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Possible Duplicates:
What has happened to the quality of answers on SO?
How to improve quality of SO questions/answers?
Add the ability to ignore users

Has anyone else noticed that the overall quality of questions that are being asked on SO has been declining significantly over the last few weeks? At least in the asp.net tag, which is where I spend most of my time.

As someone who mostly answers questions and asks relatively few, this is discouraging for me. I don't answer questions primarily to help a bunch of strangers: I do so to help myself; to learn new things by understanding the issues that people run into. As question quality declines, so does my interest in participating here as much as I have been.

I realize there may not be much that can be done, but I wanted to mention it in case I'm mistaken--or maybe it's happened before, and it's just a passing phase? One possibility would be to add a filter that eliminates users with less than a certain point count from the list of open questions; it's the recent flood of newbies that seems to be responsible for the majority of the junk.

EDIT: regarding examples: if you look at new questions for the asp.net tag, many questions from people with less than 100 points or so are pretty bad. Many are barely understandable, including badly broken English, much less being valid questions. Here are a couple of random URLs from the first page of current questions (caveat: sometimes other users will edit the questions to help make them more legible, so they can be a moving target).

How to setup an online shop using HTML or ASP.net
How to get the link dynamicallY?
Asp.net treeview on masterpage
how to put an image in asp.net page

After thinking about this for a bit, one solution seems clear: I really don't want to have to filter through a bunch of newbie junk. It's a slow, frustrating experience. I do my share of edits and close-this-thread votes, but I don't enjoy it. My suggestion is to allow users who reach a certain point threshold to be able to filter the posts they see by the number of points the person asking the question has.

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marked as duplicate by Ether, perbert, Troggy, random, alex Jan 17 '10 at 11:19

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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can you provide some examples for us to look at? Just to ground the discussion in some data points, and maybe illustrate what we can/can't do with them. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 17 '10 at 5:28
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It would indeed be nice if we could quantify this in some way. I must say, though, that my personal impression is that the average quality of questions has fallen over the past year. –  PeterAllenWebb Jan 17 '10 at 5:55
    
Now, if you were talking about SU... –  random Jan 17 '10 at 9:30
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How is the decrease of question quality in July 2009 a duplicate of the recent decrease? Another example of why discussions should not be closed as duplicate imho. –  Andomar Jan 17 '10 at 11:26
    
Or you could search next time. –  random Jan 17 '10 at 11:45
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@random: In practical terms, redirecting someone to a dead question has the same effect as closing his questions –  Andomar Jan 17 '10 at 11:53
    
You got that right. Your last edit, about wanting to filter out certain users, was a dupe. Did not vote to close until you brought that into it. –  random Jan 18 '10 at 0:14
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Other users wanted to vote as dupes on the first half. The second half was also a dupe, cast the 4th vote there. In the end, it was of various "Possible duplicates". Putting several dupes into one doesn't then make it a fresh new question. –  random Jan 18 '10 at 5:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To me, it's only natural this happens.

See, there are many related 'life-cycles'. Let's consider just 2.

A. The trend of the type of questions
B. The trend of the new users

"A" is restricted by the pool of existing questions because new questions are more likely to be duplicates than say 6 to 12 months ago. So more people with genuine quality questions might not post them as the answers are already there. Those who don't care just post the duplicates which can be low quality.

"B" is increasing but the nature/types of the users are getting very different. I am quite certain that the 'quality'++ of the users dropped as SO becomes more 'visible' to search engines. Many more users joined because they found SO while searching for answers to their problems. 1+ year back, SO users found SO because they are Jeff's/Joel's blog readers or from related channels blah blah blah... (you know what I mean).

So just the factors of "A" and "B" combined dilute the quality of the questions posted. One might argue, there are always new things to ask as there are always new technologies and new real-life challenges. I totally agree, but I would like to think this trend (let's call it "C") is no where near the waves of "A" and "B".

Somehow, I think "A", "B" and "C" will reach some sort of equilibrium or pattern (seasonal maybe). Something I'm eager to find out but probably take more time.

Alright, I'm ready for some counter comments!

++ I'll probably get flamed for using the word "quality" but I can't find a friendlier version.

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I totally agree with "B". There are probably more and more Redditors and Digglodytes posting subjective nonsense and opinion polls. –  gnostradamus Jan 18 '10 at 5:39

Keep something in mind:

Ninety percent of everything is crap.

The more popular the site is, the more questions there will be, the more crap you'll see.

If we are lucky, the system's moderation design will work or will be slightly improved and avoid SO demise under the weight of the crap with the smell of Yahoo! Answers.

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+1 for the nerd citation –  André Pena Jan 17 '10 at 6:49
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@RickNZ: they exist. That's why the voting, closing, deleting, tag ignoring and moderating systems are in place. May be suggest some kind of meta-voting? I like the current system as it is simple. May be you could make a greasemonkey script to hide all questions by some users, or users under some rep, but that kind of drastic actions will make you miss a lot of great questions for sure. Don't ask for those [feature-request] as they have been asked several times before and shot down. –  perbert Jan 17 '10 at 12:05

Like o.k.w said - Its seasonal.

Seasonal as in "Eternal September"

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+1 for Eternal September, interesting! –  o.k.w Jan 17 '10 at 6:54

I've noticed that post volume is way way down compared to (what seems to me to have been the peak at) late November/early December in the main tags I follow. I'm not sure that quality is down, however.

As far as volume is concerned, it would appear that we're not fully out of the holiday rut yet.

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or more of us are stuck getting work done while the slackers are on SO instead of doing the work... –  AnonJr Jan 17 '10 at 6:36

Agree, I've been thinking the exact same thing for a while. In the tags where I hang out, mostly SQL related, it's been a while since I've seen an interesting question.

One of the contributing factors (besides the other posts here) is that reputation rewards are fixed. Most people have been there and done that. Someone new to the site cannot compete in a meaningful way.

If you think of Stack Overflow as a game, it's time for a new expansion with better rewards.

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2  
I think there are people on these sites who are motivated just by the fact of answering question, not about the "rewards" in reputation or anything. I could find plenty of examples on SU, with people over 10k of reputation spending their time answering and providing quality answers, just for the pleasure of it. It's not only about "giving rewards". –  Gnoupi Jan 17 '10 at 10:58
    
the expansions are at area51.stackexchange.com and stackexchange.com -- have at it! :) –  Jeff Atwood Aug 30 '10 at 10:10
    
@Jeff Atwood: Thanks for the pointer! Area51 expands to new areas though, and I was thinking about an x-pac to Stack Overflow. Something to attract good questions askers –  Andomar Sep 4 '10 at 21:00

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