16

I can't keep up with them, the brand new users who have 1 rep. There's too many, they're swarming the site and often their questions consist of one or two lines with no context. All the following questions were posted on January 10, 2016 by 1 rep users:

  1. Is it proper to say "Turn right right here"?
  2. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298850/to-spoon-coffee-into
  3. Do we use the present or the past after "when" in a conditional sentence?
  4. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298837/which-sentence-is-correct-and-should-we-add-the-in-front-of-english
  5. Word for someone who makes careful word choices
  6. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298822/is-it-correct-to-say-if-i-wont-wouldnt-get-any-reward-i-wont-wouldnt-hel
  7. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298804/what-preposition-should-be-used-with-map-in-or-on-please-see-my-example
  8. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298805/website-for-forms-of-words
  9. What is the correct word for 'worrylessly'?

5 hours later...

  1. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298885/should-always-i-as-uppercase
  2. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298888/is-it-correct-to-use-an-before-subject-organizational-setting
  3. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298882/usage-of-take-a-step-forward
  4. 'Are you really want to quit ?' vs 'Do you really want to quit ?' (this one does have context, but there's no research)
  5. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/298861/in-which-instead-of-when
  6. How can I differentiate a gender to word cousin

(I'm sure I've missed a few others)

This looks a bit suspicious to me, is it possible that someone is creating these new accounts to give EL&U some much needed sap?

I know for a fact that some very high-rep users/mods do create sockpuppets to test things out, is the above an example of that? See: I am a sockpuppet, may I exist if I have a real purpose?

I've probably had a half dozen or so alternate accounts over the course of the site. They're useful sometimes: testing bugs that only show up at low rep levels, reminding yourself what the site "feels like" for someone with only the basic abilities, maintaining a highly unnatural q/a ratio... That said, I always treat these as disposable accounts, and some of them have been removed (either automatically or via mod intervention) when I crossed a line somewhere - you should never assume that a sockpuppet is "protected" if you're actively using multiple accounts on one site; ...

July 19 2010 Shog9♦



Why don't the newcomers know about ELL?

My second concern is why are all these new users coming to EL&U in the first place? Why aren't they posting their off-topic and low-quality questions on ELL? I'm not suggesting the questions posted on 10 Jan should be migrated, but I'm confused as to why these users seemingly have no awareness that ELL exists.

Why not just ignore the low-quality posts?

While this seems the easier, friendlier and more civil approach, this will create a gateway effect. Once a user has their off-topic question answered, and this includes answers that are either posted as comments or edited and embedded in the OP, you are reinforcing that behaviour. Think of Pavlov's experiments, and learned behavior. It's the same thing, after all why do users keep posting answers? Because they receive 10 points, and don't tell me its not gratifying. It's exactly the same mechanism. Likewise, a user who regularly receives an answer to his/her off-topic question will learn to repeat that behaviour.

If LQQs are allowed to proliferate, the more experienced linguists and ‘experts’ will not stick around. Compared to two years ago, the old vanguard is nearly halved. Wonderful contributors such as, Robusto, Barrie England, medica, RegDwight, NoHat, JSBձոգչ and oerkelens are simply not posting any more. I don't want ELU to become the next Yahoo! Answers. But it will do, if we don't demand a "minimum" standard from everyone.

