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Would it be possible to hold questions that use "text speak"?

I'm probably showing my age, but I despise reading posts like:

i can't <...>. pls help me. thx u.

Would it be possible to automatically hold the post until the author uses non-text speak? Or, based on jonsca's Can 'u' and 'i' part ways with Stack Exchange? feature request, could we get a "Hold Reason" added for "text speak"?

With a "text speak" hold, we have a fighting chance to correct the behavior. And since the correction has to come from the author, he or she can learn from it and modify their behavior.

Here's what is not working: an author is not corrected, so hundreds of posts later the pollution has proliferated.

For completeness, my complaint is not about English as a second language. I have no problem with decoding non-English speakers...

EDIT (based on feedback): I think there's a good sign from the feedback below, and that is: the consensus is not claiming its not an issue.

What amazes me is the folks who disagree claim the solution is to make it someone else's problem. Don't the folks who do the editing have enough work? Why should another task be piled on top of the other duties?

I guess I don't understand that thinking because I believe folks should be responsible and accountable for their own actions. (Perhaps that's due to the same generation gap that makes "text speak" so annoying).

          

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I'm not a fan of this idea, but can we even reliably detect when someone's actually using text speak? (As separate from, say, someone providing a quote that involves text speak) –  doppelgreener Jan 13 at 6:25
    
Jonathan - Detection could be difficult. I'm fine with flagging it manually, too. Otherwise, a poster never learns and it proliferates. –  jww Jan 13 at 6:32
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A lot of txtspeak content like this is already filtered. Also, a close reason for txtspeak is absurd, just edit it. –  Charles Jan 13 at 6:33
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Just edit the question. –  Bart Jan 13 at 6:47
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Bart - why should folks edit other people's question for something like this? (And I can't begin to tell you how much time I've wasted doing so). –  jww Jan 13 at 6:49
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@noloader If you personally consider it a waste of your time, you should probably leave it to others –  doppelgreener Jan 13 at 6:52
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Jonathan - I agree with your statement, but I have a OCD streak. Plus, it brings down the overall quality of the site, so it really is bigger than me and others when the person doing it should be responsible. –  jww Jan 13 at 6:54
    
Charles - "a close reason for txtspeak is absurd" - what do you suggest to correct the behavior? Look at stack overflow - Q.V. –  jww Jan 13 at 6:56
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I do see a problem with certain users who never learn to write properly despite others editing each and every one of their hundreds of questions each time they come up. But I'm not sure closing them would be effective either, because there are many users who don't see this as a waste of time at all and would be glad to fix it on behalf of the author, even if only to get the question reopened. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 13 at 7:00
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If txtspk makes the question hard to read then you could say it's "Unclear what you're asking" and close as such –  random Jan 13 at 7:09
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-1, because I disagree with your feature request. +2, because I hate "text speak" with a passion. –  Yannis Jan 13 at 7:49
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random - that's kind of abusing the the reason code since I usually do understand what's being asked. Plus, it makes developing site statistics impossible (quality statistics are needed for the site's feedback cycle). –  jww Jan 13 at 7:57
    
@noloader - Why do you want to delete you MSO account? Is it just for people disagreeing your feature request? I guess. –  hims056 Jan 13 at 10:21
    
@hims056 - I wanted to delete in in the past because I never created it. It was created for me by someone else. I don't know who did it - one day a post was there from another site and I had the account. –  jww Jan 13 at 10:22
    
@noloader you MSO account was created and associated when you came here to post comment on this question of yours that was migrated from Stack Overflow, you likely never noticed you're in a different site? –  Shadow Wizard Jan 13 at 22:35

5 Answers 5

I think most of the editors at Stack Overflow already do a great job at editing the "text speak". I know that I always do when I edit posts. I think this is a non-issue since it usually gets fixed within a couple hours if the post has more than 10 views or so.

My advice when someone sees a post that has "text speak" is to EDIT the post! Not hold it.

EDIT:

In your question, you gave this example

i can't <...>. please help me. thx u.

The 'thx u' should be deleted whether it's spelled like that or 'Thanks!' or 'Thanks in Advance', etc.

The 'please help me' should also be deleted since by asking the question we know they want help.

The more views a question has the more likely any bad grammar and spelling will be edited away.

