This is pretty much a continuation of my last question: What can SO do to improve the quality of the questions asked?.

I just read a wonderful comment on CodeProject, where a self-proclaimed 'newbie' stated that he was embarrassed by other 'newbies' and their 'gimme code' followed by 'your code didn't work, why?'-behavior.

I've been trying to wrap my head around how the voting system tries to give feedback to users on unwanted behavior, but I just don't see it working as it is just to generic. The up- or down-votes of any given question really doesn't say much about the poster, and specifically, it doesn't give real constructive feedback to the posters.

This might just be me not having understood the premises of the system, but I'm wondering whether SO could benefit of a more stringent flagging mechanism and then specifically related to the behavior of the poster as I mean these can quickly be put into one of 3 categories

  • 'script-kiddie' - the typical 'givve me ur codez'-behavior
  • 'novice' - someone who's questions show that they have taken a structured approach to solving the given problem, they have done their due diligence and truly need help
  • 'researcher' - those who clearly does have knowledge within the field in question, but where the question is very advanced or even esoteric

These can again be divided into a wanted and an unwanted behavior (the first is obviously unwanted and feedback should be given to state so) and I'm wondering if SO would benefit from a "mark as 'script-kiddie'"-button where x votes triggers a canned feedback, and perhaps even some restrictions related to posting.

If restrictions are imposed, these (and the negative categorization) could perhaps be cleared after x-upvotes or points.

I know that negative feedback is normally shunned in place of positive feedback loops, but honestly, without being to general, I don't think most of the 'script-kiddies' really cares whether their questions get upvoted or not as long as they get the answers they want.

What say you?


Askers of bad questions are already blocked from the system once they accumulate enough downvotes. When I see a user asking terrible, leechy questions, I see to it that I give them a downvote or two on their worst content. If they're especially egregious, come back the next day and downvote some more, or flag for moderator attention.

I don't see how a categorization, or a separate flagging system on top of that would improve the process.

Regarding feedback about their behaviour, why not leave a comment? I like to do that, like for example:

sorry, but you are clearly not showing any interest in actually learning anything beyond copy+pasting code. -1.

A list of prefabricated negative comments is very likely to be abused, and would make the tone used towards newbies even rougher than it already is.

What I do like, however, is your idea of the community being able to mark good newbie users that do their due diligence and deserve our help. It could be argued that that's what upvoting is for but questions get upvoted so indiscriminately that that metric has no value whatsoever. That specific aspect of your suggestion I could get behind, although the actual workings for that would have to be fleshed out in more detail.

  • That is true - but it feels wrong getting penalized for giving real feedback to such questions (even though the amount is miniscule). At least with such a categorization you are explicit with what you mean (although comments does serve for this as well) – Sean Kinsey Mar 31 '11 at 9:04
  • Isn't downvoting a question in part because of another question by the same user a very mild form of serial downvoting? – Andrew Grimm Mar 31 '11 at 22:43
  • @Andrew yes, but in small doses (one or two a day) it will not be caught by the serial downvoting mechanism (or so I believe.) – Pekka Mar 31 '11 at 22:45

Given that the class of users you are trying to target are the bottom dwellers of SO, they have no interest in accumulating rep, or maintaining a reputation. Some would even just keep posting anonymously, which SE networks extend open arms towards. Given they can pretty much work anonymously forever with no difficulty whatsoever, I can't see how you can make anything stick on them.

  • Right, I forgot about the anonymous aspect.. Perhaps each site should be able to vote whether anonymous access should be allowed? – Sean Kinsey Mar 31 '11 at 9:01
  • 1
    Blocking anonymous users is not on any current SE timetable, projected forecast, crystal ball or even wildest prediction. – RichardTheKiwi Mar 31 '11 at 9:09

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