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At this moment, 7 of the top 10 questions are either On Hold, or Closed.

Does anyone consider this a problem? How does this compare to other SE forums?

8

The Workplace SE is a very subjective subject, and on new Stack Exchange sites, sometimes it's not quite clear what the site will be about, despite having an Area 51 proposal and commitment phases.

The community consisted of folks who were around in the beginning days of Programmers SE, and many recall the troubles that site went through with quality; hence, the community defended quality at all costs, sometimes at the expense of questions that may have been a good fit.

It's extremely tough to figure out where the line is between what is a good question and what is not a good question for a community, especially on a site where the experts can't be defined with a single term, like "engineer" or "writer" or "chemist".

It's been said that the private beta and the early period are the most important time for a site and set the tone for years to come. The folks who volunteered their time during the site's early period stuck their necks out to defend quality and make sure this site didn't go through the same mistakes as previous communities.

As a result, we have a community of experts in the Workplace who not only answer questions but also protect the site's quality, and as we move forward, we'll continue to redefine the site's scope. Perhaps we'll also let our guard down more as we realize that we're not in danger as we were in the first early months of the site's beta.

I can't disagree with any of the closures on the main page nor am I concerned that they're closed/on hold. Those posts have problems, but I also strongly feel that we can and should use these opportunities to reach out to those users, help them with their edits, and show them the benefits of creating a good Stack Exchange question and how -- by asking good questions -- they are themselves "giving back", even without having answers to contribute of their own. Most of the questions do indeed look like some helpful editing and encouragement could bring them up to par with the level of quality this community has come to expect. The toughest challenge we face is not just maintaining quality but maintaining quality with smiles on our faces.

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    I'm coming to the conclusion that pretty much every answer to every question here is actually "Opinion Based" and thus subject to closure. Those that aren't seem to be "Legal" questions. It's interesting to see which ones actually get put On Hold, and which few do not. I guess it is what it is. – Joe Strazzere Sep 6 '13 at 13:24
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    That's a great point, @JoeStrazzere, every question is to some extent opinion-based. When I evaluate a question, I look at the Six Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions. If the question meets all 6, or doesn't massively violate at least 1 of the 6, we may want to think about some editing to make them shine, followed with some reopen votes. If opinion is backed with facts, references, and specific expertise and explains why/how to take advantage of teachable moments, the question likely is good subjective. – jmort253 Sep 6 '13 at 14:19
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    Yup. I think by that measure, we have very few Great questions here at Workplace SE. I see a few Good questions, a lot of Fair ones, and a lot of Bad ones. Not a lot of Greats. – Joe Strazzere Sep 6 '13 at 14:59
  • @JoeStrazzere I agree with that. I think part of the reason is people are a lot less likely to ask a comprehensive question on this site than say, StackOverflow. In my opinion, the more popular questions here tend to be the "easy to answer with advice everyone wants to hear" questions (related to #3 here). – enderland Sep 12 '13 at 0:44
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    I also basically have interpreted "opinion based" to mean, "hey guys give me some thoughts on XXX" vs "here's a problem I have." – enderland Sep 12 '13 at 0:47
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I do consider this a problem. But the problem is not that the specific questions are closed but that this has been a common occurrence regularly through out the life of this site.

There are 3 main factors that contribute to this (In my opinion)

  1. The Workplace is going to be full of soft questions that are basically asking for opinion.
  2. We do not have controls in place that will help users avoid asking bad questions.
  3. We seem to have some users that Vote to close anything that they are not interested in.

1 - The nature of this site means we should not throw away all opinion questions. But we need to focus questions towards constructive questions (How do I do rather than what does everyone else think). Look at the question and see if it is asking for a solution to a problem, an explanation of something, or is it a "doesnt this suck" question. We need to close the doesnt this suck questions. Other questions that can be fixed should be.

2 - I do not know what the options are here. I think we could help alot if we were able to add some controls that will help users ask better but that is under SE Control.

3 - All we can really do is help edit the questions to improve them and reopen the questions.

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Hot Questions

Over the past two weeks I have noticed 4 questions from the Workplace on the 'hot questions' list. These questions introduce a flood of new questions in to the site (much more than if there isn't a question on that list).

more on the hot question curse here

Limited Resources

When there are fewer questions, we seem to be doing a good job of offering advice, editing questions, nudging people in the right direction, and answering all at the same time. But when the quantity of questions increases, those resources get spread thin.

