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There are questions with specific phrases that sort of bug me, and in combination with having a short length, they are probably lousy questions.

We've all seen it: zero code, and the phrase "is it possible to XYZ".

What about a Chat-Bot that automatically asks helpful questions? Something like "Would you please show the code you have so far?" Then a mod can override it if need be?

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Unfortunately, this seems to be what most of our contributors turn out to actually be: human robots, responding to words and simple phrases instead of actual content. –  Jan Dvorak Oct 31 '13 at 21:12
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All hail Clippycorn! –  Bart Oct 31 '13 at 21:12
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Reactivate Chat with an expert –  juergen d Oct 31 '13 at 21:13
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I remember an April's Fool that looked a bit like this –  sehe Oct 31 '13 at 21:15
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@JanDvorak How does unfortunately, this seems to be what most of our contributors turn out to actually be make you feel? –  Servy Oct 31 '13 at 21:15
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@R.MartinhoFernandes, SO's resident robot, already comments on questions. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 31 '13 at 21:16
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Do you think you can write a program to, with 100% accuracy, detect questions that don't show an attempt at solving the problem oneself? If this is the case, (good luck and) it would probably be way better to just prevent them from posting the question in the first place - just give them a message explaining the problem when they try to post. –  Dukeling Oct 31 '13 at 22:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's an interesting idea, and implementing it in the form of a chat bot has a great social appeal as well: an anonymous friendly comment from "Community" may go down better in some situations than a community member's "What have you tried?" "We're not here to write code for you", etc.

However, it's going to be useful only in a very small fraction of possible scenarios - it would never work in the case you present for example, as it's perfectly possible to ask a good question that happens to contain the sentence "is it possible to XYZ?". And if there's one thing we do not want is a chatbot pestering the askers of perfectly intelligent questions just because some algorithm thinks it might be a bad question.

I think in the end, any automated response would have to be triggered by the community that recognizes the flaw in a question and knows how to address it. We've been down that road several times before (e.g. with "What Stack Overflow is Not"), always unsuccessfully for social reasons (because whatever automated feedback solution you give the community, it tends to get overused or misused over time).

But perhaps there are clear patterns where this might make sense - we should remain open towards thinking about them. I could think of one in the HTML and CSS tags: when there's only text and a link to an external site and no code, point to Something in my web site or project doesn't work. Can I just paste a link to it? - just as a friendly reminder to make sure the user is aware of the principle.

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This suggestion sounds like a good idea on the surface, but when you look at it in depth it isn't going to fly.

Generally "Is it possible..." and "How do I..." questions are not bad, they can just be asked in a bad way. (I've been programming a long time and I still have some of those questions). Unless you are also going to introduce a rep count into it then invoking a robotic chat session based on phrasing will be counter productive. That style of phrasing would also indicate the asker has limited or no code to show, anything they do have will likely be messy prototyping and therefore not good for illustrative purposes on SO.

I think that it's better to bump these to a review queue (which already happens when certain criteria are met), and let the hooman robots parse them.

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I think you meant "hew-man." –  Robert Harvey Oct 31 '13 at 22:13

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