What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 134 Stack Exchange communities.

TLDR: I want to be able to ask questions that are attributed to a Community User, such that any high-rep user or moderator can seed his site with the questions that really should be on it!


I think there's a problem across the Stack Exchange network with regards to the expected level of expertise. Let me explain with an example:

... At a reception recently a woman came up to me and told me her daughter is named ‘Loïs’ too. She said “I was hoping I would bump into you because I noticed you know how to put the umlaut on the ‘i’, Can you please tell me how to do that on the iPhone?”. I explained it to her and the next day in the office during lunch I told the story to my co-workers. I laughed and said “apparently some people still don’t know how to get to the special characters on the iPhone!”. Nobody laughed. Then someone said “Well, neither do I. How DO you do that?” and then someone else admitted not knowing and then it turned out nobody knew. ...

The point of all these stories? If you know how to get to the special characters like ü, é and © on your iPhone and or PC, if you know what a URL is and if you know how to use most of the Apps on your iPhone you are part of a small group of experts. Don’t assume you are the default because you are the exception.

My point is: we strive to get the experts on board to answer the questions, but end up with a site where only the experts are asking questions. Which I'm surely isn't the only audience we're trying to cater to here?

This might be overblown for Stack Overflow, which thanks to its enormous audience does feature very basic programming questions. But still, the quality of a lot of questions scares away a lot of potential users, since they're afraid that they're too newbish.

Moving over to Super User. When was the last time you saw one of your family members ask a question on Super User? Right, never. And how many phone calls from your mom did you get? Clearly it's not due to a lack of questions: A Google search for: How to + Windows 7 + Microsoft + forum turns up at least three forums completely littered with questions that would suit Super User. So while there's not a lack of questions from potential user, but they surely don't ask them on Super User. And even though Super User gets 80% of it's traffic from search engines, I think it could be a lot more if it also featured more accessible questions.

Why am I asking this? Well, because I see the same thing happening to new SE sites! I consider myself an internet-junkie and I even proposed Web Applications, but already shortly after the private beta I felt disconnected. Instead of seeing questions about using web applications, there were loads of questions about how to change web applications. This is not your typical user problem, this is a feature request

The same applies for the Apple SE site, Ask Different, which last week even had a worrying number of avid users. Why? Because there simply aren't enough questions to answer! Surely, a Mac just works, but that doesn't mean (new) users don't have questions!

So what do I want? I want the ability to ask questions, which I think really should belong on the website, but without having them attributed to my own personal account. The current situation requires users to play Jeopardy and ask the question on their own account.

However, I have several problems with this:

  • If I want to ask a large number of questions, this will almost naturally make me gain a lot of rep, which I personally do not want or need.
  • I don't even think these questions should be attributed to me, as they are most likely someone else's questions repackaged. Furthermore, as a highly active user and a moderator, it would look awkward if I started asking easy questions as if I didn't know the answer.
  • The current implementation is aimed for occasional questions you think really should be asked, but not for asking dozens of questions.
  • I can create a sock puppet, but sock puppets could be used for evil, such as up-voting and accepting one's own answers (more often than they deserve) and I think this behavior should be discouraged.

Bottom line: I want to be able to ask questions that are attributed to a Community User, such that any high-rep user or moderator can seed his site with the questions that really should be on it!

share|improve this question
2  
Isn't this CW simply repackaged? –  waiwai933 Oct 30 '10 at 19:40
    
+1 because this isn't a [feature-request] and it's a worthwhile discussion, even if I don't agree with the suggestion. –  Gnome Oct 31 '10 at 7:46
    
+1 for the reasons we were talking about in chat. –  William Hilsum Oct 31 '10 at 23:17
1  
@Wil, at least link to the transcript –  jmfsg Nov 1 '10 at 1:55
    
@Downvoter - it is a bit scattered through a lot of chat, but it is basically from here onward: chat.superuser.com/transcript/message/19308#19308 –  William Hilsum Nov 1 '10 at 2:06
    
@WilliamHilsum I don't think @downvoter has been implemented, so far. :) –  kiamlaluno Mar 22 '12 at 11:30
    
@kiamlaluno I am guessing Downvoter was Juan! ... We have both changed our names since then. –  William Hilsum Mar 22 '12 at 12:56
    
@WilliamHilsum Oh! By coincidence, this question had two down-votes. :) –  kiamlaluno Mar 22 '12 at 13:32
    
I am having the same use case and proposed a new question type "forwarded question" as solution. –  oberlies Aug 25 '12 at 19:43

3 Answers 3

I want the ability to ask questions, which I think really should belong on the website, but without having them attributed to my own personal account

You already have this ability -- it's called Chrome Incognito Mode.