Triage

Editing a question is a lot of work. You have to make sure you understand what the asker's concern actually is, you have to figure out whether that fundamental concern can be made on-topic, and then you actually have to rewrite the question to ask that question while staying on topic.

A close vote, however, is very easy. You just click a couple buttons and you are done. This may not be the best way, but it would seem many people believe this is a better alternative than leaving them open and having the new users see open questions of low quality when they come via a hot question.

Improving Quality

Ideally the flood of new people from the hot questions should be a boon to the site. Some of those people visiting could be the next RhysW or jmort and improve our capacity to be a good resource in the future. If the closed questions are accompanied by friendly advice on how to improve them, and don't drive away those potential productive users, then there is no issue. In that sense, I strongly agree with jmort:

I also strongly feel that we can and should use these opportunities to reach out to those users, help them with their edits, and show them the benefits of creating a good Stack Exchange question and how -- by asking good questions -- they are themselves "giving back", even without having answers to contribute of their own. Most of the questions do indeed look like some helpful editing and encouragement could bring them up to par with the level of quality this community has come to expect. The toughest challenge we face is not just maintaining quality but maintaining quality with smiles on our faces.

  • These are great points for growing organically/not growing too fast. Our core avid user base doesn't increase when we get a flood of new users, and we do get spread thin. – jmort253 Sep 6 '13 at 14:23
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Comparing us to other SE forums is a bad idea, the way each site works is generally similar but the crowds they attract can differ vastly. From what it looks like we have just had a case of some users who aren't fully familiar with the specific rules ask some questions which the community has requested be improved before we continue onwards with them.

If you look at the users they are nearly all new to the site, starting from 0 rep, or the 101 rep markers. This is because we recently had a large amount of questions reach 'hot question' status, which got us flung into the ticker for a few days straight.

Because of this the new users found out about the site and asked their questions right away. This has caused some of them to not quite be up to standards and get put on hold or closed.

So no i would not be too worried about it as this usually happens after questions make it to the ticker. It will only be a problem if most of our questions are closed / on hold all the time for a few weeks.

  • "It will only be a problem if most of our questions are closed / on hold all the time for a few weeks." Makes sense I guess. I'll watch to see what happens. – Joe Strazzere Sep 3 '13 at 18:07
  • Only thing I would add to this is that, since those folks are new users, we should do what we can to reach out to them and help them make changes, the language change from "closed" to "on hold" should make it easier to reach out and say "Welcome to the Workplace, I'm going to help you out with an edit to fix XYX and get the ball rolling, but userXYZ, please feel free to edit yourself to clarify anything I've added that I might be missing.". Hot questions may shake things up a bit, but they're also a good opportunity for us to lead others and grow the community. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Sep 4 '13 at 0:38
1

I think this still might be a problem. A lot of questions I start to answer get put on hold or closed by the time I finish answering, and I'm usually surprised by the reasons provided to explain why the item was put on hold or closed.

The badge system assigned me the task of asking a new question. This seemed like an easy assignment at first, but it quickly became challenging. I kept coming up with a subject line for my question, but the system kept warning me that my question would probably get put on hold or closed. This was a bit discouraging and even frustrating. After awhile the focus was no longer on figuring out how to ask my question, but instead on how I should format my question in a way that would be acceptable by the system. It seems like a problem when content is lost due to formatting requirements.

Please don't get me wrong. I understand the value of a well phrased or worded question.

What I don't understand is necessary for so many questions to get put on hold or closed. Is this just an attempt to maintain question quality and flag ones that seem like a waste of time to read or reply? If so, I honestly don't mind reading the all of the questions. I also don't mind trying to answer a question, even if I have to make assumptions about what the OP is asking. I'm working from the idea that they may not know enough about the situation to ask well formed questions, but maybe it's similar enough to my own experiences that I can still understand what they are trying to ask and how I can try to help them.

