249

In case you missed the first one, check out the tag. The quality project isn't one that we plan to ever finish, it's perennial and kicks in every 18 months or so after we've had ample opportunity to observe the efficacy of our previous efforts, changes in how people use our sites along with feedback regarding what they expected, and when new ideas seem promising enough to try.

It's time to talk about the areas that we're going to be focusing on. I'm going to give a high level overview of the types of things that we want to do, and touch briefly on things that we have in progress. I'll then turn it over to you.

It's then your turn to mention a that you think might be a great idea for us to evaluate for inclusion in this iteration, and we'll then take a look at all of it to see what we're going to be able to build.

We can't do all of it, but we're going to put the highest priority on small-ish things that could potentially make a big impact first, and then drill down into things that are going to take a bit of work, again with priority given to things that could help the largest number of users have a better experience on the site.

So, let's go over what we've got in mind:

Improving the new user experience

We want people to feel like they belong here. And in order to belong here you really need to be able to ask and answer questions competently, or contribute helpful things to documentation. It's that first part we're going to focus on first for the purposes of this project:

  • We plan to test a new, 'guided' version of the ask question page soon. This page would essentially break down all of the elements that make a great question, and give the user plenty of guidance as to why it's to their advantage to understand what's needed in each of them, and provide it.

  • We're launching an initiative with the University Of Melbourne in Australia. Some graduate studies have uncovered what (could) lead to much more precision in the detection of duplicate questions, as well as a huge improvement on what duplicates are suggested to the person asking. There will be a separate post about that this week. We need to help them validate a ton of data, they've come up with a system to make it easy for us to help. More to come on that soon.

Improving the experience of our existing users

We think the two things we've got planned in the new user experience category is going to have a pretty nice impact (most unhelpful questions don't need to be asked, if only we could let folks know we've already got their answers more effectively). But we want to do more.

  • We're going to explore some ideas for better filtering of the questions that you see indicated by information that you give us. If you really only enjoy solving medium to difficult problems, that's what we need to prioritize showing you. We're going to have some discussions on ways this can be accomplished when we come to it.

  • We're looking at some upgrades to the anti-spam and abuse mitigation systems. They've been good to us, but we need to keep them relevant. There are some awesome community-run projects that have been helping tremendously, and we're currently looking at ways that we might be able to integrate them more properly.

Improving the experience for our moderators

Because at the scale that we see on Stack Overflow, existing tools are really starting to show their age.

  • We want to end the need to manually suss out voting rings. We're working on making the scheduled tasks that identify these things much smarter, by teaching them to think like Shog9 and myself do as we analyze all of the data that we have access to. We'll find a lot more rings where action is needed, and stop showing moderators patterns that are actually pretty benign (but the tools they have really don't indicate that it's benign). Mods will get a sort of 'minority report' in cases where the system couldn't make an automatic decision explaining why it couldn't decide, show all of the information that the mod needs to make the call, and let the moderator decide. This is actively being worked on for feasibility, once we're sure the model scales we'll kick off a discussion with more detail.

  • We're going to do more to make certain that people understand what they're doing by flagging and help them choose the correct way to proceed (and in many cases that probably means not proceeding). We'll break out into a separate discussion when we get to this. Moderators are far too often called to look at things where they aren't actually needed, and this distracts them from looking at the stuff where they are actually needed. "Should I downvote, vote to close or flag? Should I do all of that?" - we need to make this much, much clearer. And we've got the inverse of that, folks downvoting spam when they really need to be flagging too :) It's not an easy problem.

None of these lists are exhaustive, there's more, but this is getting pretty long now. What's important is what you think we need to be prioritizing.

So what do you think we should include in this round? Try to link to the , but don't fret too much if you can't find it (just explain what it wanted, and we can rely on Shog9's RAM-like memory for the location).

  • 6
    What makes a FR a good fit for this project? I've looked at the other six questions with this tag and I'm not quite sure what sets them apart. – Catija Oct 17 '16 at 17:01
  • 46
    How much of this will be Stack Overflow-centric? For example, a guided Ask page will probably be great on ---Programmers--- Software Engineering, especially given the confusion in scope and recent name change (meant to fix the confusion in scope). – Thomas Owens Oct 17 '16 at 17:03
  • 12
    +1 for better duplicate handling and for improvements with flagging. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 17 '16 at 17:53
  • 5
    From comment #3: or where existing users have a better experience of new users getting to know the site ---> The ability to close questions quickly that are wildly not ready for prime time perhaps by some user vote weighting method – Drew Oct 17 '16 at 18:17
  • 23
    "Some graduate studies have uncovered what (could) lead to much more precision in the detection of duplicate questions, as well as a huge improvement on what duplicates are suggested to the person asking." - Are these papers listed here? I like reading new papers/studies that utilize SE data. If they are not, but are publicly available, can they be added? – Andy Oct 17 '16 at 18:48
  • 6
    Did anything come of the post characteristics as images tests? – Andy Oct 17 '16 at 18:59
  • 4
    Can I just take a second to say that the changes you guys have made to the mod screens over the past few months have been very minor but very welcome? Maybe I just noticed it over the past few months and it actually was there all along but it seems a lot easier to mod lately. So umm, yay. – corsiKa Oct 17 '16 at 19:11
  • 11
    "If you really only enjoy solving medium to difficult problems, that's what we need to prioritize showing you." I am curious as to how you are gonna accomplish that. Grading the difficulty of a problem often requires to understand it first. If an AI can do that, I am scared. – Knu Oct 17 '16 at 19:53
  • 4
    @TimPost so you are planning to put the burden of grading on users? Now, in addition to downvoting and upvoting we will have (be able) to give a difficulty grade. Interesting. Gotta polish your UX for that one. – Knu Oct 17 '16 at 20:55
  • 8
    I notice that there is no statement of intent to implement things that are a lot of work. Do you think this is sustainable? Imho, there are a few things about the SE platform that need big changes. Do you plan to ever address such? – Raphael Oct 17 '16 at 22:48
  • 7
    Tim, do I understand it correctly that this discussion you opened is not in the scope this year: Empowering tag-badge holders part II - let's look at silver? (guess it's going to be kept ignored for quite a while since over two years have passed already and nothing happened) – gnat Oct 19 '16 at 7:31
  • 8
    When will we hear about the outcome of this initiative/? – Raphael Feb 5 '17 at 19:29
  • 4
    @ShadowWizard As in, we all wasted our time (it may never happen, or things may be obsolete when it happens). Way to go! Next time, if you ask for several man weeks (?) of community feedback, please make plan beforehand on how you'll close the loop. Thanks. – Raphael Jul 4 '17 at 9:17
  • 19
    @Tim with all due respect (and there is respect, lots of it actually :)) the people who posted here wasted their time, and that's a fact. Proof? Let's take the top answer here, with 399 upvotes, posted almost year ago. You did post a promising comment, but those 3 weeks you mentioned turned into over 8 months now. So Robert has the full right to feel he wasted his time. I do not blame you. I do not blame anyone. Just stating the facts here. – Shadow Jul 5 '17 at 6:16
  • 10
    And another full year went by. Do you by your comment "nobody wasted time", Tim? – Raphael Jul 15 '18 at 14:32

