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How does Stack Overflow attempt to prevent low-quality questions and answers?

We could probably save StackOverflow users a lot of grief by running heuristics to determine whether a question might be a poor question. If we could give users a warning before they post the question. That would reduce the need for others to have to send the poster comments or edit their posts. Here are some examples of what could be done:

  • If a question contains a phrase that's something like "doesn't work," we could warn the user "You may want to be post more specific details about the problem you're having, such as error messages, stack traces, and what results you are expecting.
  • If a question contains a block of text that's not enclosed by code tags and contains { or unrecognized XML tags, we could warn the user, "It appears that you have code posted in your question. Please indent your code with 4 spaces or surround it with <code></code> so that we can format it better.
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    Stuff like this is already in place. – slhck Sep 27 '11 at 22:38
  • The "duplicates" are related, but neither address my biggest pet peeve: people that don't format their code. The FAQ redirect doesn't really mention this. I'd rather we warned users in-place. – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:04
  • There's already a lot of hints on formatting for new users (hints on the /ask page, the FAQ, the formatting help box, etc.). If they can't see those, what makes you think they will see the warning? – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 27 '11 at 23:13
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    And automatic detection of code doesn't sound like a cakewalk either. – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 27 '11 at 23:14
  • I agree with NullUserException. A human must be involved. – Engineer2021 Sep 27 '11 at 23:15
  • The other UI elements are informational and are not optimized to capture user's attention like a warning box would. From the deluge of non-code-formatted posts, obviously what's in place is insufficient. – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:16
  • @Jacob The problem is the user, not the UI. Some people just don't care. – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 27 '11 at 23:17
  • Detection of code would be a cakewalk for some languages. Who uses { in prose or non-HTML tags? Pretty much nobody. – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:17
  • @NullUserExceptionஇ_இ, I highly doubt that most users don't care that their code is unreadable. Rather, many users are too lazy to read FAQs and documentation. A warning would catch their attention so they know there's something to fix. – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:19

There are lots of ideas in this similar question: Can we check for code with little to no explanatory text?

Here's my best stab at the problem:

It seems that the best method would be a weighted total of several different factors:

  • user rep < 100 = 10 points
  • correct spelling/total words < 3/1 = 30 points
  • code/text < 2/1 = 20 points =
  • words in title not in body = 20 points
  • total words < 50 = 20 points

posts > 60/100 points are automatically flagged for review/moderation before they appear on the site or, the ask-er is prompted to fix the question before submitting.



StackOverflow already shows this in the Review tab and there is detection for low quality posts.

My best guess is StackOverflow can catch a lot of stuff at the beginning that it automatically interprets as crap. However, their heuristics have a certain confidence level in that it will detect that it may be low quality but ultimately a human needs to intervene. I guess if they had the power of Big Blue, this wouldn't be an issue but it must rely on you and me to determine what is crap and what is not - then downvote, flag it, vote to close, or edit it.

Overall, I think the current system is working well. We just need greater participation by everyone to clean up the thousands of posts being posted daily. I know I use up all of my moderator and close flags daily.

That means there is more crap coming in that others simply are not downvoting or paying attention to. If every 10K+ user was like me, then maybe we could stop it. Also help from the 3K and 5K crowd would really help too. It's all a huge community effort.


Low quality questions should be dealt with down and close votes.

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    Wouldn't you rather we caught them before they're posted? – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:06
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    @Jacob: no. Server isn't a human – genesis Sep 27 '11 at 23:08
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    Obviously, we can't catch everything, but we can warn users. For example, if a user isn't posting their code in a way that it will be formatted correctly, it's better to let them know early so they don't suffer downvotes and so that SO users don't have to wade through as many crappy questions. – Jacob Sep 27 '11 at 23:12

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