My currently biggest issue with SO is that way too many (most?) questions are useless, that is not to say that they are horribly bad and I am even happy to answer them as long as they are unambiguous and clear.

The person asking the question may think otherwise of course but I think most people can see that the group of questions outlined in the title are very rarely helping anyone but the person who asked it.

The down-vote tooltip states the following:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

If I were to follow that I for one would need to down-vote most of the questions I see, this is neither wanted by the developers nor me. But I take issue with how those questions clutter up SO, it is becomming harder and harder to find the few actually good & useful questions, the ones that more than one person has.

The technologies are not creating a space for new useful questions at the same rate as developers write bad code or are too lazy to thoroughly read the documentation.

Some questions do not even look useless until it turns out that "a semicolon was missing in line 6" or the like. Also people do not bother to abstract, so there are often very concrete cases of a generic problem which also diminishes the value of the question since it becomes siginficantly harder to find and/or estimate whether the question is even revelant. This lack of abstraction also leads to duplicates of course.

Bad question titles may also be on the rise, so unless ((Simple? <Tag> (Problem|Question)) | <tag>+) is changed to something more meaningful by those who care (or can, as the OP may have trouble forming a coherent English question) those "questions" are also just clutter evem if the content is actually helpful to some.

Now sadly I do not know how to "fix" all this, but maybe it would work to have a system to move such questions into an archive which will have a much lower visibility, so people can still have their specific problems solved and the answerer will still earn reputation and everything but the searches will yield more relevant results.

It seems to me that the format <tag>(:| -)? <actual question> has become more popular again, I think once a query was done to remove all the tags in \[<tag>\] <actual question>, maybe that should be done again, could cause more false positives though. Excuses for the pseudo regexes...

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    I'm sorry, what is your question? Sep 30, 2011 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


Between 8 paragraphs of ranting and a completely random paragraph about title syntax, I think I spotted the actual request:

have a system to move such questions into an archive which will have a much lower visibility, so people can still have their specific problems solved and the answerer will still earn reputation and everything but the searches will yield more relevant results.

The problem is, how would people still be getting answers if this "archive" has much lower visibility? Either the archive stops people from finding the question and it doesn't get answered, or it doesn't and it serves no point to begin with.

  • What i wrote is far from meaningless or random, i think i actually did a good job at listing problems with many questions that flood SO. I never claimed to know a good solution, this is for discussion after all. If you have a viable proposal i'd be glad to hear it.
    – H.B.
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:21
  • I never said "meaningless", and I said "random" only in regards to the last paragraph, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with the rest of your question. If the point is to say "bad questions are bad and I don't like them", then yes, I think everyone agrees with you, but I'm not sure what a post about it accomplishes. You included a solution, so I'm pointing out why it doesn't seem to make sense; I don't need to have my own solution to point out the problem with yours Sep 30, 2011 at 20:23
  • The very last? That is why it is in sub, it's just a side-note, pointing to a someone disconnected current problem. It may have sounded aggressive but that was not the intention, i never said you are obligated to give a solution or anything like that.
    – H.B.
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:24

If the answer is really

a semicolon was missing in line 6

or something similar then you're right; the question probably has no potential to help anyone else. Wait, do we have a close reason for that?

too localized

This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

You can make sure the question doesn't accumulate answers and discourage upvotes by voting to close it. Zero or negative score closed questions with zero or one zero score answers (I think I got that right?) will get auto-deleted after a year. Also, you (and other 10k+ users) can vote to delete the question (after a few days if you're under 20k) once it's been closed.

We already have mechanisms to deal with questions like this; use them.

  • By "eventually" he means "in a year"
    – Confluence
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:28
  • It almost never works, you need 5 votes, you do not get them unless someone asks a question and a duplicate is found within minutes or the question is a incoherent mess. When was the last time you saw a question closed for too localized? I cannot recall, at least in the tags i frequent it just does not happen.
    – H.B.
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:30
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    @H.B. I see questions like the one you're describing closed as not constructive / too localized / not a real question all the time (people seem to somewhat randomly choose a close reason), when active closers happen to be online. Other times, almost nothing gets closed. The solution isn't to abandon the system though, but to reinforce it. Vote to close, leave a comment explaining why it should be closed, and encourage others to do the same (I'm So META because I'm doing that right now).
    – agf
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:33
  • @Confluence changed to "after a year", thanks.
    – agf
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:33

I totally agree with your diagnosis, but I don't think this can be solved programmatically. Users will simply find ways to circumvent any automatic barrier you impose.

If i were to follow that i for one would need to down-vote most of the questions i see

I think downvoting is the right thing to do in these cases and as far as I can see, apart from closevoting and flagging the more egregious cases, the only solution.

I really don't mind fixing a newbie's problem with a script, but what when it's 500 newbies at once?

If just a few more people would downvote more (ideally with a quick comment leaving an explanation why), things could be much better around the site.

  • A problem with that is that down-votes introduce negativity, a psychological aspect. If everything gets downvoted people may become frustrated, there may be more vendettas and such. I recall a blog post about this, but i don't know which it was. That's why a limit to the up/down ratio was introduced (i'm far from it on the plus side though, at the moment)
    – H.B.
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:34
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    @H.B. yeah - that's why people don't like to downvote, understandably. But it really is the only way to go IMO - what I do is, when it's a lazy question but still somewhat acceptable, I try to provide some helpful links even when I downvote and vote to close. It has worked pretty well so far - very few vendettas etc. (although people may simply be afraid of downvoting a high rep user, believing that they can see who downvoted them. I don't know whether it's because I'm so nice, or that)
    – Pekka
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:36

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