"Sorting on" vs. "Sorting by"

I'm stumped. What did I miss here?

  • Too much like a lot of questions another person who is a spammer has asked.
    – Mitch
    Oct 23, 2012 at 17:53
  • @Mitch: if that's the case, then it's a very sad state of affairs. Questions should be judged on their merits, not on subjective likes and dislikes. John: I really couldn't tell you what's wrong with your question. I hope some of the close-voters will respond here.
    – Marthaª
    Oct 23, 2012 at 18:23
  • On first glance, the question looks perfectly valid (the only problem I see is that it is probably a duplicate of another question, but that's not what we're concerned with here). I'll take another look at the question later and give the closers a chance to weigh in in the meantime, but assuming that I still feel the same way, I'll reopen it later.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 23, 2012 at 18:30
  • @Marthaª: Just a guess.
    – Mitch
    Oct 23, 2012 at 19:31
  • 1
    I just voted to reopen - probably unnecessary since waiwai933♦ can just do it anyway. I think it's a trivial question, but not helped by the changes OP was asked to make. Basically, so far as I'm concerned, you sort database tables on fields, and you sort everything else by the "quality/attribute" you're interested in. Maybe there's more to add, but I doubt it adds up to much. Oct 24, 2012 at 0:08

1 Answer 1


In a comment on the original question I said that, among other reasons, questions are incomplete (and therefore fit the definition of “not a real question”) when they show no research effort. Marthaª replied that this criterion “can contribute to ‘not a real question’ or ‘general reference’, but it really depends on the particulars of the case.”

Actually, though, research effort is always required, regardless of the type of question or the particulars of the case, because it is central to the site concept: by and for scholars of the English language.

This is why the first reason given in the tooltip for the downvote button is “this question does not show any research effort”.

The site concept has been articulated and the same point made at various times and places by the site management. Some examples:

Questions at EL&U should be expert-level questions which are “interesting, unique, and thought-provoking”. — Single word requests, crosswords, and the fight against mediocrity by Shog9, StackExchange staff

OP must “have a particularly interesting problem to solve” and put “effort and research into the question”. — Correct word for a design in progress by Robert Cartaino, StackExchange staff

OP can “ask simple questions as long as they are thoughtful, intriguing questions posed as you would ask them of an expert. Overly simple questions without research or forethought should be closed. … There’s no lowering of the bar for a so-called learners’ status.” On the closure of English Language Learners by Robert Cartaino, StackExchange staff

Requiring the OP to show some research is key, and simple: what have you tried? and in what context do you plan to use this? The sidebar that appears when you ask a question also covers this … [the] relevant bit being share your research. And if you haven’t done any, should you even be asking here?” — Against single word requests by Jeff Atwood, StackExchange co-founder

As I pointed out elsewhere, this concept is also expressly stated in the site charter:

Stack Exchange is a growing network of individual communities, each dedicated to serving experts in a specific field. We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise. (from SE/about)

The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts. (from English.SE/faq)

  • Downvoter: could you help by clarifying in comments if the issue is that the answer is mistaken, or that it is accurate but you don't like what management expects.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 24, 2012 at 13:57
  • I agree w/ your exhortation for more research, and the sharing of that research, when questions are asked. I also agree that questions without such research are susceptible to downvotes. Where I think we might disagree, though, is in your assertion that questions showing no research effort are incomplete, and therefore by default not real questions. While it's sometimes true that a little bit of research would alleviate the need for a question (and therefore be grounds for closure), I don't think a lack of research is grounds by itself. Still, your advice is good overall. [PS Not my downvote]
    – J.R.
    Oct 24, 2012 at 16:21
  • @J.R. Cartaino says it is, though: his comment on "Correct word for a design in progress" was nothing more or less than a note accompanying his a closevote for Not A Real Question.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 24, 2012 at 17:26
  • You and Robert are each entitled to your opinions, of course, but I don't think lack of research in and of itself is grounds for closure in all circumstances.
    – J.R.
    Oct 24, 2012 at 18:54
  • @J.R. I am actually trying to stay away from stating my own opinion. I am trying to report what SE management have said needs to happen.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 24, 2012 at 20:45
  • Thanks for the response. What I don't understand, even now, is that I asked a (shorter) single-word-request question only a couple of weeks earlier, and the community responded completely differently. I earned a "Good Question" badge, and received 18 answers to that question. english.stackexchange.com/questions/84603/… Why was that question a good one, and the one I have now bad? Based on your answer, they both should have been closed.
    – John
    Oct 24, 2012 at 21:28
  • That, and if SE is "dedicated to serving experts in a specific field" then beginner questions should have no place in any of these sites -- which I know is not true. (Unless, experts are served by the opportunity to help out beginners, but that seems to be a bit of a reach.)
    – John
    Oct 24, 2012 at 21:33
  • @John: It's a fickle thing, I don't know if I can describe the phenomenon in just 600 characters. It's not all about length, though, it's about substance. One brief question might be thought-provoking, challenging, prompting us to pause and think deeply. Another might cause us to roll our eyes and sigh, "Yet another trivial question about prepositions?" One might strike many of us as perplexing, while another comes across trite. Moreover, as you say, the site is not for experts only, but questions should be written in a way that won't put off experts. Maybe this helps shed some light on it?
    – J.R.
    Oct 24, 2012 at 22:57
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    By the way, one more comment, which might help you feel better about this: the same thing happens with answers. Sometimes one of us will put a LOT of effort into an answer, and it goes largely unappreciated. The next day, we can hack out what seems like a straightforward and obvious answer, and it'll start getting upvoted like crazy. For the most part, the better questions and answers get the most upvotes, but exceptions abound, and you can't read too much into a very small sampling.
    – J.R.
    Oct 25, 2012 at 1:51

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