This: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/14308692/how-to-use-a-variable-inside-a-php-array-key, just happened.

Questioner asked a very undercooked question. In 11 minutes it got -11 and plenty of comments pointing out that it was half baked. I was trying to wrap my ahead around the question and kept wanting to post a comment to the questioner to ask him/her to improve it by addressing a few specific things. I never got to it, because comments and downvotes kept raining in and I wanted to evaluate those before I said anything--didn't want to duplicate, wanted to read the comments, etc. Then it got closed.

So my question for discussion is: Is this how a bad/inadequate question should be received? Was the encounter a failure measured against some ideal of how this kind of thing should go? Was is a partial failure (too abrupt and perhaps too harsh)? Or was it a success, close to the way things would/should go in an ideal-ish encounter on SO (assuming the beginning question is not well put)?

Personally, I think this all went too fast and was at least a partial failure. The questioner never really had time to improve things. The question might have been salvaged, but if that ever was going to happen (big if) it needed more time, and a willingness to let the question develop, once it had been downvoted a few times--a signal to the author that it was not good enough as is.

I feel like there was a bit of a community failure here. The downvoting betrayed some frustration with poor questions that had risen to a level that would not allow this question to live long enough to be improved.

What do others think?

  • 5
    The question can still be salvaged. The OP now has time to reflect on the state of the question, take in the feedback in the comments and the links in the close message. He can improve the question and then flag the question for re-opening.
    – Matt
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:31
  • The question can still be improved and reopened. Additionally, the more users downvote, the more users are certain the question is bad. StackOverflow tends to be very fair and balanced. In any system, no matter how regulated it is, there will be exceptions.
    – user206222
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:32
  • 1
    The questioner had a lot of time to improve things before actually posting the question. Still, in its current form I had to look at what the question was. Only at second glance I noticed that it's hidden in the title. And you can't stop people from downvoting what they see as a bad question. With 51 views it still only received 12 downvotes. I don't see too big a community drama in all of this.
    – Bart
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:35
  • Thanks, both. I wasn't even thinking about the fact that question can still be improved, I don't know why. @Telthien, I agree things are generally fair and balanced.
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:35
  • I think the main reason why the question received so many downvotes was the OP's reputation. He is not new to the system; he can be expected to know how to ask a question.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:36
  • 3
    "The questioner never really had time to improve things.". I'm kind of with the most highly upvoted comment "2k rep, 2 gold badges and you still don't understand how SO works... Please post all information, like errors, full array and so on!". With 2k rep and 114 questions the OP ought to have known that they should at the very least post the contents of the array and the actual data echoed. Jan 13, 2013 at 22:36
  • 1
    @Bart, thanks. I hope my raising it does not seem too dramatic. It certainly did cause me to notice, the way it unfolded. I'd agree that the way this one question went cannot be taken as too indicative of the larger picture at SO.
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:37
  • @DWright If it all moves terribly fast with comments and votes, it might perhaps seem a bit overwhelming. I would just take a step back, focus on what needs to be focussed on (the question in this case) and see how I could contribute. I think that the shock for users is often bigger than the actual harm.
    – Bart
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:38
  • @benisuǝqbackwards. Agreed. The question really was not in good condition. And a 2k user should be able to do better. I guess the part that left me wondering is what happens after a user makes a mistake. I know that I could not find the time to post questions to the user, the comments were coming in so fast. Don't know if OP would have been able to fix things at that pace.
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:39
  • 2
    Probably not @DWright... theoretically closure is a temporary state to enable a user to improve it. This is still rescue-able as mentioned but there has to be some input from the OP. They seem to have abandoned the question; maybe because of what happened. It may be that deletion is the best way forward to give the OP an opportunity to ask (better) with a clean slate. Jan 13, 2013 at 22:41
  • @benisuǝqbackwards. Yeah, I was in the middle of writing a comment suggesting to user to delete and start over, but then it got closed.
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:43
  • @benisuǝqbackwards. Also just learned something. Had never heard it put that way, "closure is a temporary state to enable a user to improve". That's a helpful way of thinking about it. Do you see it practically working out that way on some questions?
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:45
  • It does, I admit normally those where the OP is a new user and hasn't bothered to post any code but questions do get re-opened just not as many as I'd like. </shameless plug> Jan 13, 2013 at 22:47
  • 2
    One final, humorous note. At one point, I looked up at the screen and the question was -6. In short order (2 or 3 seconds, it seemed) it then flipped to -7, -8, -9, exactly as though it were one of those old clocks with flipping digits. I was both a bit astonished to see the question plummet like that and impressed with how the site is programmed that it was getting those updates so quickly.
    – DWright
    Jan 13, 2013 at 23:00


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