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AlienArray - why should the community edit hundreds of posts by folks who don't care? Why should the behavior not be corrected? Sadly, there are no statistics to even see how wide spread the problem is. –  jww Jan 13 at 8:49
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AlienArray - "I think we could probably recruit dozens of people from the english and writing stack exchanges to help us edit the posts." - why would you make it someone else's problem? Push it back to the person who did it so they learn. –  jww Jan 13 at 9:15
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AlienArray - related: what's the point of closing posts where someone is a beginner and does not have requisite programming skills (these are nearly identical problems)? We could let the community fix them too. At least the person learning a language does not make his mistakes purposefully or out of laziness. –  jww Jan 13 at 9:16
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@noloader Questions aren't put on hold for being beginner topics. That's not a valid reason for closing a question. People asking such questions are more likely to post lower quality questions, by not doing sufficient research, not asking their question clearly, etc., but there are those who ask quality questions about beginner topics, and those questions are welcomed, just as poorly asked questions about advanced topics tend to be poorly received. –  Servy Jan 13 at 15:18

Putting questions on hold that use this common Internet convention would come across as somewhat passive aggressive. Remember that we're the odd man out here. Folks bring these habits from other sites where it is perfectly acceptable — but not here, of course.

I can understand your sentiment that the author's "not trying hard enough", but the author actually plays a relatively small role in why we accept and host these posts in the first place.

In reality, you're actually editing these posts so they're more useful to everyone who comes after. By closing these otherwise-readable text-speak posts — or other fixable problems like signatures/please/thanks, improper capitalization/punctuation, or broken English-as-a-second-language — think about the hundreds (or thousands) of users who are looking on thinking "what a bunch of anal-retentive jack holes." It will come across like we not really interested in helping anybody in the first place.

So everyone pitches in to make everything "publication quality." That's the benefit of crowd-sourcing this work of reference… and providing the incentives to do so. If the author doesn't learn from these experiences, they are likely going to have have a poor experience with the site overall and move on. But more often than not, these users will realize "Oh, that's not how we do things here" and do better the next time around. But for those who don't, there are plenty of process in place to keep damage to a minimum and make sure everyone is having the best possible experience with all the content that comes through here.

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If you don't want to hold them, then how about a message to the author that he should fix his "text speak". I'd be happy to click a button so a message is sent by the site for the OP (the site gets to pick the language). If nothing is done, the posters will continue to do it because they obviously don't know any better. –  jww Jan 13 at 14:45
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@noloader This entire system is designed around the premise of improving these behaviors and the content that is created. We already have flags and notices and other processes in place that help guide users when things aren't working out. But you seem hyper-focused on making sure these particular ne'er-do-wells get an extra kick in the pants; probably more so than would actually be net beneficial to the site. The discussion here would seem to bear that out. –  Robert Cartaino Jan 13 at 15:01
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Robert - yes, this is one of my my pet peeves in life. I don't care about n00b questions, duplicate questions, title case vs sentence case, one or two spaces after a period, serial commas, etc. But I hate that damn text speak. –  jww Jan 13 at 15:04
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...and that's the problem in a nutshell. If we singled out every pet peeve and grievance, we'd have a system wrought with menus and flags and close reasons that everyone has learn to get anything done. We call that the bulleted list from hell. And for the folks coming here looking for help -- who wants to run that gauntlet of "the 847 ways you can suck at Stack Exchange?" Who'd bother? We have too much of that already. –  Robert Cartaino Jan 13 at 15:17
    
-1 for casting "I suck when I post everywhere else on the web, so why can't I suck when I post on SE" as an acceptable attitude. You want to play in our sweet ballcourt? Play by our rules. On the other hand, +1 for advocating universal editing rather than closing as the solution. That's one of the things that makes it so sweet here. –  Josh Caswell Jan 14 at 2:33
    
@JoshCaswell In order to stop sucking, one must first realize that they suck. That's why we built the anti-suck that sucks people in, the suckers that they are, where many suck it up and start sucking less. –  Tim Post Jan 17 at 6:43
    
"Stack Exchage: takes a sucker and makes a trucker", @TimPost? –  Josh Caswell Jan 17 at 7:44
    
@JoshCaswell It always amazes me that saying "we cannot crucify someone for {x}" gets translated to "then it must be okay." –  Robert Cartaino Jan 17 at 14:51

As @Charles mentioned, a lot of text speak is already filtered — posting such a question many a times is not possible as the quality filter blocks submission.

So in a sense your feature is already implemented.

As for on holding such questions — meh, the point about on hold is that it is for improvement of an unanswerable post into an answerable one. Textspeak does not make a post unanswerable. It usually is not a major detriment to readability. So I don't see a point in putting the post on hold; it makes more sense to just edit this out.

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"So I don't see a point in putting the post on hold; it makes more sense to just edit this out." Ok, I agree. How, then, does one force the author to edit it to correct the behavior? –  jww Jan 13 at 8:23
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Lead by example. Edit the question. Show what it should look like. Hope that it sticks. And if it was particularly bad, you could even leave a gentle comment pointing out your edits. –  Bart Jan 13 at 8:24
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@bart - there's not enough fingers for all the holes in the dike. –  jww Jan 13 at 8:32
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Then just plug the holes you see whenever you have time or can be bothered. I'm not telling anyone (nor the community as a whole) to fix everything everywhere. But situations like these are the reason we can edit other people's posts. –  Bart Jan 13 at 8:34
    
@Bart ... and gather some starting rep in the process –  Jan Dvorak Jan 13 at 12:55

Executive Summary

Stack Exchange is here to help people by creating a resource that matches questions with answers.

If a question cannot be matched with an answer because it is:

  1. Unclear
  2. Too broad
  3. Opinion-based
  4. Off-topic

Then it should be closed as it will not help future visitors as a resource.

If a question can be matched with an answer but isn't written very well, then all members have access to an edit button to improve it.

Help People

Too many users lose sight of the goal of Stack Exchange: to create a useful resource for future visitors.

  • Some people want a way to punish people who post incorrect answers,
  • ...or a way to close questions from beginners they consider 'beneath' them,
  • ...or ways to ignore other users' answers and/or comments,
  • ...or a way to put questions on hold for not meeting some arbitrary rules for acceptable grammar/spelling

These are not ways to help create a useful resource for future visitors, these are ways to try to make Stack Exchange in to a forum where the community interaction trumps the content. And that would be bad.

Useless Questions Should be Closed

Questions should be closed because they won't make a good resource for future visitors. Questions that ask for someone to write an entire application for them. Questions where anyone who reads it isn't sure exactly what the problem is. Questions that ask what everyone's favorite _ is. Questions that don't actually have an answer. Questions that aren't actually about code.

You know, questions that anyone looking for an answer after a google search will close in frustration as they serve absolutely no useful purpose to the average internet user. Don't confuse utility with quality. There are plenty of poorly asked useful questions, and plenty of well-asked useless questions.

Low Quality Questions Should be Edited

If someone posts a great question but has their code on jsfiddle, it takes a whopping 30 seconds to move the code on to SO and improve the quality. If someone posts a great question but forgets to add code blocks, that too is an edit away. If someone posts great code and a great question but has poor English, a bit of proofreading makes it excellent. And so on, and so forth. Low quality is temporary, it's easy to fix by your average user giving it just a little TLC. And the future visitors to that question will appreciate the effort.

When you close questions like this you are not teaching a lesson to the person who posted it, nor are you improving the quality of SE. You are hurting the value of SE to the future visitor who found a great question that had no answer because it was closed for reasons unrelated to its utility.

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You don't have the personnel to do all this editing. The "Close Vote" queue is now over 100K. Its growing faster than the US national debt. Why keep piling work on the folks who edit? Make the user responsible for his or her actions. (And +1 for the reference). –  jww Jan 14 at 6:15
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Perhaps you missed my point. Useful content, no matter of how much you dislike its format, is a good thing to have. Closing it because there aren't enough editors (which is a problem you haven't demonstrated actually exists) is throwing the baby out with the bath water. –  jmac Jan 14 at 6:18
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"which is a problem you haven't demonstrated actually exists" - Right... and as long as the site does not collect statistics on the issue, there will be no statistics on the issue. Therefore, the problem does not exist. –  jww Jan 14 at 6:26
    
The site collects plenty of statistics. Feel free to look at the data explorer or the API to look at suggested edits, revisions, or anything else you'd like. If you see a clear actionable issue then the community will most likely hop behind any suggestion to improve it. What won't be well-received is saying, "I dislike a certain type of question regardless of its utility" and then creating ad hoc reasons the current way to dealing with them doesn't work without any data backing you up. –  jmac Jan 14 at 6:34

You don't specify how this harms Stack Overflow. The only reason you have for this change is:

I despise reading posts [that include txtspeak]

You then go on to indicate that you don't mind ESL posts.