81 Answers 81

3

A better system for determining policy on a case-by-case basis

The close-vote system works well as a tool for implementing policy, but on many sites it has also been co-opted as a democratic system for determining policy. This happens either as a matter of local site policy or as the de facto result of having relatively hands-off moderators or a general lack of an active meta community. In either case, the result is that when there is uncertainty about whether a question is on-topic or not the community responds by waiting to see if it gets closed or not, possibly going through several cycles of closing and re-opening the question by different groups of people.

The problem is that this amounts to closing questions if

(votes in favour - votes against) % 10 >= 5.

There are a number of problems that stem from this.

  • In principle, for a very large community where many people participate in the review queues, this amounts to a rather inefficient random number generator.
  • In practice, for most communities, most questions don't get through to a single reopen cycle, so this amounts to a very strong "if in doubt, close it" policy.
  • If the community has 5 or more active users who dislike a particular sub-topic it becomes impossible to ask questions about that topic, regardless of what the rest of the community thinks or of the question's quality. This is a real problem for the larger science communities, in my opinion.
  • As a result of the above points, site policies can become much narrower than they need to be, eventually catering only to a subset of the community they were set up to serve.
  • Since policies determined this way are not written down anywhere it's impossible for a new user to know whether their question is on topic or not.

I should stress that these points are not about wanting to leave open questions that are low quality or clearly off topic. They are about those few rare gems from new users that are well constructed and would be of value, but whose style or topic is unusual for that particular community, so that there isn't a clearly defined policy for that kind of question.

The root of these problems is that the close vote system has taken on two roles:

(i) quickly closing questions about which there is no real question; and

(ii) deciding whether to close questions about which there is a question.

It works well for the former but very sub-optimally for the latter. If these tasks could be more appropriately divided, with a new system taking over task (ii), it might be possible to solve these issues.

  • 2
    What form would this new system take? There's no shortage of ideas, but you haven't really offered any solutions here. – Robert Harvey Oct 19 '16 at 17:02
  • @RobertHarvey I don't know - I would offer a solution if I had a good one, but in the absence of that I thought it would be important to draw attention to the issue and let the gurus at Stack Exchange ponder it. – Nathaniel Oct 20 '16 at 1:04
  • 3
    Quite honestly, I think the easiest way to solve this would be to remove voting to close entirely for all but the most popular questions. For your average... Let's say -∞ to 5 score question... it would remain open as long as there is one more privileged person interested in it than there are folks who dislike it; only once it'd managed to gain some serious traction would folks have to vote to close or reopen it. Vote-to-close was an expedient solution for a time when there were no limits on how often you could vote and folks were fixated on popular fluff... – Shog9 Oct 20 '16 at 1:22
  • @Shog9 So what do you propose in the stead of voting to close to prevent answers to bad questions? Atm we're closing too few, not too many questions already. – mag Oct 20 '16 at 12:17
  • 1
    Just let everyone with some amount of rep close or reopen at will for new / ignored questions, @magisch. That's how it started; would've worked fine if we hadn't gotten into close wars over popular nuisances. – Shog9 Oct 20 '16 at 13:30
  • @Shog9 And what would "some amount of rep" be to you? 10.000? 20.000? 50.000? It would have to be in that ballbark, and then suddenly you have a lot less people able to close anything. I think it's still a bit naive to only dish privileges out by rep/participation on main. It can be the basis of that, ok. But the more powerful actions should require a track record of being able to use the tools correctly. – mag Oct 20 '16 at 13:59
  • 2
    The current threshold is 3k, @magisch... Which was pretty arbitrary, but necessary to bootstrap. We have 8 years of data now... Analyze it and pick a threshold that works. Ideally, adjust based on the tags a question is in. – Shog9 Oct 20 '16 at 23:06
3

Raise an automatic flag when a question posted by a user banned at Stack Overflow enters the close queue at another site, so that moderators at that site could quicker close and delete off-topic coding / debugging questions.

Stop wasting community time and efforts on the problems that were already discovered and handled at Stack Overflow.


A bit of the history for those interested in details...

Abusing a system by trying to circumvent a block by posting the question to some other site is a long known popular trick. Five years ago, the Stack Exchange team even had to add a special system feature to address this, so that such questions can't migrate to the site where user is blocked.

The approach picked back then was not quite fair: although it protected Stack Overflow from getting back questions from already banned users, this was done at the expense of other sites where users had to waste efforts reviewing and closing inappropriate questions only to find out that migration is blocked.

Back then it hardly was a problem because not many users did that. I myself was a regular at a site that had been getting some of such questions and I remember how these were rather infrequent so it didn't really matter that we spent some effort on handling these.

