I haven't been on this site long enough to know from personal experience, but perusing old (and recent) Meta posts like these below makes me wonder if members have not always been under the impression that Low Quality Questions are hitting crisis levels.

  1. Extraordinary spike in low-quality questions by 1 rep users (January 2016)

  2. A simple proposal towards improving question quality (July 2014)

  3. Excessive number of fundamental questions (May 2013)

Occasionally, users have suggested encouraging senior members to ask good questions as a model for other users:

  1. Could more questions from senior/experienced users benefit ELU? (October 2015)

  2. Do we need to write the better questions ourselves? (October 2012)

Very recently there has been significant discussion on ways to reduce Low-Quality Questions, including using Artificial Intelligence, using Selective Blacklisting, banning or limiting single-word-request questions, and other thoughts.

Observing that low-quality questions seem to have been a complaint on this site for a long time and show few signs of diminishing, I'm inclined to wonder how best to incentivize asking good questions. One thought would be to attempt to collect some of the best questions for some of the common tags as a model for how to ask insightful and interesting questions.

Unfortunately, I don't think measuring this by votes really works, since Hot Network Questions can often yield huge numbers of upvotes on questions that are really not exemplary, and likewise, many excellent questions receive very little attention if they fly under the radar. I imagine there would need to be community discussion on what would qualify as exemplary, perhaps with knowledgeable input from users with gold badges on the tags in question.

  1. Has anyone attempted to create such a collection in the past, a sort of model for asking good questions?

  2. If not, does anyone think this would be a worthwhile endeavor?

  3. Is it actually feasible, or am I being naïve?

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    Quick. Add the diuresis (?) dieresis (yes!) in naïve before tchrist visits :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 22:36
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    Haha thanks for the rescue @Mari-LouA Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 22:37
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    english.stackexchange.com/questions/195335/… back in the day when users still had a sense of humour. Well... maybe not.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 22:45
  • @Mari-LouA Not to worry. He classifies naive as "unassimilated". :)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 23:08
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    See thesecond paragraph of the answer of tchrist to my question english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10621/…. He suggested I look at the questions posted by the Socratic Badge holders. english.stackexchange.com/help/badges/161/socratic I scanned some of them last night, and all I scanned were exemplary.
    – ab2
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 23:18
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    Basically what needs to happen is everyone get loads of rep for single-word-request then we can hammer them into insignificance... Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 8:13
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    It wouldn't make much of a difference. There is a plethora of "low quality questions" coming from 100s of people new to the site who are asking fundamental EFL questions. The intro pages to this site do not dissuade them; neither will a link to another page. As long as people can ask anything they want, they will. Whether we close their questions or not. The whole world is learning English, and this site will continue to get flooded by questions, good, bad & ugly, from learners. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:46
  • I must grudgingly admit that I agree with the above post 110%. A collection of exemplary questions would benefit more experienced users rather than first time users and would have zero effect on the amount of LQQs we regularly receive from them. If there is nobody at the door, and the door is always wide open, everyone can enter or just pop in, no matter what the rules say.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:59
  • @Josh I agree, I think LQQs are going to be around no matter what. Still, I'm persuaded by the idea that having experienced users post good questions can both set an example for new users and improve the quality of the site in general, and maybe in turn that would attract more serious dedicated users who are attracted to the more stimulating questions. My thinking is that having the lists might encourage experienced users to post more questions. But maybe not. That's why I thought I'd see what people think of the idea. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:16
  • @RaceYouAnytime - can't agree more with you on that, but the few, shy attempts in that direction have brought to nothing so far. Experienced users are more inclined towards answers rather then questions...apparently they already know everything.:)
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:22
  • @RaceYouAnytime Can you please unaccept Jel's answer? The powers that be disallow this solution and until that changes I think other answers deserve more consideration.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:34
  • @Tonepoet Ah, I see. Sure, no problem. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:35
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    I like the idea of a best question tag, and if I were you I'd ask a mod over at chat if it is allowed. Also, it's worth mentioning that the blog entry cited by Tonepoet is not exactly common knowledge to users, and it was written waaaay back in 2010, which in the age of the Internet is equivalent to twenty years on planet Earth.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 4:46
  • Sorry for cluttering the comment section, this will be the last one! Have you considered tailoring your question as a feature request, and proposing it on SE Meta? You could suggest Jel's solution and see what users think. The problem of LQQs afflicts every site on SE, and especially so on Stack Overflow. If you play your cards well, your FR might survive the first three hours of scrutiny (SE Meta questions tend to attract a number of DVs, so check to see if anyone else has suggested a similar FR)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:08
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    The FR could include a badge. Computer Nerds seem to love badges on SE. Propose a Best Q of the month badge?? Silver? Selected by a council of 5K users who participate most in meta? I.e users who have shown they really care about the site.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:22

4 Answers 4


The idea appeals to me, but in practical terms, I don't think it is really feasible, for various reasons.

  • Mechanical: as far as I know, there is no existing Stack Exchange system that would be ideal for this purpose. The closest I can think of is a list on this Meta with answers that we vote for, as was done with Please vote for the most exemplary single-word-request questions (to be put in Help Center). But this seems like it would quickly get unwieldy as more examples are added (and maintenance would also probably be a problem). Basically, the SE QA format is not designed for long lists, as is well-known.

  • Social: We all have our own opinions about what makes a question "exemplary". Even if we all can agree on the general concept that some posts have high scores due to bikeshedding, and other posts have low scores despite being insightful and interesting, we probably won't all agree about which specific questions are examples of this. Reaching a consensus is difficult and takes hard work. There are tons of questions on this Meta site that don't stimulate enough community participation to really achieve this goal.

  • Political: SE has its own "politics" and one thing that fairly often comes up as a concern is the idea of exclusivity by a cabal of high-rep users who want to impose their opinions on the rest of the users of the site. Depending on how this project is carried out, it seems likely that it would be perceived as an example of this. The voting system, despite its faults, seems less susceptible to this kind of criticism due to its democratic nature.

  • What about something similar to the documentation on Stack Overflow? Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 10:56
  • @marcellothearcane: I've never used it, so I'm not familar with how it works, but I am sure that it will be a while before it is rolled out to other SE sites, if it ever is. So I don't think it would work as a solution to this problem
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:25

You want a nice collection of exemplary questions? That's easy; simply use this link.

Footnote: I once praised Yoichi Oishi's questions in an ELL meta answer.

As others have said, I don't think having this link anywhere will diminish the high number of shoddy questions that continue to plague this site. Still, it might be nice to have a handy link when you are trying to gently nudge a newer user in the right direction.


Seeing that this question is getting more downvotes than upvotes, I'd like to clarify: The original link is to a list of questions written by one of ELU's most prestigious users, sorted by votes. I'm not saying these questions are exemplary because of what they ask about, I'm saying they are exemplary because of how they are presented and structured.

I have always thought that Yoichi's questions provide a good example of:

  • providing background information and context,
  • referencing what kind of prior research was done, and
  • clearly presenting the question

(or, as the OP of this meta question puts it, "a sort of model for asking good questions").

When the OP of this meta question talks about Low-Quality Questions, I'm assuming that means questions that provide scant background information and context, don't mention any prior research, and aren't always clear about what is being asked. For example, in the last hour or so, I've seen new users ask:

Does first come, first served need to be hyphenated?

Is first come, first served hyphenated (first-come, first-served? Thank you.


I need help with a short phrase

I need help with this phrase, pls.

what does "offering empowering" mean?



Word request. Any other words for “delicate beauty” or any similar?

I'm trying to make it sound that her beauty is the opposite of dangerous, it's delicate but it doesn't perfectly describe what I want to say.

As I type this, all three of these questions are (probably rightfully) getting downvotes, close votes, and/or comments requesting further information, details, context, or comments asking about what prior research was done. If any of these commenters wanted to link to an exemplary question showing how to do this, they could easily pick one of Yoichi's top-voted questions, such as:

Who is "That Guy"?

I found the term “that guy”, used as “He embarked on a career as a 'that guy',” in the following sentence of the article of the New Yorker (Feb. 7, 2011) titled “the Most Interesting Man in the World”:

In a recalls of a contentious exchange with Hoffman: “I jumped up and said, ‘Dustin, the reason you don’t like me is because I’m gonna make it and you’re not.’ ” Jonathan Goldsmith eventually made it - out to Los Angeles, anyway—and embarked on a career as a “that guy,” very often the that guy who gets killed, on television shows such as “Bonanza,” “Mannix,” “Gunsmoke,” “Hawaii Five-O,” ... to name a few.

As I don’t understand what that guy used in quotes means, I checked online dictionaries. Neither Cambridge online, nor Free Merriam-Webster has an entry for “that guy.”

Only Onlineslangdictionary.com carries the definition as “any person who does something considered inappropriate,” with an example, “I was going to crack a joke then, but I didn't want to be that guy.” But I don’t think this definition applies to “that guy” appearing in the above sentence.

What does “that guy” as a career Goldsmith built up mean? Does it mean a villain (in the film)? Is "that guy" a well-received of its own word?


Are there similar expressions to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”?

Today most people die in a hospital bed, though many would prefer to die in their own home being watched over by their loving family.