This doesn't make sense, since they both have English language "problems", but you are content to let one group go, while the other group you want to kick off the site unless they improve. Arguably both groups could improve, so why the bias?

But that's irrelevant.

It doesn't harm Stack Exchange. If the communication is unclear, regardless of the language barrier or what you believe the person's communications capability is, then you can put it on hold as unclear.

But if the communication is understandable, then you can answer or not, or edit or not, however there is no need nor reason to close it merely because they are using abbreviations you find deplorable.

If you can demonstrate harm to the community or site due to allowing users with poor English skills, intentional or not, to post questions and answers, then the problems would apply equally to ESL users anyway, and the harm should be objectively measurable so it can be evaluated.

Otherwise, grit your teeth and move on. We don't need yet another formalized method to turn our nose up at each other.

Image of police badge with "To Serve and Correct" and "GRAMMAR POLICE" embossed

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(1/4) - "It doesn't harm Stack Exchange". I believe it brings down the quality of the site. Wading through text and tweats simply detracts from the usefulness of Stack Overflow. It also ties up editors and their time that could be used for other useful things, like approving or editing posts without the "text speak" and "tweat" deficiencies. –  jww Jan 14 at 2:37
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(2/4) - "This doesn't make sense, since they both have English language "problems". There is a big difference between someone who lacks the language skill (a non-English speaker) and a person who won't use them (a "text speaker" or "tweater"). The former lacks the skill and is trying his/her best; while the later is lazy, rude and inconsiderate. I refuse to penalize a non-English speaker for trying. And I have no goodwill the texter or tweeter who thinks the forum is a cell phone platform. –  jww Jan 14 at 2:38
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(3/4) - "allowing users with poor English skills". Here is the most ironic part: a programmer whos lack the requisite programming skills will get downvoted into the stone age and his question will likely be closed. A person who uses "text speak" and "tweats" is accepted with opened arms even though he refuses to use minimum communication skills and abide by social norms. Both are language problems, and different standards are applied. I would much rather work with the new developer who is trying rather than than a texter who is lazy or does not respect others. –  jww Jan 14 at 2:38
    
(4/4) - "the harm should be objectively measurable so it can be evaluated". This is not possible because the site does not aggegate statistics on it. My request for a close topic/close reason was thoroughly decimated. You likely never will have statistics on it. I guess that means there's no problem (isn't that how it works in government and business?). –  jww Jan 14 at 2:38
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(1/∞) "I believe it brings down the quality of the site" Cool. I don't believe it does. Now who wins? You have the website itself, you have the data dump, what is the problem with objectively quantifying the impact of txtspeak? Experts aren't fleeing due to txtspeak - we aren't seeing a decrease in answer activity. We certainly aren't seeing a decrease in questions. Site activity isn't dropping. Are you asking others to do the hard work of proving the problem for you? Is it because you lack "the skill and [are] trying [your] best" or because you are "lazy, rude and inconsiderate"? –  Adam Davis Jan 14 at 16:04
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(2/∞) If you can provide an objective method for determining the capability of the question asker and definitively determining whether they are incapable or merely inconsiderate then perhaps acting on the difference makes sense. Until then, though, there is no reason for you to act differently. Either you can answer the question as presented or you cannot. If you cannot, move on and let someone else take a crack at it. If lazy people irritate you, you are on the wrong internet. –  Adam Davis Jan 14 at 16:08
    
(3/∞) "I would much rather work with the new developer who is trying rather than than a texter who is lazy or does not respect others." So what you are saying is that since you are incapable of dealing with such users then everyone should be disallowed the opportunity to help them? We already have close reasons for questions that show lack of effort, are unclear, or unanswerable. Why not pass by those questions, and let others help them? If it's clear, answerable, and shows effort, then the language they used is sufficient to convey the question. –  Adam Davis Jan 14 at 16:12
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(4/∞) Again, the data dump is available. The site is available. You have very nearly everything that Stack Exchange has. If it's not possible to prove your point objectively, then I submit that it's not due to lack of data, but either 1) lack of effort, or 2) lack of foundation to prove claim. Which do you believe it is? –  Adam Davis Jan 14 at 16:14

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