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    I have never heard of "being assigned the task of asking a new question". Could you elaborate please? Anyway, I think the issue with the system warning you about the question likely to get closed should be posted as a separate meta post. Without the details of the exact question you were trying to ask, it is hard to tell how we can help. Also, "on hold" is not permanent, the question can be improved and reopened. This has already happened several times here, and there is even a reopen-request tag on meta that we use regularly. – Masked Man May 1 '17 at 18:22
  • @MaskedMan - the Activity tab of your Profile page has a "Next tag badge:" field. Most likely, the next tag badge for this user could be earned by asking a new question. – Joe Strazzere May 1 '17 at 18:48
  • @Masked Man, Hi :) My profile shows Activity, including reputation and badges. For badges it shows my Newest and Next badges. As a new member of the site, I saw my Next badge as a goal for what I should focus on doing to learn how to use the site, participate in the community, and increase my reputation. The badges are actually a lot of fun. – Lazor May 1 '17 at 18:52
  • Honestly, I don't think this is about how to properly askI'm trying to show that this is less about how to properly ask a specific question. I found it a little challenging to ask proper questions in general. It might be People who are looking for help might – Lazor May 1 '17 at 18:58
  • @Masked Man, I appreciate your offer to help me word a specific question. I will take you up on that when I am ready :D Meanwhile, I think there might be a broader issue to address on the site. I think the number of holds, closes, and warnings might be discouraging people from participation. The first challenge in learning is figuring out the right questions to ask. If people make an honest attempt to ask a question, I'm happy to do what I can to help. Really bad questions just don't get answered and wither away, which usually suggests it's time to ask again a different way. – Lazor May 1 '17 at 19:08
  • Today, I see that 20 out of 45 questions are On Hold, Duplicate, or Closed. I don't know if that's an improvement, but it's a data point. – Joe Strazzere May 1 '17 at 19:08
  • sorry for the double post, I just learned that edits have a time limit of 5 minutes... – Lazor May 1 '17 at 19:08
  • @Lazor I find it fascinating that despite all those hurdles posed by the system in asking a question, we still regularly get questions that are impossible to understand. – Masked Man May 2 '17 at 1:07
  • @JoeStrazzere Thanks. I guessed that was what he meant after I posted the comment. Anyway, I think the "next badge" feature is a bad idea, badges should be awarded for a user's actions as they happen naturally, and not because of actions they take specifically to obtain that badge. For me, it currently recommends the "Marshal" badge. That does not mean I should focus specifically on flagging another 319 posts to get that badge. But I see how a user can think that the system is "encouraging" him to do so. – Masked Man May 2 '17 at 3:50
  • @MaskedMan - well it's all part of gamification. The system is encouraging him. If you are going to motivate users with reward badges, you might as well motivate them to get more. (I don't care for the idea of badges themselves, but "next badge" seems to be just a part of the whole). – Joe Strazzere May 2 '17 at 10:51
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    @MaskedMan It's part of SE's gamification of Q&A as Joe mentioned, but it seems largely intended as a convenience feature: you're free to change the badge you're tracking at any time. I'm fairly sure you actually did so as it will normally pick the badge you're closest to getting. – Lilienthal May 2 '17 at 11:07
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    @Lazor No one is really saying you have to ask a question here, even if you're getting a badge tracker for it. But if you do decide to ask a question, even if you don't have a real problem you're facing, it's your responsibility to make it a good one. Since you mention questions being closed as you're writing an answer, it seems like you're not in tune with the types of questions we consider to be on-topic here. You may want to check out the tour and help center to get a better sense of that. Or ask in The Workplace Chat. – Lilienthal May 2 '17 at 11:08
  • @Lilienthal Oh, right, I may have done that long ago and forgotten, because I don't really visit the badge tracker so much. – Masked Man May 2 '17 at 14:33
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At this moment, 7 of the top 10 questions are either On Hold, or Closed.

Does anyone consider this a problem?

It's a huge problem. It's also "the elephant in the room" that we aren't paying attention to.

In theory, a site "reboot" might erase any negative feelings that began during Workplace.Beta.SE's inception, but I have difficulty conceptualizing what this "reboot" might look like.

Given that a site reboot would be difficult or impossible, maybe we should redefine what's on-topic here at Workplace.Beta.SE.

I have to be honest - Although I've been upholding the letter of the law with my close vote, sometimes I feel like the law doesn't make any sense; and sometimes I wish that I had been a more vocal participant when this site was being conceptualized on Area 51.

How does this compare to other SE forums?

I'm not sure. But if nothing else, StackExchange should consider its experience with Workplace.Beta.SE when choosing future Beta moderators.

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    Hi JimG, I'm not sure a full reboot is necessary, but continually refining our scope is definitely something we can continue to do, similar to killing stuck processes in the task manager. – jmort253 Sep 4 '13 at 0:33

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