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Should we require minimum reputation to continue asking questions?

Per Jeff's comments indicating that this is going to be handled internally at Stack Exchange, Inc, there is little reason to continue this discussion:

@adam this is still getting done, we're just no longer talking about it in public. See my edit. – Jeff Atwood♦ 2 hours ago


This discussion is the first in a series of discussions regarding low quality questions. There are several aspects to the problem and possible solutions, and as we discuss it many more perspectives will be raised. Hopefully after a week and a dozen or so discussions we'll have a better grasp on the root issue. This is an experiment and may fail, but it seems to be too large a problem to be entirely self contained in any one discussion.

Please tag very relevant discussions with so they are easy to find.


The symptom of the problem is that there are thousands of valid moderator flags per day, and the workload will be, if it isn't already, too much for our volunteer moderators.

A significant number of those flags are generated by "low quality" questions.


Low quality posts, where the definition is apparently subjective, though strictly speaking it includes questions that are not "useful and clear".

What to discuss in this particular question

We need to identify discussions that we need to have to help us understand the problem, and then follow up with discussions on how best to solve the problem. While it's possible that one single change to how the system operates could fix the problem, it is expected that several changes, not all of them trivial, would be required to make this problem level out.

Next Steps

These are the topics we need to discuss in other threads - please do not attempt to discuss them here, except as to whether they should be discussed at all in relation to the main problem. In other words, this question is meant merely to identify discussions we need to have, not to actually have those discussions.

  • What is the definition of a low quality question
  • What is the current process for dealing with low quality questions
  • Are there processes that we should be using that are lying dormant (closing, flagging for something other than moderator attention, etc)
  • What is the life cycle of a typical question (I want a reasonably comprehensive flowchart)
  • What is the life cycle of a new user (I want a reasonably comprehensive flowchart)
  • What data is available that can help us identify either bad questions, or those who ask bad questions
  • How do we measure success of any given recommendation
  • ???

Please be aware that this is started by a user of these sites, and is in no way an officially sanctioned or vetted discussion. At the end the best we can do is suggest a set of changes and argue for their implementation. Just because we're having the discussion doesn't mean action will be taken that follows the varied recommendations that will result.

Expected answers

Please contribute discussion topics that will illuminate the problem and help us understand the problem, and any other discussions you believe are relevant. Also, if some of these discussions have already taken place, please link them in your answer or in comments to this question.

  • the problem is we can't discuss the metrics because some of them can be gamed if they're revealed. But, to your credit, you were absolutely right that question vote score alone isn't enough to work with. However, if you think about some other signals you could combine with that... (also, the new free -1 from NARQ and off topic not migrated close reasons helps quite a bit) Apr 9 '11 at 7:52
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    see youtube.com/watch?v=Yn7e0J9m6rE and specifically the section at about 40 minutes marked "secret karma can out the bad guys". In this case we are defining 'bad' as 'slowly poisoning our community well with low-quality questions' Apr 11 '11 at 23:51

How can we best educate our new users?

It is apparent that many new users often come from a background where they have become accustomed to "forum-like" pages, and their behaviors tend to reflect that culture, so some re-education is needed. It also seems clear to me that, while things like the "How to Ask" and "How to Answer" pages are very beneficial, they are not a complete solution to this problem.

How can we best utilize automated solutions?

Using algorithms to sift and filter marginal posts is an admirable pursuit, but ultimately these are people problems, and I classify these problems as (for want of a better word) "Hard," in the same way that search is hard. Consequently, such solutions need to be applied judiciously, in ways that will be most effective. Otherwise, confidence in the automation is undermined.

How can we improve the workflow for the moderators?

The UI for the moderators is pretty good, but I see some areas where it can be improved in ways that would allow moderators to make decisions faster, and take actions more quickly.

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    Your first question is the one million dollar question and I think if there is an answer to it, then we won't have such discussions anymore. Apr 7 '11 at 18:41

Any "Low Quality" flag should be automatically dismissed if the question has > 0 vote score, or if the score is 0 and it has > 0 answers.

I think that would remove most of the pointless "low quality" flags, as somebody thought the question was worth while.

  • Also clear the flag if the person who raised it didn't downvote, edit, or vote to close the question (and they have the ability to). Apr 7 '11 at 17:45
  • Perhaps the answerer thought that they could gain some rep from answering the question; rather than thinking that the question itself was useful.
    – KatieK
    Apr 7 '11 at 18:40

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