For example, this user has had many questions closed and of low quality. Yet, they persist on posting. CodeOfGenius, if you're reading this: please read the help center!) This user is obviously not the only offender.

How can we encourage users as a community to read our guidelines better and generate better questions? I think this goes hand in hand tangentially with: How can we get people to ask better questions?


3 Answers 3


Looking at the comments below the questions of that user, he received a lot of destructive criticism in form of the obligatory "FAQ you!" but not much constructive criticism.

The user is told what not to ask, but no suggestions are made what to ask instead. One notable exception is this comment by Byte56.

It's a well-known fact of psychology that people react defensively when they get told that they behave incorrectly. They usually perceive it as a personal attack and mentally marginalize the argumentation of the other side instead of accepting it. When you really want someone to change their behavior, it is much more useful to tell them how to behave correctly. That's a small but important difference.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a reason the on-hold/close banner has explanatory text and a link to the help center though. It's avoid every user who votes-to-close having to repeat the same generic boilerplate comment in order to be helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 3:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ My linked comment is on a now deleted question, here it is if people would like to emulate it: "There are a lot of ways to do this. It will depend on what technology you're targeting, if you're using any libraries, the goals of your project, etc. I suggest you try out what you think might work, then ask a specific question about any trouble you have. This would give answerers a starting point with which to help you, right now it could start anywhere, making it too broad." \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 14:54

Preface. I'm quoting words here and there. Imagine air quotes. Imagine the phrase "so called" in front of a few...

Take a look at the first 50 questions on the main page. Lots of zero vote questions, lots of unanswered questions, and lots of questions on hold primarily by the actions of just two moderators.

In fact very few questions that are asked are "good" by the standards of the proverbial "one percent" of us with higher ratings.

I would argue that what this implies is that there is a very high need here - dare I say specifically for "dumb" questions (note quotes). And as a community, this site is failing to answer that need.

And as such, maybe what the community needs to do is open up a bit, be better at answering beginner questions, and lighten up and be more forgiving. Treat "dumb" questions as genuine learning opportunities.

There are FAR more "n00b" posters here than real hard hitting challenging askers of questions. This is reality. Smart providers of services respond to customer needs. Foolish ones turn back lines of people waiting at the doors. Clever ones learn to make those people into proverbial customers.

We have a huge opportunity here to educate people. Not with the proverbial "ban club", but instead with guidance, mentoring, suggestions, and advice. Let's take advantage of that opportunity and not curse it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Guidance, mentoring, suggestions, and advice are good and fine things, and are very important. But to my mind, they don't fit the stackexchange model. Such things are better fits for a forum where users can receive immediate, time-specific personalised help, and their threads be deleted after a month or a year, to make space for future conversations. To my mind, personalised mentoring doesn't make sense for a system where every question and every answer is stored publicly in perpetuity. The StackExchange sites are designed as almanacs, not as personal advice columns. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reading stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/…, I could I think argue that it is actually (as of that post) maybe a bit fitting with the stackexchange model. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Holt
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 2:14

"Better questions" is not a good choice of words, because one person may read a question and understand/have an idea of what's going on, where anther person may be scratching their head. A better choice of words would be "Posting a question as clear as possible," with an aim to be understandable by the widest group of users possible. Words like "better" is ambiguous, because one person's values may differ from another.

One solution would be to have an few example questions as a template for them to go of so they can structure their question as such. As a compliment to the solution, there should also be a rule that if a user downvote/request to close a question, they should be required to give specifics as to why such should happen. This will force both sides of the equation to exercise their reading/comprehension and critical thinking skills and will help in minimizing narcissistic/trolling behavior among users.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I stand by that better questions is the correct terminology. The target here is those that are clearly off topic and not welcome. It is not about incomprehensibility. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 6:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Understood, but what constitutes as "better" is debatable, because in the end, it's all up to interpretation like comparing apples to oranges. It should be a goal to be more precise when stating a question. \$\endgroup\$
    – ChocoMan
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I too think better is fine, but it's not about being better, it's about being "good enough to not warrant closing," which is a fairly obvious metric of measurement. We close questions because they're bad questions, by the metric of clarity, answerability, and suitability for the site. Good and bad is clear in that regard. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrCranky
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 14:07

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