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How to review? Can we agree on a review 'policy'?

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Can we agree on a review 'policy'?

This is a proposed reference question / help page / tutorial or mentoring advises for help vampires. (This remark will be redacted once it's done.)

Idea came up in here: It's OK to just downvote & flag help vampires
The topic is similar to: How do I write a good title?
If you know similar duplicates, please add. Search failed me.

There exists the "How to Ask" guide at https://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask - which all newcomers see once when they sign up. It doesn't address the issue at hand, because it's too unspecifc to serve as useful reminder link in comments, or as advise on how to improve questions.

Sample comments with help links

But the goal here is to have a more diverse pool of newcomer advises in a terse format. The gimmick is readymade Markdown text containing a self-referential link, so each answer teaser can be used as-is in comments or for generic answers. Simplifying linking here eases helping newcomers.

Some of the help texts might just be nicer explanations of the very crude closevoting reasons. Others should cover the typical failures to compose a coherent or understandable question. (We cannot solve these problems, but a bit of advising is appropriate.)

Possible topics

  • Not a native English speaker, how can I write better questions?
  • You need to give more details in your question.
  • Why nobody answer my (...)
  • Write a better title to get more help. (just link to existing HOWTO)
  • ...
  • Your question topic is too broad.
  • The code formatting is wrong. (short advise and link)
  • Help me with problem. Plzsendtehcodez.
  • Why was my question marked off-topic? Does it belong elsewhere?
  • ...

Note how the question title can reflect how the noob might write it, or be an more elaborate explanation of the typical closevote reasons.

Proposed format

For ultimate usefulness, the explaination should be terse, maybe in key points. It should be preceeded by a title, and a readily usable Markdown text (in citation or source code style).

> Your question is too bread. See \[here](meta.so/122774#129404)
> how to make it better.

Refining a broad question

You should break up your question parts:
- bli
- bla
- blu


  • Moderator attention: this must be community wiki.
  • Comments are allowed, but shall be purged regularily to keep everything in compact help form.
  • Please prefer editing answers over commenting. (Except for now. Still composing anyway.)
  • 3
    Any reason why the link to asking help » (as shown when asking a question; see its related column too!) and the EULA for new users, are not sufficient?
    – Arjan
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:46
  • 3
    Likewise, Jon Skeet's tinyurl.com/so-hints is fairly canonical. Jan 19, 2011 at 22:47
  • Can you even enforce that second note? >_>
    – Brandon
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:48
  • @Arjan: Well yes, it exists. It seemingly doesn't stop people from asking bad questions. Hence this mini repository of easily linkable reminders.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:49
  • @middaparka: Big fail. Too much text. Our help vampires will not bother to read it. (Excellent source nevertheless. It can be curtailed down to the intended target group.)
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:49
  • @Arjan, I meant mario's second note, about purging peoples comments regularly.
    – Brandon
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:50
  • 3
    @mario Help vampires tragically won't likely won't read anything. (I personally go for the "comment containing gentle chiding alongside suggested improvements for future consideration" approach, but I'm fully aware that I'm banging my head against a particularly resilient brick wall in the main.) Jan 19, 2011 at 22:51
  • @middaparka: That's the idea. I'm also going for the "comment containing gentle whatever...". But I cannot be bothered to compose a new comment on each occasion over and over again. Hence this idea of having a agreed on list of appropriate hints (with link!). You cannot force people to read stuff. But encouraging is feasible.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:53
  • @mario Hmm... don't you worry that such comments will simply fade into the background if they become too genericised? (Signal/noise and all that.) Jan 19, 2011 at 22:55
  • @Arjan: Because the link doesn't invite you to click on it, "how do I ask a good question" invites more clicks. Jan 19, 2011 at 22:57
  • But I like bread! Jan 20, 2011 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


I think there is a very deep misunderstanding here.

