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Before succeeding in posting my last question, I got this error message:

Sorry, we can't accept this question.

There seems to be some filter for stopping bad questions, but it is apparently prone to false positives. Googling for the phrase, there are already several questions on Meta about this error message.

We should make it more helpful, instead of harshly denying the question without explanation. Example:

Sorry, this question does not meet our quality requirements. Try to rephrase its title.

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    Never saw that message before :( May 14, 2011 at 19:32

3 Answers 3

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I just changed the copy to:

Oops! Your question couldn't be submitted because:
It does not meet our quality standards.

This has the advantage of at least giving a hint, and being English.


I am against being explicit here, the goal is to reduce work for moderators and good citizens of the site, the vast majority of question blocks are totally valid, I have seen one or 2 outliers out of 100s, still, even in those cases, they could be improved.

Our check takes into account tags, title and body. We are not going to give breakdown of what was wrong, that is spoon feeding.


For example:

Title: DIALOG BOX QUESTION
can i have an if statement within a dialog box code?

tags: swing

The new error message is good enough for this case. I am not going to tell this person:

  • PLEASE DON'T YELL
  • Your title makes little sense
  • Please use correct spelling
  • Please explain your question in more detail
  • Please be respectful of other people's time

Instead, the onus is on this user to figure out why we consider his question low quality, by reading through the million or so good questions on Stack Overflow and following the good examples out there it numerous blog posts that explain how to write awesome questions.

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    I think /how-to-ask should tell people to use descriptive titles. It doesn't seem to be mentioned here.
    – SLaks
    May 20, 2011 at 3:04
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    @slaks should we also tell users "be sure to breathe so you stay alive?" I mean, isn't such a thing obvious? May 20, 2011 at 3:52
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    Where's the spelling mistake, unless incorrect capitalization counts? May 20, 2011 at 7:44
  • @Andrew yes, i, is not considered the correct spelling for I :)
    – waffles
    May 20, 2011 at 7:56
  • @waffles: Was that spelling mistake deliberate? :) May 20, 2011 at 8:04
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    @Andrew ... lol ... my comment does not meet our quality standards... noooooo
    – waffles
    May 20, 2011 at 8:06
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    @waffles: English SE generally reckons it's not a spelling mistake, but a different kind of mistake: english.stackexchange.com/questions/26199/… May 20, 2011 at 10:06
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    @Andrew, 'i' challenge you to prove that there is not a correlation between non-capitalised i's and low question quality.
    – Benjol
    May 20, 2011 at 10:36
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    This is just the right amount of clarification, IMHO. We'll still get people complaining on meta, but at least it encourages them to think about why their question sucks. It gives them a way out, but that way out is improving the quality of the question. +1. May 20, 2011 at 16:45
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    "We are not going to give breakdown of what was wrong, that is spoon feeding." It's not spoon-feeding; it's giving reasonable feedback. Automatic systems that deny someone use of their function, without saying why, do not meet my quality standards.
    – Jason S
    Mar 26, 2012 at 0:34
  • Make the explanations and detector such that "hacking the system" will produce better questions. Anecdote: I just had a question denied. No explanation given. None on the Meta (as if the really thoughtless users are checking the Meta). I "fixed" it by formatting my example input/output (which weren't in runnable code format) as CODE. Question is now successfully answered with 4 good answers and 2 upvotes on question. Did that format change really make my question better? If so, couldn't it have told me to format it that way? Jul 19, 2020 at 16:45
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Sorry, this question does not meet our quality requirements. Try to rephrase its title.

I agree with the first sentence in your proposed rewording, but not the second. We don't want people to attempt to skirt the quality detection algorithms by simply rephrasing the title. We really want them to substantively improve the quality of their question before we allow it through.

However, asking them to improve the overall quality of their question and then trying to resubmit is definitely a step in the right direction.

It's unlikely that very many users will take the advice, rewrite their question, and then be able to submit it. But a well-phrased and accurate error message never hurt anyone.

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The point is for people to introspect about their question and why it wasn't accepted. Bear in mind this is an extremely low quality bar we're talking about here. They are being classified into the lowest quality 1% of all questions asked on the site.

If we provide a "formula" then it's just another way for users to bypass the question quality filters.

Having looked at the post you wrote to trigger this, I would -- again -- strongly emphasize anyone asking a question to share the results of their research when asking.

And if you haven't any research to share, should you even be asking at all?

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    Jeff, the phrase "we can't accept this question" does not inspire introspection. The message doesn't need to include (or link to) the "formula" to get a question accepted, it just needs to suggest that minimum quality standards exist.
    – Charles
    May 15, 2011 at 5:43
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    The point is that this message does not convey at all that question quality is the issue. If I hadn't heard about it on meta.SO first, I'd think it meant a transient technical error on the SE servers. May 15, 2011 at 10:25
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    @gilles that's kind of intentional; we basically don't want these users. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect May 15, 2011 at 20:03
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    What if someone triggers a false positive? Heuristic filters aren't infallible. Even something like "we can't accept this question because your English sucks" gives a hint what's wrong. May 19, 2011 at 14:10
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    @Justin: I would love that as an error message. May 20, 2011 at 7:42

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