Just enter as an anonymous user and start typing questions; we don't require registration or even a valid email address, remember?

edit: On Stack Overflow only, because of immense question volume (6.5k per day at the time I write this) we did institute mandatory registration for questions. So this is true everywhere except Stack Overflow now.

share|improve this answer
    
I could do that, then they're just questions asked by 'random' users –  Ivo Flipse Oct 31 '10 at 11:02
2  
@Ivo isn't it good enough? Plus, I recommend you invent serious names for these bogus users, makes the site appear more respectable :P –  Oak Oct 31 '10 at 13:00
4  
@Oak kleimo.com/random/name.cfm –  Bryan Denny Oct 31 '10 at 17:28
    
Select Female if you don't mind. ;-) –  Tom Wijsman Nov 1 '10 at 1:21
    
Doesn't doing this mean you can never return to the question as the "original poster" (I believe Incognito mode, and the equivalents in other browsers, don't retain any cookies from these sessions?). That is to say you won't be able to edit/add clarification as the OP, and no one will be able to accept an answer. –  DMA57361 Nov 1 '10 at 12:44
    
Luckily I, as a mod, can always edit the question later. Sadly your point remains valid for when you ask a troubleshooting question, but never had the problem yourself and lack additional details... @DMA57361 –  Ivo Flipse Nov 1 '10 at 17:50
1  
@dma that just means you need to earn 2,000 rep so you can edit everything :) –  Jeff Atwood Nov 1 '10 at 18:26
    
@Jeff, though this will mean all those questions will remain without accepted answers right? –  Ivo Flipse Nov 3 '10 at 14:27
    
Leaving these questions without an accepted answer is the right thing: If you are asking on behalf of someone else, how can you know for sure which answer is the right one? Voting should still ensure the best answer is at the top. –  oberlies Aug 21 '12 at 13:46

You start out reporting that the sites are not attracting users simple asking questions. Then you suggest that this situation would be improved if you could deposit 'Community' questions. I see that this improves the sites as googleable repositories of useful information, but I don't see how it gets any more muggles to show up and ask. Heck, even the cooking site has rapidly accelerated towards the orbit of Pluto with esoterica involving Sous Vide and do-it-yourself Sausage-Making.

The flip side of this is that muggle-management is not so easy from a community standpoint. Because no one ever reads anything, new people are predictably prone to ask unclear questions, post comments in answer, post 'me-too' questions in answers, and the whole nine yards. If we were to find a magic solution to attract many more muggles to the sites, we might not like the results.

In my opinion, the design of these sites includes a bias in favor of just what you are complaining about: people who are knowledgeable asking and answering questions to get even more so. That bias is perfectly explicit in the writeup on Area51. Think about it: the sites makes it variously inconvenient to interact unless you earn rep. If you are just one ordinary person with one ordinary question (or a few), you don't get enough rep to remove ads, or remove 'are you human' challenges, or get permission to comment.

Heck, I have 13.xK rep on SO, but I rarely use the other sites. I have posted a few questions, but (a) my experience is, as a rather experienced user, the problems I do hit hardly ever attract useful answers, and (b) since I'm never going to get much rep, the irritations of interacting with the sites are a disincentive.

Links: here, here, here

share|improve this answer
    
I'm very sure that there's legions of potential users in between the muggles and the wizards, so I'm not as pessimistic as you are. Furthermore, you don't believe SO's 800k views/day only consists out of experts do you? –  Ivo Flipse Oct 30 '10 at 21:47
1  
"I see that this improves the sites as googleable repositories of useful information, but I don't see how it gets any more muggles to show up and ask." I can't speak for Ivo, but I believe the idea is that more exposure from greater googleability will bring in more potential question askers, and if they come from google and find relevant and useful information, they'll be more inclined to return and ask a question the next time they have one. –  matt Oct 30 '10 at 22:22
    
"the problems I do hit hardly ever attract useful answers" {{citation needed}} –  Jeff Atwood Oct 31 '10 at 5:49
1  
OK, I could site, but I'm really not intending that as a complaint or an indictment. I usually solve my own issues on MacOS and Linux, and, when I don't, what I've hit is usually in the category of 'and there are three people at Apple who know, and they aren't telling'. –  Rosinante Oct 31 '10 at 12:07
    
Personally I'd say we get very little esoterica on the cooking SE; sure, there are a few questions about sous-vide and molecular gastronomy but really the vast majority are either very basic (substitutions, storage methods, etc.) or mostly-basic (stock making, recipe repairs). Our problem is that we don't get as many users period partly due to it being a non-technical subject, but on the flip side, a lot more "Stackers" are novices at cooking than they are at programming or technology in general, so we end up with a mix of questions, as do sites like Photography and other non-tech sites. –  Aarobot Dec 1 '10 at 4:18

I agree with this idea, it will make things easier, giving the following benefits:

  • Give us a way to post unassociated questions without the need of slow and tedious work arounds
  • Reduce noob accounts with 1-2 questions (making our site look unprofessional)

As if these reasons weren't enough, there can't possibly be negative consequences (as it is already possible to achieve the same thing legally without breaking any rules).

However, you need to work on your reasons to implement this, here are some weak points:

...this will almost naturally make me gain a lot of rep, which I personally do not want or need.

Why not? rep is never bad (even if you don't care about it), but well, solutions:

  • Post without using accounts or make fake ones if required
  • Stop lying to yourself, we all know you want that rep :)
  • Ask to have your questions dissociated with your account

...it would look awkward if I started asking easy questions as if I didn't know the answer.

If they are that easy, answer them yourself to show your knowledge.

The current implementation is aimed for occasional questions you think really should be asked, but not for asking dozens of questions.

I don't think it is that way, as long as you find valuables questions that fit with the site, ask them. I remember a discussion where OP was concerned that if it was right to post easy questions that are already well covered in other sites, the conclusion was something like "if it is not here, it should be here"

-1 for weak points +2 for great idea = +1

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .