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Look at this question (10K only) that was just asked a little while ago. Two people with >8000 and one with >63k answered the question. With that much rep, they must know that what-should-I-learn-next questions are not appropriate. Why aren't people with >63k voting to close instead of answering the question?


Update as the Q has been deleted, here's the whole (yes, whole) body:

I would like to start learning programming and making web pages. I started with learning html. First of all is this a good start? It will help me in the future with learning "important "programming languages like c++? And secondly, what is an appropriate study plan for learning html?

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I noticed the question has been deleted. Shouldn't we undelete it until at the OP sees the reason the question was closed? (I voted to undelete it) –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 13:26
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@Rachel: I copied it. No, a parallel meta topic is never a good reason to undelete the Q. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 13:27
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We have the same issue over at Super User as well. –  KronoS Aug 27 '12 at 13:30
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@Rachel That is no reason to vote to undelete it. (Well, it's a reason, but not a good one IMO). Vote to undelete if you feel it should not have been deleted in the first place. Not if you just want it to be visible a little while longer. –  Bart Aug 27 '12 at 13:36
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@Chichiray I was referring to the fact the OP probably hasn't seen that his/her question got downvotes and some comments telling them the question is not a good fit for this site and to read the FAQ. From their point of view, the question simply disappeared. Users learn better if you teach them what they did wrong instead of simply cleaning up after them. I think there was a proposal around somewhere for a timed delete vote, where you could vote to delete a question after X days without having to bother remembering to go back. I can't find the link though –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 13:44
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@Rachel: OP can still see its own deleted question (if OP knows the exact URL by bookmark or browser history, of course). The timed delete makes IMO no sense. I do however support the proposal of showing deleted questions/answers in user's own Q/A history in user profile (toggeable by some checkbox like as in reputation history). –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 13:47
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@Chichiray Is that something new? I thought deleted questions were only visible to 10k+ users, even if it was your own question. Even a bookmark or browser history URL would just return a 404 error. –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 13:49
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@Rachel: that thus doesn't apply to "own" posts. It has always been the way how the system works, as far as I recall. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 13:50
    
We do have rep whores (or at least, those that have a healthy preoccupation with rep) on the site. This isn't saying that every high-rep user is a rep whore, granted. However, lots of users (high-rep and otherwise) bet on the question not being deleted to get some easy rep (I've done it, I'm not proud of it, but the behavior does exist). –  casperOne Aug 27 '12 at 15:25
    
All three answers posted by high-rep users point out that HTML is not a programming language. ref: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/28098/… –  Robert Harvey Aug 27 '12 at 16:15
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@casperOne: i am enthralled by the concept of "rep whores", is it something that moderators have any say about? As a newbie in the system i feel mostly like a micro-bitch :-) –  ElCid Aug 27 '12 at 16:43
    
@ElCid Being a "rep-whore" just means that you are overly concerned about reputation (e.g. seeing someone with a large amount of rep complain about a small amount of rep loss that really is inconsequential). If you're gaining reputation by contributing to the system in a way that doesn't circumvent it and doesn't give you an unfair advantage, then as a moderator, I'm not concerned. As always, we'd like for people to focus on providing quality content and have rep be a secondary concern, but we can't impose a value or thought on people (nor should we, in this case). –  casperOne Aug 27 '12 at 16:48
    
well, this is definitely something that cannot be found the in the faq :) –  ElCid Aug 27 '12 at 16:53
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@Chichiray Rachel is right, actually. If you have <10k rep, you can't see deleted questions, period. You can see your own deleted answers, if you know a URL for the question it was answering. –  Pops Aug 27 '12 at 17:03
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@Popular: that, and I'm also more an answerer than an asker. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 17:10
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6 Answers

up vote 29 down vote accepted

They might well know that it isn't a good fit for the site, but they likely still want to help the person asking the question, so try to pop in a helpful answer before it is closed.

I have answered questions before and voted to close them at the same time. It might not be a good question (ie, not a good fit for Q&A) but it still might be a good question.

In the question you linked, yes, it isn't a question that works well on SO, it is (sort of) open to interpretation and there isn't a few lines of code that will answer it - but surely you don't look at it and think Bah, what a waste of time this was... Some peep out there is asking for help, and he is getting it. In that case, I am glad that it was answered by folks with loads of rep, the answers probably had more insight into it than someone who started programming two weeks ago.

I would personally be much happier to answer a question like this and possibly really help someone than find a syntax error someone, or write a quick answer for a code beggar who can't be bothered to do it themselves.

Lastly - and this is from a game theory point of view - you will probably find that a lot of the high rep users will answer pretty much every question that pops into their queue, whether it is a good one or not. I mean, someone doesn't get to 63k rep by being picky and choosy with what they answer right? :)

Really Lastly - to back up the comment about getting the message below: I asked this question on SO before I really understood the format there. I still think it is a good question, it got voted to a +10 (some downvotes included) and it got some utterly fantastic answers. Having that question closed by a mod as it didn't fit the Q&A format taught me a good lesson - SO isn't the site for these. In this exact example, probably programmers@ would have been better, and I know that now, but I learned it by having it closed. Until that time, I thought it was a great question to ask.

