It seems that question quality declines when native english speakers go to sleep. There are many 1 rep and/or help vampire accounts that seem to hurt the overall quality of SO. I know this question has been discussed, but I have an idea that I think may help if only a little.

I propose that users below a certain rep threshold or below a certain accept ratio and rep threshold be shown links to their respective documentation libraries next to the "ask" button.

I believe that this may prevent low quality questions like this one (see original version, user has low rep and a low accept ratio) to which the answer is "Read the documentation on X [link]". this certainly won't help make questions more readable but it has the potential to preempt many "RTFM" questions which would be asked as low quality questions.

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    How would the system detect "their respective documentations"? – Grace Note Feb 7 '11 at 13:43
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    I don't think there are many 8 hour windows that don't include an English-speaking country. – Kevin Stembridge Feb 7 '11 at 13:45
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    @Kevin I was being politically correct. There are certain countries that tend to produce low quality questions. – Moshe Feb 7 '11 at 13:53
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    We just need a check box: "[ ] I have read my question out loud and certify that it's coherent" – Tim Post Feb 7 '11 at 13:55
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    There already is a solution to this problem: the low quality blocking mechanism that excludes askers with a consistently negative question history. What that mechanism needs to work is downvotes! Downvote crappy questions and remove the downvote if it gets improved. It is harsh and a bit unfriendly towards newbies, but it is really, really necessary. You can't fix every bad question in the world. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 7 '11 at 14:00
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    When you guys in the US go to sleep, many of us in the UK get up shortly afterwards.. we speak English too! – berry120 Feb 7 '11 at 14:15
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    @Moshe, how exactly do you judge the quality of a question? Isn't it a relative attribute. – Devendra D. Chavan Feb 7 '11 at 14:59
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    As @berry120 has noted, the civilised world is not entirely contained within the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. of A. (Incidentally, I feel there are a lot of low-quality questions in [php] around 10AM EST, should we try and limit the 'merkins? ;)) – Piskvor Feb 7 '11 at 15:09
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    What do we do about questions such as this one? It meets none of the OP's own criteria (US timezone, high rep, high accept rate) and is yet far lower in 'quality' than some of the most 'document-answerable' questions I've seen on SO. Self-proclaimed skills at "political correctness" haven't helped much either. – Ani Feb 7 '11 at 17:32
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    @Ani - I apologize if I've offended you. I was proposing a solution to a problem. I apologize if we disagree. That is what votes are for. Have a wonderful day. – Moshe Feb 7 '11 at 17:41
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    I agree this is not a good idea, but I would be a bit more careful with accusations of racism. @Piskvor – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 8 '11 at 12:29
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    @Pekka: See first revision, cf these comments: "I don't think there are many 8 hour windows that don't include an English-speaking country. " "I was being politically correct. There are certain countries that tend to produce low quality questions. – Moshe "; now, what countries are there that would fit the descriptions? I think that the OP did everything just short of naming a specific country, hence my understanding of the core of the question; sorry if that offended you. The point is moot anyway as current revision is an entirely different question. – Piskvor Feb 8 '11 at 13:02
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    @Lance Roberts: Well, I don't really care what @Moshe thinks of coders of other parts of the world, and I don't think he intended it as any sort of racism. My main issue was with this: "$we_some_arbitrary_group should be first-class SO users, let's make the site harder to use when we are asleep", which IMNSHO is a recipe for disaster. Note that the question is very different from rev.1, and in its current form I would neither 1) downvote nor 2) argue about it. (Anyway, this is turning into a pointless "he-said-she-said" flamewar, Piskvor out.) – Piskvor Feb 8 '11 at 17:47
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    @Piskvor, I don't agree with the proposal either, I just don't want to see the 'race' card pulled out. – Lance Roberts Feb 8 '11 at 18:15
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    Anybody reading this far that read and commented on the original iter, if your complaint / retort no longer applies to the as written question, delete it, so we can keep the conversation here on track? – jcolebrand Feb 8 '11 at 22:49

The pattern does exist - I see it in the PHP and HTML tags every day, too. But it's not a good thing to start imposing restrictions based on time zones or countries.

