170

Questions are the lifeblood of any Stack Exchange site. But asking good questions can be difficult, and while most people start off doing it poorly, some never get better. For years now, when sites reached traffic levels that made manual review and filtering of questions burdensome for the good folks answering them, we've enabled systems to detect and slow down the folks who weren't putting any effort into learning and improving over time:

We believe asking questions on our site is a privilege, not a right. If, after a few fair attempts, you haven’t been able to prove that your contributions to Stack Overflow make it at least … not-worse … then we reserve the right to refuse your questions. If we don’t do our part to cull the bad questions, then we risk alienating the true experts who provide what really matters: the answers!

Prior to today, these "comprehensive" checks have been enabled on only 8 sites. After much discussion and soul-searching, we've decided to enable them everywhere.

Users who encounter this block are directed to this page, which explains what that person must do to lift the block. Moderators have access to information on whether or not a given user would be blocked if they try to ask, as well as whether or not they've previously encountered the block, for those cases where it is desirable to provide one-on-one support.

What you can do to help

Quality blocks are based on each community's rating of questions and answers, therefore the most useful things you can do are:

  • if you see a great, thoughtfully asked, well researched question, vote it up — please! Great questions are an art!
  • if you see an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended question that you feel was asked in bad faith … vote it down.
  • anything in between that’s salvageable, edit it!

Don't worry about the exact details of the algorithm used for blocking - in general, it's fairly conservative as far as who or what gets blocked. On the majority of sites, this will affect few if any users in the near future. Most users will encounter rolling rate-limits and warnings long before they encounter this block.

As always, vote your conscience and encourage new members to participate constructively.

Feel free to post questions or concerns here. If you encounter problems specific to a given site, please post on that site's meta. If you encounter this block and want it lifted, read the instructions linked to in the block message.

  • 6
    asking questions on our site is a privilege, not a right perhaps maybe valuable to make something to help people who are not able to ask good questions to find a way to reach good answers. – kouty Feb 16 '17 at 21:47
  • 22
    @kouty: Unfortunately, for most actual problems, the only way to obtain a better answer is to ask a better question about it. All we can do is to guide them to it. – Wrzlprmft Feb 16 '17 at 22:01
  • 7
    Which were the 8 sites where this was enabled? Where can I find this information? – AccidentalFourierTransform Feb 16 '17 at 22:17
  • 7
    @kouty Google already solved that problem. – Servy Feb 16 '17 at 22:17
  • 6
    I'm guessing/hoping these 'quality blocks' are actually lack-of-quality blocks... – Martin James Feb 16 '17 at 22:30
  • 4
    @MartinJames Given the quality of the questions one generally comes across, perhaps not. – Servy Feb 16 '17 at 22:39
  • 26
    Does this include private beta sites? Those are still trying to define what questions are/aren't on topic. – Robert Longson Feb 16 '17 at 22:45
  • 11
    "vote it down" - Stack doesn't give us enough votes for the amount of bad questions that keep on "rolling in like oranges". We also post numerous comments in order to get clarification, to which most of the time they don't reply, so that's when the downvotes also start from. I really like upvoting, but the bad questions/answers seem to outweigh the good ones. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone on this. – Funk Forty Niner Feb 16 '17 at 23:49
  • 5
    It shouldn't be just you, @Fred. Unfortunately, a lack of downvoting has been a persistent problem for years, although the removal of the penalty for downvoting questions did make a marked improvement. This particular block is sensitive enough to have some effectiveness if there exists some downvoting and merely an absence of upvoting, which does improve matters somewhat. – Shog9 Feb 16 '17 at 23:51
  • 5
    @Shog9 "a lack of downvoting has been a persistent problem for years" - That may be because people rather not bother downvoting the bad questions/answers and rather upvote/reward the good ones. If we were to spend more votes on the bad ones, again; Stack doesn't leave us enough votes, being 50. I mostly look under the "php" and "mysql" questions, and you wouldn't believe the amount of bad Q&A's there. Then again, you might (know). – Funk Forty Niner Feb 17 '17 at 0:01
  • 2
    @Braiam I can tell you for certain that Physics did not have this block enabled prior to today. – ACuriousMind Feb 17 '17 at 0:19
  • 29
    I would also add: Don't vote up bad questions because you feel sorry the user. Upvotes are only for good quality questions. – DavidG Feb 17 '17 at 0:58
  • 7
    Sometimes I come across as closed question that hasn't even had an edit made, and see that it can be clearly edited to be brought into line with the scope of certain stacks I troll...*cough* I mean inhabit. What bugs me, is that after working the question into line, the reopen process seems to take forever. There needs to be a way to flag it for a mod after an edit is made rather than wait for regular users to vote on it, as not many people go to closed questions to look for changes... – NZKshatriya Feb 17 '17 at 3:27
  • 3
    I also still think we need to make it easier to close bad questions. Mjolnir is great, but we need more weapons in our arsenal. There was a post (can't find it right now) that asked for ideas on this, but nothing seems to have happened with that yet. Do you have any plans or something you can share? – DavidG Feb 17 '17 at 12:26
  • 2
40

Do you have any numbers available for us as to how the ban is beneficial on other sites? I'm worried that politically motivated downvoting may cause question blocks on politics.SE.

