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Before succeeding in posting my last question, I got this error message:

Sorry, we can't accept this question.

There seems to be some filter for stopping bad questions, but it is apparently prone to false positives. Googling for the phrase, there are already several questions on Meta about this error message.

We should make it more helpful, instead of harshly denying the question without explanation. Example:

Sorry, this question does not meet our quality requirements. Try to rephrase its title.

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Never saw that message before :( –  Oscar Mederos May 14 '11 at 19:32
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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I just changed the copy to:

Oops! Your question couldn't be submitted because:
It does not meet our quality standards.

This has the advantage of at least giving a hint, and being English.


I am against being explicit here, the goal is to reduce work for moderators and good citizens of the site, the vast majority of question blocks are totally valid, I have seen one or 2 outliers out of 100s, still, even in those cases, they could be improved.

Our check takes into account tags, title and body. We are not going to give breakdown of what was wrong, that is spoon feeding.


For example:

Title: DIALOG BOX QUESTION
can i have an if statement within a dialog box code?

tags: swing

The new error message is good enough for this case. I am not going to tell this person:

  • PLEASE DON'T YELL
  • Your title makes little sense
  • Please use correct spelling
  • Please explain your question in more detail
  • Please be respectful of other people's time

Instead, the onus is on this user to figure out why we consider his question low quality, by reading through the million or so good questions on Stack Overflow and following the good examples out there it numerous blog posts that explain how to write awesome questions.

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I think /how-to-ask should tell people to use descriptive titles. It doesn't seem to be mentioned here. –  SLaks May 20 '11 at 3:04
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@slaks should we also tell users "be sure to breathe so you stay alive?" I mean, isn't such a thing obvious? –  Jeff Atwood May 20 '11 at 3:52
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Where's the spelling mistake, unless incorrect capitalization counts? –  Andrew Grimm May 20 '11 at 7:44
    
@Andrew yes, i, is not considered the correct spelling for I :) –  waffles May 20 '11 at 7:56
    
@waffles: Was that spelling mistake deliberate? :) –  Andrew Grimm May 20 '11 at 8:04
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@Andrew ... lol ... my comment does not meet our quality standards... noooooo –  waffles May 20 '11 at 8:06
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@waffles: English SE generally reckons it's not a spelling mistake, but a different kind of mistake: english.stackexchange.com/questions/26199/… –  Andrew Grimm May 20 '11 at 10:06
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@Andrew, 'i' challenge you to prove that there is not a correlation between non-capitalised i's and low question quality. –  Benjol May 20 '11 at 10:36
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This is just the right amount of clarification, IMHO. We'll still get people complaining on meta, but at least it encourages them to think about why their question sucks. It gives them a way out, but that way out is improving the quality of the question. +1. –  Justin Morgan May 20 '11 at 16:45
    
"We are not going to give breakdown of what was wrong, that is spoon feeding." It's not spoon-feeding; it's giving reasonable feedback. Automatic systems that deny someone use of their function, without saying why, do not meet my quality standards. –  Jason S Mar 26 '12 at 0:34
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Sorry, this question does not meet our quality requirements. Try to rephrase its title.

I agree with the first sentence in your proposed rewording, but not the second. We don't want people to attempt to skirt the quality detection algorithms by simply rephrasing the title. We really want them to substantively improve the quality of their question before we allow it through.

However, asking them to improve the overall quality of their question and then trying to resubmit is definitely a step in the right direction.

It's unlikely that very many users will take the advice, rewrite their question, and then be able to submit it. But a well-phrased and accurate error message never hurt anyone.

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The point is for people to introspect about their question and why it wasn't accepted. Bear in mind this is an extremely low quality bar we're talking about here. They are being classified into the lowest quality 1% of all questions asked on the site.

If we provide a "formula" then it's just another way for users to bypass the question quality filters.

Having looked at the post you wrote to trigger this, I would -- again -- strongly emphasize anyone asking a question to share the results of their research when asking.

And if you haven't any research to share, should you even be asking at all?

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Jeff, the phrase "we can't accept this question" does not inspire introspection. The message doesn't need to include (or link to) the "formula" to get a question accepted, it just needs to suggest that minimum quality standards exist. –  Charles May 15 '11 at 5:43
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The point is that this message does not convey at all that question quality is the issue. If I hadn't heard about it on meta.SO first, I'd think it meant a transient technical error on the SE servers. –  Gilles May 15 '11 at 10:25
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@gilles that's kind of intentional; we basically don't want these users. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect –  Jeff Atwood May 15 '11 at 20:03
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What if someone triggers a false positive? Heuristic filters aren't infallible. Even something like "we can't accept this question because your English sucks" gives a hint what's wrong. –  Justin Morgan May 19 '11 at 14:10
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@Justin: I would love that as an error message. –  Andrew Grimm May 20 '11 at 7:42
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