Things changed after quality project features started rolling out at Stack Overflow. More users started bumping into the blocks, and it became harder for blocked users to retry attempts to ask over there with new accounts, etc. As a result, more of them started trying their luck at other sites and wasting effort of these sites regulars.

Related:

  • 1
    There's one other advantage to the system you lament: it knows which site it has to run on. IOW, the system doesn't have to query up to 160 sites to determine if a block applies; it only has to ask one (and it doesn't even have to do that until right before the post would be created at the destination). – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 15:27
  • @Shog9 I assume that blocks at sites other than SO don't matter (if you can counter this guess with stats I would be more than happy to learn). That is, there is only one site system has to run on, not 160 (and that site is SO). Questions enters close queue => system checks if asker is blocked at Stack Overflow, simple as that – gnat Oct 21 '16 at 15:50
  • 2
    That check is completely irrelevant on the vast majority of sites, @gnat. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 15:52
  • @Shog9 anything could prevent disabling such a check at sites where it is not relevant? or could there be problem collecting stats to find at which sites it is relevant? – gnat Oct 21 '16 at 15:55
  • "I assume that blocks at sites other than SO don't matter" -- why? On Computer Science, a block on Mathematics or Theoretical Computer Science is highly relevant. – Raphael Oct 21 '16 at 16:08
  • @Raphael "if you can counter this guess with stats I would be more than happy to learn" (to avoid misunderstanding, "you" in this sentence means SE employees because only they have access to details needed for such stats) – gnat Oct 21 '16 at 16:11
  • I'm sure myself and bluefeet have both tried to dig up statistics on this in the past, @gnat: even for related sites (SO->programmers, SO->MSO), cross-posting is not as common as you would expect; performing a rather expensive cross-site check in response to a flag on, say, Mathematics would no doubt catch a few instances of abuse, but... At great cost and for relatively little benefit. Note that it's extremely difficult to determine whether a given user was blocked at a specific point in time unless that time happens to coincide with one where they were trying to post. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 16:30
  • @Shog9 why do you focus on cross-posting, here I ask only about question blocks: "Raise automatic flag when a question posted by a user banned at Stack Overflow enters close queue at other site" – gnat Oct 21 '16 at 16:34
  • Because I assume cross-posting is all you're really concerned about, @gnat. If you honestly want to penalize folks posting about their turkey on Seasoned Advice because they happen to be blocked from asking about PHP on SO, then... I gotta ask why? – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 16:36
  • @Shog9 your assumption is wrong because I am concerned about off-topic posts from users blocked at SO. And your example of Seasoned Advice is misleading because it lacks key ingredient (turkey lacks apples). Question must be not just posted but flagged/voted as off-topic: "when a question... enters close queue". Unless some real user have read the question and decided that it is off-topic, system should not do anything. Your idea that it is about penalizing users posting on-topic questions seems to be caused by some misreading of what I wrote – gnat Oct 21 '16 at 16:57
  • 1
    So you're trying to identify problematic posts that... Someone has already identified as problematic. Eh, @gnat? I gotta be honest; I'd trust the average 15-rep user on most sites more than I'd trust an automated system when it comes to identifying bad posts. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 18:04
  • 2
    So what does the additional check accomplish then, @gnat? – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 18:25
  • 2
    Why? These are a minority of questions on every site where they appear; what makes them worth more attention than every other bad post on these sites, @gnat? – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 20:23
  • 5
    To put this in perspective, @gnat: no site on the network gets more questions from users blocked on SO than ru.stackoverflow.com... which gets something like 3 per day. That's a hair over 1% of all questions posted there, and it includes questions that actually do well. You say you're not interested in being a "lonely warrior", but you've been pushing this line for years - based, near as I can tell, mostly on your experience dealing with sites that get a disproportionate amount of traffic from SO vs. from google or other search engines. IOW... you mistake a symptom for a cause. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 20:33
  • 1
    So you want us to "stop wasting the time of moderators" by implementing this, presupposing it'll catch some vast amount of badness being shoveled at some site by SO... But realistically, we're talking maybe 2 questions a day. This is only a vast amount of badness on a site that is on death's door, a site that is ripe for a mercy-killing rather than further investment in life-support development. Every time I dig up numbers for this, it's a headache because there are thousands upon thousands of people getting blocked on SO, and you're worried about single-digits. Get your head out of the sand. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 20:38
2

Highlight the answerer's post in the comments

This has been asked a few times in the past (most recent request here), but since that was asked in 2014, I feel it's been sufficiently long enough to bring it up again.

People use comments to question or correct an answer, and a person will often comment on their own answer to offer a counterargument. Knowing that someone wrote the answer they commented on is an important bit of context in long comment chains, and I am very surprised to find that it hasn't been implemented yet.

  • Maybe just put the user name of the person that wrote the answer and the person that wrote the question in bold. – Ian Ringrose Oct 27 '16 at 9:14
  • 2
    @IanRingrose Maybe highlight the name of the question-asker and bold the name of the answerer? I honestly don't care how it's done, as long as the answerer is immediately distinguishable from the other commenters. – chif-ii Oct 27 '16 at 14:21
  • 2
    The reason this is not implemented may be that SE wants to discourage comments in general that are not asking for clarification, and long comment chains in particular. If the answerer thinks it's important to clarify some point or offer a counterargument, it's possible to edit that into the answer. – sumelic Oct 27 '16 at 23:13
1

Make reviewing edits with Mathjax more managable

Currently, when viewing an edit where Mathjax is edited, the rendered output side-by-side diff breaks the Mathjax rendering. This is particularly annoying when reviewing edits, as the actual result after editing is unavailable.

Of course, it would be best to change the diff view to not break edited Mathjax, but a perhaps easier improvement would be to simply show the rendered output without the diff, as then the Mathjax will be rendered correctly (if the edit placed the Mathjax delimiters correctly. In fact, this is one of the hardest things to check right now!)

This is a pretty old issue and my suggestions are nothing new:

But this might be a simple improvement that would make (community) moderating easier.