We have an old saying, “to die on a tatami mat”, meaning to die peacefully in one’s own home — as opposed to dying miserably and bedridden in a hospital while being distressed by the presence of tubes supplying oxygen and nutrients as if one was trussed up with some sort of monstrous spaghetti.

For reference, tatami is a floor mat made of woven rush which you may find in most Japanese houses. (The size of a room is quantified in terms of the number of tatamis, e.g. a 6-tatami room or a 12-tatami room.)

“To die on a tatami mat” originally meant “to end a peaceful life” without being subjected to such perils as war, fighting, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons as are rife in this country. By extension, we call a reckless person “a fellow who is unable to die on a tatami mat.”

I associate “aging in place”, a term which I understand is current these days, with “dying on a tatami mat.” But the connotation is not the same.

Are there any English-language expressions that are similar to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”?

I believe that if more users emulated Yoichi in provide such details, the site overall would be a much happier and more interesting place.

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    As much as I hugely respect the user, his most recent questions which are basically asking about meaning, are simpler and could easily be answered by a native speaker without specialized knowledge. Saying that, with the exception of one or two newcomers, I have yet to see any who write questions in the same detail. In other words, I have reached the conclusion that the vast majority of users who have a question just want a fast answer and couldn't care less about crafting or creating something that will be of use to future visitors.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 4:22
  • Because you might think the DV was mine, I'm now DVing because... I actually agree with the user's judgement.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:27
  • @Mari-LouA - Granted, I agree that most of Yoichi’s questions would have better suited for ELL – but there was no ELL when most of them were asked. Still, I think any user could learn a lot from the care he puts into formulating his questions, and, in that regard, they are indeed exemplary.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 11:54
  • Would have? ... No. His questions today would be better suited to ELL: 21 out 25 of his most recent questions are about meaning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 12:07
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    @Mari-Lou - If Yoichi were creating an account today, I'd exhort him to use ELL. However, he asked about 900 of his 1,000+ questions on ELU before ELL even came out of beta! He's also been elected as a site moderator, so I think it's okay if he's grandfathered in. Moreover, let me re-emphasize: I'm not saying his questions are exemplary because of what they ask about, I'm saying they are exemplary because of how they are presented and structured. A new user like this one could probably learn to ask better questions by looking at Yoichi's.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 16:01
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    It's not only about writing "better" questions technically, it's about writing interesting questions. There are so very few of them. Your linked example illustrates perfectly what I said earlier, users who want fast answers. It also stinks suspiciously of being a scholastic assignment (to me).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 16:51
  • @Mari-LouA You make a good point about new members. They're not familiar with the culture and expectations of the site, and a lot of useful information can be hard to find unless you know what to look for and where to look. This makes a good case for actively editing posts to help improve them and to make them fit the broad intentions of SE/ELU. All the while maintaining dialogue with the OPs, of course, to avoid changing the intent of their posts.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 2:17

tl;dr - Add links to the tags and point people to the relevant tag info pages.

There is some (but very little) precedence for curated question lists. This blog picked out 3 noteworthy questions from 2014:

We could use a Meta post such as your question to house links to canonical questions (I even suggested placing them in the blog back when blogs were supported on SE). Either create a new answer per curator or (better) a new answer per type of question. This may have been suggested and rejected before, but a quick search didn't produce the original posts. The inverse (list of bad questions) has had some support. There was even a chat room for that purpose. The problem is finding those questions, rather than having to search for each individual question or type of question.

A more useful approach would be to link tags to representative questions, as is done on the SWR info page. That is, to edit tag info pages to insert links to good questions relevant to that tag.

I'd also suggest adding a note to the tag's tool-tips paragraph to say that the 'info' link leads to a list of canonical questions.

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    I think that using tags is probably the best suggestion proposing anything so far, since the precedence already exists for us adding examples to tags, but there are some practical difficulties to it: One is that adding too many examples to the tags may detract from their purpose and make them difficult to read. The other is that it is hard enough to direct people to the help center is hard enough as it is. It'd be even harder to direct people to the tag info pages. Consider how many people even read as much as the contextual sentence requirement of the single-word-requests for example.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:58
  • Thanks @Tonepoet! Yes, the UI could do with some improvement. But if we wanted to point someone to a canonical list, I think it would be easier to say 'look at the tag info' (hover mouse over tag, click 'info') than to direct them to search Meta for relevant examples and lists.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 10:26

This is an excellent idea, and it probably will help significantly, but only if it is part of a comprehensive, cohesive, and coordinated effort to improve usability and to ensure (as much as possible) that newcomers understand the rules.

We are also discussing this issue on Health.SE. My and others' suggestions there would help here too:

We need Crystal Clear Rules for Asking Questions

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