Also and more importantly, many many "let's link users to documentation so they don't ask bad questions" suggestions have been discussed and rejected already, mainly on the grounds that help vampires won't read them anyway.

  • I disagree. I happen to be afk now, so I can't easily but I've had accepted answers which essentially just linked documentation. I think that the poor English skills keep them from seeing the documentation. These people don't know about it. – Moshe Feb 7 '11 at 13:51
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    @Moshe still, that's not the point. Most of them will ask the question anyway, no matter what they are shown prior to it. A help vampire will as a rule not read the FAQ, nor follow any links. They will ask their question no matter what. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 7 '11 at 13:52
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    I agree. Those that would read the documentation would naturally ask better questions to begin with. We're dealing with people that simply don't read. – Tim Post Feb 7 '11 at 13:55

The low quality flag works as intended for this, at least for questions. Many of those flags results in edits that drastically improve the question, or removal of questions that simply can't be salvaged.

Answers, in my opinion are more difficult to deal with. It's much easier to edit a question while preserving the author's intent than it is to edit an answer.

I've noticed that the "text message" style posts tend to come from younger users, regardless of location.

I'd be all for filters that trigger a "Your post might not be as clear as you intended, have you read it out loud?" message, but codifying something like that would probably be more expensive than it's worth.

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    I think we're all a bit delusional when it comes to those filters; these people aren't writing "cn u solve prblm with codez?" because they're unaware it's illegible, they're writing it because they don't care or are unable to write it clearly, and either way yet another "you're doing it wrong" banner won't help – Michael Mrozek Feb 7 '11 at 15:06
  • @Michael - Perhaps it is a little overly optimistic. Still, I think the best way to deal with low quality is not to accept low quality. The flagging system does this, to a degree. I was also being "nice" in the suggested alert text. – Tim Post Feb 7 '11 at 15:35
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    @Michael Mrozek: Sometimes, such outbursts of uncoordinated keyboard pounding (or "txtspk", as it's called) make me wonder how that guy's research is progressing: bash.org/?4281 ;) – Piskvor Feb 7 '11 at 16:11
  • Thanks for taking the time to answer. I am not talking about txtspk, I am talking about poorly spelled English. There is a difference. – Moshe Feb 8 '11 at 15:19
  • @Moshe - I'll agree that a filter (for either case) might indeed create more problems than it actually solves. After spending some time investigating making one, problems really started popping out. – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 15:35
  1. There's a technical fix for stupidity. There isn't.
  2. That the system can dynamically automatically add the right link to the specific documentation that user requires based on something they typed. Think of the overhead associated with upkeep on that many FAQs/Manuals and the number of revisions to whatever codebase and the fact that it can't be dynamic but has to be maintained.
  3. People are lazy. You're suggesting a non-lazy approach. The best devs are intelligently-lazy (ask on P.SE if you don't believe me, I'll even give you the right question).
  • 1. We can at least try. After seeing a link to the official documentation, they may try to read it next time. 2. We just need to maintain links for the documentation for the most popular tags. MSDN, Apple, java, PHP, Ruby and a few others. 3. Well, I can't argue with that one. :-) – Moshe Feb 8 '11 at 15:38
  • 1. No, that's what moderation tools like editing and voting and closing are for. 2. No, you can never convince me shy of you personally setting up and maintaining a userscript for this that that's accurate. If my question is for asp:TextBox but what I really needed to use was asp:DropDownList then you can't ever point me to the right answer algorithmically, doubly so if the question is about EF and I ask about ADO.NET in the tags. 3. I know. – jcolebrand Feb 8 '11 at 15:43
  • I just meant that there should be a link to the general documentation, perhaps a search for the specified term in the docs. I didn't mean a specific, per object link. – Moshe Feb 8 '11 at 19:44
  • I know you didn't mean a specific, per object link ... welcome to the world of feature specification. What exactly do you envision as the thing that you want to work? Show us, don't just complain about it. Build us a proposal for the chatroom, we'll install it and test it and help you out. I'll even find you good questions for test-cases. build us the proposal, don't bring us a generic hand wavey problem ~ you'll be surprised how much faster you'll get positive feedback. – jcolebrand Feb 8 '11 at 20:35

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