  • 57
    On the flip side, I'd be worried that politically motivated upvotes will prevent it from working properly. – Alexander O'Mara Feb 16 '17 at 22:26
  • 26
    Folks who stand to be affected by this would've already been warned in most cases; we enabled the warnings a couple years back with this outcome in mind. Only three users on Politics would be affected by this if they tried to ask today, and two of them are already suspended... So I'd consider this a non-issue there. – Shog9 Feb 16 '17 at 23:56
  • 5
    People who vote up or vote down simply due to the stance of the question, seriously shouldn't even be on the politics site..........in my opinion of course :P – NZKshatriya Feb 17 '17 at 3:29
  • 18
    @NZKshatriya We should base our algorithms on the people we have, not the ones that ought to be there. We go to war with the people we have, not the people we want. Related meta on politics.SE: meta.politics.stackexchange.com/questions/2841/… and meta.politics.stackexchange.com/questions/2894/… (which I thought was posted in response to me!) – Andrew Grimm Feb 17 '17 at 4:13
18

Do you plan to study and possibly use cross-site correlation of the quality blocks / warnings?

I mean whether bumping into the quality block at one site has a noticeable / substantial impact on chances for a user to hit it at some other site?

  • Example of possible use of such data that comes to mind: if there is a solid cross-site correlation then knowledge of a block at one site can trigger earlier warning / rate limit for this user at other sites.

Related: Stats on how attempts to circumvent Stack Overflow question blocks impact other sites

8

Ah that's great. Hopefully we can also work to improve these checks in the future (e.g. make them more strict for some specific IPs for example?).

Good job!

  • 1
    "more strict for some specific IPs" - why? – John Dvorak Feb 16 '17 at 23:05
  • 13
    Because there are users that write bad questions from shared IPs, we don't want to ban the IP, but we might want to only allow stuff we are really sure of. – Sklivvz Feb 16 '17 at 23:06
  • 4
    Yeah; we're actually tracking a fair bit of data on this already, and could/should do more with that (on Stack Overflow, a stream of bad questions from a given IP or network feeds questions into Triage faster, but could do more). – Shog9 Feb 16 '17 at 23:52
  • 1
    All I know is this will come in very handy in both Anime/Manga and Hardware Recommendations (where no one reads the scope, or how to ask a good question) – NZKshatriya Feb 17 '17 at 3:31
8

I feel like Programming Puzzles and Code Golf may struggle with this, since duplicate questions are hard to find, and duplicates usually get hammered with many downvotes and swift removal. This may affect legitimate challenge creators on PPCG.

