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Hi, I'm wondering how should I act when I see questions like this:

An example question.

(The above example it's only one that I stumbled upon now, but there are many like it, where the user just writes "I want to do this tell me how to do it" or something alike, and it's clear he didn't even try to do it himself.)

A second example

(This examples shows one question from a user who posted it three times, the only difference being a slight different wording.)

Here on meta I found what can me considered "low quality", how to point someone in the right direction, how to deal with vampires and how other people are reporting this.

But I'm still not sure how to handle such question, in particular if the user has only a bunch of question in his profile. Should I tell him the question is not "good" and point him to the guide? Should I report the question to the moderators? (If yes, what should I choose as the reason?) Should I enumerate why the question is considered "bad"? Or just reply in a comment "Please try to do something before asking for help"?

I'm looking forward to your ideas (or dupes, if I missed them while searching).

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possible duplicate of How should we respond to persistently low quality question askers? –  Pëkka Mar 4 '11 at 13:16
    
Thanks for pointing that out, I missed it. However it explains how to deal with someone who keeps posting low quality questions, what I'm looking for is how to deal with new user without "doing it wrong" or being rude. –  Albireo Mar 4 '11 at 13:26
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I see. Hmm, what I tend to do the first time is leave a comment outlinign the problems with the question and asking (politely but clearly) to improve it. If it's the third or fourth time in a row and the OP shows no sign of change, I get more impatient and start downvoting. That policy works fairly well for me... Although things like your second example deserve a downvote and a closevote from the start IMO, no matter how new the user is. In that case, it is very likely the OP just doesn't give a damn (as opposed to users struggling with a language barrier) –  Pëkka Mar 4 '11 at 13:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You describe two different situations:

  • The question is clear, objective, and answerable, but the question asker has little to no experience, and does not show that they've already tried to solve their problem
  • The question is unclear, subjective, or unanswerable

Notably, we do not encourage users to kill beginners simply because they don't know anything, or even just because they haven't demonstrated that they've tried very hard. It may be annoying to some to see a question that essentially says, "Please send me the code, I don't actually want to learn anything", but in the first example you provide the user has a clear purpose, and has merely asked, "please help" which doesn't imply that answerers have to provide a finished solution, although they could.

If such questions annoy you, downvote them, but please note that the criteria for downvoting is "This question is unclear or not useful". I believe that such questions do not fit the suggested criteria for a downvote.

Of course, if you know the answer, or you know enough to get them started, then please consider answering the question. It will benefit other new programmers down the line, and it will drag more people into stackoverflow over time.

I reject the idea that users should be required to do a specific amount of work prior to asking their question. There is nothing in the FAQ that says, "DO NOT ASK questions without doing some work trying to solve your question." That is not the criteria, and it's for this reason that lmgtfy links and similar non-answers are banned.

In the second case, the question is unclear. Downvote it and/or vote to close and move on with life. There is no special action that needs to be taken, unless you recognize the user as a systematic abuser, in which case a moderator flag might be useful.

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1  
Your answer's the most thorough and has been very helpful, however I don't fully agree with your "homework" point of view; the goal of this network is to build a collaborative "support centre", and what can be more detrimental to morale and efficiency than questions asked n times or extremely trivial only because the asker is too lazy to do a simple search or wants a ready-to-go solution? It's very difficult to tell "trash" apart from "good", but I think it's something that must be dealt with sooner or later, to avoid killing the SNR or have the most skilled people drift away. –  Albireo Mar 6 '11 at 18:55

I've seen much worse than the first example you show. It has to be noted that it's actually possible to understand what the OP wants. :)

Anyway, if you see questions you think are of low quality, and the user seems to have a history of asking such questions, the main action is downvote and, if applicable, vote to close. Eventually, if the user doesn't change their ways, many downvotes will make the low quality question filter kick in.

Additionally, you can optionally:

  • Leave a comment explaining why you think this is a bad question, and what could be improved

  • Edit it to make it better (if possible - it often isn't)

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Downvote or vote to close. Liberally use close votes for bad questions. Rarely, flag for a moderator to deal with.

There was a question a few days ago that was some rambling gossip about Android developers at Google ignoring government bug reports. That one got flagged and was promptly deleted by a moderator.

Usually I go through some heuristics that determine my actions when I see a bad question.

Click the username of the question asker and see what their history is like. If it's an unregistered user or a user with many downvoted and closed questions, it gets a close vote.

If they have an overwhelming number of questions and next to no answers, they should know better by now what's expected in an answer and also receive a close vote.

If they have some general usage history and maybe just aren't great with English (i.e., non-native speaker, not a lazy native speaker), I either edit the post and try to clarify what they're asking or I post a comment and point out how they need to improve the question.

I try to avoid downvotes for low-quality questions and save downvotes for answers that are technically wrong.

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