0

This is going to be a very elitist* suggestion, but how about an introductory non-zappable video before asking first question:

"How to get the best out of Stackwhatever"

With concise, positive advice, which I'm not going to rehash here, I think it's been done any number of times already here on meta.

*Because it's rude to point out that the problem is that people don't read any more.

  • 4
    video is too high brow, what we really need are comics – gnat Oct 19 '16 at 11:54
  • 8
    If we could get Randall Munroe to create animated shorts that replace current how-tos, that would be ... awesome without precedent. – Raphael Oct 19 '16 at 14:28
  • 2
    Video without text alternative is not good for accessibility. – Anders Oct 25 '16 at 12:19
  • 1
    @Anders: It could be closed captioned. I do like the idea of a video, because people are more likely to engage with that. However, that's really just symptomatic of the deeper problem. The problem users don't take the time to even write good questions, and they definitely don't take the time to read the help articles or Meta. I'm not sure if enabling that "I just want to get an answer with the least work possible" mentality necessarily fixes anything. – Chris Pratt Oct 27 '16 at 18:38
0

Ability to retract reopen/delete votes

Close votes can be retracted; let's make it happen for reopen/delete votes as well.

This may resurrect an old feature request.

-1

Allow the user to mark an answer, but sort answers by the number of upvotes

While not as common as it used to be, I'll occasionally find an old question with a specified answer with a handful of upvotes. The answer after that will have Several dozen to several hundred upvotes, the next one a couple hundred, etc etc. Sometimes the accepted answer should be sorted four or five answers down. Stack Exchange is about community consensus on what is the best approach, but our most valuable resource (the first answer to a question) is picked by one individual.

Yes, the individual should have the ability to select an answer that works for them, and even the only person who should change that answer is the OP, but that doesn't mean it's actually the right answer to the question. Why does it make sense to let someone who has asked a question, showing their knowledge is lacking in the subject, control which answer is the first shown to incoming users?

  • It's just a sort order, and a trivial concern at that; the answer you're actually looking for (the most highly upvoted one) is right below the accepted one. – Robert Harvey Oct 25 '16 at 18:12
  • The OP is the only person who can accept an answer and although they can revise their decision, they never do. They're often wrong. – Tom W Oct 25 '16 at 18:13
  • 5
    @TomWL The checkmark doesn't indicate correctness. It indicates that the user chose that answer to put the checkmark on, and that's all it indicates. If it's being used correctly, the checkmark indicates the answer that solved the OP's problem. – Robert Harvey Oct 25 '16 at 18:14
  • 3
    Same suggestion – Cai Oct 25 '16 at 18:15
  • 3
    @RobertHarvey I'm fully aware that the second highest answer is the one I'm typically looking for, but SO is more often than not one of the first google hits for any user who may or may not know how SO works. While the checkmark is not indicative of correctness, to a new user, it certainly looks like it is. – Sidney Oct 25 '16 at 18:15
  • 2
    @Sidney: New users have all sorts of misconceptions about SE sites. This is just one of them. – Robert Harvey Oct 25 '16 at 18:16
-1

More statistics on each question for geeks (like me).

This is the general idea, from that idea to make it real there are many questions.

  • What level and up a user can see that statistics?
  • What statistics to show?

For example, something like

  • Views per month/day
  • Votes per day
  • Votes that gets compare with the views
  • The average score of viewer
  • The non-register viewer’s vs the register.
  • The users that see, what tags they are best on…

All that on the bottom of the question hidden somewhere in a tab.

What is the goal behind that?

Apparently on most question that statistics will mean nothing but we can see if some technology is die or continue to interesting the people on some specific questions by looking if they still view and vote about.

For sure is only very interesting for some question and not for all !

Also can be a "gift" for high score users and motivate to get points to see that stats !

  • How will this improve the quality of questions and answers? – Ian Ringrose Oct 31 '16 at 14:51
  • @IanRingrose By understanding how your question, or answer affect if affect the other users. For example, if an answer have all ready 10 views and not any vote, and after a year you have 2 more views and a vote, this is a knowledge that some one is really needed after years, but not at that time, and the opposed. Other, if most of questions have let say 10 views but in this 10 views you see that you have only 1 that have score above 10k, and you do get an answer only from him, this is also a clue. Statistics are very important to help in anything in my opinion. – Aristos Oct 31 '16 at 14:57
  • The "quality project" is about getting rid of the problem questions etc, most of these are asked by people with low rep that have no interest in how the side works. – Ian Ringrose Oct 31 '16 at 15:17
  • @IanRingrose I am not sure whether I am misunderstanding something significantly because English is only my second language (even though I started learning it at age four) but if I go back to the original question right at the top of this site I seem to arrive at a completely different interpretation of the ‘quality project’: namely that it should improve our experience, not improve the quality of questions and answers. – Jan Nov 2 '16 at 20:22
  • @Jan Isn't statistics improve our experience ? Maybe I am really geek with that.... – Aristos Nov 2 '16 at 20:59
-2

I've seen a lot of spam posts lately and earlier this week I just thought a Flag feature for users might come in handy on the user's profile.

  • 1
    You mean you want to be able to flag a userprofile for posting spam, instead of having to go over all their posts? – rene Oct 25 '16 at 19:58
  • @rene We've had profiles created entirely for spammy posts so flagging the profiles instead of flagging all the posts might be faster and easier for the admins to keep track. – Alin Oct 25 '16 at 20:03
  • 4
    I'm not sure if this would change much for the mod. A custom flag on a post can do the same trick, maybe combined with a spam flag. If you flag the profile you have to be 100% sure all posts are spam. I doubt if you want to automatically remove all posts when 6 such flags come in. – rene Oct 25 '16 at 20:13
  • Some previous posts on Meta.SO asked how to flag a user for having spam in their profile or for having an offensive avatar image. The response is usually "put a custom flag on your own post/comment and explain it well", but that isn't exactly intuitive. On the other hand, I can see people flagging users they don't like just because, creating more work for the mods. I'm not sure if the use cases justify the misuse cases. – Jeffrey Bosboom Oct 25 '16 at 21:11
  • @Jeffrey Bosboom If someone wants to flag users they don't like just because, they can do so on all their posts and even downvote, causing more harm. – Alin Oct 25 '16 at 21:32
  • 2
    @JeffreyBosboom, if you flag a user "just because", presumably that's grounds for a moderator to revoke your flag and/or site-use privileges. – Mark Oct 25 '16 at 23:59
-2

I just remembered another of mine that comes with absolutely minimal (I think) coding requirements for maximum benefit — very small buck but significant bang.

