Previously someone suggested "Insufficient effort" as a closing reason, resulting in the description of "Not a real question" being broadened.

I believe the two are far from identical, and shouldn't be grouped under the same category, unless you can act upon them in the same way.

To demonstrate, consider the following examples:

How can I calculate the square root of a number in C#?

This is a real question which doesn't fit the "Not a real question" description, but does indicate no effort.

I'm producing an API for soem common applicaitons. How can I make sure that they applications that were built under 3.5 can run the new 4.0 api?

With some effort, a real question can be recognized. "How can an application which targets .NET 3.5 use an API which targets .NET 4.0?"

This discussion is meant to be two-folded:

  • Isn't there a difference between the current "Not a real question" and "No effort questions"?
  • In case there is, how to best handle a "No effort question"? Closing it as "Not a real question" seems not appropriate, clear and constructive.

P.S.: To be clear, this is not a proposal to add "No effort question" as a closing reason. I merely want to point out we should either be looking for ways in which to distinguish them better, or handle better.

  • 8
    In my experience, Not real questions are closed with Not a real question. No effort questions are closed with Not a real question and get downvoted a few notches in the process. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 20:03
  • 3
    @FrédéricHamidi There are reams of no-effort questions that don't get closed, get answered, and end up with a score somewhere between -3 and 1. It depends on which 3k+ users happen to be watching at any given time.
    – agf
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 20:11
  • @agf, indeed, I sometimes encounter such questions in the 10k tools. Doesn't that mean they get closed even after being answered? Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 20:14
  • 1
    I disagree that the square root question is inappropriate for SO. Read this
    – Confluence
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 20:31
  • @Confluence: I didn't say it was inappropriate did I? I actually argue 'no effort questions' should be handled differently. I agree with you that it is appropriate, although there should be some guidelines as how to handle them. Often they are also duplicates, and the correct approach is to close them as such. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 20:34
  • Isn't there a difference between the current "Not a real question" and "No effort questions"? -- No, there isn't. If you were suddenly given a "No Research Effort" close reason, would the outcome be any different?
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 1, 2011 at 4:31
  • 2
    @Robert: In my opinion yes, that's why I posted this question. I'll state my opinion in an answer instead of a comment here. Commented Oct 1, 2011 at 11:27
  • Was soem an intentional typo, or accidental? Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 2:08
  • @Andrew: intentional, just as 'applicaitons', indicating low effort. Actually it is a copy paste of a real question. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 7:59
  • @RobertHarvey, A "No effert" close reason would have an effect, as a lot of people with close rights don't read meta and therefore don't no they should be vote to close "no effert" questions. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 9:34
  • @StevenJeuris: Ah - I missed that one (along with "they"), and I assumed deliberate typos would come in multiples (which I originally typed as multipels). Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 12:06

3 Answers 3


The difference in the comments on the question somewhat highlight the issue I was trying to address.

There seems to be no general consensus on how to handle no effort questions.

This has a negative impact on the site:

  • Users may get the wrong idea when their question is closed as "Not a real question". Especially in the bad English examples, there is a good chance the wording is way too abstract for them to understand.
  • People who can vote to close don't know which one is correct, or have different interpretations.
  • As a direct result, the vote reasons are interpreted as inconsistent (e.g. here), making them seem unfair.

I suggest the following:

Not a real question is closed for a perfectly good reason, a proper answer can't be formulated for it in its current form. Only the OP can judge whether he can improve the question. He can improve it based on feedback so the question can be reopened again. You could state that if the intent of the question is clear and you can deduce a proper question yourself, it is more of a no effort question.

No effort questions (Or as Sofware Monkey put it "Not an adequate question") are questions were the actual question is clear and can be answered. Closing such a question as "Not a real question" doesn't make sense as it is valuable information for the network. Very basic questions often are duplicates, so the best approach in that case would be to find it and close as duplicate.

The main difference is no effort questions aren't necessarily bad questions, but it is obvious not enough time was taken to formulate them. The question should just be cleaned up, which anyone can do. However, more constructive is to notify the poster to do it himself. The only way to do that in the current system is by down voting and leaving a comment specifying why.

P.S.: The reason why I started this topic is because that's exactly what I did. I down voted a question, left a comment pointing out his no effort spelling mistakes as shown in example 2. The comment got removed, the question closed as not a real question. The question got updated and a lot of confusion is apparent.

Bottomline: we need guidelines!

  • 2
    The only way to do that in the current system IMHO is by down voting and leaving a comment specifying why. -- That's exactly what you should do. Your proposal makes the OP wait until the question is closed before they are notified of the problems with their post.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 1, 2011 at 15:06
  • @RobertHarvey Sorry for my previous harsh (now deleted) nonconstructive comment. At the time I wrote that I must have been frustrated with discussions being interpreted as proposals, as I've outlined in detail in this discussion. Please keep in mind this is not a proposal. Although I do feel adding such a close reason would have merit, I rather want to raise the issue that the guidelines aren't clear. That's probably where the misunderstanding occurred. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 12:19
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    I think the "most appropriate way" is a spanking and send them to bed early without dinner. Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 1:46

I bet you'll find that all those “no effort questions” have already been asked, and many times over. That means they're probably duplicates, which is a super-cromulent reason to Vote To Close. (If there's nothing they're a duplicate of, then maybe it's actually reasonable to have the question be asked? Of course, it will rapidly get answered to a very high quality and then we'll have the perfect reason to vote to close all the subsequent variations on it…)

  • Ofter they contrains more then one quesions, each of them being a duplicate of a different question. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 9:36
  • I down voted, not because I disagree, but because I do not see how this adds to the already given more extensive answer. I don't like duplication, and you don't seem to like it either. ;p (p.s. sorry, my previous comment was out of line) Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 13:24
  • If a question is a duplicate and not a real question it's simpler to flag as "Not a real question". I'm just saying.
    – keyser
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 14:03

Old post, but clearly a valid topic; I just ran into this today while trying to figure out the correct action for a no-effort post I was viewing on SO.

Since there clearly isn't a consensus I thought I would just throw in my two cents.

When I see a no effort question I toss them a downvote with a comment, as is my duty as a member of SO, but I'm always concerned that they'll sit around forever being useless.

Today's example included errors from the compiler about variables not being declared and (once OP posted it) a quick look at the code showed... indeed, they weren't declared....
If anyone comes on to SO to try and find an answer to the compiler saying <variable> isn't declared, they're probably going to "find the answer" by reposting the same garbage and not searching for this one anyway.

Basically my fear is as @agf mentioned:
There are reams of no-effort questions that don't get closed, get answered, and end up with a score somewhere between -3 and 1. It depends on which 3k+ users happen to be watching at any given time

My response to this is a raise an "other" flag. It takes a few more minutes to fill in my reasoning as to why this question needs to be closed, but at least I can explain what I see as the problem and I know that question won't completely slip through the cracks. I've always gotten a "helpful" added to such flags and lots of times the questions do get closed; so I can feel like I'm helping the problem. :)

  • Did you mean consensus instead of conscience?
    – Rob W
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 13:58
  • @RobW - Yup, thanks. Grammar has never been my strong point... and spell check tends to lead me astray.
    – Mike
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 14:01

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