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The quality of questions asked by new (and some not-so-new) users seems to have taken a dramatic downturn in the last week or so. Looking at the front page right now I've already closed about 4 of them and reckon I could easily close the same number again (except that I'm getting bored of it and starting to feel like a tyrant).

Have we any strategies for dealing with this problem? I've left comments on all of the closed questions, but I fear those are falling on deaf ears.

I suppose what I really want to know is does anyone have an objection to me being militant about closing these poor quality questions?

'Cos unchecked, I will just obliterate the whole lot ;)

  • Just checking from past few weeks, out of 10 questions in front page 3 are closed, 2 are dup, 1 is spam, and questions which are really good have 0 upvotes :( – GoodSp33d Feb 18 '13 at 13:57
  • There are those questions that are poorly worded and show a lack of own effort. Then there are other questions which are so specific that, to answer them, you first need to do some research on your own. The only questions where I still feel motivated to give answers are those that are covered by modules I maintain myself, or areas of interest that I have spent some time with. – donquixote Mar 12 '14 at 19:24
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I have no objection to you being militant about closing poor quality questions.

In fact, I've had a general feeling for a long time that the quality has been heading downwards, and it largely has made me unmotivated to answer questions. Being militant about the problem may be necessary in it self, but unfortunately I don't know if it will help. This feeling was also mirrored by others during the Münich meetup, so I know I'm not alone.

I wish I had a concrete suggestion for how to improve the quality of questions being asked, rather than just getting rid of the bad ones, but I don't.

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    My answering has dropped off dramatically for exactly the same reason, I still try but I know what you mean. It just doesn't seem worth it when people are turning up, putting zero effort in, and expecting someone to basically do their work for them. It's been noticeable that you've stopped answering, it's a shame as we need experience Drupallers to keep this place going. But like I said, I totally get why you've slowed it down – Clive Jan 23 '13 at 15:20
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    I am in complete agreement with this, and although I stop by quite regularly on a daily basis, I'm finding I'm also answering fewer questions. I am much less inclined to answer a question if I have to spend ten minutes deciphering it. There are also more questions appearing that could be solved with a little bit of amateur Google-fu. – Chapabu Jan 24 '13 at 12:13
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    "My answering has dropped off dramatically for exactly the same reason" +1 – Bart Jan 24 '13 at 14:13
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Moderators are allowed to close questions that are blatantly off-topic, or blatant cases of questions for which a closing reason is valid.

Unfortunately, there isn't a way to avoid low quality questions are asked. Even if the FAQ clearly states which questions should be asked, and we have questions tagged that guide the users about how to write a question, there is always somebody who asks a question that the FAQ suggest not to ask.

I think the solution is educating the users, and (most importantly) the users who should close the questions, or flag them.
We should made clear that not every question asked from somebody, and which is someway related to Drupal is acceptable, and that a minimum effort is required from who asks the question. Subjective questions asking for the best module, or the best way to do something are not questions that help future reader. Questions asking how to implement a feature, but that doesn't show any code written by the OP show little effort from who asks the question; Drupal Answers is not the site to give fish to who needs it, but the site to teach users how to fish. Users should understand that closing a question doesn't mean "you are not welcome to ask questions here"; they should understand the closure means "your current question is not acceptable, but if you change it to make it acceptable, then it can be re-opened."

It is also important to explain why the question is going to be closed, to avoid the users feel like their questions are closed because somebody didn't like them. Starting from today, I will add a comment explaining why the closed question is not a good suit for Drupal Answers, even if the question didn't get a closing vote from me. I hope more users will comment about the reason for closing the question too.

As side note, in the past 2 days, 16 questions have been closed; since the beginning of the year, 68 questions have been closed.
Between January 1, and January 8, we had a peak of 15 closed questions. Previously, the peak was of 17 questions closed, which was verified between October 8, and October 16.

  • Thanks for the stats; so this being a 'new' problem isn't necessarily true. I agree with everything you say, I'm just venting with this question really - things seem to be getting worse not better :) – Clive Jan 23 '13 at 16:25
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    It seems that the new year taken more users, and that makes me happy. The problem is that most of those users are not users with experience with Stack Exchange sites (some of them use unregistered accounts). As side note, the statistics I have shown are taken from the analytics page, from the "Closed and Deleted Posts" graph. – kiamlaluno Jan 23 '13 at 16:30
  • Your words are wise and true. I didn't even know we had those analytics, cheers :) – Clive Jan 23 '13 at 16:33
  • Hey, you got the Chinese proverb in there : "Don't give child the fish to eat, instead teach him how to catch it!" – AjitS Jan 24 '13 at 7:06
  • Are we at the point where we want to disallow unregistered posts? – mpdonadio Jan 25 '13 at 18:07
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This is an issue of information architecture. Looking at the QA process in a placed I worked, I realize there must be another alternative then aggressively (or politely) closing questions.

My suggestion:

Look at the question as an issue, and change it's status back to "waiting for more details". This is a third status needed, except for the "opened" and "closed". Then when the user supplies more details, it's status would be changed back to 'open'.

The process of putting questions in the 'more details needed' status may be encouraged by the UI.

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    That makes good sense on the surface. The thing is, people who've been using the network a while know that closing is not the "end of life" for a question; closing is the temporary state that you're describing to allow for the question to be improved, before it hits the 3rd state - deletion. Putting myself in the shoes of a brand new user to the site, though, I would definitely be perturbed by the language used. That's why we leave comments in an attempt to soften the blow. Again though, roles reversed, I'm not sure I'd be 100% happy with that – Clive Jan 23 '13 at 18:26
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    I would vote for this third kind of status. I sometimes happen to post a question, but still keep googling for a solution. Then, I seem to have found a solution or a kick in the right direction. At that moment I wish I could suspend my own question until I try it out, so that other people do not unnecessarily take time to answer, if not downvote me for an insufficient search. – Artur Jan 24 '13 at 17:54
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Another solution is purely visual:

On Theory, people may also be encouraged to improve the quality of their questions by the up-votes on the questions. But this only works for experienced users. The montivation of new users is simply to get answers. So maybe put some inforgraphics near the content entry field which guides them why investing some time on the question give them better results.

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I completely agree with this post. Here is the situation I face which puts me off answering questions:

  • A user puts very little effort into a question.
  • The user is unwilling to be guided through a solution and expects working code or a drop-in module.
  • Time is taken to fix/address/answer their question and improve its value.
  • The question is buried without further recognition.
  • Rinse and repeat.

I don't think the kind of people who are posting these questions care about F.A.Q's or participating in the rest of the site, a lot will simply never reply/upvote/accept answers.

I feel it's a nasty feedback loop where the quality contributors are being driving away which results in less participation from other quality contributors.

My suggestion for fixing this:

  • Raise the threshold for what is considered "quality" dramatically.
  • Anything requesting code or bug fixes without a quality explanation of the problem and previous debugging steps should be deleted.
  • Anyone who is so far out of their depth they have no idea how to express their question and are clearly misguided should be directed to "getting started with X" guides and have their questions deleted.
  • Any posts with terrible code from developers who are looking for quick fixes to be deleted.
  • Additional moderators be put in place to deal with the sheer volume of posts.

I feel that this site really needs a benevolent dictator. The number of questions may drop, however it might become a more quality resource.

  • I really hear you. I'm pretty sure I know which question led you here; I recently closed the one that preceded it. I asked this question in January, we did see a bit of an improvement for a while but that might have been coincidence. It's definitely going in the other direction again now. I can't really agree with the immediate deletion of questions, mainly because from a mod's point of view we're not supposed to do that unless there's something grossly offensive (insults, spam etc). But I understand the impulse very well. I wish I knew what the answer was, people just don't want to listen! – Clive Aug 6 '13 at 18:03
  • Everything you said really is in place. We don't need more diamond moderators. We just deal with the total trash. There are ~40 users on the site right now who can cast close/reopen votes, and I would say that only about 5 or 6 do so on a regular basis. – mpdonadio Aug 7 '13 at 15:20
  • @MPD I agree with Sam152 here, I think we need to re-define what 'total trash' is. At the moment we're extraordinarily lenient as a general rule – Clive Aug 8 '13 at 11:04
  • @Clive I somewhat disagree. Much of the crap can be salvaged through editing. The rest can be closed by all of the 3k+ users. As a community, we are failing because we aren't doing this. – mpdonadio Aug 8 '13 at 13:41
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    I think there is a difference between cleaning up the occasional bad question and becoming a full time copywriter. The questions aren't bad because the users don't know any better and would like to learn, they are hit-and-run users who don't care about the community. – Sam152 Aug 9 '13 at 3:11
  • @MPD I have to agree with Sam again, it's not fair to expect our community to clear up the sheer volume of crap we get here; editing should be done for small clarifications or improvements to an otherwise fine question. If the question has to be 'salvaged', the OP hasn't tried hard enough and it should be closed until they do IMO. As it is we're descending more and more towards becoming a personal support forum, and I think we need to stop that at source. Besides, looking at the voting on this question I think it's fair to say the community want these questions closed too – Clive Aug 9 '13 at 10:44
  • @Clive Then the community needs to start downvoting and voting-to-close the crap questions. It is not the diamond mod's responsibility to read every single question and wield our immediate powers w/o input from the community. As it stands, I see the same handful of people reviewing posts and the same set of names on close votes that I cast the final vote on. – mpdonadio Aug 9 '13 at 12:46
  • @MPD I totally agree, the community should do those things - but for the most part they don't unfortunately. If diamond mods don't close these poor quality questions then no-one will. New visitors to the site will see those questions and believe they are representative of what should be asked, and the cycle continues. I don't know what the answer is to be honest – Clive Aug 9 '13 at 12:54

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