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Although I'm new to Meta Stack Overflow, I have had a valued membership of Stack Overflow for a number of years. As (I'm guessing) is normal, I started off by searching for answers and asking questions, but more recently (given the time), I have begun to answer more questions.

I have noticed a worrying down turn in the quality of the questions asked (particularly regarding WPF as this is my area of expertise and new users). I have seen so many of the following types of question (made up example):

Hi, I'm new to WPF and I want to reproduce the UI from this image:
--> some flashy image here <--
How can I do this?

Or (actual text):

I have a datagird with

    Client  Account   Date

however if i click on an item and then click on another the row becomes blank , I'm not sure how to stop this as there is no function for cell content click and I have the cell values set to read only , any tips ?

There is no sample code displayed as I'm not sure what would be valid

Upon attempting to answer these questions, the first thing that happens is that lots of questions are necessarily asked by users in the comments section (making them huge) to try to work out what the user actually wants, or to ask for code examples.

What (if anything) can we do about these low quality posts? I know that we can vote to close them, but what can we do to stop them from being asked (in their current quality) in the first place? It seems clear that most new users do not read the help or about pages.

I was personally wondering whether we could extend or alter the current 'First Posts' functionality to maybe the first 5 or 10 posts and possibly even put in a requirement for reviewers to have to provide some sort of 'question asking' advice.

As some users are better at providing the relevant information than others, maybe we could even have a system where (after a number of first posts) reviewers could vote if they feel that particular new users no longer need to be reviewed. Then once a new user has received a number of 'quality post' votes, they would no longer need to have their questions reviewed.


I was previously unaware that the 'First Posts' review happened after the post was posted. To be clear, I think that it might be an improvement if the post was not posted until after it has had a positive review... maybe something similar to users' first edits where they get a message saying that only they can see the edit until it has been approved.


I have seen the '“First posts” queue should track the user for a bit longer' post here, but it didn't seem to go anywhere, so I thought I'd ask my own question.

To summarise the question:

  1. What can we do about the low quality of posts from new users?
  2. Is it possible to extend the 'First Posts' functionality?
  3. How do we go about this?
share|improve this question
would you mind to explain why my edit suggestion (that formatted your second example as a quote and changed the tag from "feature-request" to "discussion") was incorrect or an attempt to reply? – Spontifixus Sep 3 '13 at 15:03
Because I want to show the exact text (with formatting) of the question I copied to highlight its bad formatting among other things... it was nothing personal. Also, I thought the change of tag was invalid because my question relates to a change of functionality, not just a discussion. – Sheridan Sep 3 '13 at 15:07
I don't take this personal - I was just curious. :) Regarding the feature-request tag: I think this is (for now) more a discussion than a feature-request, as your last three questions indicate. You don't say: "I propose to...", but rather "How should we..." - Will stop with this "meta-meta" discussion now ;) – Spontifixus Sep 3 '13 at 15:13

I've quoted this before, but it's a good one so I'll do it again:

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

-- Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled, 1989

There are two truths you can't get around:

  1. You can't make people be good

  2. You can't stop a determined idiot

People asking stupid questions and ignoring the rules is just a fact of life. People have the opportunity to have their professional questions answered, 100% free of charge, and yet they don't read the stuff which will help them get their question answered. No additional hurdles are going to prevent that level of determined idiocy.

1. What can we do about the low quality of posts from new users?

Pretty much what we are alrady doing - identify the bad stuff and downvote/flag/close/delete.

2. Is it possible to extend the 'First Posts' functionality?

Sure, but can you justify it? Have you made any attempt to research the potential effects of reviewing more than the first post? Or are you expecting others to do the heavy lifting?

3. How do we go about this?

It depends on what you mean by "this", but if you are referring to the second point, then the answer would be to have the site developers change the logic.

And, since you specifically pointed it out in the comments on this answer...

I know that we can vote to close them, but what can we do to stop them from being asked (in their current quality) in the first place?

We can form a task force to infiltrate people's homes and steal their keyboards and touch screen devices. The legality of this particular option is a bit on the dubious side, but we could organize a petition on to make asking dumb stuff on the internet illegal. This probably wouldn't actually stop anybody, but at least we could back up our moral outrage with lengthy prison sentences.

I was previously unaware that the 'First Posts' review happened after the post was posted. To be clear, I think that it might be an improvement if the post was not posted until after it has had a positive review

I fail to see how this would be better. Dumb questions will still be asked and multiple people will still have to review it. The only difference is that you'd lose members of the community with low rep who can flag the question.

In addition, in my experience, many bad questions come from users who have already asked a "good" (read: upvoted) question or two (or three, or four, or five). Those questions would still make it through, so you'd still end up with "bad" questions on the main site.

share|improve this answer
What a profound quote that is... especially so as it still rings so true over 30 years after it was said/written. I'm not sure that I completely agree though... why do we have schools and colleges if we can't teach idiots? I believe that we can certainly improve the standard of questions through education. Many people get away with whatever they can get away with, so not letting them get away with posting low quality questions should reduce the number of low quality questions, shouldn't it? – Sheridan Sep 3 '13 at 14:14
@Sheridan Your question itself is specifically stating that you're not just concerned with closing or handling posts after they are posted, but preventing them from being posted. There is already a rather high rate of such questions being closed/deleted/downvoted once posted, even without the proposed change. – Servy Sep 3 '13 at 14:21
@Servy, we still need reviewer action to close or delete posts, so wouldn't it be better if those reviews happened before the question was posted? It would probably result in far fewer posts being closed or deleted and raise the overall quality of questions. – Sheridan Sep 3 '13 at 14:26
@Sheridan I don't see anything in the question indicating that the review would be closing or deleting posts before they are posted. If that's what you had in mind, you haven't explained that. As it is the first post review queue reviews posts after they are posted; it doesn't prevent the post from being visible until it is reviewed. – Servy Sep 3 '13 at 14:29
@Sheridan - There's a huge difference between ignorance and idiocy (in the sense of a "fool"). Ignorance can be cured with education, and there are plenty of ignorant people who are aware of their ignorance and seek out education. That's what colleges are for (and schools, aside from the compulsory part). Idiots, among other things, actively ignore the information offered to them, so no amount of education will help. – JDB Sep 3 '13 at 14:40
@Servy, you are mistaken... please find the line below in my post: I know that we can vote to close them, but what can we do to stop them from being asked (in their current quality) in the first place? – Sheridan Sep 3 '13 at 14:44
@Sheridan You're missing a lot between "we should do something to stop them from being asked" and "having the first post review queue review the first 5 posts will do that", namely that you are proposing the first post review queue should review posts before they are posted, which is different than the current behavior. As it is you're saying that we should prevent them from being posted and them proposing a solution that doesn't do that, your proposal as it currently reads would only address the problem after they are posted. You should amend it if you meant otherwise. – Servy Sep 3 '13 at 14:49
I'm sorry, but I did not realise that the First post review happened after the post was posted. I have updated my question. – Sheridan Sep 3 '13 at 14:59

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