As a moderator at Psychology & Neuroscience for over 6 years (a site with particularly stringent requirements on 'how to ask'), I have formed a pretty good impression of the 'typical lifetime' of questions asked by new users.

The original question almost always requires elaboration which is requested through comments and in the majority of cases attracts legitimate close votes. (It would be interesting to get some statistics on this.)

From then on, I recognize two typical paths: (1) If the OP is very receptive, the question is edited before it gathers sufficient close votes and it remains open. However, much more commonly (2):

  • The OP argues the comments are irrelevant, even though they merely express the expectations from the site. (e.g., but how can X be off topic on a site called y?)
  • Experienced users guide the user on how to: live up to site-specific guidelines (e.g., formatting, citations), make the question more specific, edit questions as a cohesive whole, etc.
  • Skepticism and feedback is interpreted as hostile. Phrasing such feedback politely only gets you that far ... (today I had a user delete his account and blame me for applying 'positive psychology')
  • The ill-phrased question starts attracting bad 'answers', or answers which become obsolete once the question is edited (sometimes resulting in 'back and forth' editing of question/answer).

... as a result, the question often ends up 'on hold', awaiting edits from the OP to address issues highlighted in the comments before it can be reopened.

Although the rephrased close reasons (I am proud to have helped introduce) are definitely a great improvement, having a question put on hold still produces many of the original negative responses I outlined before.

The suggestion

Place new questions asked by users with less than a certain amount of reputation 'on hold' by default, but make it look more welcoming than the current banner which appears for questions which are put 'on hold' (e.g., rename it as 'draft' or 'under review', change the color, etc ...). I particularly like to name it 'draft' since it very much reflects what typically happens (many subsequent edits are required). The message could state something along the lines of:

Welcome to Stack Exchange! To ensure you receive a useful answer to your question you might be asked to elaborate on specific parts through comments. You can do so at any time by clicking 'edit'. This will only be necessary in case your question leaves out important details, which would make it hard to answer your question meaningfully. If not, your draft question should be approved in no time!

Implementing this could be as straightforward as introducing a new 'draft' close reason (non-selectable when manually putting a question on hold).

"Should questions by new users have to be approved before becoming generally visible?" is related, but asks for questions to be hidden until approved. Instead, I suggest to reuse the current 'on hold' mechanism as part of which questions remain visible.

I found another suggestion which advocates restricting voting on and searchability of new questions. I do not suggest introducing such additional complexity.


I understand the concept behind being inclusive and only imposing restrictions on posts after they have been posted. This line of reasoning, however, assumes that the majority of questions asked by new users do not need intervention. My personal observations indicate the opposite: the majority of questions asked by new users do need intervention (hence also the introduction of the review queue).

Essentially, a 'on hold' by default mechanism does not prevent new users from posting. What it does do is:

  • Prevent the question from being 'answered' until certain it can be answered.
  • Align clear expectations with the OP that only questions which live up to the site guidelines are accepted.

From a psychological perspective:

  • New users seem to feel like they have every right to post the question—they know best since they are asking, so obviously it is a valid question—and when somebody doesn't like it they can move along. When a couple of high-rep users point out shortcomings it is them they blame, as opposed to the rules which govern the site. An up-front restriction (and clarification) imposed by the site would make it much more clear it is not just 'those few people commenting' they are arguing against.
  • It could inverse the negative dynamic which is created by having a question put 'on hold'. Rather than having a question be put 'on hold', having a question be 'approved' acts as a reward mechanism.


Although I listed this as a , there are several implications which would also need to be discussed. Some I can think of:

  • The review queue would need to be reshaped to approve questions, instead of putting them on hold.
  • This should not discourage expert users from commenting on questions to clarify how they should be improved.
  • The users would need some feedback to know when/if their questions is being considered to be opened. The 'reopened' votes could be recast as 'approved' votes, and I imagine it should take less than 5 votes for a question to be approved; maybe as few as 2.
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    Bonus side effect would be preventing FGITW throwing answers before questions are closed as duplicate or edited.
    – Tensibai
    Jun 18 '18 at 13:41
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    Related, possible duplicate. See my answer there. meta.stackexchange.com/q/311139/284336
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jun 18 '18 at 13:42
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    This is more or less the purpose of the Triage review on Stack Overflow. I'm not sure if it can be called a success.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Jun 18 '18 at 13:46
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    @Glorfindel Yes, same purpose, but an entirely different approach. Conceptually, the difference is the same as the difference between 'opt in' and 'opt out', which as you might have heard with all the GDPR fuss, is a big deal. Jun 18 '18 at 13:50
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    I agree with everything in this post. And I’m from a completely different corner of SE (EL&U). I honestly think this inversion will help us achieve the mythical double-header of quality and kindness that TPTB seek.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 18 '18 at 14:01
  • @Catija Interesting, but this seems more in line with the other related post I linked to. The big 'win' of the approach suggested here is that it reuses the same site mechanics that are already in place. Read: (1) less complexity for new users to learn (the close mechanic returns in their later use of the site), (2) easier to implement and maintain. In fact, the reason I posted this is because I'm using a similar mechanism on a site I'm building. :) New users post 'drafts' by default, and any post can be turned into a drafts. Jun 18 '18 at 14:02
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    While I'd certainly be on-board for this, I can't help but think this will cause a massive backlash from new users. If you think it's bad now, SE is just going to be seen as even more unwelcoming, as now perfectly good questions can't be answered until the elites review it and deem it worthy. I also suspect there will be enough users who disagree with the policy to vote to open it, regardless of actual quality.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 18 '18 at 14:03
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    I don't know about Psychology.SE, but on Stack Overflow getting a question reopened is very hard. SO is too big for this to work.
    – S.L. Barth
    Jun 18 '18 at 14:12
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    @fbueckert I believe it is difficult to compare how it could be received based on the responses we currently get as things are right now. A premise of the approach I suggest is that the responses we get right now are due to the current implemented approach. What is kinder (more welcoming), giving a kid a cookie and taking it back when they do not behave, or only giving the kid a cookie when they behave well? Jun 18 '18 at 14:12
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    @S.L.Barth There's 170+ sites that aren't SO. This is MSE, not MSO, so discounting a suggestion because it won't work on SO isn't necessarily helpful. The scale of SO makes a lot of things not work that would be really great elsewhere... that doesn't make it a bad suggestion.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jun 18 '18 at 14:15
  • @S.L.Barth 'Reopen' would not really apply here. This feature-request implies such questions would be treated differently from normal questions which are put on hold. Perhaps not technically (although I do suggest lowering the reopen vote count), but by the community. Jun 18 '18 at 14:16
  • @Catija Which is why I posted it as a comment, not as an answer.
    – S.L. Barth
    Jun 18 '18 at 14:16
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    @SOLO: Feature requests with similar purpose but meaningfully different approach (hiding vs closing) are not duplicates of each other. How else can you expect someone to suggest ideas that improve upon earlier, rejected ones? Jun 18 '18 at 14:48
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    @StevenJeuris Rather easily; compare how new users react now to their question being closed, and how much criticism is levelled at the network for adopting such a purist approach. As soon as we'd put a barrier in the way of even asking for new users, all that's going to happen is SE being written off as elitest and unwelcoming. And...I couldn't blame them. As much as I complain about new users not reading and acting entitled (which they do, a lot), there are some in the mix that try. And those are the ones I'd want to keep.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 18 '18 at 15:30

I don't think this will work, and will cause lots more harm than good. Reasons:

  • Being on hold does not stop the question from being downvoted.
  • Being on hold is big downer for many, personally if I'll see my question starts as "on hold" I'll leave such a site never to come back. It means something is wrong, I'm not good enough for the site, etc.
  • If such thing will ever take place, soon there will be popular reddit/quora posts like "The Site That Close Questions Before They're Being Asked", mocking Stack Overflow for its ultra strict rules, and this time they'll be totally right.
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    Part of the feature-request is to treat it slightly different from the 'normal' close reasons. I.e., I would rename it as 'under review' and not 'on hold', introduce a welcoming message, etc ... Only technically, it is the same. Conceptually, it is not 'on hold': it is visible, people can comment, and indeed, people can vote (just as they can now). If all goes well (it is a good question), it gets opened as fast as it currently gets put on hold, which is also not a pleasant experience. Jun 18 '18 at 14:33
  • Call it 'pending', put it up on main site and have the pending status time out after, say, 30 minutes unless upvoted earlier? While pending, voting/commenting OK, but no answers. Maybe.. Jun 18 '18 at 16:02
  • I updated the feature request to provide much more detail into how exactly this would look different from current questions which are put 'on hold'. This might clarify why I don't feel any of these arguments you raise are relevant. Jun 20 '18 at 15:22
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    @StevenJeuris no matter how you color it, it's still the same. If a question can't get any answer is doesn't matter how it's called. Having my question put automatically as "draft", "for review", etc, just because I have low rep, is highly insulting. So, I'm afraid this changes nothing in my arguments here. None of them is about the wording, they're all about the actual idea you raise. Jun 20 '18 at 19:31
  • Okay my bad. I did not get that since your answer did not state explicitely your concern was the question could not be answered while on hold/closed/draft, whatever. We clearly differ there then, indeed, since my point is exactly that the majority of first time questions can't be answered meaningfully (as also clarified in the suggested 'draft' phrasing I added). Jun 20 '18 at 20:14
  • P.s. I doubt you personally would ever classify as a first time user? 🤨 I am talking about 1 rep users here mostly that don't know what Stack Exchange is about. Jun 20 '18 at 20:22
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    @StevenJeuris well, I was a 1 rep user once... And many long time users who did not get to 200 anywhere would still be 1 rep users on all other sites. Jun 20 '18 at 21:47

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