In the ELL-Post-Apocalypse chatroom, KitFox made a very interesting observation (gently edited here for dramatic impact):

We have gotten diluted with basic questions because basic questions fill our pages. If we want higher caliber questions, people coming here have to see higher caliber questions. They need examples, a standard to reach for. So we should be making sure that the kinds of questions we wanted to have asked are asked every day. Otherwise, users come and see "Is it reason with or reason to?" And they think "I have a question like that!" And they pile on.

I would like to [. . .] encourage our high rep users to post one good question every week on EL&U to help boost the impression of the site (as well as the content).

Now there are obvious objections to this proposition. High-rep users mostly have high reps because they’re really good answerers; and they’re really good answerers not only because they already know a lot of the answers, but also because they already know how to find answers for themselves. Can we live, or keep the site alive, by taking in each others’ laundry? There’s some feeling that we can’t: read the responses to KitFox’ post.

And let’s face it, writing a good question on purpose is really really hard. Much harder than answering it.

But, hey, I’m here for the puzzles. I’m here for questions that make me actually think about what I do instead of just doing it with expert but essentially routine skill. And if the price of my entertainment is that I have to entertain others, fair enough.

So: is the sense of the community that KitFox’s notion is a sound one?—that we should all make an effort to raise the front page profile by writing questions of the kinds we want?

If so, I’ll step up. I'll wash your shirt if you'll wash mine. Hang or fold?

  • 1
    I think KitFox’s proposal is definitely sound, but I do have one minor caveat. My question What exactly is an “adverb”? was almost closed as General Reference. But it's now my second-highest upvoted question, and tchrist's excellent answer is his second-highest. I think that "near-closure" suggests the bar is higher for high-rep users to avoid GR closure. But I'd like to see more well-phrased "basic" questions where we probably know the answer anyway (for linking later Dup closevotes), so really the bar should be lower for high-rep users. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:49
  • @FumbleFingers Yes; I think that's a parade example of what KitFox is talking about: interesting for answerers and a model for questioners. Perhaps the title misled the close-voters; your question is really "When is a noun an adverb?" Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:55
  • Sometimes when a new question is posted that effectively replicates one or more existing ones, it might be better to closevote the originals, but I suspect many people would feel that's bad etiquette. A lot of people seem think "fairness" requires that the first question should stand (just as they think the first answer should be upvoted unless a later one is significantly better. I don't care much about such matters myself, but it needs to be borne in mind that creating new "canonical" questions/answers risks treading on the toes of prior posters. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 16:15
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Good point. And I think we need to be particularly careful to protect new, low-rep users to make sure they stick around. So the model QQ need to be either brand-new or carefully distinguished from previous QQ. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 16:35
  • 1
    " writing a good question on purpose is really really hard. Much harder than answering it." Tell me about it. EL&U is a hard crowd to please.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:05

4 Answers 4


You've already presented my point of view, but I would like to expound a little more.

There comes a point sometime after we hit 3,000 reps when (for many of us) our mindset shifts from contributing via good questions to contributing by closing "bad" (e.g., off-topic, duplicate, etc) questions. Many of us are still avid users, but now we have a special role for cultivating our site.

As we earn more reps, we close more questions and the more questions we close, the more we start looking at questions to see whether they should be closed. Eventually, we stop looking at questions to see if we should close them and instead look at questions to see why they should be open.

But closing questions that we think are not appropriate for the site is only half the work. We need to attract the kinds of questions we want here, and the best way to do that is to provide newcomers with good examples of what is appropriate here.

  • Yes, and you're missed. This has been one of my two or three favorite questions since I came on board just as you were getting kicked upstairs. Peter Principle? ;) Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:59
  • This is very interesting. I have seen people, and the community at large, go from enjoying answering questions to complaining and closing questions. Are they in fact having fun closing questions, and are the endless complaints like "don't touch me, I like it too much"? Commented May 10, 2013 at 2:54

Questions are the result of problems people have. Nobody can invent a good question, because it would not have any practical value. If it is invented, there is not a real problem behind the question. If you want to write a good article Wikipedia is the right place and not SE.

