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Related to, but not really the same as: What is the minimal amount of research we expect from our users?

Personally, I don't really expect that much effort from a question, because I don't think it takes that much effort to write a question provided you actually have something in mind that you want to learn about (Some of our highest voted questions only have 2-3 sentences).

With the growth in visitors to the site, I've noticed that we've gotten some pretty low quality questions. This is to be expected, and shouldn't be a problem as long as they can be fixed with editing.

But...

At what point do we draw the line and say "Hey buddy, you didn't put any effort into that question. It doesn't belong here until it's fixed."?

My worry is not only that we could be creating users who will learn that they don't have to put any effort into writing questions (that other people will edit them and do the work for them) and it will drive the quality of the site down, but also attract more of like-minded individuals who will ask the same quality of questions (aka Yahoo answers).

  • Life is going to be busy for a couple days so here is my short answer. There are no vampires in a non-work support SE. We expect EVERY pet question to have an answer on Pets.SE. If the question lame, with no clarification from OP, and we have something very similar, close as a dupe. If lame and we DO NOT have an answer, everything is CC, edit it into a question we don't have that meets the needs of the Googling (sp?) masses, and try to get it a good answer. – James Jenkins Jul 17 '14 at 18:59
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Pets is a huge topic on the Internet. Unlike Math, Physics, Programming and such, there's no assumption that folks asking questions are (1) professionals of any kind and (2) good writers. Lots of people have pets, and there are lots of horrible writers. That means, in order to exist and thrive, you're going to need to embrace any selfie-taking Facebook-liking text-speak-typing over-abbreviating netizen that brings us an interesting question, even in the rough.

We have every tool that we need to dispose of that which can't be salvaged, which are questions that:

  • Are completely unclear, not even the Wizard Of Oz could make out what they're trying to ask
  • Are a duplicate of another question
  • Aren't answerable objectively, or just sufficiently broad that our limited answer size becomes prohibitive

Don't forget, users see that you've edited their post and can see exactly what you changed and why it made the question better. The editorial process helps people to write better questions, and that's precisely what we want to accomplish in this topic space on The Internet. We can't simply demand it at the door, it's something they have to learn to appreciate, and demand from the sites that they use.

Don't erect arbitrary walls that discourage folks that don't write very well from participating because (and here's a newsflash) - many people interested in this topic simply aren't going to bother climbing over them. If we're going to pull this off, giving the Internet a very high quality resource for pet owners to get expert answers to their questions, we need to foster, train and embrace a culture of editors that make people feel welcome and at ease. If it can't be edited, tell them what they left out that's preventing it as you place it on-hold.

Otherwise, all that additional traffic we're seeing? We'd be wasting it, and that would be a shame.

  • Fair enough, so then are we allowed to bend the normal etiquette and add more to a person's question if that's what it takes to make it into a good question? And would it still be too much of a barrier to be able to put questions on hold if there's no information about the tank/terrarium included? – Spidercat Jul 18 '14 at 5:23
  • @MattS. Yes, as long as you're preserving the intent of the question author, it's fine. You can always leave a note like I've made some substantial edits to your question, please double check to ensure it's still the question that you wanted to ask, and revise as needed. If they come off with something like "Why won't my dog move?" then yes, of course, the question should be placed on-hold if the author doesn't add quite a bit more detail in a reasonable amount of time. – Tim Post Jul 18 '14 at 12:09
  • Also, you should always bend the platform within reason to work for your topic rather than bend your topic to work on the platform. That's the liberty that comes with being your own site and community. Stack Exchange has a lot of wisdom that we pass down to new communities, but it's up to those communities to incorporate that and make it work for them. – Tim Post Jul 18 '14 at 12:11
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To give my thoughts on this.


When someone asks a question about the health of their pet that lives in an aquarium, possibly even a terrarium, and they don't give us information that could be the cause of the health issue (Water parameters, temperatures, lighting, even space), then the question should be put on hold as lacking necessary details.

As much as I'd like to say give them time to add detail before putting it on hold to keep from going into the process of closing and reopening questions which takes time. But I think we've tried that and it's not working very well. We end up with questions from people who have no interest in giving information that would be useful and the question sits there, forgotten after a while, with either no answer or an answer that's guessing the most likely cause (which isn't always a bad thing, but it's not always the best either).

In these cases it might be useful to have a custom close/hold reason that explains what we need from them in order to have their question re-opened. It could be something simple like:

Your question was put on hold as lacking necessary details about the habitat. Please edit your question to include details such as:

  • Water Parameters.
  • Temperatures.
  • The size of the tank/terrarium/cage.
  • A list of other pets living in the same tank/terrarium/cage.
  • What type of lighting you have (Mainly for questions about reptiles).

I propose two options for questions that show a complete lack of effort on the part of the person asking the question.

First, we throw the question away. The person asking the question can't be bothered with it, so we shouldn't bother with it either. Wait until someone who is actually interesting and invested in an answer to ask the question.

We could edit it ourselves to make is useable, but the problem is that this teaches the user that they can put forth little to no effort, and other people will do the work for them. This can be frustrating for people who edit questions because it's putting an awful lot of work on them to try to keep the quality of the site up.

Second, we turn the question into a community wiki. That way anyone can add detail to the question, without it having to be an argument about whether or not that was what the original question was intended to be.

In the example question, there was a pretty good base question in the title, but the body was just a couple links that made no sense. I edited it to make some sense, but it's still a poorly written question. The author shows no interest in improving it, but I can't change it any more without breaking the rules/etiquette of Stack Exchange. So I'm stuck with the option of having a poor question, or breaking the rules and making the question better.


If someone writes multiple questions into one, and they refuse to break it up into separate questions when asked, I vote we do it for them. The point is to help everyone and not just the person asking the question(s), and asking multiple questions in one doesn't help anyone (not even them). Stack Exchange was not made to support multiple questions in one block.

  • 1
    I don't want to automatically throw a question away if the user might be responsive this question was initially a dupe/unanswerable, but with enough back and forth with the user we figured out the root of his problem and got the question edited. I don't want to risk throwing those out with the orphans, I'm willing to wait and be sure that the orphans are actually orphans. – Zaralynda Jul 17 '14 at 20:18
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    @Zaralynda If the person is responsive, then they're obviously interested in the question. But if they don't respond within a couple minutes I'd say close it until they come back. The problem I'm finding is that they reach a certain point where people forget about them while waiting for more information, then we end up having these useless questions hanging about. – Spidercat Jul 17 '14 at 20:24
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    A few minutes is fine if someone responds right after the question goes up, but in my example the person waited 2.5 hours for first response. Timezones can be rough. If there's an orphan hanging around, flag it for closure. – Zaralynda Jul 17 '14 at 20:27
  • @Zaralynda How long do we wait before we consider it an orphan though? I guess I'm becoming more interested in employing the closing/reopening process because no one's really going to go looking for orphan questions to close. – Spidercat Jul 17 '14 at 20:31

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