12

I'm not complaining or anything. It's just a thought.

People who really want to learn should absolutely be shown hospitality, assisted, and encouraged.

That said, any regular here would agree that the vast majority of questions pouring in lately are:

  1. haphazardly, nay, chaotically worded; so much so that one needs to do some pretty serious deciphering before the meaning becomes relatively clear
  2. indolently written (to put it mildly; I'm being super-polite here, and not at all judgmental, you see): some of the spelling and punctuation is downright insulting. Capitalization is a common feature in all European languages. The rules aren't very difficult to grasp. The spellchecker is an invasive feature on pretty much any software system these days. What gives?
  3. concern the least captivating aspects of the language
  4. have to do with homework assignments that students don't wish to be bothered with because they have lives and all
  5. have to do with moronic video games based on mass genocide in dismal surroundings
  6. posted by people who won't return after getting the answer they're looking for; or else by people who won't return even to get the answer they're looking for (as they have better things to do)
  7. and so forth.

I'm not saying such questions should be ignored or closed as soon as they're posted. But many folks here (of this I'm nearly certain) would appreciate it if superior questions were somehow

  1. Encouraged (rep points, or whatever: the actual method isn't very important)
  2. Promoted. Since all of us are from vastly different time zones, more often than not a good question gets pushed down the page and is soon drowned in the swamp of brazen illiteracy. More often than not only those who were fortunate enough to see it within two hours (or less) of posting and answer it or comment on it get to ponder on it further, research it, or discuss it.

The list of "featured" questions currently consists of two items: one is from the year of Our Lord 2012; its companion is a year older; both have been answered to the satisfaction of their respective OP's. Seriously?

Right now the list of the "newest" questions is adorned by the following two top posts:

"Is these terms are different?" and "Is a comma needed after following in this sentence?" In order to get to the latest interesting question, one has to navigate to the second page. How many newcomers are going to do this, do you think?

Can anything be done about this?

  • 8
    And I think one of the ways to make questions more "interesting" and grammatically acceptable is to edit them into shape. – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '15 at 10:04
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    Edit away - english.stackexchange.com/questions/290492/… When it's all good and shapely, tell me honestly whether you truly think it's breathtakingly interesting. – Ricky Nov 29 '15 at 10:09
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    I can't edit it. There's an edit in the queue. It's totally blocked. Someone rejected a user's edit. OK, fine, not a great edit, but the guy earns 2 points for improving the formatting. I'll have to wait until the edit is either approved or rejected. – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '15 at 10:17
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    Well it's difficult to turn such a bare question into a gem, there's not much to go on. But it can be improved. – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '15 at 10:41
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    One way of helping is to upvote good questions and downvote bad questions. Vote to close questions where there no evidence of research which would have found the answer in a basic reference. And there is always a different listing which might be useful as it uses votes. – Andrew Leach Nov 29 '15 at 10:42
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    Oh, and you get to approve suggested edits because you have more than 2000 rep. I find that quite fun, sometimes, particularly rejecting the spam and idiotic edits. It's amazing what some people will do. – Andrew Leach Nov 29 '15 at 10:45
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    @AndrewLeach: Good questions need to be noticed to be reopened. – Ricky Nov 29 '15 at 10:57
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    @Ricky That's what the re-open queue is for. You should have access to that, too -- that's associated with the 3000-rep close-vote privilege. It's also possible to use Chat (and, in extremis, Meta) to draw attention to such questions. – Andrew Leach Nov 29 '15 at 13:04
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    Well, what's considered a "good" question is highly subjective, and as you know posting a question here opens one up to criticism and downvotes. I agree, though that there is a rather large tsunami of homework style questions, or questions that require deciphering. But the site attracts many non native speakers who are doing their best to communicate. If the question is bad, vote to close it. If it should be on ELL, vote to move it there. I like your question posts, so keep asking...perhaps this will inspire others to post questions instead of just being commentators. – michael_timofeev Nov 30 '15 at 3:37
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    @Ricky: I've upvoted your meta question here because I think there are indeed a lot of rubbish questions asked on ELU. But apparently in the 45 days you've been on this site (during which time you've been sufficiently active to rapidly get to well over 3K rep) you've only cast 4 upvotes to questions and 2 to answers. You haven't downvoted a single post. How do you expect the rubbish to sink to the bottom if you don't downvote it? – FumbleFingers Nov 30 '15 at 14:56
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    @Christopher: Whoops! Thanks for flagging that up. But I stand by my substantive point, since when I check Ricky's main EL&U profile it seems he has cast no downvotes to either questions or answers there either (just 134 upvotes). – FumbleFingers Nov 30 '15 at 15:49
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    @Mari-LouA: You thought most people meant something else? You're amazingly naive sometimes. A downvote means that person wants to show you who's boss. That's ALL it means. Goodness. – Ricky Dec 1 '15 at 20:51
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    @Mari-Lou: I do sometimes downvote questions / answers purely because I think they're complete "rubbish", yes. In principle I think it would be better if everyone were to upvote and downvote in about equal measure. That should send a clearer message about what kind of questions we want here, rather than focusing on how "welcoming" the site is. But in fact I've doled out twice as many upvotes as downvotes myself, so I'm not exactly practising what I'd like to preach. – FumbleFingers Dec 1 '15 at 21:12
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    Downvotes are the weights which help bad contributions sink to the bottom, and upvotes are the lifejackets/balloons. Downvotes also contribute to the system block on questions/answers. Voting is a crucial part of quality maintenance and control. Comments, if they are read at all, don't help the system to do its job. – Andrew Leach Dec 1 '15 at 21:48
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    @Mari-LouA: "Rubbish should be downvoted" is quite different from "a downvote means a post is rubbish." – herisson Dec 1 '15 at 22:53
11

Your question is about questions that are well-written.

