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I've seen a lot of questions being unfairly closed, often like "subjective or argumentative" because they are poorly written.

Take this question edit history for example. The original question was bad formulated, but by no means was this an invalid question. It got closed in less than 5 minutes.

The reason: Obviously the user asking the question was not an english speaker, so he did what he could (probably using google translate or something), but for some people that was not good enough.

It took me less than a minute to rephrase the question, and it got reopened a few minutes later.

So the solution I'm proposing here is to add two tags:

  • need-rephrase ask for help in order to make the question more understandable

  • need-translate this is probably more extreme, it would let the author write the question in it's own language so another user would come and translate it to english.


  • Not closing questions aggressively (note that most of the bad formulated questions are from newbies, and we don't want to be rude with them if we want the community to grow).

  • Lowering the barriers of entrance to the non-english speakers.

  • Does not need new functionality or features.

  • People would be able to collaborate not only with technical skills but also with their language knowledge.

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It's a pretty invalid question from my perspective -- blatant do my homework stuff.

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It is indeed. And if you check the user history, he probably deserved that. But that misses my point. How come a question gets 5 close votes in 5 minutes, and then gets 4 reopen votes after a simple edit. I think we could do much more for the non native speakers (and by the way, I'm one of them) – Pablo Fernandez Feb 11 '10 at 4:56
@pablo your post needs much better examples; with the example given I do not support it at all – Jeff Atwood Feb 11 '10 at 5:08

Pablo, you provided a beautiful solution:

It took me less than a minute to rephrase the question, and it got reopened a few minutes later.

The primary tongue of my household is not English. I understand the frustration one has when they cannot clearly communicate in a foreign tongue. Most of my communication is in a foreign tongue, and every now and then I fumble my words, but somebody is there to help me make myself clear.

This is the beauty of the Stack Overflow community, we're helping eachother. In this type of situation, if you understand a question better than others, please take the liberty to edit it for the benefit of the community - step in for those who cannot clearly communicate their question.

Speaking from experience, your efforts will be greatly appreciated ;)

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+1, thats true, and congratulations btw. – YOU Feb 11 '10 at 5:34
@Mark: Thank you. – Sampson Feb 11 '10 at 6:03
Imagine that you could search for questions with the need-rephrase tag. Sometimes you can help rephrase a question of a topic that where you cannot provide a good technical answer. In this case I looked into the question because I though I could answer it, not to help rephrase it – Pablo Fernandez Feb 11 '10 at 6:44
@Pablo: Tags should describe the content of the post, not tasks that should be done to the post. IMHO. – Sampson Feb 11 '10 at 7:10

I wouldn't allow translations of questions. The scheme proposed assumes that asking the question is an only action average user should perform. There are also many other activities: such as commenting--and responding to comments, answering others questions etc. Users without English knowledge just won't make it, unless someone constantly mentors them.

In fact, such behavior--ask a question and do not talk anymore-- is not to be "standardized" (and special tags mean it), but instead is to be disapproved.

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