Does a question which shows no research, no effort deserve a downvote? If the answer is yes, I would like to know the reason behind it.

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    People downvote for lots of reasons. Sometimes people give those reasons and sometimes they don't. There's lots of commentary here about forcing people to give reasons for downvoting and lots of reasons for not. Use search. – Mitch Oct 20 '14 at 2:19
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    I'm sure you're aware Meta voting is different from Main-site voting. Meta votes indicate ("I like this; I don't like this") and although those criteria are sometimes used by voters on Main, the real reasons for voting are in the tooltips. Unfortunately, the same tooltips appear on Meta :-( – Andrew Leach Oct 20 '14 at 7:37
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    Many people take charity as a virtue, and engage in charitable acts for their own sake. But very few people enjoy charity being demanded of them. By posting a minimal-effort question, and still insisting on the SE standard of a detailed, comprehensive, well-researched and well-supported answer, you're effectively demanding charity. Especially in the cases where someone does provide a reasonable answer which you proceed to either argue with or nitpick, thus requiring ever more detail and evidence to satisfy you. Hence the general allergic reaction on StackExchange against "homework" questions – Dan Bron Oct 20 '14 at 14:06
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    @DanBron "But very few people enjoy charity being demanded of them." Would you please explain what this has to do with the question? – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 3:11
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    @Please read the sentence following that one in my comment. – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 8:25
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    @ivanhoe, I can also ignore 4-year-old toddler's "request" for ice cream, but that doesn't make it any less of a demand. I could ignore the panhandler who came up to me on the subway this morning and said "gimme a dollar", but that doesn't make it less of a demand. If you remember the bad old days when spammers first figured out they could send millions of direct email advertisers essentially for free, and how their typical response to complaints was "It's just email, you don't have to read it, you can always just hit delete" rang a bit hollow.. you know why the downvote button was invented. – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 8:38
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    @ivanhoe In other words, being a contributing member of the community here doesn't just mean asking, or even answering, questions, it means curating them too. It means helping the system determine which questions are high-quality, and will help future querents answer their questions as much as it helps the current one answer his. [continued] – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 8:47
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    @ivanhoe Being a good member of the community also means downvoting low-quality questions, so that the good, high-quality questions, the signal, doesn't get lost in a sea of noise. Aa others have shown you, questions which don't demonstrate research are considered low-quality. In other words, when a user downvotes your question as low-quality, he's not just doing it to express an opinion, he's doing his duty as a member of this community. – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 8:49
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    @Dan Bron: In principle I don't need to express an opinion on this matter, since you've just done it for me so eloquently. But I'll do my duty as a member of this community and upvote your comment. On the other hand, I'm ambivalent about voting for/against the question itself, since I think it's good that the matter should be raised (so I should upvote), but OP here seems to imply evidence prior research is not important (so I should downvote). That's a common problem for me, voting on meta questions. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '14 at 13:14
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    @FumbleFingers, me too, and I think I've seen the topic raised on Meta.SE before. My general take is I'll downvote peeving or retributive questions, because that's most immediately informative to the OP and helpful to the community. If the question later gets edited, or goodwill cone sis starts to build up, I may negate or even reverse my prior vote. But that doesn't happen very frequently :) – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 13:39
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    @Mitch "People downvote for lots of reasons." I'm asking what the reasons are. What's wrong with that? – ivanhoescott Oct 23 '14 at 22:15
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    @ivanhoescott I don't think there's anything wrong with your question Ivan. The reason poorly researched questions are downvoted is to discourage questions that are ambiguous and don't benefit the community at large. – Alexander Troup Oct 29 '14 at 10:29
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    @ivanhoescott we don't. We look at a question and we say, hm... Does this question look like someone's just asking a question without research or does it look like some effort was made and presented as such before asking the question? And we consider whether we care to do this generally on a question by question basis. But there are at least two parts of distinguishing "no research" 1) Does the question look like it's a drive-by dump question (yes, dumP) with poor grammar and spelling? If it's interesting, maybe it'll pass but generally, General Reference applies – SrJoven Nov 3 '14 at 19:46
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    @ivanhoescott 2) Does the question look like homework and not applicable to a general audience? Especially, does the question look like something a teacher would ask? Yes, this would be considered likely "no research", especially if the question feels like it was copied verbatim from a test. (It's too formal a question). Yes, arbitrary, but then if some thought is put into creating a question, it would be helpful to understand what research went into the question prior to it being asked, especially so the answers aren't duplicates. "I found that already. It's not what I want!" – SrJoven Nov 3 '14 at 19:50
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    RE: Nobody demands that you answer a question on this site. You can always ignore it. True, but you can always ignore your downvotes, too. RE: How do you know that a question showing no research effort is actually the result of no research? There's no way to tell, but the question is unlikely to be upvoted if that research is omitted. The upvote tooltip reads: "This question shows research effort" (emphasis added); the downvote tooltip doesn't say, "No research was put into this question," it says that no research was shown. If you want to be rewarded for your research, show it. – J.R. Nov 11 '14 at 10:55

