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Many times I've noticed that when a question is posted on SO, comments requesting more information appear within minutes, but the OP has apparently disappeared.

It seems to me that in return for mobilising the vast machinery of SO, the OP has a responsibility to stick around and clarify the question, if necessary.

Shouldn't we include a little something on the Ask a Question page which explains that responsibility?

I realise that it couldn't be enforced, of course ...

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Bump for great justice... "drive by" questions are still a big issue, where the poster asks a vague question but cannot be bothered to answer requests for clarifications. –  Ether Jun 16 '10 at 17:44

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

A lot of the drive-by will just post their question as they please, never bother to read anything, come back look over the answers and if one solves their problem, leave a comment as an answer, "Thx! Fixed my problem" and are off again.

More words on the site is only good for those who stick around and like reading text. But most of these new users don't read now as it is.

Maybe after they ask a question a terse box above it with something along the lines of:

Please check back regularly to see the answers and comments on your question and to clarify if needed.

Which goes away after they've burned some time into the site. Say, after they've accepted their first question.

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I like that metaphor: 'Drive-by posters', now ... how about we form a team using my coding skills and your ideas?? –  pavium Oct 20 '09 at 5:56
    
Another possible condition for going away: like three edits to their posts or like 10 comments - whichever happens first. –  sharptooth Oct 20 '09 at 5:56
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I always thought about those questions as "hit and run jobs". –  innaM Oct 20 '09 at 8:41
    
Hmmm, regularly might be taken as once a day, but I was thinking of something along those lines. –  pavium Oct 20 '09 at 12:54

If we're going to advise they stick around, we should also advise them that they shouldn't necessarily expect an immediate answer, and not to get pissy if they don't.

I've seen many instances of the "I asked my question at least fifteen minutes ago and no answers so now I'll add a comment to my own post to 'bump' it". Or even re-posting the same question.

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I have asked questions when tired, worn out, frustrated and threatening my eye lids with removal if they don't stay open long enough for me to ask for help. I then go to bed hoping with everything in me that the SO fairy will have magically solved my problem by the time I wake up.

It happens. However, I do make it a point to thank the person who helped me, as well as up vote and accept their answer.

Then again, I make every attempt to ensure that my question contains all the information needed to answer it responsibly in my absence.

Maybe some kind of tag specific checklist for asking questions could be posted for users under 100 rep, which the community around that tag defines. That might be too much of a PIA to be implemented, but it may help. If we have all of the information, many times, we don't need to ask additional questions. Sometimes yes you do, i.e. "have you tried this, did it work?"

It really does vary from tag to tag, or combination of tags, hence the PIA factor.

PIA - Pain in the @$$.

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Drive-by posters are a real problem. Without them some questions are pretty much impossible to answer. However, there's no real way to keep people engaged if they don't want to; the only effective way is having a positive reward (badges and rep, which are already given for new users). If they care about the answer they'll either stick around or will come back.

The problem is we can't harass people for everything we, as a community, don't like. We can't force people to accept answers, we can't force them to upvote/downvote and we can't force them to come back to give more detail.

There's a fine line here between reminding people of something and just plain annoying them.

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Is it too easy, then, to be a drive-by poster? Should we set the bar a little higher? I know I found it difficult to judge what makes a good question. Should we place a few more hurdles in the path of a first-time poster? Maybe answer a few questions before you're allowed to ask. –  pavium Oct 20 '09 at 8:48
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The community should decide what constitutes good and bad. We have votes that we should use more often, especially downvotes. Useless, stupid questions should get downvoted and eventually closed or deleted by the user. This seems to be the most effective way of doing things. The barrier of entry is just right, the problem is we're afraid of downvoting. We think it's our rep, and maybe the user meant well, and the question might have merit. That should not stop us from downvoting; they are there for a reason: to show disapproval or a sign that it needs improvement. –  alex Oct 20 '09 at 9:35
    
Do drive-by posters know or care what down-votes mean? I was hoping to discourage them from trying. Anyway, I think I'll go down-vote something. ;-D –  pavium Oct 20 '09 at 10:35
    
They must do it for a reason; I assume that reason is rep. Otherwise it's just spam that usually gets deleted pretty fast. If they're willing to lose rep for a question, maybe they actually care about getting an answer. –  alex Oct 20 '09 at 10:53

Good idea, but not sure if it will work at all. IMO most people who ask questions and don't hang around speak/write English very poorly and will just not notice. At least this text look and positioning should be very very carefully designed.

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Yes, it would have to be very carefully worded, and I agree, some of the OPs probably find it difficult to respond, but even if it saves a little frustration, it might be worth it. –  pavium Oct 20 '09 at 5:24

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