of the posters of crap questions don't care about anything else but getting help/someone to do their work, but I think it might be worth trying to encourage good behavior, then warn, and then block, rather than suddenly cutting off the ability to ask.

I suspect this is not likely to happen, though. If I recall correctly, Jeff has said that the filter is intended to catch the worst 1% of askers, and I think that he considers them irredeemable.

share|improve this answer
The worst 1% generally are irredeemable. If you look at society, we put them in prisons and asylums because we don't want to have to continually fix the mess they are making. The same logic applies here. – darvids0n Feb 6 '12 at 1:28

People come to stack overflow seeking answers.

Consider that you started out with a base of knowledge to draw from so while what you described worked well for you it won't always work for everyone, especially not if they are uber new at something.

Some users start out not knowing how to ask good questions and SO provides a number of ways to "teach" them how even if that means having to learn the hard way.

Can you imagine the influx of incorrect answers from these poor users just trying to get enough rep to be able to ask a question? Who has time to downvote them all?

share|improve this answer
Obviously not everyone comes seeking ONLY answers, otherwise nobody would answer questions. Furthermore, if you aren't knowledgeable about anything programming related, AND you can't ask pertinent questions, aren't you essentially a worthless user? – pseudocoder Feb 6 '12 at 14:24
Not if you learn. – Matthew Feb 6 '12 at 16:06
That benefits you, not the site. – pseudocoder Feb 6 '12 at 16:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .