Out of curiosity, what currently is and what should be specific policy of gamedev.stackexchange to handle the "little-effort" or "no-effort-at-all" types of questions?

Today, what motivated me was the asking for closure in this question: https://gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/116103/unity-app-accessing-gps-on-a-mobile-phone It is not the first time I see that, however, and it always raises doubts in my heart.

So, I did some research and didn't find specific conclusions on the subject in the past meta discussions, although a few months ago the following question basically touched the subject: How to handle trivial questions?

There, Josh Petrie, one the current moderators, said that "Trivial questions aren't off-topic or banned or any of that, simply by virtue of being trivial". I tend to agree. I tend to think that "low-effort" or "zero-effort" questions should not be closed down, but just down-voted. However, I would like us to have a clearer definition on that.

Specially, because the issue at hand seems to be quite controversial in many of the sister sites (and I don't think it's different in our case). Different positions can be found in discussions on the subject that were already held in sister sites. Se for instance the debates on Meta.Stackexchange and Meta.Stackoverflow: How to best handle no effort questions? and Do we need a close reason for zero-effort questions?. For a seemengly harsher position, see the answer for that in the Meta.Physics: Closing “Insufficient Effort” questions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that we can't add an actual close reason for "zero research effort." I've seen a few comments mentioning that, and that's not really something that would be practical at this point. Discussing whether "zero research effort" questions should be closed is one thing, but we can't add any more formal close reasons to the site's user interface. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Feb 4 '16 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshPetrie Fully agreed. And don't get me wrong: as I stated in the question above, my position is for just down-voting questions - not closing them. Therefore, I would not advocate for having a specified close-reason for "zero research effort". If nothing else, I think that would open the gates for voting all sorts of beginner questions - which would certainly harm more than help the site \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:13

"This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear, or not useful."

That's what the downvote tooltip says, and I say that's just fine for dealing with these. People don't like getting 5 downvotes; it makes them feel bad. So they'll either fix the question and learn how to do it right, or leave the site. Either way seems ok with me.


As it's been stated here or in one of the links you posted, donwvotes should encourage bad questions posters to either delete or modify the question.

These questions don't technically fit in any 'close' categories, but as DMGregory suggested in this situation, a close vote with a 'custom' reason could take care of it. At this point, it's in the hands of the community. If the community feels that the reason given is valid, I believe that it's fair, up to that point. If the question gets closed, then edited (and improved enough), the community will get the chance to re-open it.

At the moment, I don't think there is enough of this kind of question on this stack to overly formalize what should be done with that, but off course, as a community it's good to ask ourselves this kind of question once in a while :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I think that it's quite regular to find low-effort types of questions, but I agree with you that it might be premature to formalize a solution to it. Sure thing, a custom reasoning for the closure-flagging can work great, that's what I myself thought about that. I primarily ask this meta question, though, exactly because when deciding how to vote on that flag, I thought I lacked some discussed reference on which we could resource to. \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MAnd Your reasoning is reasonable :) I must admit it's very rare that a question gets closed because 5 non-mod voted to close it, so it's not a 'drastic' approach. And the site is roughly what the community chooses it to be, so if we end up adding a close for "not enough research", good! But I don't think we need this yet :) \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mod Feb 4 '16 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt This makes sense to me. I'll keep that in mind on future questions. For now I'll leave my vote where it is and see what happens. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Mod Feb 4 '16 at 3:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have good points. I like the idea of down-votes remaining as the primary defense against low-effort or zero-effort questions and then if someone thinks a question got to the point of having to be even closed because of that, then the person can just customize the close-flag like DMGregory correctly did. My only issue with that is whether users would have it clear enough from the beginning, I mean per the rules of the site and not only expected common good sense, that their low-effort questions could end up like that. What do you think? \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MAnd To fully grasp how a stackexchange site works, you either live it and make mistakes, or read a lot. The explanation of why a question would be down voted a lot can be seen on the mouse-over on the down-arrow button, and can be understood at least from here and here. This should take care of the "you should know" part. After this, I would expect the common sense to take over, and if they're interested, they'll look around or ask on meta if they need more help. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mod Feb 4 '16 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt Oh yes, but notice the important detail: you talk about the explanation of why a question would be voted down. With that I agree from the go. I am more concerned about the official explanations for why your question might be closed for new answers and eventually deleted. That's a different thing. But still, yes, there is the general line "Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone", which although not saying your question risks being closed, still is a good warning for "do your research, please". \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MAnd Oh hmm. Well if it gets to that point, I would believe the official explanation will be the 'custom' vote close message, which, in theory, will have been well written enough, because more than one person will have selected it as a close reason. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mod Feb 4 '16 at 22:42

As I've stated before, trivial questions aren't off-topic simply by virtue of being trivial. But that's different from questions that show absolutely zero research effort (or rather, the two concepts are orthogonal).