  • "Why" are they coming here and not the English Language for Learners site? The majority of questions are off-topic for our sister site too, I'm not saying they should be migrated, but why is EL&U their first stop? – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 10:48
  • 7
    How can it be a spike when it happens constantly? :P – curiousdannii Jan 10 '16 at 12:30
  • @curiousdannii But not like today! And all 1 rep users, too. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 12:32
  • 3
    Nine bad questions by 1 rep users in the space of a day would be blissful quiet for this site! – curiousdannii Jan 10 '16 at 12:33
  • 6
    The real problem is that people have upvoted those questions. – curiousdannii Jan 10 '16 at 12:34
  • 3
    @curiousdannii no, the real problem is that (1.) they're not being closed fast enough (2.) they shouldn't even be on EL&U (3.) users are posting answers. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 12:36
  • 1
    Do you really expect users to say: yes that's one of my sockpuppets? – user66974 Jan 10 '16 at 13:45
  • One of those questions was answered by one of those 1 reppers – Mitch Jan 10 '16 at 14:33
  • 5
    It's because the URL is english. The URLs for ELL and ELU need to be swapped, or english dropped altogether and this site become elu to go with ell. – Andrew Leach Jan 10 '16 at 14:39
  • @Josh61 if it's a mod...yes. Why not? But, I doubt it is. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 14:48
  • 1
    Have you considered karma as an explanation? – deadrat Jan 12 '16 at 7:00
  • 6
    "Why don't the newcomers know about ELL?" - how could they know about ELL? Serious question. Think from the point of view of someone who googles "ask english questions" and sees the ask page in the top 3 hits. The message "If your question is about learning English, ask it on ELL instead" is tiny, not prominent, tucked somewhere on the page normally reserved for ads or legal notices, and after 4 lines of text - all things making it less likely to be read. – user568458 Jan 12 '16 at 10:22
  • 1
    Mari-Lou - big changes in the domestic arrangements ... but I've been observing and voting, even commenting occasionally. I still love this site and so I truly appreciate Meta questions like this. BTW, that ol' email is ... well, old, i.e. obsolete. Good to hear your voice. :-) – user98990 Jan 13 '16 at 20:17
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    How are "we" to "demand a 'minimum' standard" from everyone? New users reinforce each other with game points for LQQ and LQA, and have no standard except the one they create as they go. As far as that goes, experienced and established contributors, "linguists and 'experts'", often seem to feel they've been released from minimum standards for the citation of external authority, for example. Coming from an academic background, it's been drummed into me that experts are exactly those who feel a greater not lesser obligation to support their contentions with reference to external authority. – JEL Jan 16 '16 at 6:43
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    @Mari-Lou : I've one reason why so many new people post to ELU instead of ELL. Have you ever Googled grammar questions by typing them in as questions? You should. ELU pages come up ALL the time. It's how I found ELU. It got to be where I looked for them in my Google list. Let me tell you, ELL never ever came up. I knew of ELU from the Google results I got typing grammar questions into Google at least a year or two before I ever even set up an account. You want to know why so much traffic goes to ELU instead of ELL? It's because ELL doesn't ever come up when people Google grammar questions. – Benjamin Harman Jan 17 '16 at 21:03
12

I remember buying English and other language grammar books, novels and audio tapes at the turn of each year with a new year's resolution to study harder. The recent spike could be related with new year resolutions of new learners.

There is virtually nothing we can do to prevent new users from posting those questions as I mentioned in a previous answer. This answer is more focused on how to deal with the Low-Quality Questions (LQQ) down the road.

  1. Close Voting.

High-rep users should be more active in closing (blatantly) LQQ. I have noticed that closing these posts is not as active as a few months ago. The factors could be various, i.e. decreased involvement of a few moderators and high-rep users, more lenient views or opinions towards LQQ, but as Mazura mentioned in his answer, the solution could be to deal with LQQ with a bigger hammer. This question requesting for on-line resources is not closed yet. We need high-rep users to visit the review more frequently in order to close LQQ more actively.

  1. Migration to ELL.

As I commented above, migrating all (or most) of LQQs onto ELL is not such a bad idea. Of course, it could be seen as dumping cr** on ELL, but at least we can let new users know that ELL exists on Stack Exchange. They are all beginners or intermediaries in English. If they have another question in the future, they'll know where to post a question if they are properly guided to ELL. It is not a matter of dumping LQQs, but a matter of good guidance to new potential users for ELL. We don't want them to post another LQQ on EL&U. Then, we have to figure out seriously how to guide them well to ELL.

  1. Consensus on answering LQQ.

Users have different views when judging which question is LQQ and which is not. Some users choose to answer because they think it would be helpful to learners. I can't agree with them more. However, it might leave the false impression that LQQs are welcomed and tolerated on EL&U. Posts of mine have been downvoted in the past for answering a LQQ or a duplicate. But I don't think downvoting the answers to a LQQ is an ideal solution. We need to reach a consensus on this issue. The best solution would be to close a LQQ before any answer is submitted, but that won't be possible unless a few more moderators with a solo-closing power are more actively involved than at present.

  1. Guiding new users who post low-quality answers:

We need to guide new users who not only ask LQQ, but also answer LQQ or duplicates with poor-quality answers. As Mitch commented, a 1-rep user posted an answer to a question before it was closed. The answer is wrong and still it received one upvote. There are many instances where 1-rep or 101-rep users posted blatantly wrong answers or poor-quality answers that don't follow the rules and guidelines of this community. We need to pay more attention to those users, too, so that they may settle down well in either EL&U or ELL.

Conclusion: We need to be more proactive than reactive in dealing with LQQs and new users.

  • +1 good answer, thanks. – Mari-Lou A Jan 11 '16 at 7:10
  • +1 for a good strategy. Now for the tactics. "High rep users should be more active in closing blatantly LQQs." We have a factory producing widgets, and we have inspectors. How many inspectors do we have? How many widgets per day do we produce? How many inspector-hours per day, on average, would it take to scan for and pull defective widgets? Response time: how long do we have, on average, before defective widgets are droned to a consumer (i.e., answered)? If this were a factory, we would redesign the line, not continue to produce defective widgets. Prevention is better than cure – ab2 Jan 11 '16 at 21:17
  • 1
    Is it even possible for this site to add elements of prevention? Is it even possible for this site to use data to analyze the problem? 4 out of 14 of Mari-Lou LQQ came from non-registered users -- a tiny sample, statistically insignificant. Would it make sense to require users to register in order to ask a Q? We don't know -- we don't have data. We might know if we had the NRU to RU ratio for Qs flagged as LQQ over a period of, say, a week. – ab2 Jan 11 '16 at 21:18
  • 1
    @ab2 Thank you for your comment. I think it is one of the top priorities that you earn more than 3,000 rep points as soon as possible so that you can vote to close. I was considering suggesting to give close-votes to less than 3K rep users who are good and active users. Regarding your point on preventing non-registered users from posting a question, I don't thin it would work very well. They would just register, post a crap and go. One of meaningful statistics would be return rate that shows how many 1 or 101-rep users come back after posting their first question. I believe it is pretty low. – user140086 Jan 12 '16 at 3:11
  • I wanted to +1, but I just saw the "let's migrate to ELL" part. >:\ – M.A.R. Jan 12 '16 at 20:08
  • @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ Sorry to hear that. I am not voting to migrate any LQQ to ELL now. :-) – user140086 Jan 13 '16 at 6:42
  • "We need high-rep users to visit the review more frequently in order to close LQQ more actively." STOP! Look and listen! I wonder how many high-rep users have had their review privileges taken away after having "incorrectly" answered too many questionable review audits, especially because as you acknowledge, opinions differ as to a question's quality. – Damian Yerrick Jan 17 '16 at 21:06
  • 1
    @tepples Do users have their review privileges taken away because of their review decisions? – deadrat Jan 19 '16 at 6:03
  • @deadrat Yes, if those decisions are on audit questions. See What are review audits? – Damian Yerrick Jan 19 '16 at 6:11
  • @tepples I didn't even know about this. Thanks for letting me know. – user140086 Jan 19 '16 at 6:17
  • 2
    @tepples The answer reports the sites on which the audits are active. ELU isn't one of them. – deadrat Jan 19 '16 at 6:20
  • @Rathony I don't think audits are active on ELU per the answer in tepples' cite. – deadrat Jan 19 '16 at 6:21
  • There are some excellent critical comments about the automated "review audits" process, beneath the semi-official answer to the question that tepples links to. I have grave doubts about the utility of the "review audits" process as used at ELL and some other SE sites—especially its pass/fail format and its mixed messaging on independent critical appraisal vs. voting against the majority view. I hope that EL&U reviewers will continue to be spared this robo-feedback. – Sven Yargs Jan 19 '16 at 18:19
  • Audit? Is that when there's a colored box with a number in it? Those I'm apt to check and vote on. A blank, review button doesn't do it for me. Interestingly, I checked OP's 1~9 before I got to your answer; some are gone, others still have a few random close votes. The only one I instantly agreed with is the one you mention that asks for online sources. Indeed, everyone has their own way about it, but it's pretty cut and dry when [it's] against site rules. Close votes need a colored, numbered box at the top or they don't get my attention. – Mazura Jan 22 '16 at 21:07
  • @Mazura If you click on the "reviews" tab in the top bar, you can choose which posts to review, there is a section dedicated to closing or keeping posts open. Furthermore, under each Question there is a "close" tab, when someone VTC a number appears. I don't think it's fair that it should be marked by sirens and flashing lights :) The number is subtle, but quite clear and visible – Mari-Lou A Jan 23 '16 at 13:30
8