Absolutely it can be downvoted. Even the tooltip on the downvote button mentions a lack of evidence of research as a reason to downvote. Stack Exchange has never looked kindly on gimmethecodez questions, whichever of the network’s sites they appear on.

Medica's referred you to the Help text; the supplementary question “So how much research is necessary?” has already been asked. The answer at that question is based on a specific example, but can be readily applied generally.

"How to ask" prompt box from the "Ask Question" page [Source: ELU "Ask Question" page]

The point is that doing the research may actually present you with the answer; and even if it doesn’t then if you quote your research it tells others where not to look, or they may be able to point out how you have misinterpreted what you found. If you don’t present your research, then any answer which contradicts what you found won’t be able to explain why it’s contradictory, and that won’t really help you. If you didn’t use the best resource, you might even get advice on the research itself: where best to look for the answer to the question asked. None of that is possible without knowing what you did yourself to look for the answer to your question.

And of course, if the question is interesting and you have already found the answer, you can even post both yourself: double points!

[And just for the record, I vote on questions only occasionally and I don’t believe I’ve downvoted any of yours.]

  • Don't forget the tooltip that appears when you hover over the downvote button. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 20 '14 at 12:59
  • @AndrewLeach Would you please explain what exactly gimmethecodez means? – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 2:12
  • Gimme teh codez on Meta.SE: “I need to do X; please write that for me. I haven’t done any work on it, cos you can do it can’t you.” That MSE question is geared to programming (hence codez) but the philosophy is network-wide — which is why that Meta question is on MSE and not a site-specific Meta. – Andrew Leach Oct 21 '14 at 6:17
  • @AndrewLeach Just because you don't write what you have done so far does not necessarily mean you are gimmethecodez. – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 8:42
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    But if you don't write what you have done so far, people will assume you are gimmethecodez. It's up to you to demonstrate that you are not. – Andrew Leach Oct 21 '14 at 8:55
  • Suppose I came up with a very interesting question. Since I didn't want it to be downvoted, let alone closed by members who have the same opinion as yours on this matter, I made thorough research on it. I used Google, but could not find the answer. So I went to a university library and spent a whole day there. I finally got the answer. Of course, I did not ask the question here. Is that what the site wants? – ivanhoescott Oct 22 '14 at 15:39
  • I address that possibility in my answer above. – Andrew Leach Oct 22 '14 at 16:49
  • You just say you can post both your question and answer. In my experiences, this is not usually welcomed by the SE community. At least some people hate such questions. Anyway, most people don't know the site allows them. – ivanhoescott Oct 22 '14 at 22:05
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    @ivanhoescott, I can't say I agree with your final comment or observation. In my experience (and the official policy of the network), posting a interesting question and a well-researched and definitive answer is actively encouraged and welcomed, because it enhances SE's status as a repository of knowledge and a place people can find good answers to the questions they have. – Dan Bron Oct 22 '14 at 23:58
  • @DanBron I know the site policy. I used to answer my own questions in MSE. Some members hated my doing so and bullied me. – ivanhoescott Oct 23 '14 at 17:11
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    @ivanhoescott, (a) that question is going on four years old, and (b) the most upvoted answer to that question responds in the positive. Generally speaking, the most-upvoted answer represents the will of the community, whereas the accepted answer means the single OP agrees or found the answer useful. See for example this question. In any case, the stated policy of the network, as I pointed to above, is this behavior (asking & answering) is not only acceptable but welcomed; no MSE question takes precedence over that. – Dan Bron Oct 23 '14 at 19:17
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    Downvoting for not showing effort is not irrational: it's in the tooltip hint. And neither is it bullying. I think these comments on my answer have run their course. You may disagree with it; that's your prerogative. But all the answers here, and the voting on the question, would indicate that your view does not chime with the community. – Andrew Leach Oct 23 '14 at 21:11
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    @ivanhoescott How can random user know what you found out if you don't say it? Are people supposed to just assume that you are posting a question after all available assets at your disposal have been exhausted? That sounds presumptuous. The community is inundated with sub-par posts from lots of people constantly. Certainly the majority of even good questions show no research. But formal-sounding questions from intelligent sounding people (given cursory inspection) seems to point to more effort being put into a question being asked than researching the answer. – SrJoven Nov 3 '14 at 20:00
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    @ivanhoescott re: Have you thoroughly searched for an answer includes general reference outside of the site. It has to. In fact, where do you think the majority of answers originates? They're just better at searching than the people who ask. – SrJoven Nov 3 '14 at 20:04
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    @ivanhoescott Of course there is a reason to assume no prior work. It isn't shown in the question. – SrJoven Jan 26 '15 at 13:08