I keep cancelling my edit rejects!

The gist is: if you want to do something that has a custom text box, e.g:

  • send a custom mod flag
  • close a question for a custom reason
  • post an answer

The required keyboard shortcut after having written in that custom text box is tab → enter. This even works for posting questions: if I forgot to add tags I’ll be right in the tag bar, if I did add them it also automatically posts.

And then there is reject suggested edits, where the workflow is tab →tab→ enter. And I swear it catches me every time.

  • How this improve the content quality of SE? – Braiam Oct 28 '16 at 3:57
  • 2
    This isn't a problem with Stack Exchange, it's a problem with occasional errors in your personal workflow. Rearranging menus doesn't eliminate the problem which is that you're using shortcuts that are unconscious to create actions which require active conscious decisions. – Nij Oct 29 '16 at 1:09
  • 1
    @Nij The conscious part of the decision is typically writing up the custom reject reason. As soon as I am content with the sentence I want to get it sent away and I shouldn’t need another conscious ‘are you really, really, really sure you want to do this?’ It’s like the Linux philosophy of ‘If that person wrote rm -rf ~ then I’m going to assume it was a conscious action and do so.’ – Jan Oct 29 '16 at 13:29
  • This will not improve the quality of the content, therefore does not keep to the spec! – Ian Ringrose Oct 30 '16 at 22:48
  • It fulfils the project spec as it will improve my (and probably others’, too) Stack Exchange usage experience. – Jan Nov 2 '16 at 20:24
-3

A button to quickly/easily select all the code in a code block.

Especially useful when looking at questions to answer, whereby you want to copy the asker's code paste it into your own environment and try it out. It would save time with those code blocks that are so long that they need to show a vertical scrollbar.

I know this can be solved with user scripts etc. but still, it would be nice to have it built in to SE.

Example feature request on meta: "Select all" for code blocks

  • 2
    Since it's trivial to add this with a user script I don't think SE devs need to spend time on this. – Raphael Oct 18 '16 at 15:14
  • 2
    I'm not sure about other sites, but on SO, we don't want questions with so much code they need to show a vertical scrollbar. That's why we have the [mcve] shortcut... – Heretic Monkey Oct 18 '16 at 19:44
  • 1
    This feature would be useful in certain scenarios, but I'd prefer a more specific "copy-to-answer" function. A lot of answers involve correcting or calling attention to code in a question. Instantly copying a block of code to an answer would have the benefit of making it easier to answer a question without making it any easier to copy-paste potentially malicious code into a live environment. – Thriggle Oct 19 '16 at 14:11
-3

Identify and Provide Guidelines for Responders with Communication Issues

I really like the counselling that's automatically provided when I ask a question. Some responders, their information is sound and they mean well but they come off as needlessly rude because of their choice of language. Clearly they mean well but they could use some counselling on their communication skills.

Could warnings be incorporated into the answer posting process that identify highly emotionally charged words in a responders answer and provide suggested alternatives in the same way that the question posting provides advice when a question appears to be opinion-based?

  • 2
    There's a hard natural language processing problem there, and even if you solve that, you'll just be nagging people who are already annoyed, which seems more likely to make things worse than better. – Jeffrey Bosboom Oct 21 '16 at 2:30
  • @JeffreyBosboom no harder than the current method used on questions. – empty Oct 21 '16 at 15:49
-3

New users usually start on one site, then find other sites they find interesting through the Hot Network Questions (HNQ). One problem that I have already indicated half a year ago and shouldn't exactly require be hard to fix, is the inconsistent link CSS these HNQ have across sites.

It feels like there are a dozen of different templates for this CSS, and what makes it even more confusing is that they can't agree on what form the contrast difference between :visited, :hover and plain should take. I've screenshotted 5 different sites, and each of those sites has a different take on HNQ links. One of them says :visited should be darker, one of them says it should be lighter, one of them says it should be a little bit darker (but not as much as the first site, because that would make too much sense), one of them says it should be cyan instead of the default red,... Both for new users and users that already have an expansive SE presence, this works confusing.

HNQ is one of the few page elements that can be found on every site, so users have a certain expectation of continuity when going from one site to the next through this method. Many existing users browse this network during their lunch break, at home, or while legitimately waiting for certain long-winded processes to finish. They may not be interested in a specific site and just want to read what interesting questions have been asked on sites they like to read. Many new users may find new communities they are interested in. For both use cases, consistent link CSS helps the user decide which question they want to visit next. It also can lead new users to sites they may enjoy.

I feel like we should at least consolidate the contrast across the different sites, even if we decide to not unify the CSS for the HNQ entirely. It makes no sense that going from Stack Overflow to Super User has a completely mirrored contrast for :visited compared to plain links.

  • 2
    Not sure how would this improve content quality? I know it may be annoying, but SE are looking for proposals geared towards rising the quality. – Braiam Oct 28 '16 at 14:27
  • 1
    I assumed by quality, general site quality was meant, like user experience, but now I understand it is about content quality. My bad, sorry. In honesty, my intent was partially to get an update. – Nzall Oct 28 '16 at 15:57
  • 1
    How will this improve the quality of questions and answers? – Ian Ringrose Oct 31 '16 at 14:50
  • @Braiam I am not sure whether I am misunderstanding something significantly because English is only my second language (even though I started learning it at age four) but if I go back to the original question right at the top of this site I seem to arrive at a completely different interpretation of the ‘quality project’: namely that it should improve our experience, not improve the quality of questions and answers. – Jan Nov 2 '16 at 20:22
  • @Braiam: Simple, make background-color and color the same on every site, that way no one can see the HNQ links or visit them. This will instantly raise quality on most sites, sometimes quite significantly. :P – Nathan Tuggy Nov 9 '16 at 1:54
-3

Get rid of historical locking

This is probably the most counter-quality feature Stack Exchange has come with. Like Gilles said:

What we're doing here is to frame the garbage.

