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I'm sure everyone has noticed Google's relatively recent "remove from search results" feature, which allows you to hide results from useless domains.


w3schools.com .


I wonder if it would be useful to have a similar feature, either to remove a single question from all search results, or to remove all questions by the asker from all search results.

Any hidden search results could be shown by clicking a link at the bottom of the page.

Aggregate data about frequently hidden posts could be collected, which could be useful for spotting useless questions that may be cluttering the site and making it difficult to find good questions.

I picture it looking something like this:

enter image description here

I think this would be useful for individuals browsing the site, as they would be able to find the good stuff more easily, and for search algorithms / moderators / "cleanup crew", as they would be able to identify the bad stuff more easily, and therefore it would be better to users searching the site for help after the fact, because the not-useful stuff has been filtered out or algorithmically sunk to the bottom of the list.

What do you guys think?

By the way, I apologize in advance if this is a duplicate question.


UPDATE: When I wrote this, I imagined this applying to all question listings, not just listings that are the result of a search. I imagine the questions being hidden from the front page, a listing generated from clicking a tag, etc. Sorry for the confusion.

Also, I'm not suggesting by any means that if one user hides a question, it should be hidden for all users. It should only be hidden for the users that explicitly hid it, of course. However, I am suggesting making this data available to moderators and through the API; I think this will help identify questions that really should be closed, and I think it could be useful for ordering question listings.

In response to Purmou, you are probably right in suggesting that the questions should have to be viewed before they are hidable. That was an oversight on my part.

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I especially like the part about actually using the data to figure out which questions are useful--moreso since SO gets so many questions per day. –  simchona Feb 27 '12 at 6:06
    
+1 for the ignore feature lol –  Shea Feb 27 '12 at 6:12
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If the question is really so useless that you'd want to remove it from your search results, we should at least close it, if not remove it from the site altogether. This doesn't work for Google because they can't delete things from the Internet. Our content is moderated. SO 1 Google 0 –  Cody Gray Feb 27 '12 at 7:15
    
@CodyGray either way, wouldn't this help identify questions that need to be closed/deleted? Users that can vote to close can do so before hiding the question. Take a look at the "example" screenshot above... I'd hide all of those, but i don't have the time, energy, or rep to close them all. –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 7:27
    
Why would this help in identifying them? You still have to read the questions to see if they're bad and you want to hide them. And if they are bad, use the "flag" link that's already provided. –  Cody Gray Feb 27 '12 at 7:29
    
@CodyGray It would help because you'd keep track of how many times things have been hidden, and then make a nice page that lists them from most-hidden to least-hidden; then just go through that page and deal with all the actionable ones –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 7:31
    
We already do that with flags. You're solving a non-existent problem. –  Cody Gray Feb 27 '12 at 7:35
    
@CodyGray flags can take days to go through, and then even when they're deemed "useful," the crap question often doesn't go away. I want to not see the question cluttering the list, that's the core problem I'm trying to solve. Flags don't solve it for me. –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 7:38

2 Answers 2

This idea shows some promise but is ultimately useless in SE's model, I think.

I'm under the impression (and this is my personal belief, as well) that all questions deserve equal attention only until after they've been determined to be duplicates or unfit per SE's standards and common practices.

If we had to be perfectly honest, we'd agree that most of the questions on Stack Overflow aren't of the highest quality. By your system, removing those results by choice will eventually lead to their permanent relocation on the list from wherever they may have been to the bottom.

With the majority of questions deemed unhelpful, the chances of dupes appearing will rise and the general quality of the site will drop because users aren't being mindful enough. Honestly, how many pages of search results do you go through before you give up? This will be the kind of behavior spawned from this kind of process—users will give up quickly and just ask anyways, which is what we don't necessarily want.

So while it could work with SE's model with the proper modifications and improvements, in its current state, it is useless.

Also, you can organize search results by votes, which should be enough to determine overall quality. Then, of course, the tags, title, and post preview should help you in determining whether or not you want to look further into it.

Note: Keep in mind that the link shows up on Google if you've first visited the site and clicked the browser back button to return to the page. This has merit since it encourages reading further than the title and the short preview.

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I honestly don't see this working out for the Stack Overflow context...

Sure, this might be helpful on an individual user basis, but using one user's preferences to modify the results for the entire community is a horrible idea. What one user sees as a "bad" question could be a gold mine for someone else. Your opinion is completely objective. We already have a system for filtering out bad questions, it's called voting. If you actually read the question and determine it to be a bad question, downvote it. But selecting to block a question straight from the list for which you can only see a small snippet of context is not the correct way for filtering results, especially when it applies to the entire community.

If you're worried about your results not being helpful, try using a more specific search query. Include a [tag] in your search to only show questions with that tag. Use the + operator to enforce a certain word. You have plenty of options already to get better search results. Use them.

Google is a much different complex. It's allows you to block websites as a whole because it knows that some websites are not trustworthy or provide bad information in general. The environment at Stack Overflow is completely different. We have 2.7 million questions, Google has billions upon billions of webpages.

Ultimately, I see this feature being widely abused and the search results becoming a vast grassland of dead unicorns. Do you really want to kill the unicorns?

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If I understand correctly, this would only remove the result for your account, not everybody's (that would be an awful idea). Blocking a result on Google does not block it for the whole internet. –  Wesley Murch Feb 27 '12 at 6:25
    
"using one user's preferences" is not the same as "using hundreds/thousands of user's preferences." I'm ambivalent, at best, about unicorns. –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 6:26
    
@Madmartigan: His last paragraph suggests using this information to "filter" results: because the not-useful stuff has been filtered out or algorithmically sunk to the bottom of the list. –  animuson Feb 27 '12 at 6:26
    
@animuson: Aha, I did not catch that at first. Well then this is a horrible idea ;) –  Wesley Murch Feb 27 '12 at 6:27
    
Yes, I'm suggesting that moderators and high-reppers can close (filter) things, and that search engines, after receiving hundreds of "hide this question" signals, can display them less prominently. –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 6:28
    
@GGG: All of those preferences being objective, and likely very wide-ranged. Not to mention, this would only account for people who didn't find a question helpful. What about those people who did? Are you going to add a separate link for them to click? –  animuson Feb 27 '12 at 6:28
    
I think you're misunderstanding the point of the feature. No, there wouldn't be another link. –  The Community Feb 27 '12 at 6:33

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