Did you search the help section before asking this question? If you did, can you show us what you found, and what you're having a problem with? No? Hmmm... that means I have to do it for you, even though I'm not blessed with more time than you are.

Well, here goes... searches... Ah! Here you go.

In the help section, under How do I ask a good question?, the first "tip" is:

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

This implies that a question not showing research is worth less than one that does, and, in my opinion, is worthy of a down vote from whomsoever wants to confer one for that reason.

If you think this is {sarcastic}, well, you're right. This is because this concept shouldn't be news to you. (I will speak only for myself here: I tend to cut new users a lot of slack. You, however, have been here for over a year. And, while I usually try to be helpful rather than not, I don't really like it when people complain frequently in meta over perceived injustices, then argue with the people who answer them.) If it is actually news to you, please accept my sincere apologies, and please take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site.

  • I usually check at least three annotated books on Hamlet and at least two Shakespeare glossary books(Onion's and Schmidt's) before I ask a question. – ivanhoescott Oct 20 '14 at 6:34
  • Are you saying that I should write all the resources I checked before I ask a question? – ivanhoescott Oct 20 '14 at 6:43
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    What I'm saying is pretty clearly stated above. Now you will do the thing I said I really didn't like: when people complain frequently in meta over perceived injustices, then argue with the people who answer them. Right? – anongoodnurse Oct 20 '14 at 7:28
  • This thread is for discussion(have you noticed the discussion tag?). Are you saying that I should write all the resources I checked before I ask a question? – ivanhoescott Oct 20 '14 at 9:12
  • The meta site is not a Q&A site like the main site. Although a thread usually begins as a question, it may not be a real question. Rather it proposes a discussion subject. – ivanhoescott Oct 20 '14 at 9:18
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    In what way(s) do you think my answer fails to answer that particular question? Yes, you should list the research you've done and specify what you don't understand. Even here in comments, you want your answers handed to you on a silver platter (so the idiom goes) instead of thinking about it. This is a well researched question. It is a prototype for the kind of question people are more than happy to answer (and a delight to users), because the OP isn't merely asking "what does bupke mean?" – anongoodnurse Oct 20 '14 at 9:31
  • I said I usually check at least three annotated books on Hamlet and at least two Shakespeare glossary books before I ask a question on Hamlet. If I got a clue, I would write about it nor post the question. Which means that I had gotten no clue if I did not write about it. – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 2:30
  • "Yes, you should list the research you've done and specify what you don't understand." What if there's no clue in my research? In other words, there's no mention in those books about my problem. – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 2:41
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    "Then you don't appear to be just copy-pasting a question and asking us for your answer." Why do you think it matters? Anybody can copy and past a question which includes its research. – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 3:55
  • @ivanhoe .... And where would someone go to find a question which already includes research in order to copy-paste? (That's a rhetorical question.) – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 8:53
  • @DanBron For example, from some other sites. – ivanhoescott Oct 21 '14 at 9:53
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    @ivanhoescott, that's not an "example", that's a tautology. My (tacit) contention was that SE is fairly unique in insisting querents provide evidence of research, because it has learned from the mistakes and problems of the sites which have preceded it. This rule is a valuable innovation. That said, if other sites start following SE's lead, and you manage to find an interesting question which references meaningful research and due diligence, I'd say that question would be welcome here, even if copy/pasted (ie you'd be asking on another person's behalf, but the question would be valid). – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 9:58
  • @DanBron "My (tacit) contention was that SE is fairly unique in insisting querents provide evidence of research" Could you provide an evidence of this claim? – ivanhoescott Oct 25 '14 at 21:50
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    @ivanhoescott, I have told you before, because of your insistence on leading conversations in circles, rather than seeking productive ends for either yourself or your interlocutor (case in point), I have abandoned my willingness to help you navigate StackExchange or improve your chances of getting the answers you seek. In other words, yes, I can provide evidence, but no, I won't, because nothing will come of it. You don't want to learn, so I don't want to teach. I will not engage with you further in this thread, or any similar ones in the future. Good luck n your analysis of Shakespeare. – Dan Bron Oct 26 '14 at 1:49
  • @DanBron "I can provide evidence, but no, I won't, because nothing will come of it." This thread is, unlike the main one, for discussion. If you don't want to discuss with me, please don't bother posting your comment here(and anywhere else in the meta) about mine. – ivanhoescott Oct 28 '14 at 9:34

Einstein once said, if I had 60 minutes to solve a problem I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the right question to ask, and 5 minutes on the solution.

Thinking of the right question to ask requires both effort and research into trying to answer it yourself.

So the answer to your question would be "yes," and the reason behind it is that the learning process is most efficient when actively pursued (PS I did not down vote this question).


This is a generality:

The more effort you put into a question – which includes sharing at least a summary of the research you did prior to asking the question – the better your question will be received by the community.

Similarly, when a question is vague about whether or not any research was attempted at all, that question will be more vulnerable to a negative reaction from the community.

This doesn't mean there's always a direct relationship between the amount of research included and the ultimate upvote/downvote totals. Everyone has their own criteria for upvoting and downvoting, and more goes into it than mere research effort. However, you can help people take your question more seriously when you include your research, and you open yourself up for a more harsh reaction when you deliberately elect to omit it.

As for the reason behind it, that's not too hard to figure out. If you expect us to do your legwork for you (especially when a tool tip says, "This question does not show any research effort"), then each qualified member of the community has the right to cast a downvote, as a way of collectively encouraging more research in future questions.

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    @Mari-Lou - All that may be true, but I was keeping the scope of my answer here confined to the scope of the O.P.'s original question. In short: Does a question which shows no research deserve a downvote? Maybe. Does a question which shows no effort deserve a downvote? Maybe; maybe even probably. – J.R. Nov 11 '14 at 11:00
  • cough I've deleted my comments cough – Mari-Lou A Nov 11 '14 at 16:16
  • @Mari-Lou - I noticed you have, but I liked my summary down here, and didn't want to delete it. – J.R. Nov 11 '14 at 19:34

Glad to see you're working through Shakespeare. I hope to do that myself some day.

My philosophy to "downvotes for no research/effort" is: Not always. (See the addendum.) If votes are important, the question must have something going for it. My personal rationale is: If it's new, interesting, or applicable (i.e., I've been wondering about it too) to me, then I upvote. For my upvote, it does not need research or effort if it has these.

Also remember that votes are (mathematically speaking) a function of the community, which is a function of its members and their (individual and social) attitudes -- all of which are functions of time. Just because a question has a poor reception now does not mean it will always have it.

Because votes are a trendy bunch, I think it's best not to pay too much mind to them. But I know from my own experience that that's easier said than done.

The reason Andrew Leach provides, that research aids in getting the right answers, is important. But because not many of the questions in the addendum seemed to have that problem, I do not think it's a good reason to justify the stance that "all questions that do not show research deserve a downvote."

So I offer another possible explanation for that rationale: In a moral lifted right off the pages of Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I think we recognize Quality when we see it but we don't completely know what makes a thing Quality. So we turn to encouraging "symptoms" of Quality in our questions. After all, there are lots of poor questions that don't show any research and there are lots of good questions that show plenty of research. We thus make research/effort a rubric for what makes a question a Good Question or an asker a Good Asker. But we must be careful not to become too accustomed to such thinking, or we will miss out on interesting questions because of the complacency that can rise from habit.

I am skeptical of using research and effort to discriminate good questions from bad. I maintain there are situations where it's difficult to provide research in the conventional sense. And I think making effort compulsory can lead to questions that undermine themselves in trying to demonstrate it.


The 18 questions below are drawn from the 50 highest voted questions on ELU to date. Given with the questions' links are their current DOWNVOTE/UPVOTE tallies and dates posted. They are sorted by recency. Most are older, but some are relatively new. The first one below, posted earlier this year, has 3 downvotes and is just a question, a picture, and a transcript of the text in the picture.

Short Half-Question, Half-Intro/-Example

3/104 I don't get this joke. Is it some kind of play on "water, too?" 18 Feb 2014

3/191 Is there a phrase that means sleeping with someone without sex? 28 Jan 2014

0/67 Is "believe you me" proper English? 11 Apr '11

0/132 Is there a word or phrase for the feeling you get after looking at a word for too long? 3 Dec '10

3/137 Do most languages need more space than English? 14 Sep '10

0/83 Can "doubt" sometimes mean "question"? 2 Sep '10

0/158 What is the factual basis for "pirate speech"? (Did pirates really say things like "shiver me timbers"?) 18 Aug '10

1/87 Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? 10 Aug '10

1/142 Is there a correct gender-neutral singular pronoun ("his" vs. "her" vs. "their")? 5 Aug '10

0/75 What’s the rule for using “who” and “whom” correctly? 5 Aug '10

Research Mentioned but not Shown

0/95 When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen? 28 Aug '10

0/107 Why do English writers avoid explicit numerals? 15 Aug '10

Only Questions

0/92 What the #$@&%*! is that called? 15 Oct '12

10/108 Differences between slang words for breasts 19 Jan '11

0/67 Why should the first person pronoun 'I' always be capitalized? 5 Jan '11

1/147 How are "i.e." and "e.g." pronounced? 12 Aug '10

1/82 Which words in a title should be capitalized? 5 Aug '10

0/79 When to use “that” and when to use “which”? 5 Aug '10

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    +1 - As always, you present a good argument for your case. I have to agree with your assessment, but want to stress that interesting and quality questions are usually applicable/interesting to a wider audience than the audience of one - the asker. – anongoodnurse Oct 21 '14 at 5:34
  • @medica That's true. Conversely, it should also be stressed that it is not always the research that makes a question good, or applicable/interesting to a wider audience. (Consider the #$@&%!, "I", and that/which questions. 50+ upvotes apiece and no downvotes -- and they're just queries!) It is good practice/etiquette to show research, and I think OP's questions will improve by doing so. But this question is not about OP's questions but ELU questions in general. I feel some posts say the presence of (good) research in a question is necessary for it to be good, when I think it's just sufficient. – user39720 Oct 22 '14 at 1:51
  • I agree, and think you've made a good case for your position. – anongoodnurse Oct 22 '14 at 1:54

Regardless of whether a question demonstrates effort, or research it should only be down-voted if it breaches the ideals of a good question for this site.