The historical lock has been used for stuff that isn't "history" at all. Stuff that was deleted by the community and was kept deleted for a long time, sometimes over a year, are undeleted and locked for the dismay of the curators and quality-aware users.

Instead, promote more aggressive course of actions like editing, migrating, re-asking, re-scoping, etc. that are more desirable since nobody will have claims that the content should be deleted, and frankly, content that is available on the internet isn't lost even if SE deletes it.

-5

A queue just for new questions from new users, like Help & Improvement but before the question is shown to the public.

Most new users post bad questions, without intending to. This would truly help the community out.

-5

Make the new user help available in languages other than English

A lot of users whose first language is not English use SO to ask questions. When one of those new users is confronted with a raft of new-user information in English, it's a larger barrier to entry than if it is available in their native language. Whatever we create to assist new users should be available in the languages that the surveys have identified as the most common in our community.

  • 8
    Disagree. Providing guidance in foreign languages will only serve to encourage folks to post in foreign languages... which is the opposite of improving quality. I understand the motive, but I don't think this is the right implementation. – Undo Oct 24 '16 at 22:08
  • @Undo Your concern is easily addressed if it's clear that questions and answers should be in English. – SSteve Oct 24 '16 at 22:18
  • 9
    In which case: if their English is not sufficient to read guidelines, how is it going to be good enough to comprehend the answers to their question, or the advice on improving it? – Nij Oct 24 '16 at 22:56
  • It just seems to me that if I was a non-native speaker it would be a lot easier to read introductory material in my own language and make it more likely that I would be able to ask a good question in English. – SSteve Oct 25 '16 at 2:28
-6

Hide deleted posts by default.

This has two implications, that I can see: First, if hichris123's suggestion is implemented, it will prevent spam from even being effective against most users. Second, it is annoying to read a bunch of really good content, then to be slapped in the face by trash, or perhaps have to scroll past it to get to the bottom of the page to the answer box after reviewing a section of the question.

Put the answer box immediately beneath the question.

It would make it a lot easier to recheck something in the question while writing an answer--especially if there are a few answers or a really long answer already.

  • 13
    IMO this would encourage answerers to post without bothering to read existing answers, which IMO seems like a Bad Idea™ ...also, deleted posts are invisible to < 10K users... – Mathieu Guindon Oct 17 '16 at 21:41
  • I don't care who deleted posts are invisible too. They are visible to me, and I think it is a pain. I agree with your first point, but it would still be easier to write answers with it under the question. I'm sure some of these geniuses at SE can figure the UX issue out. – Hosch250 Oct 17 '16 at 21:45
  • It’s a priviledge you earned. You’re basically saying give me the option to remove that priviledge. – Jan Oct 19 '16 at 12:06
  • Hardly. I just want the trash hidden by default, the way posts that are marked as spam have the content hidden by default. Of course, if the button was a little smaller than the full length of the post, it would be nice. – Hosch250 Oct 19 '16 at 13:41
-6

We need a mechanism for asking the questioner a complicated question, one that supports full Markdown and can be unbounded in length.

I saw multiple proposals in here having to do with discouraging answers that are "more properly comments". This is about one scenario I've found myself in, repeatedly, where it was impossible to ask the question I needed to ask in the form of a comment. A nice, clear example is Bin data read differently in AIX vs Linux; look particularly at the revision history of my answer, https://stackoverflow.com/posts/38576285/revisions, which started out as a request for the OP to run a test program. Test programs can't go in the comment box, unless they're shell one-liners, and even then it can get awkward.

  • 8
    I think a question that requires a long follow-up question is not ready to be on SE. Whiteboard, email or blog-post discussion is needed. – Raphael Oct 18 '16 at 15:12
  • 6
    @Raphael They happen. We have to deal with them. – zwol Oct 18 '16 at 15:53
  • 8
    Vote to close, and leave a comment linking to a gist with your test program. Or invite the author to chat. But if you need to do this back-and-forth for a question, then you also need to vote to close, not answer. – Josh Caswell Oct 18 '16 at 16:49
  • @JoshCaswell I see where you're coming from on that, but I think that in the current state of play, having one's question closed equates to "fuck off and never bother us again" in the eyes of most new posters, and therefore I only do it to questions that are completely unsalvageable. I think that a mechanism like the one I suggested is a prerequisite for question closing not being a slap in the face. – zwol Oct 18 '16 at 17:10
  • If the OP is put off by the closure and does not even read the comment inviting them to discussion elsewhere, I don't think I want to interact with that person. – Raphael Oct 18 '16 at 22:14
  • 14
    My initial reaction here was to shudder - "oh great, full program listings in comments". Then I thought... This actually happens, today - in chat. Yes, believe it or not, chat is pretty effective for "interactive" Q&A, and supports posting extremely large blocks of code in a single message (they show up collapsed, so not nearly so disruptive as a comment would be). Giving folks a way to start a chat with an asker (without making it seem quite so like dragging them into a dark alley for nefarious purposes) could solve this problem. – Shog9 Oct 19 '16 at 0:21
  • 3
    @Shog9 I'd like that a lot. It's unnecessarily hard to start (not lead) a conversation on SE. – Raphael Oct 19 '16 at 14:26
  • I refuse to use chat, because I see the mere existence of chat as a major contributing factor to the misguided and harmful belief that comments should be ephemeral. I'd support a new mechanism for having a synchronous, interactive conversation directly with a questioner - strictly one-on-one, to prevent other people jumping in with unhelpful kibitzing - which, after completion, would be permanently recorded with the question. – zwol Oct 19 '16 at 16:07
  • 5
    Oh, don't worry @zwol - we considered comments ephemeral long before chat existed. Heck, they used to be hard deleted, and for years not even moderators could see deleted comments much less undelete or move them to chat. If anything, chat is pushing the notion that we should keep these little things around... – Shog9 Oct 20 '16 at 23:10
  • @Shog9: I think we need better ways to move conversations into chat. The current way (waiting for a suggestive link) is fickle, unpredictable and doesn't actually move the comments. For users at a certain rep level, I would support making that "move conversation to chat" link continuously available, rather than having to wait for it to appear. High-rep users also need a way to marshal sub 20-rep users into a chat room. – Robert Harvey Oct 25 '16 at 20:08
  • @Shog9 That's nice and all, but chat conversations don't show up in site searches, aren't visible from a user profile, and most importantly, do not appear next to the question or answer that they should have remained permanently associated with. Until all of those things are fixed chat will remain a misfeature. And there's probably a bunch of other problems that I'm not aware of since I never use the thing. – zwol Oct 26 '16 at 0:50
  • @zwol oh, they actually are, that's one of the reasons why SF folks moved to a private chat. They are public and indexed. – Braiam Oct 29 '16 at 1:42
  • @Braiam External searchability is a feeble workaround at best. – zwol Oct 29 '16 at 2:09
  • @zwol are you aware that some ~95% of all the traffic ever see comes from search engines? BTW, chat also has its own search. From my point of view, it seems that you are frankly uninformed about the characteristics of the site and taking an uninformed standpoint about a very important issue. I recommend you to research more, much more than what you know now. – Braiam Oct 29 '16 at 2:12
-6

