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I've only been using SO for about a month, but I think I've noticed an increase in impatient responses to poorly-worded questions. I may even have been guilty of it myself.

Of course 'poorly-worded question' is a euphemism. We see questions expressed as bold statements, even demands for information. Sometimes there's absolutely no hint that the OP has done any research, and I've seen many examples of serial offenders.

I think the impatience will get worse unless something is done to relieve the pressure.

Can anything be done?

I didn't see anything in the FAQ about how to ask a polite question.

EDIT: I'm not really talking about rude or offensive responses, and I'm not going to point the finger at anyone in particular.

I'm wondering if there is (or could be) a standard response to unanswerable questions — an entry in the FAQ which explains in the politest way the need to do homework/research before asking a question; and how to phrase a question so it doesn't seem like a demand.

Is there a response which doesn't require the effort of repeatedly explaing the 'rules' to OPs who, it has been pointed out, probably won't read or understand comments?

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And how do you think the 'impatience' is manifesting itself? Can you give examples? I'm not saying it SOpedians don't get impatient with bad questions, but how each person deals with it...well...that's different and at least potentially actionable. –  Stu Thompson Sep 17 '09 at 13:53
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I consider this as a dupe, even if it raise impatience as a topic: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19280/… –  Ladybug Killer Sep 17 '09 at 13:56
    
Maybe "impatience" means editing he question, down voting, asking "what are you actually asking?" questions, and voting to close as a duplicate or whatever? That would be too funny...we've got it all right here! –  Stu Thompson Sep 17 '09 at 14:03

3 Answers 3

It doesn't matter what the FAQ or anything else says, people who ask questions like that are not going to read it.

If the question doesn't in fact contain a question, or doesn't contain an understandable one, it should be closed under "not a real question". Badly written but understandable questions can be edited.

Aside from that, you can downvote questions you don't like, refuse to answer them, and leave comments explaining the problems with the question.

Comments and downvotes are useful in showing that certain questions are outside the community norms, and that's useful. If too many people think that asking bad questions is commonly accepted, we're in trouble. Besides, they may make you feel better.

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It's probably a sign of MY impatience, but if we can't avoid those unanswerable questions, there should be a quick method of dealing with them. Downvoting doesn't alway deter serial offenders. I'd just like NOT to have to wade through them. –  pavium Sep 17 '09 at 22:03
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How to deal with unanswerable questions: 1. Get 3000 rep. 2. Whenever you see one, point out it's unanswerable and vote to close. 3. Encourage your friends to do the same. It's the best idea I've got. –  David Thornley Sep 18 '09 at 14:26

What can be done is a very broad questions with a wild variety of responses.

The first answer is simple. If the responses are offensive or unhelpful, flag or downvote them. It has been known on meta for a while that LMGTFY is absolutely not an acceptable answer, but it goes deeper than that.

It is never appropriate to be rude to someone based on anything you are assuming from their question. Because we have no way of knowing what they were thinking. Maybe they didn't bother to Google their very simple question, or perhaps they spent 20 minutes googling and they just suck at it. Maybe they are not a native speaker and they've misused a critical english word, and it makes their request sound brash and ridiculous, but if the correct word was used, it would sound reasonable and interesting. We simply don't know.

If you feel like a downvote (with or without explanation) is not enough for this person who has been rude, then you could possibly link them to some of the questions on meta (including this one) that relate to how we should treat non-english speakers or new users.

The last aspect would be to actually help the person who is having trouble expressing themselves clearly. If they try their best and recieve nothing but abuse, that is a very poor user experience. They will feel very discouraged and unlikely to come back. However, if even one person defends or helps them, it can turn it around entirely. They will find themselves better able to absorb and ignore the abuses.

For that reason, you should definitely edit their question to make it clearer/better. As I detailed in my response to how to help non-english speakers, you should edit as much as you can, and at least clear up the grammar for the rest. Leave a comment relating to any parts you were unclear about, and encourage the OP to clarify it for themselves. Even if they are non-native speakers, they will usually still find a way to express themselves more clearly if they are informed where the particular problems are.

Bottom line: Being nice always goes a long way.

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I agree, be nice. But the lack of a quick standard response and the need to craft a comment is what causes the impatience. –  pavium Sep 17 '09 at 21:53

A lack of research -- even basic research -- does not indicate a poor question.

However, all kinds of other things do. The other items in your list, for example. Part of this is the nature of the global Internet -- I'm sure many do not intend for their questions to be poorly worded, but let's face it, if English is your second (or even not-at-all, and you use a translation service) language, it's going to be tough to communicate.

I don't think much can be done about the questions themselves other than the standard choices:

  • Editing them
  • Ignoring them
  • Flagging for mod attention if critically flawed & a repeat offender

However, your question is more interesting -- it's about the response to these questions. I would like to say that the S[OFU] sites are 100% full of mature, responsible, level-headed folks who are helpful, friendly, courteous and forgiving. Of course, I'd also like to say that I own a Ferrari and 3 beach houses, and that ain't true either.

The reality is that, like any community, the S[OFU] sites are a microcosm of global society -- you have its best, it's worst, and (where I'm sure the vast majority of us lie) the in-between. You can't do anything about the impatient responses other than flag for mod attention if they're abusive or offensive.

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