But what about answers that are well-written? Should such answers be rewarded because they are well-written?

DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT - INDEED, YOU'VE BROUGHT TO THE FORE A HUGE PROBLEM ON THIS SITE

A huge problem on this site is the bizarre voting:

One voting problem is "momentum voting" which the site is more guilty of than any other site in the network.

But a bigger problem is the "correctly written answer" effect.

Any answer, even one that is explicitly utterly wrong, which is (a) correctly-written in terms of grammar and spelling, and (b) follows the style-guides of this site correctly (offering references etc) ....... TENDS TO GET UPVOTED.

This is a disaster and it must be stopped.

(I believe the reason this happens is there are many naive - I don't mean that in a negative way - learners of English on this site, which is perfectly reasonable. This group have absolutely no clue at all about the actual OP asked, but rush to reward answers which, in themselves, have good English and follow the rules of the site. This is my guess to explain the weird "mindlessly tick well-written answers" effect here.)

In terms of your question, OP, about rewarding QUESTIONS which are well-written.

I think the answer is it is dangerous to do so. "Crap that is well-written" is still crap.

  • +1 for addressing answers. My suggestion was only for rewarding questions -- and questions that are not only well written, but interesting; I would absolutely NOT extend my suggestion to answers! I wonder what the frequency distribution of number of answers vs number of upvotes would look like -- not a normal distribution (bell-shaped curve), in my opinion. I can see several reasons for this -- but maybe this should be addressed in a separate meta question. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Dec 1 '15 at 19:47
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    I would suggest that it's deeply ironic that the site about the English language suffers from answers who seem least capable of reading the quesiton. The number of multi-word answers to single word requests alone is astonishing. – GreenAsJade Dec 4 '15 at 13:14
  • @GreenAsJade: many questions get tagged/phrased as single-word-requests, but there are very few reasons for an asker to really need a single word in practice. So even when a question is tagged as single-word-request, a several-word idiom that’s right on point is likely to be at least as useful to the asker as a close-but-no-cigar single word. Hence, I sometimes disregard the tag and post multi-word answers. I presume I’m not the only person who reasons this way. – PLL Dec 9 '15 at 23:55
  • Sure, everyone always, every time, posts phrases, idioms, etc in answer to SWRs. it's great to find SWs as such, but phrases/etc are also always given. – Fattie Dec 10 '15 at 0:06
5

"Shouldn't intriguing and/or challenging questions written in good English be rewarded?"

Yes -- but how, and if there is a workable way to do so, do the mores and/or rules of SE allow any changes, or do they merely encourage discussions about changes?

I think the site should be conservative, and not make frequent changes, but I repeat that my answer to the title of Ricky's question is yes.

A suggestion as to how: High rep users (HRUs) (rep 10,000 and higher ?) could be allowed a limited number (one per day? five per week?) of double upvotes on Qs. A double upvote would mean 10 points from one HRU on an exceptionally good Q. A given Q could receive a limited number (two ?) of double upvotes.

This shouldn't be hard to implement -- only modest programming would be needed. Whether this would actually encourage better Qs, or whether people want to put such awesome power into the hands of HRUs is a matter for discussion.

A suggestion to address another of Ricky's points: "6. posted by people who won't return after getting the answer they're looking for; or else by people who won't return even to get the answer they're looking for (as they have better things to do)"

I've suggested this before, but would it be so hard to send a prompt to an OP who has not accepted an answer -- say 96 hours after the question was posted? (Or 72 hours or 120 hours.) I find it discouraging when an OP that I have thoughtfully answered has not accepted any answer, when clearly one of the answers -- not necessarily mine -- would be acceptable by any reasonable person.

Edit In a quick scan of the most active users in the past month, I find about 20 with rep 10K or above. So my suggestion of allowing each of them one "supervote" per day (or five per week) to reward exceptionally good questions, is probably high. Also, the supervotes should probably go to relatively new users. But, honestly, is there any point to thinking about how to improve things, even modestly?

  • 1
    As the Irishman once said, The reasonable man tries to adjust himself to the world, while the unreasonable one tries to adjust the world to better suit his needs; all progress therefore depends on the unreasonable man. So, yes, there's always a point. As another bright fellow said, "Well, since my admonitions have had no effect, let me see what insulting them might achieve." – Ricky Nov 30 '15 at 3:52

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