I would like to request that when marking a duplicate, if your answer is better than the duplicate, leave yours and punish the lesser quality one instead. I am asking that duplicates be marked based on quality not timestamp as that should improve the overall quality of SE as an information source.

  • 3
    What do you mean by "punish"? Downvote? If so, why? – Werner Oct 20 '16 at 16:35
  • 9
    "I am asking that duplicates be marked based on quality not timestamp" That's already the guidance- Close the worse question/question with worse answers as duplicate of the better. Timestamp is supposed to be irrelevant to which should be closed, unless you feel it's a tie in quality and decide to close the newer one then. – Kendra Oct 20 '16 at 16:53
  • in my experience, I have created an awesome question far better than the duplicate and it is gang closed within 5 minutes... – dalearn Oct 20 '16 at 16:58
  • 3
    @dalearn, so post on the appropriate site meta, and a moderator can reverse the direction of the "duplicate" marking. – Mark Oct 20 '16 at 19:51
  • 1
    @dalearn I presume you're talking about this question. Thats not better then the duplicate, thats barely even on topic. – mag Oct 21 '16 at 12:57
  • i was NOT talking about that one... (I admit that it is a very bad question although I dispute that it is a duplicate because the other question did not fix my problem) No, I am talking about like 3 or 4 questions that I deleted... – dalearn Oct 21 '16 at 15:46
  • 1
    @dalearn Questions that are closed as duplicates are still visible to others and therefore potentially helpful. Deleted questions are not (except to 10K users). If you think your closed question is better than the original, please do not delete it. – Kyle Strand Oct 23 '16 at 16:25
-10

I haven't contributed much to SE sites, but as someone who frequently browses them (particularly programming questions on SO and SU), I often find questions that have been locked even though they contain useful information and are featured prominently in web search results.

Two particularly common occurrences that confuse me:

  • Questions that are "too general"

    I often come to these when I'm looking up a topic that I'm not already familiar with, so I don't know the specific vocabulary to search for. While these don't always answer my question, they usually have enough info to point me in the right direction and allow me to search for my more specific issue.

  • Questions that are soliciting opinions, not facts

    Something like a question about code architecture. There's seldom one correct architecture to use; there's a number of different models, each with pros and cons. That's an inherently subjective question, but getting people's opinions helps me form my own, and gives me a starting point to go look for more info.


In addition to getting useful information, I could see myself asking a question like that, and then being confused and put off by it being closed.

  • 1
    The problem with broad questions is that it's quite inconvenient to maintain them in a strict Q&A format. – dorukayhan Oct 17 '16 at 19:04
  • 17
    The usefulness of these questions is why they are locked, and not deleted. That's also why the banner says that they are not to be imitated by new questions. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 17 '16 at 19:16
  • 3
    Do you have a specific proposal here? You're describing a situation that (I guess?) you personally don't like, but you're not explaining what broad effect you think it has or what should be done. (And I'll also point out that "these broad questions are the best thing and should be encouraged" is an viewpoint that's been well-hashed out: see, e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/110350 meta.stackexchange.com/questions/92980 and check out the "Linked" sidebar on both of those.) – Josh Caswell Oct 17 '16 at 19:37
  • 3
    Also note that the downvotes on this answer have little to nothing to do with its quality - on Meta, upvotes and downvotes indicate agreement and disagreement (like "yeah we should do this" and "I think doing this is a bad idea"). – dorukayhan Oct 17 '16 at 22:21
  • Heh... maybe we need an "opinions.stackexchange.com" site – Thriggle Oct 19 '16 at 14:13
  • 1
    I don't have any particular proposal, I just wanted to share my experience to help inform whatever proposals people do come up with. @dorukayhan, thanks for the tip, I wouldn't have known that otherwise. – Julian Delphiki Oct 20 '16 at 13:24
-11

Let's give newcomers a little slack

(especially on meta)

Enter image description here Because feeling humiliated online is never "fun".

This is especially true for first-time users on Stack Exchange, and when they post their first contributions. If the question is "bad" because it doesn't meet with standards set out by the site; then, yes, responsible users need to express that by downvoting. Likewise for answers.

But I would suggest that if there are no upvotes, then the number of downvotes be limited to ten, i.e.; -10. This limit would be for newly subscribed users posting their first ever answer and/or first question.