Typically the only way to write a good question is to do as the help guidelines say, put effort into researching your question to the point of being stuck, and then put in the effort to write a detailed and clear post; hence why those actions are suggested. However researching a subject comes with no guarantee of results, and some people can write masterpieces with the swish of a finger. The point I'm trying to make is that down-voting is not about what the OP demonstrates, it's about whether the question meets the site's criteria. Researching, and putting effort into a post are not a requirement, the help page regarding how to ask a question calls them "tips".

here are some tips

The site's help pages do not define what a good question is, but the requirements are that a question be one that you cannot find an answer for, (this doesn't mean you have to have looked for an answer, only that if you did you wouldn't find one), and that it fit in one of the white-listed topics.

Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

    Word choice and usage
    Etymology (history of words’ development)
    Dialect differences
    Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
    Spelling and punctuation

Ref: https://english.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

if your question isn't adequately answered by [common online internet resources], feel free to ask here on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!

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    "put effort into researching your question to the point of being stuck" Do you really mean this? If every member makes research thoroughly before asking a question, the amount of questions(and hence answers) in this site will be greatly reduced. I don't think that is what the site and the members wish for. – ivanhoescott Oct 22 '14 at 15:11
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    @ivanhoescott the amount of questions(and hence answer) in this site will be greatly reduced. Yes it would, the poor and mediocre questions would be trimmed away leaving only the expert ones, which is the whole point of SE. I don't think that is what the site and the members wish for I can't speak for everyone else, but personally I find having a lax attitude helps make the site more inviting; I reserve my down-votes for questions in dire need of them. – Robin Hood Oct 23 '14 at 1:16
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    @RobinHood I concur. Yes, I do wish for fewer, but better-quality questions. And I reserve downvotes for the most egregious counter-examples. Perhaps I should be more profligate. – Andrew Leach Oct 23 '14 at 19:59
  • @RobinHood "Yes it would, the poor and mediocre questions would be trimmed away leaving only the expert ones, which is the whole point of SE." In that case, you would run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water. – ivanhoescott Oct 23 '14 at 21:01
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    @AndrewLeach I think we need far more voting of every kind! – curiousdannii Oct 26 '14 at 2:24
  • @RobinHood "put effort into researching your question to the point of being stuck" Suppose I came up with a very interesting question. Since I didn't want it to be downvoted, let alone closed by members who have the same opinion as yours on this matter, I made thorough research on it. I used Google, but could not find the answer. So I went to a university library and spent a whole day there. I finally got the answer. Of course, I did not ask the question here. Is that what the site wants? – ivanhoescott Oct 28 '14 at 9:43
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    @ivanhoescott same opinion as yours on this matter. ????? As I said before I have a lax attitude about all of this. I think your example goes back to the SE ideal of not being another site of duplicated content. It is about experts sharing knowledge. If you had to spend all day researching, gathering information from multiple sources, then it's likely fine to post, because it goes beyond common online internet resources. Where black and white, there is usually some gray. – Robin Hood Nov 2 '14 at 21:39
  • @RobinHood "?????" "put effort into researching your question to the point of being stuck" You wrote this. Is this not your opinion? – ivanhoescott Nov 3 '14 at 12:41

I would like to point out a point which many users might overlook. Coming up with a good question is not trivial. Even if the answer could be found by Google, the chances are you would never come up with the question, let alone with the answer.

  • Coming up with a good question is not trivial for me because of the reasons stated. My uniquely personal interests in grammar are already answered (duplicate), possibly too obscure to be understood (unsure of what's being asked) or not interesting to an audience outside of myself. On the other hand, there is a certain level of personality that seeks genuine assistance for an answer. It's likely the people who honestly don't seem to know any better that have reasonable questions. – SrJoven Nov 3 '14 at 21:22
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    Which is why we should expect there to be many bad questions and vote on them accordingly. – curiousdannii Nov 3 '14 at 22:23
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    It certainly hasn't been overlooked. People will have questions. Coming up with a good SE question is not trivial indeed. – Andrew Leach Nov 3 '14 at 23:29
  • @AndrewLeach "It certainly hasn't been overlooked." You seem to misunderstand my point. The point is that under your rule very interesting questions whose answers can be found by Google could not be posted. – ivanhoescott Nov 8 '14 at 20:26

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