TL:DR - The SE system breaks down when there is a lack of comradery throughout the community. Our proactive options are: change the system or try to change people. Systems are a lot easier to program... but that's not to say that the community can't improve as well. Note: 1 reps are not part of the community and even though they may be the cause, they're not at fault; the system and the community share that blame.


If I had to guess, quite a few of the 5yo high-rep users you mention (and some that you didn't) seem to have made a new years resolution to stop posting; I came across two accounts that have, since Dec. 29th, ceased activity on ELU. I hope they're just on a vacation...

Allow me to be constructively frank: this is a (well deserved) rant; you came here at the site's golden era, and became a golden child yourself. Now you look around to see but a scarred battlefield, of which you are now in command. It's time to close ranks. We always say that upper echelon is a bad thing, but that* is precisely what differentiates SE from Yahoo.

*Experts.

Might I suggest a little more participation in chat, from all of us. Especially if all those old curmudgeons aren't there to slay us with their linguistic repertoire. (That's what ELU chat feels like when you go in there.)

SF&F users on the other hand, use chat all the time for: hey yo, help me close this crap. Which is your #1 problem with the situation: LQQs not getting closed fast enough.

Possible solutions:

  • A bigger hammer. (Close-hammer rep required is lowered.)

  • Increase close-vote review queue awareness. (Unless it's an audit, they're all hidden in the review queue page; there's no hey-look-at-me: 22 'meta' problems to solve! on the top bar.)

  • Lower the number of required close votes. (Alternatively, calculate a user's rep as a percentage of what their close vote is worth. E.g., two 10k'ers can close or it needs four 5k'ers.)

The last suggestion would let the 35k OP and one other +3k'er close stuff. Your worried that this is too elitist? Well, like I said, that's what keeps SE working (and also exactly what you're complaining about; the loss of our elites). Can this be abused anymore than by someone who already has a close hammer? No. It would just involve collusion, and SE is well prepared to handle that.


ELU doesn't need any more "sap", anyone who thinks it does and adds to it for this reason alone is a troll, but I don't think those are trolls' questions; they're simply vampires'.

Pavlov? yes, to some extent - just don't forget that it works both ways. I've also noticed an increase in LQQs getting away with it. That's the problem, they're getting away with it. And that's our fault. The problem with solving that, is it only leads us back to last month's question, catch-22 style:

Does ELU Have Worse Questions Than Other Sites?

Which, if you read all of its links and comments (How can we encourage more folks to edit? is a good pit stop), you'll end up right back here. Allow me to TL:DR all of them:

Is the SE system not keeping up with its end of the bargain or are both new and old users failing the system?... Umm, yes?


The name of the site is not the (real) problem and it will not be changed. New users are never the problem if the old users are doing their part. If for whatever reason, established users aren't keeping up with the trash, then the system is broken and needs adjustment (both types of users are neither here nor there). Continuing to blame users is a straw man with no solution. If we as a community can no longer deal with what's thrown at us, then the system has failed us.


We really need someone who knows how to use those neat data explorers. All those linked Q&A's have great suggestions buried in them, but we're in need of a cohesive question and answer to this elephant in the room that finds itself in all of those posts: (the likes of which can be heard on many of the other sites)

  • What is the problem exactly (that data can give credit to) and what is your proposed solution (that will change how the system works, regardless of who is using it)?

These are the questions we'd have to ask to know where the system broke down and how to fix it. Without a drastic re-write of the whole shebang we'll never fix the "1 rep problem", but we can change how we deal with it without too much fuss, I hope.

  • This started as a comment... and the TL:DR wasn't it. Yikes! ;) It was the personal part, and I hope you didn't take offense. – Mazura Jan 23 '16 at 1:46
  • Data is key.............. – ab2 Jan 23 '16 at 2:36
  • Love the passion and the fervour. I do agree that EL&U's golden era seems to be at an end, although occasionally one sees a glimmer and a flicker of its former glory. The number of high-rep users still contributing is lower every month...sigh. – Mari-Lou A Jan 23 '16 at 13:25
  • @Mazura, On contrary, I have seen a lot of high-rep people on SE (not on english.SE) stop posting not due to the "1 rep users", but due to the "meta effect" (collision with other high-rep people). – Pacerier Apr 13 '16 at 22:28
5

Spot ELL on the home page of Stack Exchange sites. On the other hand, it's hard to miss EL&U, and its size suggests that the site is successful. Could this home page be partly responsible for users simply not knowing that ELL exits?

enter image description here

Related: Should we have a migration path to ELL?

We have that migration path now, but what use is it, if the questions are obviously off-topic to begin with? I've done my best to help newcomers, and where possible I have interpreted their questions, and added traces of research to at least give them a semblance of being on-topic, but... it's a losing battle. There comes a time when you have to say, sort it out yourselves.

Learners' questions should be migrated; but a poor question is a poor question. Try and edit it into shape first.
Andrew Leach ♦

