6

A big issue seems to be that, owing to the nature of the kinds of questions that get asked on EL&U, questions that may be interpreted as 'unprofessional' or 'embarrassing' may appear as 'hot questions' on the StackExchange multicollider (dropdown in the top-left corner of the screen), as well as http://stackexchange.com/. Would it simply be a good idea to limit 'hot questions' that may appear in the multicollider to sites which are likely to have subject material that looks 'professional'? I suspect this would involve preventing EL&U questions from appearing in this list. Would the community have a problem with this? Is it a good idea?

16

The mods have previously agreed that whenever a question is dealing with an "offensive" term, we protect it as soon as we see it. Pre-emptively.

So, one idea we just had in chat would be to take protected questions off the Collider (and the cross-site ads, and the Twitter feed). Wholesale. After all, "protected", by definition, basically means just that: we don't want newbies or outsiders to be participating in it.

The problem is that newbies or outsiders are defined as people with less than 10 rep, while the newbies coming via the MultiCollider typically have 101 rep via the 100-point account-association bonus. So we need a way to deal with that effectively.

(Simply increasing the threshold from 10 to 102 won't cut it, because we don't want to be shunning 101-rep users completely. They can still provide awesome answers, and often do. We just need a way to stop advertising certain questions across the network. Let people find those questions by themselves, if they are really interested.)

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    it's mostly about the title; the title has to be "radio-friendly". The body can be As Nasty As They Wanna Be. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 6:24
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    @Jeff So it's OK if the title doesn't closely represent the subject matter; it just has to be clean? Removing questions that are protected, as Reg has suggested, seems far more sensible to me. – Jez Jul 15 '11 at 7:41
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    @jez so n***er instead of nigger, in the title. Like a en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_edit#Editing_for_content except only in the title – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 7:44
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    @Jez: changing the code for the multicollider is a lot more complex than censoring words by hand, which I guess is how these titles will be handled. I don't see how this will degrade the title to not being about the body of the question. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 15 '11 at 9:28
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    @Matt No, but I do rather wonder what the point of it is. Switching 'nigger' with 'n***er' may reduce the initial shock value, but that's about it. The content is basically still the same, and if your offence is allayed by the censorship of a few letters in a word, you should perhaps ask yourself why you're being offended by the letters, and not the semantics that they represent. – Jez Jul 15 '11 at 10:00
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    @Jeff: we agreed to do just that ages ago (do note the author), and we have been doing just that ever since. Can you name specific examples where we failed? So far you've only mentioned three titles which are totally harmless and absolutely radio-friendly. What's more, the first one of them was expressly greenlit by your team with a far more explicit title. The second one was broadcast on Friends. – RegDwigнt Jul 15 '11 at 10:09
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    @jez there are many, many corporate proxies which will ban for things like that. It may not matter to you but it matters to us as a business concern. It's also unfriendly to the rest of the network. If you don't think the post title is publishable on the front page of the New York Times, it's not appropriate and should be edited. Again, the body can be filled to the brim with the vilest, most offensive language possible so long as it is on-topic for the site. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 10:18
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    @reg this english.stackexchange.com/questions/7995/… vs this english.stackexchange.com/questions/9824/… -- though the time difference may explain it. Mostly I'm answering the repeated inquiries of Jez on this topic, so you might want to direct your comment to him. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 10:21
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    @Jeff Then your opposition seems to be to such titles appearing around the network. Is your opposition to simply preventing the broadcast of these questions purely to do with the technical implementation required, or more fundamental? If it's more fundamental, I don't really understand why. You're saying that stuff in some places (the content) can be 'vile', but not other places. I'm saying, keep the 'vile' content (the titles) out of those other places. Where's the problem? – Jez Jul 15 '11 at 10:22
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    @jez people visiting the homepage of this site will still see some disturbing things in the title, which could lead the site to be blocked by corporate proxies and so forth. That's not acceptable. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 10:27
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    @jez the title carries disproportionate weight (hey, just like real life!) as it is echoed in <title> and <h1> and is syndicated all over the network and the site itself. If you have any further questions about this, feel free to email me directly. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 10:35
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    @Jeff actual experts on language don't have such stupidly configured proxies in place. People who choose to block "disturbing" words deserve to be blocked from accessing this site. For a linguist, there is no such thing as a "disturbing" word. He is capable of discussing the word "fuck" in the same calm academic manner in which he would discuss the word "daffodil". Those Beavis-and-Butthead-style "huhuh, he said boob, huhuh" upvoters need to stay away. We don't want them here. This community is not broken; your automated advertising of it is. – RegDwigнt Jul 16 '11 at 14:03
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    @Jeff: it is not my impression that you want to publish those questions on the Collider at all. Nor is it my advice to do so. Out of the five questions you have explicitly pointed out as problematic so far, four had absolutely innocent titles. Yet you have repeatedly stated that you found them puerile and embarrassing. That is what I am addressing with this suggestion. If the totally harmless, perfectly on-topic boobs question sets people off like that — even after having been taken off, discussed about, reopened, and censored — I feel obliged to warn them that they ain't seen nothing yet. – RegDwigнt Jul 16 '11 at 19:14
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    If some bozo somewhere blocks ELU, he also blocks Wikipedia for the exact same reason. Certainly it isn't lost on you how Wikipedia has tons of articles titled you-know-how and you-know-what, and a metric ton of afwully explicit images picturing just those things. And neither the articles' titles nor the images are censored. They are, however, not broadcast to the entire network — let alone advertised via an automated script. And people in the corporate setting happily surf Wikipedia all the time. It is precisely in this spirit that I make this suggestion. – RegDwigнt Jul 16 '11 at 19:15
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    FWIW, Protected questions require 10 rep on the site. Yes, this means association bonuses don't count (ie: people who have 101 points via associated accounts won't be able to answer protected questions). – Orion Dec 29 '11 at 16:04
10

I suggest (and strongly support) a way for the site moderators to mark1 questions so that they do not appear on the multicollider (and twitter, and sidebar ads on our sister sites, etc.).

It's not that they are not fit for the multicollider (and other such advertising), but that they tend to bring some type of traffic that we don't want to handle on specific questions: the questions in themselves are good and well, and can be discussed in a suitably academic fashion, but they conjunction with a lot of incoming traffic is bad. Moreover, they give new users a biased idea of what our site is about (we’re not Urban Dictionary).

I think the proposed suggestion goes a long way into helping fix both. This community would do better by having a steady, organic growth[2] than forced waves of new users from heavily-advertized teenager-appealing sex-related (or, in some case, extreme-geek-appealing!) questions.


[1] in any way deemed technically fit, it's a policy decision, the implementation details are something else

[2] yes, EL&U is successful: this use of the expression “organic growth” is one idiom that I learnt here, on EL&U, when I was just a newbie. I have learnt a lot from being in this community.

  • "It's not that they are not fit for the multicollider" - I believe that part of what Jeff was saying was that, no, they are not in fact fit for the multicollider. The multicollider is to give users across the whole network a positive view of the network and whilst for the most part limiting it to 'hot' questions works, sometimes there are questions that are popular but could give SEN a 'bad image'. So if we're being honest, there are some questions that aren't fit for it, but are fit for the EL&U main site. I am sure this same issue will apply to some other sites too. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 13:15
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    @Fx How about doing things the other way round; mods have to actively mark good questions so that they CAN appear in the multicollider? That means there won't be a period of time where dodgy questions might 'fall through the net'. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 20:30
  • @Jez: given that we have more suitable that unsuitable questions, this should yield more work for the mods. But I am not against this variation if people think it's better. – F'x Jul 14 '11 at 20:57
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    @jez if something is happening that is potentially embarrassing when publicized, the solution is not to stop publicizing it. The solution is to stop engaging in that embarrassing activity. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 6:25
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    @Jeff I think the point is that most of us here at EL&U are not embarrassed by it, whereas it seems that some on the rest of the network are. – Jez Jul 15 '11 at 7:43
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    @Jeff It is not embarrassing. We can (and do) discuss these issues in a proper academic fashion. The problem is: it creates an undue burden due to waves of newcomers attracted by these questions. – F'x Jul 15 '11 at 8:59
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    @jez you really need to start thinking of this in terms of radio edits of rap songs. Both versions can exist, it's a question of what gets gets served to whom -- and more importantly, the contents of the title. Note that I bolded the important bit for emphasis. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 9:27
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    @Jeff You said it yourself - what gets served to whom. There are many rap songs which, owing to their content, are simply not played widely by over-the-air radio stations, are there not? In fact, it's often rather humorous when they do try to release a radio edit because they end up blanking out most of the contents. This seems a good parallel to me; the supercollider 'radio station' should simply not 'play' the inappropriate topics. – Jez Jul 15 '11 at 9:55
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    @jez non-issue if titles are edited appropriately and with the proper gravitas. See bolded section of previous comment. – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '11 at 10:24
  • Re:'extreme-geek-appealing' - who woulda thunk it? I don't think it could have been predicted ahead of time that it would have been popular with that particular crowd (there's not doubt that it was). But I find it hard to say that 'that' crowd brought in a unwanted element beyond just that it brought in a lot of otherwise uninterested readers. – Mitch Jul 15 '11 at 15:14
5

I have three unrelated answers:

  • the multicollider exacerbates the 'rich get richer' problem of those questions having high local voting then getting more to pile on from 'outsiders' (people join up just to vote a popular question even moreso).

  • I particularly like the 'democratic' aspect of this site, that things that are popular get voted up, and that things that are unwanted get voted to close. In fact I particularly dislike it when closing occurs autocratically by a single mod (however well-respected and high-rep they may be, and also however much I agree with the closure).

  • the multicollider is great because there is no easy way for me to see questions on all the sites I like without intentionally visiting each one separately. The collider does a little bit of that for me. And I tend to like those sites that have high popularity items on the collider.

1

Would it simply be a good idea to limit 'hot questions' that may appear in the multicollider to sites which are likely to have subject material that looks 'professional'?

I think you are missing the point. As much as I also hate the multi-collider, the issue is that these sorts of questions are mostly likely ungood wherever they end up. Getting sucked into the multi-collider just makes it more obvious. But if there is a question on our site we would be ashamed of having on the multi-collider we should get it off of our site. As in, remove our crap; not hide it from others.

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    I am drawing a line between what the ELU community may see as a desirable question, and what the network as a whole may see as a desirable question. So I disagree with the assertion that a bad question on the multicollider / across the network is a bad question anywhere; I don't think that's necessarily true. See here for some examples of stuff I think is OK on ELU, but I can see why it wouldn't be OK broadcast network-wide. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 13:19
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    @Jez: I think two of your four examples are terrible questions, one needs some serious editing, and the other just needs a censored title. I don't think ELU needs a special area for special questions. If the network doesn't see something as a desirable question, why do we? – MrHen Jul 14 '11 at 13:23
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    Well I disagree. Let's see what the consensus is on whether they're 'terrible questions'. Also, I seriously question whether censoring swear words is a good idea. This is surely intended to be a site for grown-ups, not some Ned Flanders-esque stress-fest about whether certain stuff might offend people. Judge stuff on whether it's ontopic, not whether it might offend some. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 13:24
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    @Jez: My point was that if you think they are inappropriate for the rest of the site because of one word, we can filter out the word. My real point is that our good questions should be good enough for the whole network; our bad questions should just be removed anyway. I hate the multi-collider but I don't think the issue is how to keep inappropriate questions out of it. The issue is how to get rid of inappropriate questions quickly and with a clear explanation of why. EL&U should haven't to hide their good questions from everyone. If that is happening, something went wrong. – MrHen Jul 14 '11 at 13:36
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    They may be inappropriate for the rest of the site because of one word, or because of subject matter in general that is deemed to appear 'unprofessional'. In either case, I like RegDwight's idea of selectively stopping (say) protected questions from being broadcast, and again I disagree with you that a good/bad question for EL&U is necessarily a good/bad question for the whole network. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 13:49
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    @Jez: I think of it more the other way around: A good question on EL&U should necessarily be a good question for the network. – MrHen Jul 14 '11 at 14:17
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    @MrHen: Could you give reasons why you think some of those questions are "terrible"? – psmears Jul 14 '11 at 22:14
  • @psmears: Sure. I don't really feel like doing so in the comments, though. – MrHen Jul 14 '11 at 23:40
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    @MrHen: Then it would be great if you could post them somewhere else :) Criticising without giving reasons comes across as unconstructive - all it tells us is that you don't happen to like those four questions. If you give reasons, we can better understand your point, and (more importantly) start to apply it to other questions on the site (if we agree, of course :). – psmears Jul 15 '11 at 23:09
  • @psmears: We could meet up in English Language & Usage Chat sometime, perhaps, but I don't know how much I have to offer. :P – MrHen Jul 15 '11 at 23:59
0

If I got it right, it seems you're suggesting this SE doesn't treat about professional stuff, but even if there are some questions that really are not expert or professional, I've seen very good questions on here.

The solution is not for us to "back off" from the multicollider, but rather to work so as to make our StackExchange more professional.

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    I'm suggesting that some people seem to find questions that many in our community would find interesting and useful as ontopic, to be offensive or distasteful. If this is a problem, I think that it would be better for the health of EL&U if it were made less visible to the rest of the network, rather than reduced in scope. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 11:04
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    @jez can you provide examples of such? – Jeff Atwood Jul 14 '11 at 11:59
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    @Jeff here, here, here, and here are some candidates; one or two could do with their titles editing, but they're basically sound questions. – Jez Jul 14 '11 at 12:22

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