  • 9
    If any site needs special rules here, it would be PPCG. That said, only one user is currently eligible there; I rather doubt it will be a common problem in practice. – Shog9 Feb 16 '17 at 23:58
  • @Shog9 It was very common for me to get hammered with downvotes when starting out, I think it would become a problem over time as the popularity of PPCG increases. – Dmitry Kudriavtsev Feb 16 '17 at 23:59
  • 1
    As I said, everyone starts out poorly; it's failing to improve that makes it a problem. – Shog9 Feb 17 '17 at 0:00
  • 3
    I'd say if a new user experience is commonly asking a string of duplicate questions, there's a deeper issue here, @Dmitry. Improving the searchability of questions and encouraging people to search more would go a long way. – Shog9 Feb 17 '17 at 0:03
  • 38
    If dupes are unusually hard to find on PPCG, why do they get massive downvotes, quick closure, and speedy deletion? Something about this does not add up. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 17 '17 at 0:03
  • 1
    @Shog9 That would be amazingly helpful. – Dmitry Kudriavtsev Feb 17 '17 at 0:04
  • 28
    @NathanTuggy I would suggest that many dupes on PPCG are only obvious to the users who have actually seen the duplicate question, rather than by searching. Which makes it easy for existing users to identify a dupe and comment on it (leading to more votes) but nigh-impossible for a new user to do the same regardless of how hard they search. – Bob Feb 17 '17 at 0:18
  • 1
    @Bob get better titles on questions. – Braiam Feb 17 '17 at 2:15
  • 8
    @Braiam Oh, fantastic idea.. y'know, because it's that simple ;) – Conor O'Brien Feb 17 '17 at 2:56
  • 9
    @Bob Chem.SE suffers from a loosely similar dynamic. Sometimes I know I've seen a duplicate of a question before on the site, and it's pretty easy for me to track down in search. Others make me go, hunh, I have to imagine someone's asked this before..., but when I try to hunt down a dupe nothing really turns up. Then, another user on the site links bam-bam to a solid dupe, which they knew about b/c they had been involved with it. – hBy2Py Feb 17 '17 at 3:54
  • 10
    @hBy2Py Yea, to be honest, that applies to most sites (e.g. Super User). But I think PPCG, puzzling, etc., has it worse if only because of the sheer number of different ways to word otherwise-identical problems. – Bob Feb 17 '17 at 4:55
  • 7
    Well written duplicates on PPCG sometimes get closed quickly (although not always, and they're sometimes reopened), but they don't get hammered with downvotes. Off the top of my head, the only questions which end up below -3 are "Do my homework"-style ones. If you see a well-written question taking a hammering merely for being a duplicate, raise it on PPCG meta. – Peter Taylor Feb 17 '17 at 13:55
  • 4
    @PeterTaylor "Do this incredibly trivial task" challenges also get downvoted, but how many downvotes they receive seems to depend on the alignment of the planets more than the challenge content. – user307833 Feb 17 '17 at 14:02
  • 2
    Just to clarify about PPCG: it's often almost impossible to find a duplicate except from memory (i.e. "I remember seeing a question about that", then you search, e.g., part of an answer to the question you remember), but in such cases, the duplicate question tends to get closed and upvoted, rather than downvoted. It's certainly common for a question to get a large number of downvotes early, but that's typically due to triviality/uninterestingness. (In general, PPCG questions require a lot more effort into them than questions on most sites, so question blocks are likely a good thing there.) – ais523 Feb 17 '17 at 15:55
  • 3
    I strongly disagree. I think this is a great thing for PPCG, and it seems to me like duplicate questions are downvoted only when it's already a low quality question in addition to being a duplicate. I think high-quality challenges that just so happen to be a duplicate also are generally pretty well received. – DJMcMayhem Feb 17 '17 at 17:46
7

Is this the question ban for new users, as has been present on Stack Overflow for years, or does this also entail a warning or even blockage for older users, whose question quality dropped recently?

As an example: I know of a user with way more than 10k reputation, who earned that on a few questions back in '09 which have been voted on several hundreds of times, but asks very unclear questions as of late. Most of their recent questions get closed within a day, but they won't get banned/blocked due to their reputation.

  • 1
    Actually, Eventually they will be questioned banned, but if they are asking that many bad questions, time for a moderator to get involved – Ramhound Feb 17 '17 at 13:33
  • 2
    @Ramhound they'll never get banned, as they still get the occasional upvote on their very old questions, so the aggregate vote count per time for them is around 0. I already modflagged them more than once, not much mods can (or will?) do according to their feedback. – Adriaan Feb 17 '17 at 13:57
  • 3
    @Ramhound a reliable stream of mediocre questions (mostly crap, with a few acceptable ones inserted) won't trigger any low-quality mechanisms. And then we have users who keep asking questions like this, then bounty them when they don't get answered, which causes (a) stray upvotes from clueless users due to the question being featured and (b) protection from close votes for a week. On smaller tags this can be a visible issue, and not just a hypothetical. – Andras Deak Feb 17 '17 at 15:01
  • @Adriaan Continue to vote and flag, it will make a difference, it might just take time – Ramhound Feb 17 '17 at 18:18
  • @AndrasDeak A bounty doesn't prevent a moderator from closing the question – Ramhound Feb 17 '17 at 18:19
  • @Ramhound that is correct, however moderators are very reluctant to actually close off-topic/too broad questions with bounties on them, especially in small specific tags where the mod might not have domain knowledge. My previous comment is based entirely on experience, based on questions in the [matlab] tag of Stack Overflow. – Andras Deak Feb 17 '17 at 18:41
  • @Adriaan Mods can suspend users if they make low quality "contributions" and don't get caught by automated quality filters. – user8397947 Feb 17 '17 at 20:09
  • 1
    @dorukayhan they can, but usually won't; at least not in case the user in question has 30k reputation gained along the years (and from past not-so-low-quality contributions). What we'd need is some kind of windowing: consider the last 6 months of the user's contributions, or something. – Andras Deak Feb 17 '17 at 21:15
7

Sounds good! Two questions:

  1. Is the "see the Help Center" link supposed to take to the Help Center? It seems to point to the page itself.

  2. Is it possible to get some site-specific content on that question ban page? At the moment the page itself and the linked "how to ask" page are not editable by the moderators. If there are site-specific typical issues with bad questions, it would be good address them on that page. Maybe add a section for site-specific remarks? (For example, at Latin.SE we might want to add: "Have you checked an online Latin dictionary before asking translation questions?")

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .