As everyone here well knows, we get a lot of questions on Stack Overflow. And, as some of us here probably already know, there is a quality filter in place for new users:

Also, there are certain quality filters applied to questions to try to ensure a clear title, a reasonable explanation of the question and correct use of English and actual sentences. When the tests fail, the post is rejected.

It's not just apocryphal. People actually get hit by this, and their question gets rejected. I think that's a good thing. I'm not sure of the accuracy of Jeff's one-time ballpark estimate that the worst 10% of questions get left behind, but I think it's a reasonable standard.

Why, then, do questions like this one still manage to get through?

  Mostafizur asks: "How can Add data again use same ID in same table MS Access in VB.net?

It looks like a joke, like it might even be computer generated the way random keywords are just thrown in there. Except that we have computer algorithms that can automatically generate questions that blow this one away in terms of quality. Given a few attempts, monkeys at a keyboard could bang out something better than this. No, something this bad can only be the handiwork of a real person, and a special type of person at that: one who just doesn't care and can't be bothered. Do we really want this type of person, or their questions, on Stack Overflow? I know I don't.

So, let's strengthen the algorithm used to detect and filter out poor-quality questions. It is my claim that this one should never have gotten through.

Let's start by enforcing a simple minimum length requirement. You need more than 16 words to ask a question. If you don't, your question doesn't belong on Stack Overflow. It is impossible to state your problem, disclose your language/technology/environment, and briefly describe what you have already tried to solve the problem in any fewer than 30–50 words.

If you disagree, find some counter-examples of high quality questions that the site is better off for having that are so short they would have been automatically rejected. And make sure they're from new users, because obviously we could loosen the restrictions once someone hits 1k, 2k, or 5k reputation.

NB: I am strictly proposing that we do this on Stack Overflow. I realize that some of the other SE sites might not agree with the heavy-handedness of this approach. There might even be useful questions that can be asked on those sites that contain less than 30–50 words. I don't think that applies to SO.

If their community moderators decide that they want the big guns our quality filters turned on, they can ask for them. Otherwise, the traffic is generally low enough there that these questions can be improved or disposed of. That strategy isn't working for SO. It's like drinking from a fire hose there. Even though most of these poor quality questions do eventually get purged, the overhead on our users is too great.

What do we stand to lose? And should we care?

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    +1 - I have nightmares that people who ask questions like this are working on my medical records or maintaining my bank accounts.
    – Tim M.
    Mar 29, 2013 at 7:06
  • Sometimes brevity is a strength though. I hope this wouldn't apply to older questions, such as the type posted by Mystical. Just the "new question quality filter"? And just for new users? Or for everyone? Scalable? I wouldn't mind seeing more content in questions, but, how does that saying go? - "Too much noise, not enough signal" - could still factor in there. I can actually understand what happened in your example question. Perhaps the OP accidentally deleted a record that had dependencies and needed to restore it. Perhaps their question could have been improved to match that scenario.
    – Travis J
    Mar 29, 2013 at 7:35
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    @TravisJ - I don't disagree on brevity. But to play devil's advocate, I thought I understood that Access question too...except I came to a completely different conclusion than you did about what they might be asking. The questions linked by Mysticial undeniably have value, but today (for better or worse) they would probably be closed because the askers didn't try anything, post code, post research, etc. It's a hard problem.
    – Tim M.
    Mar 29, 2013 at 7:47
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    @Tim; I'm really sorry to break the news to you but I hang out a fair bit in the SQL tags. These people are maintaining your bank accounts... definitely. Mar 29, 2013 at 11:17
  • Uh-oh, it has two close votes already. We are not supposed to close questions so quickly anymore. Maybe that is also an example of why simple rules do not work. Mar 29, 2013 at 11:24
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    @UphillLuge: Who isn't supposed to close awful questions in 2 hours? Sounds slow to me. (On the wider topic, I literally saw two questions containing "Plz" and "code" posted in the last 5 minutes; the quality filter should special case that combination.)
    – Wooble
    Mar 29, 2013 at 11:40
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    @Wooble I'm pretty sure he meant to write "delete". We definitely want to close bad questions immediately so the author knows there's a problem and can use our feedback to fix it. We aren't supposed to delete them immediately so that they do have time to edit the post. Mar 29, 2013 at 12:19
  • I added the screenshot so that everyone would feel free to vote to close. Instead, somebody upvoted it! Y'all are just messing with me. And @Wooble, you're not the first one to make that suggestion :-) Mar 29, 2013 at 21:15
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  • Hey Cody, we don't want just high quality questions. We also want moderate quality questions.
    – spraff
    May 6, 2013 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


