Possible Duplicates:
How to improve quality of SO questions/answers?
Can we prevent some of the low-quality questions from entering our system?

All of us who have spent some time here has probably seen questions where your first instinct is to just run for cover, because you know there is no way the question can lead to anything good.

It is not uncommon for students to publish ill-formed questions copied from assignments, or novice 'developers' to publish questions without context or any understanding of the subject at hand.

Personally, I gain little from trying to lure out more information, identify the context, or from trying to clarify any ambiguity present in the original questions. But this does not mean that I would not like to answer a coherent question.

So, my question is this; how could the 'Ask Question' process be improved in order to raise the quality of the questions asked?

How could SO bring to the posters attention

  • the need for context
  • why ambiguities must be resolved
  • why grammar matters

, or perhaps how one should in general phrase questions?

Communicating knowledge is not all about answering questions - it is just as much about having the correct questions to answer in the first hand.
Questions like "how i can haz websrvice for db????" really doesn't make me want to answer anyhing...

  • 18
    One way of keeping the quality of questions high is to close questions which are asked on the wrong site, migrating them appropriately...
    – Jon Skeet
    Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39
  • Shouldn't this be in e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11938/…
    – Erik
    Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39
  • 1
    Possibly have questions asked in the right place? I think this kind of question might belong in Meta. Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39
  • Should be on meta.stackoverflow.com - I flagged it for you.
    – Aurum Aquila
    Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39
  • Maybe better results could be obtained if experienced stackoverflowers would be more strict: more post flags, vote down, comments explaining to OP what's the problem with his or her post and so on.
    – Paolo
    Mar 14, 2011 at 10:44
  • Haha, I totally deserved that (the migration) :) Mar 14, 2011 at 10:49
  • 5
    First step is to permaban all Android and iPhone app devs. [closes bomb shelter door]
    – user1228
    Mar 14, 2011 at 13:35
  • This is not an exact duplicate of neither of the linked questions: one is about changing the rep system, the other about auto-filtering whereas this is about the ask-question page. Mar 14, 2011 at 15:59

5 Answers 5


So, my question is this; how could the 'Ask Question' process be improved in order to raise the quality of the questions asked?

In my opinion, it can't. Those who are going to ask a bad question, are going to ignore FAQ links, "I have read this" confirmations, Jon Skeet's great post about it, and any and all other encouragements to ask a good question.

The only solution is to downvote contributions from persistently bad question askers so the bad question user block system can kick in.

  • 1
    I agree - but this does mean that a sufficient amount of users will have to this. Also, the downvote/flagging system should be more in tune with this behavior - I believe that for most users, the intended behavior of the downvote button is unclear. Should I really downvote any question 'not useful' (by whom's definition?) ? Mar 14, 2011 at 10:56

People don't read anything before posting. Of course some are reading the instructions/tips but it's tiny part, I don't even want to take a guess how many in percentage.

So, no matter what we put in the 'Ask Question' process, it won't do any good in most cases.

Personally I think the only way to improve the quality of the questions asked is to do it ourselves.. edit poor questions and fix both grammar and logic if we're sure enough we understand the real question.

For example "how i can haz websrvice for db????" can be easily edited to:
"How can I write a Web Service that read from database?"

People sometimes don't know how to ask, so why not help them and give a hand? :-)

  • 1
    That might be, but even your edited question lacks the needed context for producing the right answer, and not just a answer. Mar 14, 2011 at 11:27
  • 1
    @Sean agreed, but that's what we have comments for and if we see someone who consistently ignore such comments and keep asking without enough details, time for the downvote/close axes. Mar 14, 2011 at 11:59

Everyone should be forced to read Jon Skeet's 'Writing the perfect question' blog post before being allowed to write their first question.

  • 4
    Exactly, making people read long texts is the PERFECT way to influence people. Windows pirating stopped completely when the EULA appeared in the setup.
    – Andomar
    Mar 14, 2011 at 10:59
  • It's nice that you share the OP's sentiment -- I do, too -- but this would be impossible to enforce, so it's not really an answer.
    – Pops
    Mar 14, 2011 at 14:38

Couple of ideas:

Tags: Maybe some of the tags could be grouped into essential groups, such as OS, language or version, so that a question has to have certain of these. At least that would help with context.

Code: Possibly a warning if a question is posted with no code blocks, as it would be unusual that a question would be complete without any sample code.

Downvote without penalty: If there are enough downvotes on a question (say 4), possibly the downvotes should note be penalised for doing so, this would encourage downvoting really bad questions without stoping the deterent for pettiness with downvoting otherwise.

  • your last point sounds like supporting the "kick 'em when they're down" attitude... if downvotes should be free then unconditionally. Or become even more expensive at some point Mar 14, 2011 at 14:55

I have a few suggestions:

  • In accordance with Jeff's blog post about designing forms put the guidelines in your face, specifically into the question text box. This means that to ask a question you have to select them and delete them, making it harder to ignore.
  • Show the tag resumes in the tag selection combo box. This will make it easy to disambiguate tags and provide for easier tagging.
  • Improve the duplicate search feature to actually work.
  • Autodetect common problems and offer short comment like suggestions on improving the questions (I'd love to see something like "In English we spell I with a capital letter I, consider revising your question").

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