I'm not sure it's possible to set a broad policy on this, as I think the issue will come down to the kinds of analysis of the question that's best done on a case-by-case basis. For example, in the case of the GPS question, there's two ways we could interpret the question as written:

  • "How do I access the GPS in Unity?"

This form of the question is asking us to plug "access GPS unity" into Google or whatever on behalf of the OP. I think that's worthy of downvotes on the question, personally, but I don't think closing it because of "lack of research effort" is the right interpretation. Rather, look at question differently:

  • "I want to accomplish in Unity?"

This is almost certainly what the asker really wants, and in any event is a much better question for posterity than the original. Does this look familiar? It should; what we're looking at here is an XY problem and we have a solution for dealing with the XY problem already: vote to close as unclear, and ask for clarification about what is really trying to get accomplished so we can provide a better, higher level response that's better suited to our unique perspectives as game developers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Makes sense. However, think of it by the following angle. If a question happens to be also unclear in what it is asking, then well, we don't have a problem: it's unclear in what it is asking. If a question has any other flaws already described as flag-cases, for instance if it's a duplicate, then ok too: it's just about flagging it accordingly. However, that does not tell anything about the issue at hand of whether questions should be flagged/closed down due to having zero research effort per se. \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ In case it's not clear, my position here is that "zero research effort" isn't something we should say, unilaterally, must be closed. They can be (that is there's nothing wrong with voting to close them as such), but it would be better to first consider ways in which the question can be improved rather than just dismissing it. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Feb 4 '16 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's what I thought when citing your answer to the other meta in my question. And I tend to fully agree. \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:08

I mistakenly thought these were already officially off-topic, hence my (potentially misplaced) vote on the question MAnd links.

On one hand I think there is value in discouraging using StackExchange as a Google proxy. We expect users to search this site for existing questions before asking and close duplicates, so it doesn't seem unduly onerous to ask them to at least skim a Google search.

As an absurd example, if someone systematically worked their way through the Unity API, asking "what does the gameObject.AddComponent method do?" "What about gameObject.BroadcastMessage?" - technically each of those is a question about game development with a concise correct answer, so although trivial they could be on-topic. But it seems silly for StackExchange to mirror the contents of an existing official API documentation. (Which will generally/hopefully be kept up to date better than SE answers)

Although the scale of that example is absurd, I think "How do I use GPS location in Unity" is this kind of question that amounts to duplicating the manual - searching the API for "gps" or "location" both turn up a useful result at the top of the list.

(Then again, making "how do I get started/which technology" questions off-topic hasn't exactly stemmed the flow of those questions either. Users who don't do their own research before posting don't seem to read the tour either, so maybe any benefit of such a deterrent is moot. ;) )

The downside to considering these no-effort questions off topic is that it might pose a barrier to users who have difficulty with even these basic searches - say someone who speaks very little English, or because they're just getting started doesn't know enough of the gamedev jargon to locate the answers they're looking for.

I still feel like that's solvable though, by the user following the usual advice of "describe what you've tried so far" to show they've tried searching and need specialized help understanding.

So, for those reasons I'd lean toward closing questions that can be answered by the top hits on the product's own documentation, as in this particular case.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you have some valid arguments there. Although I'm inclined toward just downvoting those questions, I think it's important to somehow point that it was of little effort. When I found the answer at the Meta.Physics (the one I linked to), I thought that the guy was not unreasonable in claiming that yes, there is an use for closing zero-effort questions. So, I thought we should discuss it a bit more on how to proceed \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much appreciated, @MAnd - I think you're right that it's worth discussing, and I'm perfectly happy to accept the consensus if it's "keep open." :) As an aside, I really appreciate how much research you put into this - reading the related discussions on the other SEs you linked has been fascinating, and they cover a lot of interesting points that weren't immediately obvious to me. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Mod Feb 4 '16 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your vote to close that GPS question was fine. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Feb 4 '16 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory Thanks for taking the time to read those. I myself enjoyed it quite a bit. In fact, I decided to post this on meta because when I searched after commenting to you at the GPS question, I started to question my own position on the subject and then felt it ws worthy of some reading/talking :) I am also fine with closing them down if that happens to be the consensus. There are good arguments for that, no doubt \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshPetrie the votes to close the question as being unclear were perfect. The issue was raised in regard to the original close-vote with the custom reasoning that the question should be closed because of not showing research effort. Not that this one was not fine, of course. Just to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – MAnd Feb 4 '16 at 21:31

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