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Here's the guidelines on Good/Bad Subjective questions http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/

Here's a follow up: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/01/real-questions-have-answers/

Over the past several days I've come across more and more closed questions of the form "Can you recommend xyz?" Many of these usually have some answers and usually good and helpful ones. But since they are closed, the conversation is stopped. These are apparently "bad subjective questions" (despite the fact that some of them are actually pretty good).

Then what is the job of a moderator? Spam filter? Question remover? Rules enforcer? Human-powered question categorization engine?

Except for the last one, that sounds more like a police office or some sort of enforcer. I'm not saying that work is not needed but in my mind a moderator helps guide a discussion. Think about the last time you went to a panel talk with a really good moderator. What did that moderator actually do? Did they yell at people for bad questions? OR did they re-interpret "bad" questions and turn it into a good discussion?

Maybe there should be a new role, "content-advisor" or something?

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closed as not constructive by GEOCHET, ЯegDwight, Toon Krijthe, Martijn Pieters, Bo Persson Mar 25 '13 at 22:26

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Moderator Note: Comments deleted. If you have an answer, please post it. If you need clarification on the post; leave a comment. If you want to argue, or fight, or eat unicorn meat, this is probably not the place for it. –  George Stocker Mar 25 '13 at 19:48
SE is not about conversations; it never was. If you want one of those, you should use the chat facility. –  Robert Harvey Mar 25 '13 at 19:48
What spawned this whole thing was stackoverflow.com/questions/10375384/… – I looked for ways to improve it. The FAQ is huge and a little overwhelming. I looked at the comments, no real guidance. Then I gave up. Saw about 3 more like this and became frustrated. –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 19:56
That's a hopelessly broad, unfocused question that demonstrates no effort or prior research. Probably easily answered with better Google skills. Fortunately, helping people with their Google-Fu is not part of our scope. Otherwise, that's all we'd be spending our time on. –  Robert Harvey Mar 25 '13 at 19:57
@djensen47 You haven't a hope with that question. We allowed them for quite a long time, but it became clear that they are not a good fit for the Q&A format and end up being highly voted broken windows that push good content off the page. Thankfully they're no longer allowed and good riddance. –  dmckee Mar 25 '13 at 20:03
@dmckee That was the best answer I've read all day. It was not rude. It gave me some history/clarification and why they don't work. And you did it succinctly. –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 20:12
@RobertHarvey But JFGI doesn't always solve the situation. There are many good learning aids that are buried on the internet and a site like SO can help bring those good links to the forefront. dmckee made a valid point but it seems there should be a middle ground? Maybe an entirely new feature of the site, a wiki without Q&A but equally good for learning? –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 20:57
We had such a feature once. It was called Community Wiki. We made the perfect world, a world where everyone could be happy, where no one would suffer. It was a disaster; nobody would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. –  Robert Harvey Mar 25 '13 at 20:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Maybe there should be a new role, "content-advisor" or something?

Guess what, we already have that role. And you know who has that role? YOU. Well, and me. And everybody else on the site. Welcome to Stack Exchange. A network of websites with community moderation. Websites which are collaboratively edited. Websites where increased reputation and implied trust leads to more available moderation tools for all of us.

And we do try our best. We edit questions into shape where possible. We close content that really should not be here. We do all we can. But especially Stack Overflow is big. And with the high volume of questions coming in, we can't hold every user's hand and show them the error of their ways by diving into deep conversations.

So we close, leave a comment or two and hope for the best. And even in those cases where we do go the extra mile, that does not always turn out to be appreciated.

I get what you're going for here, and it's a noble idea. But we're already doing a lot, and it's simply not feasible for moderators, nor the community, to fix everything. Most of the effort required will have to come from the OP, by reading the FAQ, reading Meta posts and by trying to improve all the time.

P.s. Your idea of moderation seems to be somewhat different from its meaning on the site. Have a look at this blog post to get a better idea of what we mean by moderation and moderators: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/

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This. The barrier to entry is ridiculously low for editing; if you see a question poorly-received, want it improved, and... Don't improve it yourself... Then you've no business blaming someone else for not doing so. –  Shog9 Mar 25 '13 at 20:04
Agreed but as the non-power user, I found it difficult to find how to fix the question. The FAQ was large and general and those useful links you posted were not at my finger tips. In the end @dmckee pointed out that these types of questions were tried and failed. I think my only suggestion now is to have a new category for "subjective" with a link to the information on subjective questions. Then people can read directly why the question doesn't work and not the general category of "not constructive." –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 20:17
@djensen47 I'd say that is still a bad idea. With some effort any user should be able to turn their subjective question into a regular one fit for Stack Overflow. But that will take effort. If they do however, the site will be better off and the question will no longer need a "subjective" tag. –  Bart Mar 25 '13 at 20:19
@Bart I wasn't clear. The reason for closing should maybe be more specific: "Subjective question" with more specific links to info about subjective questions (and the FAQ too). –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 20:22
Ah. Well, improved close reasons are in the works. What exactly they will end up looking like and how informative they will be, I don't know. But there is work going on. –  Bart Mar 25 '13 at 20:23
@djensen47: searching and asking here is a pretty good way to learn. Most of this stuff has been discussed a lot - and as you've found, there are always folks ready and willing to offer advice. –  Shog9 Mar 25 '13 at 20:23
@Bart That's excellent news. I hope there will also be tools to edit the closed reason. –  djensen47 Mar 25 '13 at 20:51
@djensen47 See this for example: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/173497/… –  Bart Mar 25 '13 at 20:57

The role of a mod is human exception handler. We deal with things that the community can't. While moderators can help by editing, they may not since there are other things (clearing flags) that have more priority. Salvaging a post can be done by a non mod as well. You can do it. Dealing with flagged content/sockpuppets/etc cannot (in some cases).

You're only using a specific meaning of "moderator" here, the one which means "mediator of a debate". We do mediate on the site when there are tiffs. But that's not where our job stops. Saying that "mods should promote discussion because that's what 'moderator' means" is just an argument of semantics.

The SE network is not for discussion. If you want to discuss stuff, use the connected chat system.

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The phrase "human exception handler" reminds me of this xkcd. –  Jack Maney Mar 25 '13 at 19:47
...and bad subjective questions are anything but exceptional cases. –  Bill the Lizard Mar 25 '13 at 19:47

The powers that separate moderators from high rep users have nothing to do with improving content, and everything to do with handling attacks on the sites and misbehavior that is either more persistent or more serious than that which can be managed with the tools available to well established users.

Any user with at least 2000 rep can edit any (unlocked, undeleted) post without approval, and lower rep users can offer suggested edits. If there is a need for this, then is falls on the user base, not the moderators.

That said, there are more questions which probably shouldn't be salvaged then ones that clearly can be.

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I'm not a moderator (and probably shouldn't be one), but here's one fatal flaw in your question:

I'm not saying that work is not needed but in my mind a moderator helps guide a discussion.

The Stack Exchange network of sites are Q&A sites, not discussion boards or panels.

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There's a lot of content on Stack Overflow. I believe there are over 50,000 questions asked daily. That's a lot of questions. If we assume that even .1% of those questions are 'bad subjective' questions, that's still 500 questions a day for a dozen or so moderators.

That's not sustainable.

However, we have lots of 10K users, at present count 3660 10K users. We have 21,354 users that can edit posts.

So, should we ask 12 users to do this work? Or 21,354 users?

That's why we give editing privileges to users at 2,000 reputation.

Moderators do not scale, no matter how you try to slice it.

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