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Need a feature or countermeasure in place for users who promote “bad behavior”?

The inability to earn reputation for flagging unwelcome questions causes some perverse incentives:

  • One isn't very incentivised to flag (correctly), which makes the site somewhat slow to respond to unwelcome questions - this point is quite well addressed in Why there isn't reputation points for successful flagging? (badges, for example, go some way toward alleviating this);

  • More seriously (in my view), one is incentivised to try and answer unwelcome questions, thereby encouraging them to proliferate.

If it remains undesirable to reward correct flagging with reputation points, perhaps any reputation that is earned on questions that later get closed should then be annulled? This would incentivise users not to waste time on questions they perceive may become closed and, consequently, would encourage more of them to flag the question as such instead.

One could take it a step further and negatively punish users for responding to such questions, but I think that a little draconian.

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marked as duplicate by Cody Gray, Adam Lear May 4 '12 at 14:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Well, you get badges for flagging appropriately. – Mysticial May 2 '12 at 19:16
@Mysticial: Indeed - and that is mentioned in the question. – eggyal May 2 '12 at 19:16
If the question truly is unwelcome, it will get deleted and any participating users will lose any reputation they've earned in that question; unless it takes longer than 90 days to delete and they've earned 3 upvotes on their post. – animuson May 2 '12 at 19:24
@animuson: Useful to know - I didn't realise that; however, should this not also apply to questions that get closed, even if they are not deleted? Maybe I was a bit stronger than I had intended by using the word "unwelcome". – eggyal May 2 '12 at 19:27
Closing is the first step to deletion. Unless it's closed as a duplicate, chances are it will get deleted. – animuson May 2 '12 at 19:28
@animuson: Hm. In that case, perhaps I should revise my question to be specifically about dupes... I think my point still applies. – eggyal May 2 '12 at 19:29
@animuson: Much appreciated. – eggyal May 2 '12 at 19:33

You have to ask yourself: how much value will an answer provide?

In terms of reputation, you probably won't get much if the question is truly bad. For one thing, you will likely lose it all if the question is deleted. Also, if all goes well, not many people will see the answers to bad questions over the long-haul.

But more pressing is whether or not an answer will be beneficial outside of any reputation rewards. Only you can be the judge of that. The reputation system was designed to provide a rough guide, but it can't be your only motivation for doing things on the site. Hopefully your primary reason for answering questions is to learn and to help others.

Although there is an argument that answering junk questions encourages more junk questions, I think the system has plenty of ways to discourage bad questions. My experience has been that if someone really wants to get an answer to a question, they will keep asking it until the system finally locks them out. (So sometimes just giving a person what they want will actually reduce the number of junk questions they ask.)

But I think you are missing the big picture: the goal should not be to discourage unwelcome questions so much as to encourage welcome questions. Someone who provides a great answer to a bad question has a unique incentive to edit the question in order to improve it. Remember the site tries to optimize for great answers, not great questions.

That said, some questions are really not worth the time to provide an answer. But that's your call, not the system's.

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Yes these questions seems to get some answers (even if they are duplicates). But eventually they are closed and deleted so in the end there is not that much reputation to earn.

Flagging, like closing, editing and deleting are "moderator" tasks that can be aquired with enough reputation points. People that have these privilegs, like to use them (hopefully for a better site).

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I'm not sure this really addresses the point about incentives. I have even found myself answering questions I know to be a dupe in the knowledge that I'll probably get at least one upvote and maybe also accepted... that's an easy +25, possibly going as high as +55 with a few more upvotes. If I knew I'd lose that +55 when the question gets closed, I wouldn't bother; indeed, I'd almost certainly flag as a dupe immediately and move on. Question is: which behaviour would we rather encourage? – eggyal May 2 '12 at 19:20
You never know if a duplicated question gets deleted; if it's an exact duplicate (which means the question uses the same exact words), it would be deleted, and you lose the reputation gained with the answer. – kiamlaluno May 2 '12 at 21:36

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