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Stack Overflow is a question and answer site, but so many "questions" are posted here without actually asking a question!

What if there were a requirement to have at least one "?" character in every post? While there are some cases where a valid question can be posed without using the "?" character, IMHO these are few and far between.

There could even be a prominent warning if you try to submit a question without one, saying something like "Stack Overflow is a question and answer site, but it appears you have not asked a question yet! Please edit your post to include a specific and detailed question. For more information, read the FAQ."

This suggestion is mainly to improve new users' questions and teach them how to use this site without requiring someone to always ask "What's your question" over and over again.

The restriction could (should probably) be lifted after reaching a small amount of reputation, which shows you understand how the site works.

Nearly 100% of the time, a post lacking an actual question is either:

  • Not a real question, leading to closing and eventual deletion. These are often problem statement or requirement, of the form "I'm trying to do ..." or "I would like ...", which usually does not show any research effort.

  • Or, an inferred question, but not truly clear. Often someone ends up commenting "What's your question?" to which the asker has to come back and clarify what they wanted to know in the first place.

In my experience, I find most people that don't ask a question to be new users - meaning they don't understand how Stack Overflow works. Whether they're too lazy to read through the FAQ or they are new to expressing their problems to other people, the end result is the same: unclear non-question "questions".

Forcing at least one question would improve the quality of posts from first-time users. It also would help guide new users before they are subjected to the would-be resulting barrage of downvotes, close votes, and comments for clarification. Specifically:

  • For not a real question questions it would hopefully force the poster to think about their problem and pose a question. The hope is there will at least be a small increase in the number of people who focus on one particular problem instead of an entire project.

  • For inferred questions, if the question were clear in the first place, explicitly adding it does not detract from the post. In the case where the question is not clear, adding the question is usually all that is needed to clarify exactly what the problem is.

Would this be a good idea, or would there a significant disadvantage to requiring a question mark?

Note I mean requiring a question mark in the body of the post, and not the title.

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marked as duplicate by ben is uǝq backwards, Danubian Sailor, Martijn Pieters, Richard Tingle, Hugo Dozois Feb 23 '14 at 21:44

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.

I would also love to see this problem resolved, but I think its very fair to ask a question without a question mark. "I have tried X, but got this error Y, I'm hoping someone can tell me what this means" or the simple (and important) questions like "I don't understand "yield": I understand that it...., but not how it helps with.... I'm hoping someone can explain it to me" – baldric Mar 1 '13 at 12:25
@baldric I agree it is fair to ask a question without a question mark, but what is the ratio of new users who know how to do this properly? Furthermore, as I said in the question, explicitly adding the question mark does not detract anything except changing some of the wording (i.e. "can someone tell me what this means?", "Can someone explain it to me?", or "What does ... mean?" for your examples). This restriction could be lifted upon reaching X reputation which by then you should have learned this is a Q&A site. – lc. Mar 1 '13 at 12:38
Unfortunately in reality people would just add a single question mark to the question without changing anything else. – Juhana Mar 1 '13 at 12:40
@Juhana While inclined to agree, I think that depends on the error that comes up. If it says "We couldn't find a ? in your text" yes definitely. But if the error (and thus the site) sounds more intelligent, people might just stop for a second to think. – lc. Mar 1 '13 at 12:42
This is well intentioned but will not solve the actual problem: users who want to do the right thing will do it anyway, but users who don't care won't read any amount of guidance and will just add question marks to 'make it work' – AakashM Mar 1 '13 at 12:44
@lc.: That is awfully optimistic of you. I've seen too many posts with "I need to add text to pass the quality filter. I need to add text to pass the quality filter. I need to add text to pass the quality filter." ad infinitum added to trust that people will stop and think about a simple question mark. – Martijn Pieters Mar 1 '13 at 12:45
@MartijnPieters True and that is a good point. I suppose I'm just looking for a way to automate some of the process of teaching new users. Again, perhaps if it didn't say "1 question mark to go..." at the bottom, people might stop and think. Although maybe not. – lc. Mar 1 '13 at 12:48
You shouldn't solve this problem by requiring things that doesn't need to be required. the current system works already quite good: A newby asked a question which is not a question, some advanced users read the question and mark it as 'not a real question', other advanced users see them in their mod tools and the question get closed. The newby knows what to ask and what not and the question is removed. – Wouter J Mar 1 '13 at 12:51
up vote 6 down vote accepted

People will post bad stuff no matter what. If you require a question mark it'll just result in "i have a doubt? plz send me the codes" instead of "i have a doubt. plz send me the codes"

Besides that, I'm sure there are some very good questions that are perfectly fine without a single question mark. An example for an acceptable wording without the need for a question mark could be something like this for example:

I am looking for a way to do foo using bar.
I tried foobar but this did not work because moo.

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Fair enough, I suppose I'm just looking for a way to automatically teach new users and to not have to type "What's your question" fifty times a day. I guess it's not really practical. – lc. Mar 1 '13 at 12:46
@lc. If all the effort put into teaching new users how to post questions was actually used to teach new users how to post questions, the world would be SOooooo nicer :) – yo' Mar 1 '13 at 13:24
As to your example question: That is because foobar is immootable. – baldric Mar 1 '13 at 14:13

I completely disagree with downvotes and the accepted answer, and can logically prove that this idea is helpful ;)

It is obvious that some people will just put the question in a random place, just to get pass the filter. However, the number of lazy idiots will not get larger because of this. On the other side, a simple warning, like "hey, there is no question mark in your post, are you sure this is a question ?" for some group of people who have a minimal amount of reflection on what they're doing it will make them possibly rethink their formulation, and post a better question right away, without need of 10 commentators explaining that the issue is unclear.

So, we won't have an increase of low quality posts, but possibly an increase of right-away good quality posts.

Also, we won't have loss of good quality posts, because any of the examples of acceptable formulation without a question mark can be easily transposed into a question. If someone can't do this, then it will be probably hard to communicate with them anyway.

And finally - let's say this clear, that almost no one will go to the help center and read all the instructions first before posting. On the other side - this idea gives them a valuable information and feedback right away.

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