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Discussion:

What should be done with questions that aren't overwhelmingly bad, but have little redeeming future value?

Background:

There are many questions on this site which aren't off-topic, and aren't innately bad, but at the same time don't help the long-term usefulness of The Workplace. Here is a recent example:

Possible Drawbacks of Zero Turnover

This question seems to have been accepted as a reasonably good question by the community (9 upvotes, 6 answers), but a slightly deeper look shows some serious issues. Using the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective criteria on a 0-3 scale:

  1. ★☆☆ Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  2. ★☆☆ Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers
  3. ☆☆☆ Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  4. ★☆☆ Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions
  5. ☆☆☆ Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
  6. ★★★ Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

The question isn't impartial (it strongly implies that low turnover is bad, rather than asking whether it is). Instead of asking how to determine if low turnover is a benefit or a curse, it dodges the interesting part and looks for corroboration that the current situation is bad.

Because of the issues with the question, the answers aren't so great either:

While there are some tidbits of useful information (the 5th answer has some good stats, though unsourced), for the most part it is just confirming the assumption the asker made rather than providing information valuable to people reading in the future.

You may disagree with my assessment of this question, but there are many others like it, where there are upvotes and answers, but very little long-lasting content of worth. How should we deal with questions like this?

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    -1: I don't understand what your problem is. You have edit privileges and a close vote. Do you simply disagree with the upvotes and the fact that people actually answered this question? – Jim G. Jul 12 '13 at 6:00
  • The question isn't impartial - Many questions have a point of view embedded within them. Are you saying that all of these are inherently poor questions? – Jim G. Jul 12 '13 at 6:04
  • for the most part it is just confirming the assumption the asker made rather than providing information valuable to people reading in the future. - The OP wondered if his/her assumption was valid. In a sense, the Community validated the assumption. This was a valuable exercise, was it not? – Jim G. Jul 12 '13 at 6:08
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    As stated, I don't think the question is off-topic or inherently bad to the point it should be closed, I just think it has little long-term redeeming value due to the inherent bias. It currently has 6 answers, so I am not in a position to aggressively edit it either. In regards to the community confirming the assumption, two are "it depends", and one is "in my experience it did this one time" -- that is hardly a resounding affirmation. – jmac Jul 12 '13 at 6:54
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    My main point is that this question has potential but isn't realizing that potential due to small issues. Yet it seems to be a popular question. Rather than taking unilateral action to shape the Workplace to my vision, I figured making a discussion on meta would be more appropriate. If you want The Workplace to succeed as a long-term resource, I would hope you would want to improve question quality too. – jmac Jul 12 '13 at 6:57
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    @JimG. i think jmacs point is that the question isnt inherently 'bad' or 'wrong', but could use improving, sure he can edit, we all can, i think the point of this meta post is to discuss what we should edit about it to really up the standard from 'meh' to 'thumbs up' – Rhys Jul 12 '13 at 8:20
  • Spot on @RhysW -- that is exactly what I'm looking for. Is "meh" good enough, or should we actively promote editing to improve quality? – jmac Jul 12 '13 at 8:26
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I strongly agree with jmort on The Workplace needing more aggressive edits to get good quality that will be useful for people who stumble on this site from outside.

In cases of "passable" questions, I would be far happier if people took a step back before answering and thought, "Will this be useful to a broader audience?" That means using comments to confirm the content, trying to work through issues with bias or assumptions of a "right answer" from the getgo, and otherwise laying the ground for a great question that will have a broader appeal.

In this case the core question would be so much better if it asked how to determine if the low turnover rate is causing a problem than assuming that it is causing a problem and asking what the result of those problems may be. The first invites anyone who has been in a stable job to revisit their assumptions of what a good workplace should provide, the second will just serve as a google result for people wanting to prove low turnover is bad (even if the answers don't actually do that).

For example, I think rephrasing/rescoping like this would make the question better:

How can I determine if low turnover is a benefit or a problem?

According to bls statistics turnover on average is about 2% per month for office jobs ("Professional and Business Services"). With 15 developers, we would expect someone to change jobs every 3 months or so. Over the 5 years I've worked here, that would be 4 employees a year, or 20 total job changes. Instead there have been zero.

When in a job with a turnover rate far below average, how can I determine if it is a sign of a good working environment or a warning sign indicating stagnation or other problems?

  • It currently has 6 answers, so I am not in a position to aggressively edit it... - So there goes that idea! ;) – Jim G. Jul 12 '13 at 11:35
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I don't think the "it depends" answers are bad as long as they provide clear explanations and meet the goal of giving the asker the information he or she is looking for.

It's important that we distinguish between things that lead to debate because there is no right answer (Java vs C++ / Python vs Perl, etc) and questions where there could be two mostly non-disputable correct answers, good or bad, depending on factors such as the environment. Workplace culture isn't an exact science, so things like zero turnover could mean two completely different things depending on the environment.

Judging by the lack of inflammatory comments on the post itself, I get the impression that no one has made claims that we all can't relate to as people who have worked in different workplaces or who know people who work in different places.

As long as answers are backed by a reference OR share an experience to back up a claim OR explain why and how, then I don't see any major red flags. Can we improve these posts though, absolutely, but I don't think most are problematic. There's one that, while the answerer put a lot of work into the post, I'm not really sure it answers the question. He edited it, but I haven't had a chance to re-read it.

I'm not sure I would give this a 1-star on the "long, not short" answers. We seem to be doing ok there. I also feel like people are explaining why if not how. How is tough in this case, as the op is simply trying to understand a concept. How is more applicable where there's a problem to be solved "How can I make low turnover an advantage in our company?" vs "Why is low turnover bad in some companies?" The best question might be "Why is low turnover bad in some companies and how can we use that as an advantage?"

If we were to edit the question, we could edit to focus on the missing how component, but I'm personally not convinced that's necessary and it may invalidate some of the answers. Before making the edits, I'd suggest trying to get the answerers in chat -- or post a link to this meta discussion on the post -- so we could work in conjunction with them; if they're involved, they're less likely to react negatively to several people downvoting and commenting on what are reasonably helpful posts.

I know I advocate bold edits -- jmac even quoted me on that -- but think of that more as a strategy for questions which are closed or are going to be closed. Think of bold edits as more of a tool to prevent something that otherwise could be useful from being closed and in danger of being completely removed from our site.

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I think the recent changes to the close reasons have created a few problems.

1: It has opened up the door for non questions like this.

2: It has provided guidance that point good subjective question to be closed as asking for opinion.

This specific question does not have a problem to be solved. There is very little context provided, and no answer is right.

The question could be changed to "What concerns should I have about the health of my company in this scenerio?", but i do not think we have enough context to answer this.

For that reason I voted to close to broad. Get context and change and it fits right there in a question that is legitimately too localized, but completely on topic so not really closable unless you want to call it opinion based, because lets face it 99% of our questions here are opinion based.

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