  • 1
    This might explain the general popularity of ELU over ELL, but it doesn't speak to the one day spike in 1 reppers. – Mitch Jan 10 '16 at 15:46
  • @Mitch 1. Possibly, I posted it as a reply to Andrew Leach's comment. 2. No, it doesn't. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 16:16
  • @Rathony No, they're bad questions for ELL too, unless someone puts in the effort and creates an intelligible and semi-challenging question. But it's simply not worth it, the questions are basic English language problems. You'd think what with the Internet today these users would at least visit an online dictionary and a couple of English grammar sites before unloading their "gimme the answers" questions. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 16:51
  • As someone once said, "Don't migrate crap" to ELL, now who was it? – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 16:54
  • Give me five well-researched and thoughtful questions over thirty crap ones any day. Traffic is important but not if we have to sacrifice Quality. The questions should be closed, if the OPs care about their posts then they can ask how to improve them. If their questions are never closed, they''l never ask, and they'll never find out about ELL. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 16:59
  • 3
    I have one speculation: The holidays are over and the ESL students are turning their attention again to learning English. Does the site usually get a spike around this time each year? Is this even a spike, or merely a statistical fluctuation? If the site had the ability and/or willingness to analyze the mountains of data it accumulates, these discussions would be more productive. – ab2 Jan 10 '16 at 17:08
  • @ab2 so why aren't they posting on ELL? Are they, maybe they are? Yes, bring on the statistics, I haven't a clue how to begin, but the mods should have access to this type of date, and if not the mods, then "the powers that be". These questions don't sound like learners' questions though, they seem to be from users who have a smattering of English and have never really studied the language in depth, or they have completely forgotten what they were taught at school. – Mari-Lou A Jan 10 '16 at 17:15
  • Who can find ELL on the home page you showed? I will add: the Default Option (DO) is to type in any question that flits through your brain and hit Send. Is there any way to change the DO for first time users? Maybe make them attest that they have read the instructions and take a short multiple choice quiz? – ab2 Jan 10 '16 at 17:21
  • 1
    Moderators do have ready access to some statistics, but we are exhorted not to share it publicly (for some reason; I don't know why, nor do I understand that); but I'm not entirely sure how useful they are here anyway. The "standard" analytics don't show posts by 1-rep users. I think I can say that it is the case that ELU has been getting more and more popular since it graduated, and there is a distinct and marked dip in all activity each Christmas. It may be possible to use SEDE to graph questions asked on the same day as a user joined (but not specifically by reputation). – Andrew Leach Jan 10 '16 at 23:26
  • 3
    This query shows a spike in January 2014 which wasn't seen in January 2015 but appears to be present in January 2016. – Andrew Leach Jan 10 '16 at 23:31
  • @AndrewLeach there seems to be a steady rise of new users since July this year. 181 new users in January and we're only on the 10th. Are they all just passersby, because if they were from other SE sites they would probably have earned enough rep to be awarded the 100 rep bonus when they join EL&U. Interesting graph. – Mari-Lou A Jan 11 '16 at 0:04
  • @AndrewLeach My eye agrees with Mari-Lou's -- a steeper slope. It would be interesting to see this graph every 3 months or so. – ab2 Jan 11 '16 at 1:19
  • 1
    I'm the one who posted the "Please don't migrate crap" question, but please note J.R.'s answer. It's not clear that even low-quality questions are unwelcome there. :-/ It kinda leaves me confused when voting to close low-quality questions. – anongoodnurse Jan 11 '16 at 6:53
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    @Mari-LouA - I've felt that way for a while now. – anongoodnurse Jan 11 '16 at 7:10
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    I strongly doubt that new users' route to the site is, somehow ending up on the home page of stackexchange sites then scanning for "English". Why would someone who's never used SE go there? Much more likely, they come from googling "Ask English questions" where this site's "ask" page is in the top 3 results. – user568458 Jan 12 '16 at 10:25
1

I went over 3K a few days ago, and started on the close-vote queue. I am allowed to vote on only 20 posts per day. I can understand why there is a daily limit, but 20 per day is low.

As with everything, there is a learning curve, and I understand why a new reviewer might be limited to voting on 20 posts per day, but this limit could be raised for more experienced voters. Of course, once the thrill wears off, even 20 per day might seem too much.

How long do VLQ questions remain open, on average, after they are first flagged?

  • 2
    Agreed. High rep users need more close votes. – Mazura Jan 23 '16 at 2:55
  • I honestly don't understand why this question I linked in my answer above has not been closed yet. The answer received 13 upvotes (thank you), but the linked question received only 1 close-vote after I linked it. If you compare one identical question posted both on ELU and ELL, we could feel something doesn't work well on ELU. It took only 2 hours and 26 minutes to close this on ELL and... – user140086 Jan 23 '16 at 8:44
  • ... it took more than 5 hours to close this on ELU. Not many high-rep users are using close-votes effectively and efficiently. – user140086 Jan 23 '16 at 8:45
0

I think the explanation is much more simple: Stack Exchange awards points and badges for asking lots of questions.

Regarding why so many lately: random events inevitably occur in groups, precisely because they are random.

  • 1
    Yes, but analyzing the data doesn't seem to be in the cards. All we go by is perception. And perception varies with the mood of the perceiver. – ab2 Jan 10 '16 at 22:35
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    The newcomers ask one question and then, more often than not, leave. They're not here for the points. They have an English language problem, most of the times very basic, and they want answers. They're probably thinking EL&U is similar to "answers.com" or "Yahoo! Answers". I wonder if Quora has the same magnitude of LQ questions. – Mari-Lou A Jan 11 '16 at 0:10
  • 1
    You only get points if your questions are well-received. If there's a consistent negative reaction to them, you'll end up getting banned. – sumelic Jan 11 '16 at 8:32

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