If it is possible to block the number of downvotes to five (-5) without affecting spam flags and spam downvotes, even better. Any following downvotes would be hidden, unless an upvote is cast.

For example, newcomer UserXYZ posts a question on meta and ten downvotes are cast, one after the other. The display only shows -5, if six upvotes are cast the number on display will now show -4 and any votes cast after that will be counted.

Why rub salt into a wound when it's bleeding?

Yes, the user could delete their answer, and recoup the lost reputation points, and a question may be closed, so new answers cannot be added, but that sense of humiliation and impotence will stick. Additionally, if that question has received one or more upvoted answers the hapless user is unable to delete their question.

Besides, after the first ten downvotes, how constructive were the next 18 downvotes?

UPDATE

Here's a perfect example of a user (a newcomer on meta?) whose proposal, and consequent attempts to delete their request, got repeatedly downvoted, it now stands at -40

A new reputation value based on Open Source Software (OSS) financial support

If the number of downvotes had been blocked at, say -10, the user's pride would have been hurt, but he wouldn't have been humiliated. Yes. I know. He defaced his posts, and attempted to delete it several times; but he couldn't because more than one user had posted an answer. Weren't the negative response in the comments (I'm making the assumption that many of the earlier comments were deleted because the exchange begins abruptly) and the downvotes more than enough?

@_____ not disagreement, but I've lost 40 rep points, and this looks as I did something really bad. that kind of down votes number should get an offensive or racist post. If my post is so offensive to moderators then allow me to delete it

The excessive number of downvotes, the non intervention of any mod whose role should also be one of guidance, the posting of quasi duplicate answers that means an OP cannot delete their post, the resulting defacements, all of this is deplorable behaviour. So maybe, just maybe, if the number of downvotes had remained fixed at -10 (here on meta) the OP would have had had the time to reflect, and reconsider either editing their request, or deleting it altogether.

What kind of first time experience is this? What kind of impression is this user leaving with?

  • 2
    Are the votes still counted but just hidden? What happens for example if a post would have got 48 downvotes and 10 upvotes? Since the downvotes are limited to 10, is it now at a net of 0? – Cai Oct 21 '16 at 12:21
  • 2
    And is it 'okay' to downvote a regular user to -28? Where is the line drawn? – Patrick Hofman Oct 21 '16 at 12:24
  • 3
    Do they call the match off in that situation? Invalidate any further goals? No. – Cai Oct 21 '16 at 12:39
  • 2
    I'm not saying your idea doesn't have any merit and I completely agree with the sentiment. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't, I honestly don't know. I'm just voicing my problems with the idea. – Cai Oct 21 '16 at 12:41
  • 4
    In the past 30 days, about 0.09% of all posts on Stack Overflow scored -10 or below; that includes deleted posts like stackoverflow.com/questions/39887539/… – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 14:47
  • 7
    Once you get down to -4, questions no longer appear on the homepage; answers start being greyed out at -3, and questions are eligible for immediate deletion after being closed. As such, we see a pretty big spike at -3 - almost 3% of posts in the past 30 days achieved a score of -3 or less (stack overflow only still - % is lower elsewhere). My point is, if you want to have a noticeable effect, -10 is too low; the vast, vast majority of new folks who get downvoted never reach such depths (you'd mostly be benefiting trolls and spammers, who don't really care anyway). – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 14:53
  • 2
    All that said, there is precedent for simply hiding negative scores: we do this during elections, for candidates during the primary phase. You can hit -30, but your displayed score will still display as 0; it will stay 0 until your actual score hits at least +1, but the idea is that you're not being discouraged and - perhaps more importantly - folks aren't being encouraged to pile on downvotes before reading what you have to say. Such behavior may be extremely harmful when it comes to answers (if I see a bad answer, I must know that before trying it), but could work for questions. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 14:59
  • 4
    I don't follow your logic, @Mari-LouA: you note that even spam routinely gets deleted before it reaches your proposed threshold, which is true - as I noted earlier, -8 is exceedingly rare, and contains in quantity - at least on main sites - some truly awful stuff. So what are we protecting by setting the bar that low? As for downvotes and "nice"... Please see: blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/08/… – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 17:29
  • 4
    And what I'm getting at is that we could alter how post scores are displayed without breaking anything, @Mari-LouA. Spam still disappears with 6 flags, but appears to have a score of 0 right up until deletion; lousy questions drop off the homepage at -4, but still appear to have a score of 0. Heck, we could even do this only for the authors of the posts themselves, and get rid of the distraction (and often counter-productive feelings of rage at seeing their work rejected) while still warning other readers that they may wish to look elsewhere... IOW, attack the perception, not the system. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 18:02
  • 3
    How can you be beat? The suggestion isn't even sitting at -8 yet. ;-) You've spent half a day defending this idea, and gotten a fair bit of feedback... Well, work with it! That's how things get done. – Shog9 Oct 21 '16 at 22:50
  • 2
    "Did you do a better job once you got to know the site better?" Sure, but did I ever get downvoted as I posted crap without looking around? Of course not. And nowadays the communities have so much hints and limitations in place, I feel it's even difficult to post something that attracts many downvotes. – Arjan Oct 23 '16 at 12:33
  • 4
    I appreciate your efforts to be nice; that's always good. That said, no new-comer is required to use these sites. I feel it's a waste of development time to make things even easier for newcomers who manage to attract a lot of downvotes. For me, the only reason to make it even easier for them is to ensure existing members who're actively helping are not driven away. – Arjan Oct 23 '16 at 12:45
  • 3
    There's a fundamental problem with this proposal: how would it improve quality? – Braiam Oct 25 '16 at 10:03
  • 5
    @Mari-LouA how about not killing the experts that able to answer the questions in the process? – Braiam Oct 25 '16 at 11:39
  • 13
    @Mari-LouA No problem with that. The goal is not to increase membership or give a positive first impression for askers, its to build a high quality QA site. These are two different goals. – mag Oct 25 '16 at 12:02

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