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+1 I answer questions because I like to help people, not because I want to help build or maintain SO. Sure I'll help maintain the site where I can, through edits or close votes, but my main reason for answering questions is to help people, and I'm not going to stop doing that just because the site decided they don't want specific types of questions asked :) –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 13:17
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I really don't like this approach is it can encourage the user and other user to continue the behavior. I think it's best to use comments instead of answering. –  KronoS Aug 27 '12 at 13:34
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@KronoS I don't disagree, but somethings a comment simply doesn't have enough space for a good answer. I think when folks get a question closed, they get a pretty clear message about whether it was the right type of question to ask or not though. –  Fluffeh Aug 27 '12 at 13:57
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Why do high rep users answer bad questions?

Provided that those users exactly know the site's rules as to which questions can be asked or not (with such a lot of reputation, this is IMO a fair assumption), it's because they desperately need more reputation; it's for them so addictive that it's never enough.

Just vote for close yourself and if possible also for the delete. If the question get ultimately deleted, they'll lose all the earned rep as well -if any. That'll hopefully learn them to not answer questions which do not belong on Stack Overflow at all; we namely don't want to make Stack Overflow more attractive for this kind of bad questions because there are "always" this kind of users who answer them anyway. All those bad questions would only scare away the real good users/answerers.

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I completely disagree, and think this sort of attitude is a poor one to take against high-rep users that try to help new users. I personally answer questions because I like to help people. You could remove the rep entirely and I wouldn't care. –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 15:03
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@Rachel: please don't help changing SO to what it should not be. You'll do yourself, the asker and SO more a favor if you post a kind comment explaining why this kind of questions doesn't belong on SO, pointing a place where this kind of offtopic and non-constructive questions can be posted (usually such an old fashioned threaded discussion forum), so that the OP (and you) can continue over there. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 15:05
    
I typically would answer this sort of question with a comment and vote to close since asking for a study plan on how to learn programming is too broad (or I might attempt to rewrite it as "I'm learning HTML for making webpages, but will this help me learn other languages like C++"), however other questions considered "bad questions" include things like poorly written (but specific) questions, simple/newbie questions, questions that aren't 100% code related, and some recommendation questions. I think its unfair to say that just because you answer these that you are desperate for reputation. –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 15:25
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@Rachel: in all honesty, I think you need a refreshment as to what questions belong (not) on Stack Exchange networks. In general, questions which can never have only one answer which is satisfying to everyone do not belong on SE networks. This question is exactly such one. Poorly written (but technically good) questions are no problem for me, I just edit and improve them. I actually love the ability to do so on SE networks. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 15:28
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Regardless, I still disagree with your answer that high-rep users answer bad questions because they "desperately need more reputation". Perhaps a few users are like that, but I feel the majority of cases are simply users who want to help out another person :) –  Rachel Aug 27 '12 at 15:45
    
@Rachel: fair point. I improved the answer. –  BalusC Aug 27 '12 at 15:48
    
Not really, your point is still that they are rep-whoring which is true sometimes, but completely false sometimes. If you really want to improve the answer, make it less definitive and universal. Throw in a few words like maybe and sometimes instead of implying that ever case is about rep-whoring. –  Synetech Dec 23 '13 at 22:37
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Even bad questions can have very good answers, which are a major contribution to the site. There is a badge for this: the Reversal Badge. It is one of the hardest badges to get, too.

Also, if properly edited, bad questions can become very good questions. Depends on the question.

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Of course they know better. They also know that any reputation increases will beat the few questions that get closed or deleted.

The only way to change this is to change the culture:

  • Make closing something that is a Good Thing™. Right now it's an accepted evil, but the community still gravitates towards opening (find a closed question, and bring it up on Meta, more often than not it gets reopened).
  • Have a more proactive community in the realm of deleting questions that add nothing to the Stack Overflow corpus.

The review queue goes a long way to address these problems, but until we see a much higher number of people close things, we're going to have this keep happening.

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Sometimes a helpful suggestion may still be useful to the poster, even if the question isn't a good fit for SO. This is especially true if the answer helps the poster write better questions in the future, and in that case, coming from an established user may make the poster more willing to heed the advice, even though they may be upset that their question was closed.

I think that's not a bad way to keep the site in line while still engaging with users who haven't quite hit the mark.

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I think the people that answered just see a newb programmer, they want to offer a helping hand. I think they know it's going to be closed but they want an answer to be given to this newb before the question gets closed/deleted -- hence why they don't vote to close/delete.

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Exactly. The OP will still get to see the answer and get the help they are looking for. Even if the question gets closed and eventually deleted, and all rep voided, someone was still helped, so the net-balance tips towards positive overall. –  Synetech Dec 23 '13 at 22:38
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