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I realize that there are quite a few dumb questions asked on stackoverflow. Most of them are of such poor quality that they are closed. My question is, do we avoid most of the dumb questions though? Or maybe we just deal with it better?

I'm talking specifically about SO compared to Forums.

For instance, on a forum I frequent, there was a pretty stupid question. If that had been asked on SO (well, a bit offtopic, but maybe like SU but with the community of SO) it would've been closed in the first 5 minutes. This indicates we just deal with it better.

But also, Very rarely do I see more than 1 or 2 negative voted questions on the front page, where in a typical forum I'll see commonly 2 or 3 stupid questions. This indicates we somehow avoid dumb questions.

So which do you think? What makes Stack Overflow have less stupid questions than a typical forum?

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Part of the reason you might see very few negative posts on the front page is that votes are considered when sorting the questions. So negative posts tend to be forced off the front page. – Robert Harvey Mar 9 '11 at 23:34
I would be in favor of adding a "vote to facepalm" feature where after a post gets +5 facepalm votes, the answers area is replaced with that facepalm image. – James McNellis Mar 10 '11 at 0:13
I don't see what's stupid about that question. Maybe it's because I'm stupid too (as others here on SE have already pointed out). Also, it's ridiculous how badly the guy was treated... How about you SEARCH THE FSCKING WEB.. – Tshepang Mar 10 '11 at 6:52
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Lately it's been people flagging like crazy from (and a couple of the new moderators who routinely clear 100+ flags a day) that's keeping the front page clear of noise. So I think we're just dealing with it better. There might be some positive feedback in play here, though. Maybe people don't see as much noise here, so fewer people are likely to ask bad questions than on a typical forum where anything goes?

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I think Stack Overflow (or any SE site once they are popular enough) would get just as many stupid questions as any other site. It'd probably get more given how accessible it is to everyone.

A quick look through the 10k tools shows some very stupid questions, but they were all closed within minutes and/or downvoted where they'll fade into obscurity. Unlike other forums where people will post new replies just to point out how stupid the question was, giving it even more attention.

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+1 I didn't know that people could ask a question without any form of registration - but it would explain the rash of 1-rep-1-question-no-return noise on the front page. I'm seriously considering ignoring all questions raised by 1 rep users anyway - because it just seems to be a time sink, with no discernible feedback. – amelvin Mar 10 '11 at 12:54

I think that the sign up process is the answer.

The SO sign-up feels more real than that of many forums - almost like you are making a commitment. Many forums make a user feel that anonymity is actually a desirable pattern - whereas so many of the regular SOers are using their real name, because it means something to them.

By the time a user has registered on SO they will feel they are dealing with something well thought through - and won't want to appear stupid. Especially when most know how highly ranked on Google the question/answer will be.

Also the alternative questions pop-up that appears when you enter your question will filter out a lot of people who will have a face/palm moment.

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+1, even though I sort of disagree with you. While I agree that a lot of users value their account and are more likely to act accordingly, the fact that people aren't even required to register to ask questions makes me think SO would be more prone to stupid questions. – Brandon Mar 9 '11 at 23:29

Very rarely do I see more than 1 or 2 negative voted questions on the front page

Hmm.. very rarely do I see ANY voted question on the front page (it is the minority anyway). It burns rep to downvote, so people rather close than downvote. There are also healing angels that will invariably vote up a -3 just because they are feeling kind.

We just deal with it. SO/SE is open to people, people are dumb, dumb questions occur.

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the front page on SO is a special beast, see for details – Jeff Atwood Mar 9 '11 at 23:45
@Jeff - Thanks for the clarification. I read "front page" as "my very own personal landing page from bookmarks". It is one of /questions, [sql] or [sql-server]. Very edge case. – RichardTheKiwi Mar 10 '11 at 0:13

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