I've bumped up the threshold below which questions will be blocked. The majority of recently-asked questions that fall below the new threshold do not fare well on Stack Overflow (i.e. they are closed, deleted, and/or down-voted).

The down-side is that short questions will be harder to post (this is more than just a length check, but short + poor spelling / caps / punctuation / formatting will damn a post more readily). At this point, I think that's a fair trade-off on Stack Overflow.

I've also increased the threshold on Super User and Server Fault; although the volume is lower there, they field even fewer reasonable questions in this range. A quick check of other high-traffic sites does not appear to justify raising this anywhere else at this time.

FWIW: Stack Overflow already rejects something like twelve hundred questions a day based on this check - that'd amount to about 13% of questions if a lot of them weren't just the same folks retrying more or less the same text over and over.

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    "We've upped our threshold, so up yours!"
    – jscs
    Apr 17, 2013 at 6:56
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    Interesting - do you have any data/indications that the quality of the questions that come through after the retries are better than the first (rejected) versions?
    – Monolo
    Apr 17, 2013 at 7:17
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    twelve hundred questions a day?! Christ.
    – tombull89
    Apr 17, 2013 at 7:28
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    Maybe to stop people from trying until they get around the filter, block questions which are too similar to recently denied questions? Just a thought.
    – user206222
    Apr 17, 2013 at 7:49
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    Kinda want folks to fix their questions, @Telthien - my point was rather that a lot of 'em just keep retrying (and failing) over and over again, so it's not really like that's 1.2k unique questions.
    – Shog9
    Apr 17, 2013 at 8:00
  • Oh, I read it the other way - that it would be 12k, but it isn't stopping any questions, so it's much less. Sorry about the confusion!
    – user206222
    Apr 17, 2013 at 8:02
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    "short questions will be harder to post" I do not think that this will be a downside. A good question (context or info on what was done, or code-example) should be long-ish; this is especially OK if it is more than just a length check! I'm totally pro having short + poor spelling / caps / punctuation / formatting rejected Apr 17, 2013 at 8:07
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    So is this caused by the change stated here? Apr 17, 2013 at 8:15
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    Yes, it is @Bolt
    – Shog9
    Apr 17, 2013 at 8:23
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    @gnat: the sad truth is that on Programmers, even questions with a maximum quality score fare worse on average than the ones passing the threshold I just put in place on SO. We can try tweaking the threshold there too, but it's probably worth a separate discussion on meta.programmers.
    – Shog9
    Apr 17, 2013 at 8:25
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    @Knights: what if we are? I don't know that we're doing anyone a favor by letting their post through if it's gonna end up down-voted / deleted as a result.
    – Shog9
    Apr 18, 2013 at 19:00
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    @Knights: well, that's why the filter isn't based on a single factor, but rather spelling + punctuation + capitalization + length + tags + seven herbs and spices. Obviously, plenty of posts (good and otherwise) with lousy grammar are still posted every day - you have to hit multiple triggers to get blocked.
    – Shog9
    Apr 18, 2013 at 19:06
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    Writing the long title (with caps) put that one over by a hair, @Cody. Something I realized yesterday: I didn't factor the title quality score into my calculations when doing this. I need to find some time to get a few changes made to this. Or just increase the minimum body length to something over 30, since... 30, wow.
    – Shog9
    Apr 23, 2013 at 3:19
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    Here's an example of someone getting around the filter apparently. It seems the asker was originally getting the quality error message. Merely adding an off-topic question about why they were being stopped got past it. Apr 24, 2013 at 4:44

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