TL;DR: I'm running a project to detect low-quality posts on EL&U, but with a distinct lack of experience here I don't know what counts as a low-quality post. Help?

In the few days since Tim Post made some tweaks to the spam system, I've been running a fork of SmokeDetector in this chatroom to try to catch some of the abusive posting patterns EL&U has been seeing. It's caught a good number, and the number of incoming posts has slowly reduced.

However, SmokeDetector is a stop-gap. It was designed for spam, and the monkey-patches I made to apply it to this situation are... fragile, shall we say. It's nowhere near a permanent solution.

Which, together with an idea from tchrist, gave me the slightly questionable idea of starting up a machine-learning project to detect all low-quality questions on EL&U, not just this recent wave. Great, awesome, I've written half the code already.

Problem is, I don't have a whole lot of experience here on EL&U, so I don't actually know what constitutes a low-quality question here. This is where I need some help from more experienced people here - what's low-quality? For example, do questions that show no research effort count as low quality? Homework (do you even get any of that)? For the sake of this project, we'll define low-quality as things that should be closed and deleted, to make it easier to define.

What's low-quality here?

  • I'm not sure I like the idea of a computer code deciding for me, or for the community what is a LQQ, I think we are more than capable of deciding for ourselves.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 11, 2016 at 21:27
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA This isn't about making the decision for you. This is about identifying some common things to watch out for so that the bot can find things it thinks are low-quality, then report those posts to humans so that the humans can decide what to do with them. I should probably have made that clearer, but this isn't a bot to automatically delete things or anything like that - it's about doing some of the drudgery of filtering through questions, while leaving the real decision-making to humans.
    – ArtOfCode
    Dec 11, 2016 at 21:32
  • But we have the gammas who do that work already (just kidding!) Well, I am ignorant about programmes, and codes, so I won't intervene any more.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 11, 2016 at 21:36
  • Are you looking for coder answers, like "Only a couple of sentences"? We do get homework questions, and questions without research (most of which are closed); but it strikes me that those will be difficult to determine algorithmically. But I expect you can come up with the easy criteria like length without asking for them!
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Dec 11, 2016 at 22:22
  • @AndrewLeach The easy stuff is... well, easy. I'm thinking more the types of questions, with detail about what their characteristics are if people want to do that work. Are questions about second-level conjunctivital topsy-turvy adverb subordinate clauses always VLQ, for example? (Can you tell I don't know much about grammar yet?)
    – ArtOfCode
    Dec 11, 2016 at 22:42
  • 3
    I suggest you read the recently nuked (locked and deleted by Community), closed and vote-deleted posts. It's extremely difficult to explain what defines low-quality posts on ELU. For example, "what's the difference between A and B?" type of questions has, usually, very low quality, but some of them are very well-received. "What does it mean?" type of question, too.
    – user140086
    Dec 12, 2016 at 8:30
  • I hesitate to point it out, because it might lead to formalizing prejudice, but questions from non-native speakers almost universally get close/downvoted here, or migrated to ELL. Of course, this could probably be inferred from usernames or IP addresses, but the thought of profiling people this way makes me extremely uneasy. If you had some way to detect, grammatically, that someone struggles with English, that would probably be a less risky/scary proposition. But I can imagine programming that being a very tall order indeed...
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:01
  • 1
    See also the "low quality" indicators tchrist once ran an analysis on: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/6682/…
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:01
  • Great, awesome, I've written half the code already. Probably the most frightening thing to be heard on computer projects. It means you have a problem. I don't have a whole lot of experience here on EL&U, so I don't actually know Now you've got two.
    – deadrat
    Dec 13, 2016 at 6:14
  • 1
    so that the bot can find things it thinks are low-quality Don't we have an army of these "bots" already?
    – deadrat
    Dec 13, 2016 at 6:18
  • 1
    @DanBron And if we weed out non-native speakers, then whom are we going to contemn?
    – deadrat
    Dec 13, 2016 at 6:20
  • 3
    @deadrat We start with the ones born in New Jersey.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 13, 2016 at 12:24
  • @DanBron Fair enough.
    – deadrat
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:35
  • @JEL - What a terrible memory I have. I just re-read my own question and found that you are absolutely right. Let's delete these three comments. Dec 15, 2016 at 4:43

1 Answer 1

  1. I need a word that means such-and-so.

    (a) But I'm not going to tell you what I've considered so far.

    (b) Or: I'll tell you what I've considered so far, but I won't tell you why that word doesn't do the trick.

    (c) Or: I won't give you an example sentence to show you how I want to use the word.

  2. I have a very basic grammar question which with 99% probability has already been asked and answered, if not on ELU, then on ELL.

    And for good measure, when I ask the question, I won't share what efforts I've made to figure out the answer. Just hand it to me on a silver platter!

  3. I came across a sentence or paragraph I don't understand. I will ask what it means, without "thinking out loud," i.e. sharing the process by which I tried to make sense of it, or the specific part that I just can't figure out.

  4. I have a possibly interesting question, but I can't be bothered to spell-check or proofread my question... or even write a complete sentence.

  5. I have about a dozen somewhat related questions, and I will hodgepodge/shoehorn them all into one Question. (I guess this doesn't often happen here; I see it fairly frequently on Academia SE.)

  6. Please proofread the following. (This is different from asking whether one specific fragment or usage holds water.)

  7. (This one will be hard to detect automatically.) Why the heck does English do such-and-so specific illogical thing?

What did I miss?

Actually, I would be grateful if you would use your programming skills for something slightly different: could you please make us a Question Wizard, and an Answer Wizard, that could be used optionally? But once they're working well, we could strongly encourage new participants to use them. Also, once the close votes and the downvotes start coming in, you could automatically send a message to the participant with the suggestion that he go through the checklist to improve his post.

Perhaps you would also like to know what distinguishes a poor answer.

  1. Here's a word you might like. Just take my word for it, it's a great word. I won't tell you what it means, and I won't link to a dictionary definition. I won't show you how to use it, either.

  2. I have some great information for you, butIwillrunitalltogetherinoneunformattedparagraph. Or I'll use a ton of boldface type.

  3. (This one is controversial. I haven't figured out my opinion about this yet.) I will answer this for you, even though it is a poorly posed question.

(Reasonable edits to this post are encouraged.)

  • 1
    I like the "wizard" idea, although I wouldn't use that term ('interactive template', perhaps, 'interactive model', something). That seems to have potential even for people who aren't fluent in English. About 3 for answers, I don't agree, but I have strong egalitarian leanings.
    – JEL
    Dec 15, 2016 at 4:40

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