TL;DR Let's use the EL&U blog as our repository for canonical posts.
UPDATE: the site's blog was closed some time after this post was made (it has since been archived on Meta). The blog is therefore no longer available as a repository for anything. However, the proposal isn't dependent on a blog per se. I've retained references to the blog because some of the arguments depend on ease of access and on prior content in the blog. If the elements of the former blog can be migrated to, say, somewhere on the help pages, the arguments below would still hold. They would just refer to the help pages instead of the blog. Please read this post with that substitution in mind.
In a previous question, I raised the subject of canonical posts in passing. I'd now like to raise the subject on its own merits for discussion as a good way to address the issue of low-quality questions (LQQs) as well as a generally useful way to manage the information and meta-information spread around the ever-growing ELU site (questions, answers, forums, meta).
- hasn't looked at the site rules and norms;
- doesn't know where to find general references; or
- has tried searching ELU but got lost.
This list isn't exhaustive, but I think the above (the first item alone!) accounts for a large chunk of LQQs. To vote to close (VTC) the questions sometimes feels cruel as these new visitors are simply finding their way around a site filled with nooks and crannies, and think that a Q&A site ought to entertain questions and answers that appear to them to be in the right ballpark. On the other hand, writing the same explanations over and over becomes tedious for the seasoned members.
Part of the problem is that information is spread out so much that even with the ELU search facility, it can be hard to find information you know you've seen before on ELU, let alone someone coming in fresh. Why is so-called Lit Crit so despised? Why isn't it enough to describe the single-word-request I'm after without putting it in a sentence? Why does "This is what I want and the word is called ___." satisfy that requirement - or does it? I can go on, but I trust I've made my point: the answers are already there, but it takes quite some determined looking sometimes to get it. If a visitor didn't know the answers were there, they might not even think to look.
I'm going to use the term canonical post here to mean an easily found, well-researched, well-written, well-mannered post that answers a basic question, be it about English, about ELU or about ELU's culture and norms.
One of the entries is You Could Look It Up. Having this post on tap means that we can now (actually, since 2012) simply link to it when we VTC questions for lack of research. If the VTC boilerplate linked to this post, all the better. Those voting to close don't need to type out the same boilerplate over and over again, while the newcomer gets to see an extensive post about the topic, complete with links to banks of general reference works for their perusal. This gives the dedicated answer-seeker the tools to do much of the research on their own. The only downside is that the tools may work so well that they don't return to EL&U to report their findings.
Interested bloggers could add similar entries for the other VTC reasons to provide the affected OPs with tools to redraft their (our) questions to a higher standard. I'm not sure what the process is for submitting and vetting blogs, but it ought to be fairly tough and rigorous. I'm sure the moderators would be happy to tell us on the ELU blog's chat room.
The list of blog entries can be expanded to provide canonical answers to common questions like those on back shifting. Issues like Lit Crit, once debated in full in ELUmeta or private chat rooms etc, can have the best of their pros and cons summarised together with caveats and exceptions, all neatly packaged as a blog, ready to be linked to when a wayward question arises. It's envisaged that blog entries would be revised over time, though the revision process would need to be as thorough as the original compilation of the entries.
Canonical posts offer a good way to increase the quality of ELU by making it easy for reviewers and others to quickly provide resources and information to question posters and answerers about the parts of ELU that are at the same time repetitive, essential, and (e.g. for VTC) call for tact. The existing ELU blog looks like a good repository for canonical posts.
blog link could be made more prominent, but it is currently available from the StackExchange menu item next to