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How often does it not happen that a 1 rep user comes to SO to ask a question that is almost equal to a google search operation? The answer is, more often than you would think.

I was thinking to have a filter in place for low-rep users (let's say <25) that checks the length of a question. If there's only one sentence, it's very likely to be off-topic, unconstructive, etc... The requirement could be, for example, at least two paragraphs with each at least 2 sentences OR one paragraph with at least 4. Preferrably also a bit of code (give them a message instructing them how to do this, also encouraging them). Then again, check if the question is not an entire code dump (I've seen people post the entire source of whatever they are trying to do, where one single line gives an error).

If a newcomer decides to use spam to fill in the question field up to the required amount of paragraphs/code, a temporary ban might be a solution. I know it seems harsh, but I have the feeling that only 10-ish percent of questions by <10 rep users is actually acceptable... And then I'm doing my best to remember optimistically.

On the plus side, this restriction will teach them that they need to actually construct questions rather than pose them. This will also protect themselves against downvotes, because I can imagine a new user with good intentions can easily be scared off by seeing that a simple question receives so many downvotes, and thinking the SO community is plain rude or unwilling.

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Such filter exists (very short questions), but it doesn't block questioner, but marks question as suspicious and to be revised by moderation tool. It's fair enough, I think. –  om-nom-nom May 3 '12 at 17:43
    
@om-nom-nom If the filter exists, why does it alert the community but not the user posting it? –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 17:44
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Use your down votes. There's no better crap filter than, well, us. –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 17:47
    
@Mario Cause we are not in Orwell's book, I guess :). Prohibiting is a bad thing, and I do believe that there would be situations when short question is legit and meaningfull. –  om-nom-nom May 3 '12 at 17:47
    
@om-nom-nom Ah but then that would be some kind of privilege? :) I was not really insisting on prohibiting them, but caution messages can yield a good result. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 17:52
    
@Downvoter, care to explain. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 18:34

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

How often does it not happen that a 1 rep user comes to SO to ask a question that is almost equal to a google search operation? The answer is, more often than you would think.

It happens a lot. Use your down votes, that's exactly what they are there for. For extremely trivial questions feel free to flag as "not a real question", but don't forget to down vote first.

I was thinking to have a filter in place for low-rep users (let's say <25) that checks the length of a question. If there's only one sentence, it's very likely to be off-topic, unconstructive, etc... The requirement could be, for example, at least two paragraphs with each at least 2 sentences OR one paragraph with at least 4. Preferrably also a bit of code (give them a message instructing them how to do this, also encouraging them). Then again, check if the question is not an entire code dump (I've seen people post the entire source of whatever they are trying to do, where one single line gives an error).

Such mechanisms exist, but they are mostly on the warning side, either warning the user or the moderators. Don't worry about it and use your down votes.

If a newcomer decides to use spam to fill in the question field up to the required amount of paragraphs/code, a temporary ban might be a solution. I know it seems harsh, but I have the feeling that only 10-ish percent of questions by <10 rep users is actually acceptable... And then I'm doing my best to remember optimistically.

Flag or vote to close (whichever applies) the question as soon as you see it. A few closed questions will get the user automatically question banned. If the question is actually spam, flag as such, spam flags are a bit overcharged and a few of them together are going to do the trick nicely.

On the plus side, this restriction will teach them that they need to actually construct questions rather than pose them. This will also protect themselves against downvotes, because I can imagine a new user with good intentions can easily be scared off by seeing that a simple question receives so many downvotes, and thinking the SO community is plain rude or unwilling.

On extreme cases, moderators can suspend a user. If you feel a user should be suspended, flag one of their posts for moderation attention and explain what you think they are doing wrong.

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Well, the emphasis is on downvotes, but my question also had the intention to protect new users against downvotes and be scared off for good... If SO just guides a bit more, then downvotes will be less necessary and everyone will win. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 17:58
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If you ask Joel, the only bad simple question is a duplicate simple question. –  Dennis May 3 '12 at 18:03
    
@Mario Well, I happen to be one of those that think we are already too lenient, at the end of the day we only have so much time to guide newer users, and we can't handhold everyone. It might be that my perspective is skewed from the ton of crap I've seen on SO the years I've been around, and I honestly hope you find a better way to deal with the issue. However I really don't care if people get scared by down votes, I strongly believe that there's little chance they'll ever become contributing members with that mentality anyways. –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 18:03
    
@Dennis Well on this one I'm with Jeff. Sorry Joel, but you're wrong. –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 18:05
    
@YahooAnswersenthusiast: Jeff has a point, but his conclusion was a General reference close reason. Questions like the one the OP mentioned don't really fit any of the given close reasons, and the answer, although easily found elsewhere by Google, is interesting. –  Dennis May 3 '12 at 18:08
    
@Dennis Didn't say anything about the answer. I'm not going to berate anyone for answering a crap question, it's their time to waste. –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 18:10
    
@Dennis "answer is interesting" > I thought SO was explicitly not a discussion site? –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 18:10
    
@YahooAnswersenthusiast: My point is that a crappy question can lead to a good answer. –  Dennis May 3 '12 at 18:11
    
@YahooAnswersenthusiast When the guiding is automatic and present to spare us the "tons of crap", who cares if it is there or not? If a newcomer still tries to ignore it, the downvotes will be there too... Also, They might still become a contributing member, they just may not realise the questions on SO are generally rather large in body. There's a question as in "quiz question", there's a question as in "here's the situation, I'm doing this, this goes wrong. Why?" –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 18:12
    
@MarioDeSchaepmeester: I'm talking about the fact that, while everyone who's familiar with SQL should be able to solve this problem by himself, most would probably need a lot more code to do it. –  Dennis May 3 '12 at 18:13
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@Dennis I know that, and I have the Reversal badge to prove it (on ProgSE). –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 18:13
    
@MarioDeSchaepmeester Because there's already a lot of guiding, newer users are prompted to read the FAQ, for example, and people still ask a ton of off topic questions every day. –  Yannis May 3 '12 at 18:15
    
@Dennis The only thing you need to be familiar with to find the answer on that question is google, seriously :) –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 18:15
    
@MarioDeSchaepmeester: That's where Joel's philosophy kicks in: Google should find it here. –  Dennis May 3 '12 at 18:16
    
@Dennis Well that is another good point, admittedly, but entire websites that take care to explain the problem and give examples will guide people in the process of learning a bit better that SO answers in most cases. SO answers often contain good-to-knows and facts, but generally don't go into very much detail. –  MDeSchaepmeester May 3 '12 at 18:18

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