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.
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 feature-request, 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.