As you can see here:


This page is referenced:



Please don't take my word for this; try it yourself right now:

  1. Launch Google Chrome
  2. Press ctrl+shift+n or click the wrench icon and select "New Incognito Window".
  3. Navigate to http://stackoverflow.com
  4. Click "Ask Question"
  5. Watch what happens, and what you need to do to proceed.

Therefore I see no value in the above question, as what you are proposing already happens.

  • Did this one-time info solve the problem? People are posting bad questions despite being forced to click accept. They were not forced to read it, and our help vampires certainly didn't take it serious.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 22:57
  • 6
    @mario if they aren't willing to read or try, they are beyond help and need to go away. Adding more of the same isn't going to reach them, it's a waste of everyone's time. Jan 19, 2011 at 22:58
  • 3
    @mario More to the point, will your solution? I really don't see what's wrong with linking to the existing FAQ/how-to-ask, etc. pages - it'll be just as (in)effective. Jan 19, 2011 at 23:00
  • @JeffAtwood: The problem is that it doesn't filter "Help Vampire" question in it's current form as they just place them, it does filter "Duplicate Questions" though. Also, this only happens on Stack Overflow, but this is a cross-site issue. Don't compare Stack Overflow to a single site, but compare Stack Overflow to all meta sites instead, which are of equal volume. Adding a suggestion to on Google seems like a good idea. But, if you disagree, so it be... Jan 19, 2011 at 23:01
  • @middaparka: I do not want to badmouth the FAQ and how-to-ask page. If you have success with it, then that's a good comment scheme. I doubt the overgeneralized link will help.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 23:02
  • 1
    No, we need to send them away. And posting higher walls of text doesn't help things when they don't want/care to read in the first place. @mar
    – random
    Jan 19, 2011 at 23:04
  • @mario: The FAQ and how-to-ask pages (only forced on SO though) are a very good solution to this and, I don't want to badmouth them either but they still seem to leak quite some "Help Vampires". I therefore agree with the second part of @random's post, and sending them away is indeed appropriate but the problem is that they return... Jan 19, 2011 at 23:06
  • @middaparka: Just an example. I can send you a list. Anyway, do you think the FAQ mitigates the problem? Not asking for empirical evidence; just personal experience. I'm worried the current approach is failing.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 23:06
  • @mario The FAQ could quite possibly do with some tweaks, but that's besides the point - it could list the secret to eternal life, but unless it does so as an H1 in less than fifty characters most people won't read it anyway. Jan 19, 2011 at 23:10
  • @middaparka: I still don't understand why everyone is opposed to making a more digestable alternative to the FAQ. The wall of text and unspecific FAQ goes ignored because it is seldomly linked in comments. Whereas an advise and link directed at user and his problem might have a higher probability of being honored.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 23:16
  • @mario I don't think everyone's opposed - it's just that it avoids the root of the problem - users who don't make any effort. However, I personally see no harm in creating a suggested alternative/improvements to the existing pages. However, I see no value in adding another resource - it'll just dilute what's already there. Jan 19, 2011 at 23:20
  • @middaparka: We're dancing aroung the pudding here. The How-to-Ask page disclaimer has failed to solve anything. I'm not sure @Jeff plans to amend it, or how what that would change. It's definitely not helping me providing helpful comments to bad questions.
    – mario
    Jan 19, 2011 at 23:28
  • 1
    @tom "sending them away is indeed appropriate but the problem is that they return" no they don't, as long as you downvote -- we auto-ban at the IP level based on posting history, and I will ban entire IP subnets if necessary. Jan 19, 2011 at 23:33
  • 2
    @mario if it's not helping you, then you aren't linking it in your comments, or downvoting their posts for the auto-bans at the IP level. Jan 19, 2011 at 23:34
  • 1
    @TomWij: That's indeed a near identical approach. Makes this question and discussion quite redundant then. Thanks for finding that link!
    – mario
    Jan 20, 2011 at 0:34

Please have a look at Stackoverflows [How to Ask](https://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask) resources to improve your question.

Generic Answer

You probably missed the tips at https://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask on how to write answerable questions. There are other guides which will help improve the technical aspects on getting help:


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