If 10 people ask 10 times the same one line question, than you can not conclude that this is a useless question. Instead this is a very valuable question, because 10 people had the same problem independently.

The only thing you can conclude is, that either the way to find the answer sucks or people are too lazy to search for the answer, because it is easier to ask the question twice.

But the question itself is a good one.

  • 4
    Popularity does not equate to quality, whether on this site or in general. If you browse the FAQ tab, you will find many questions that get re-posted reliably every week, and yet can be answered with a single sentence, and are, in countless places all over the Internet. Advanced questions of real linguistic interest easily get buried under the fluff. Simply put, if we were aiming for popularity alone, the "off-topic" close reason just would not exist.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 23:07

I've had a small handful of questions I've wanted to ask since becoming a regular. For me, my problem has been, for every question I've pondered so far, it would have been closed as a duplicate. A few examples:

As an alternative, would we be similarly encouraged to overhaul what seems like a poorly-written question with some good potential?

  • 2
    Yes, it's annoying to come up with a good question and find somebody else has already asked it. But your alternative is worth considering: look for the questions that have depths unsuspected by OP and edit the tar out of em. That not only produces a better question, it can earn OP some extra upvotes which may keep her around. Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 21:36

"Good questions" do not "help boost the impression of the site".

Good questions are usually left with few votes because the average user has no idea what is being discussed. Those are my preferred type of questions to answer. I actually don't like getting +10 every five minutes. That would mean I answered a 'stupid' question.

If you want to boost impressions, "good" questions need a way of being 'pinned' to a side bar, or something, like featured (I've no idea how or if this should be done; some new kind of bounty? mod votes? high-rep only votes? sounds elitist to me...). Votes from the masses aren't ever going to make that* happen.

*good content rises to the top, etc. - (Popular content rises to the top.)

A high rep user's job is to edit or suggest improvements to turn crap questions into gold mines.

Related: How can we encourage more folks to edit?

EDIT: Don't forget about bounties. More often than not, random new good questions come from new users who abandon them. Then no one wants to put the time in, unless you bounty it.

Bounties are our other job.

Taken out of context from Why no tag Badges for Good questions?:

This would cause a great increase in questions because of people trying to [do this], which simply prevents people who legitimately need their question answered from getting an answer.

  • A crappy question can be made golden if a user spends time on writing an excellent answer. That can really lift a seemingly trite question to the stars.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:19
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA This is the thread that brought me here, and my example of a diamond in the rough, whose OP quit after receiving no constructive criticism (other than mine AFAIK). It's not a basic question, it'd actually require an almost insurmountable amount of research to answer it definitively. IMO, it was closed 'cause no one's going to answer this right, so it's a no go.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:25
  • Skeptics.SE would hang us out to dry with such belligerent dismissiveness.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:31
  • I'm pleased to agree with you. I remember an answer of his that was rather good too. What can you do though? The question even earned five upvotes, not bad going for a first attempt. The user took offense and packed his bags, unfortunately this is a regular occurrence, and we can't afford to lose "proficient" native speakers. Maybe a mod should have intervened and reopened the question, there's one who's very competent at closing questions which he sees are unfit for the site, why not do the opposite sometimes?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:32
  • Let's take this question as an example english.stackexchange.com/questions/285847/… How do you turn that into a gem? You can't. Well, I can't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 0:53
  • @Mari-LouA - So far two people think it should be closed, and there's one pending edit, the latter is a good start. I never said they're all winners or even could be. But this illustrates the disparity between people willing to actually 'help' and those just playing SE. - Getting back on-topic for this post, established users are all used up; we need to be more receptive to questions like the ones we're mentioning.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 1:03
  • Maybe I can after all, there are some comments which could help flesh out this post. It means radically editing the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 1:08
  • @Mari-LouA I don't understand people's aversion to make drastic edits on a question that ya'll know is on it's way out. "That's our job". Why does it need a 'the' - now it's a real question. Title still needs work though.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 1:22
  • 2
    Well changing a person's post is invasive, and some people feel naturally protective towards their creation, it can be seen as humiliating by some. Saying that, I don't normally see this resistance by non-native speakers. We shall see if the OP is appreciative or not. Night, night...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 1:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .