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What are your thoughts on limiting the maximum number of questions people can ask?

First things first: do you even think asking (too) many questions is a problem? I personally don't know if this is an isolated incident, acceptable, or hard to prevent.

I see a user who consistently asks trivial questions preferring stackoverflow.com to google, and it's discouraging to see this behavior tolerated. I think it's disrespectful to the community for somebody to ask its members to google and type code for them.

This person consistently posts several questions a day with a current question count of roughly 850 and answer count of 50 over 1 year.

Based on the raw Q volume, it's almost as if multiple people are using the same account.

Some ideas to get started:

  • No more than X per day, Y per month, Z consecutive question days, etc.
  • Limit based on answers provided. (Q count vs A count, or Q Votes vs A Votes)

Unknowns:

  • What is a reasonable question count? How many users post over 50 questions a month?
  • How many users have highly skewed Q A ratios? Is it normal to have 10x Q vs A?

I think there has to be something in place that at least discourages question spamming for the users who take this site seriously. If everybody started typing questions into SO as a replacement for google, I'd run away. It's only a theory, but I think quality control is important for morale.

To summarize: I'm curious if you think this is a problem (OR: it's a free world, this is a Q&A site, I'm only seeing a small piece of SO, [insert other]), and is there is a clean solution to it?

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So who is this "a user"? It sounds so terrible you'd want to see to believe. –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 8:34
    
check the python and django tags for at least 8 posts in the first page of recent questions, or simply look at the top 2 askers in past 30 days or all time. –  Yuji Tomita Jan 27 '11 at 8:40
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For those who don't want to do the legwork: stackoverflow.com/users/179736/timex –  Mark Henderson Jan 27 '11 at 9:17
    
865 questions o.O –  wildpeaks Jan 27 '11 at 9:42
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if its limited... then timex will create another SO account... –  binil Jan 27 '11 at 9:49
    
I didn't calc my answer acceptance rate but I may rank around 20% so this doesn't seem a reliable criteria. There are too many factors that can drive you down: Askers don't bother accepting your answers, Fastest-Gun-In-The_West, etc. You'd need to compare high accepted-rate vs. high upvoted-rate and decide if you value accepted-quantity more or answer-quality. –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 12:31
    
It's interesting that he has a decent acceptance rate but obviously doesn't care to vote much. –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 12:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

If the questions are of decent quality, I don't see any problem here. The more good questions there are in the site, the better source it becomes for future similar questions. SO isn't about users anyway, it's about questions - no reason to reject questions just because the author asked a lot of other questions.

All that said, there are two potential problems you outline:

  1. Some users routinely post low-quality questions (where quality is determined by votes). That gives a good indication that future posts by these users will be problematic - and indeed, SO already prevents such users from asking any additional questions.

  2. Some users delete and re-ask their questions if said question doesn't get enough attention, as a way to "bump" it into the front page. This is an abusive behavior, in my opinion, and if commonly repeated it should be reported to the moderators.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 100% agree. Holding responsible for duplicate questions and bumping or other abusive behavior is sufficient in the way (moderation) control has to happen. The remaining questions will be handled by community vote. –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 9:19
    
Thanks for the feedback! Interesting point about questions vs users.. I'm not sure what to think. I think it's hard to separate one from the other. I think the general tone of comments in the past few posts just acknowledged my concerns to take it to meta. 1: the only problem with down votes is that it tends to happen in extreme cases only. Most posts don't get downvoted. 2: I'm going to remove that piece, because I don't have proof and didn't mean to slander. –  Yuji Tomita Jan 27 '11 at 18:45
    
@Yuji If your community isn't downvoting enough, get people to downvote! Remember that also, the question-asking-prevention mechanism does track deleted questions as well - so even though we know that your specific scenario isn't about a user who deletes and re-asks, know that this can stop such users when they do show up. –  Grace Note Jan 27 '11 at 18:49

deleting ones that don't get attention & reposting -- witnessed this while attempting to answer one

This is evil and needs to be posted here, or mod-flagged.

Other than that, I think it is fair game to post as many questions or answers as one wants - as long as they are of okay quality. If they aren't, the community needs to downvote them. Sooner or later, the low quality question filter will kick in and ban the user.

share|improve this answer

I have looked at this user before, you look and tell me what you think:

http://stackoverflow.com/users/179736/timex?tab=activity#apage_1-afilter_posts

I did not find this user's questions to be objectionable, at least the last few pages of them.

It's OK to ask questions, it's even OK to ask a lot of questions, but they must be of reasonable quality and show that you're learning over time:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/10/asking-better-questions/

share|improve this answer
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oh, him. I do see the occasional "did you really have to go and ask that" question from him (he has several pages of downvoted questions after all.) But the majority of his input seems somewhat okay. What I don't find acceptable, though, is deleting and re-creating questions. If he does that on a regular basis, he should be told off –  Pëkka Jan 27 '11 at 11:44

Totally agree with both Oak and Pekka.

My couple of cents:

If the question is really trivial, post answer or comment with Google link and that's all, and downvote the question.

If the user is evil (deleting questions and posting them again) ignore all his questions and put comment wherever you can to warn other members. IMO such users deserve to be banned for good.

Users that just post simple questions and don't answer are contributing as well as other people with those simple questions will benefit from this and won't ask again. (Hopefully)

I believe that some accounts are indeed used by more than one person, for example whole development team of small company. It's pretty grey - and in my opinion should not be banned.

share|improve this answer
    
I wonder why a team would want to use a shared account for a free service. –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 12:13
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@Fil for convenience.. they don't need it personally but for some shared project so instead of creating five separate accounts that will essentially ask the same questions, they're using the same account. –  Shadow Wizard Jan 27 '11 at 12:18
    
Man, people sure get lazy ... too much effort to bookmark your teammates profile page? Back in my days we didn't have dynamic bookmarks and all this fancy stuff ;-) –  Filburt Jan 27 '11 at 12:50

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