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Seriously, the front page is currently a wall of closure (7 of 10 closed) and the few questions that aren't closed have close votes (5 close votes in the remaining 3 questions). I understand the site review is driving people towards higher standards for questions, but simply closing them all probably isn't the best approach for the site.

I know this has come up before especially around giving feedback for closure so questions can be improved.

At least on other SE sites, it's close -> edit (if at its core is a good question) -> reopen, but here there seems to be very little of the community improvement of questions. Is there something we can do to encourage that (other than simply setting the example)?

What other options do we have to improve question quality?

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    I think it comes with the scope of the site. People come looking for others' opinions, experiences or advice, rather than for hard facts to base their decisions on. Is this a problem on other SEs, too? – CMW Dec 11 '13 at 15:28
  • @CMW - I imagine it is, but perhaps a larger portion of workplace questions have no clear answer? – Telastyn Dec 11 '13 at 15:57
  • +1: Are you speaking in generalities or about your specific question? workplace.stackexchange.com/q/17283/437 – Jim G. Dec 11 '13 at 16:46
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  • Relevant: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/a/2042/437 – Jim G. Dec 11 '13 at 16:47
  • Part of this stems from the culture that was established when the site began its public Beta. I fought this but now we're facing other problems. I don't know. It's a good question. I hope we can find a way. – Jim G. Dec 11 '13 at 16:49
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    @JimG. - My question is certainly the impetus (and why my tone might be a little off), but looking at the front page made me realize that there seems to be a larger problem than me being annoyed that my question got closed. Oh, and I couldn't find that possible duplicate despite seeing it earlier... thanks for the link. – Telastyn Dec 11 '13 at 16:56
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    indirectly (but strongly) related: Aggressive Edits. There is an especially sad "update", about a question that went to nowhere after rollback of the salvaging edit... – gnat Dec 11 '13 at 20:33
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    I think that we should also look in to editing the help center since that seems to have fallen off as well. – jmac Dec 12 '13 at 0:41
  • Interesting perspective, Telastyn, I thought we did alright at editing and improving. Wonder if @jmac has any data on that. :) – jmort253 Dec 12 '13 at 5:33
  • My thoughts – enderland Dec 12 '13 at 11:59
  • @enderland - thanks for the link, that's a good point. And while I enjoy Dear Abby sort of sites, I can see where we don't need another one. I wonder if most SE sites don't have a core question they answer. "What does this mean?" For the language sites, "which is better?" For programmers, etc. – Telastyn Dec 12 '13 at 12:18
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Executive Summary

We need to:

  1. Leave comments telling users that their posts are getting negative attention, and more importantly, how to fix it
  2. Aggressively edit posts (especially closed posts) where the asker has stopped participating (doesn't respond to clarifications) and there is a good core question that can be drawn out

Our track record as a community isn't too good on these of late.

Background

There are three ways to deal with less than stellar questions:

  1. Close to maintain site quality
  2. Edit to improve question quality
  3. Comment to maintain user involvement

These are not mutually exclusive choices, and everyone seems to agree they are necessary, but the devil is in the details:

  1. What order should we close/edit/comment in?
  2. Who is willing to close/edit/comment?
  3. Is our theory actually being put in to practice?

Close-Edit-Comment Order

While we have had many different discussions on meta about aggressive edits, and about closing questions, the community consensus seems to be:

  1. Closing isn't bad so long as we don't abandon questions
  2. Editing aggressively is good if it gets answers useful to the asker and provides a quality resource for future visitors
  3. Commenting to let users participate in the process is important to make sure we don't alienate newer users who may become productive participants

The real issue is that nobody seems to agree with the order.

Chad says we should close first:

My opinion is that any edits to "Save" a question should only happen after the question has been closed, unless the OP has clarified, or the question can be easily reworded.

Jim G. says we should comment before editing to get consent:

Before making a heroic edit, we should ask the OP if they'd like a little help fixing their post so that it will remain open.

My personal belief is that editing first with a comment is okay:

I think that questions should either be edited soon after being asked, or that we should wait until they are closed (or soon to be closed, if it has 4 close votes and you would issue the 5th without an edit, I am okay with that too)

Close-Edit-Comment Participation

Editing and commenting are hard. They require more effort, more time, and more tact than voting to close. It is natural that there will be fewer editors than commenters, and fewer commenters than close-voters. But it would seem that the balance may be a bit out of alignment since we have so many closed questions, and far fewer people commenting and editing them to become productive questions for the community.

Note: There is absolutely nothing wrong with voting to close, and I don't want to discourage that behavior, I just want to point out that in addition to the close-voting we need to have people working to improve content quality otherwise we will naturally end up with walls of closed questions, which seem to bother many members of our community

There are also going to be natural ebbs and flows to participation in any community. Members move on to new opportunities and have less time for us, or find themselves too involved and take a step back to spend time on their hobbies or their families, and sometimes we get new members who have a different perspective, and this is all okay.

The point is that we get out of The Workplace what we put in to it as a community, so it's all nice and good to say we should be doing X, Y, or Z, but they won't get magically done by someone else if we don't pitch in.

Putting Theory to Practice

So how are we doing?

I took all the closed questions from the last week (12/05-12/12) with this search. The full list is below.

Of these 30 questions, 11 had no comment explaining why the question was receiving close and/or downvotes.

There were only 7 questions which had a comment explaining why the post was receiving negative attention, and how to fix it. Of those 7, a majority were by me or jmort.

Only two questions were edited to try to improve the question. One by Jim, one by jmort.

Eight questions were closed without a comment or an edit.

Commenting and editing need to be a community effort and not limited to two or three people. After all, we wouldn't want the community to collapse if one of those more active members gets hit by a bus, would we?

  1. Is asking employees to wear formal clothing on client visit, meaningful?
  2. Are there any UK laws about allergies in the workplace?
  3. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17196/diversification-of-skills-in-spare-time
  4. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17251/adp-payroll-checks-not-given-rate-or-hour
  5. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17259/does-an-employer-need-to-keep-my-job-open-for-me
  6. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17277/should-one-bargain-on-wage-to-achieve-a-manager-position
  7. I've discovered that our DBA is abusing his position. What do I do?
  8. The boss asks to return money?
  9. Where do CVs have a smaller weight
  10. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17156/is-not-having-the-ability-to-program-the-end-of-my-testing-career
  11. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17202/im-underpaid-when-and-how-to-approach-this-with-my-boss
  12. Tech work culture in the U.S
  13. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17291/did-you-feel-in-over-your-head-at-your-entry-level-job
  14. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17203/how-can-i-change-career-path-from-it-support-analyst-to-software-developement-te
  15. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17193/how-to-prepare-for-meeting-with-hr-and-reporting-manager-with-prediction
  16. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17222/reply-does-not-answer-the-questions-asked-ways-to-react
  17. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17240/what-is-the-advantage-to-the-employee-to-be-salaried
  18. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17284/if-someone-doesnt-reply-your-email
  19. Do self-employed also write resumes?
  20. How to prepare for interview during technical round in Software Industry
  21. Starting from scratch: can someone transitioning careers be successful?
  22. What should I tell about myself in a interview
  23. How do I avoid driving with a coworker who drives dangerously?
  24. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17191/just-starting-my-career-in-development-many-questions
  25. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17164/im-the-last-in-the-office-to-have-my-yearly-appraisal-and-have-been-told-there
  26. If I get blamed for a delay I didn't contribute to, how can I defend myself?
  27. What should you know about your department?
  28. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17289/how-can-i-keep-my-job-and-grow-when-my-former-peers-undermine-my-promotion
  29. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17272/electronic-employee-signatures-on-important-documents
  30. https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17300/how-long-time-does-it-take-to-bring-a-new-hire-up-100-productivity
  • +1: For summarizing the state of things. – Jim G. Dec 12 '13 at 1:15
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    "should close first" -- related post at MSO "...fast closure here serves the primary need to make reopening easier and protect the poorly worded good question from getting bad answers." – gnat Dec 12 '13 at 6:57
  • @gnat, I would agree if people actually worked on reopening some of these perfectly salvageable questions -- that isn't happening unfortunately. – jmac Dec 12 '13 at 6:58
  • agree. Compared to other sites I participate (Programmers, SO, MSO) Workplace looks better at reopening edits, but not by a wide margin. Maybe additional effort is needed to further develop this part of site culture. Meta discussion, or posse, or dedicated chat room... or maybe all of this together. Per my experience, this isn't an easy thing to do, but we certainly have a better potential to succeed here, compared to other sites – gnat Dec 12 '13 at 7:08
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    @gnat, I think part of the issue is that there are lots of people who post on a throwaway account (perhaps for anonymity) and don't get a chance to respond to any comments because of a lack of notifications. Since there is no feedback, many of these posts sit closed with no edit. That's why I want people to be more aggressive with edits on non-responsive questions, but I can't make people do that. At least editing closed questions would be a marked improvement even without feedback... – jmac Dec 12 '13 at 14:13
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    "I can't make people do that" -- because it's difficult and needs experience. If we want to foster the aggressive editing culture, we probably need more than sporadic meta comments / flashes in chat... – gnat Dec 12 '13 at 14:41
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    @gnat, I think that people are coming around. First the issues were with the aggressive edits, but without them, we have a problem with closed question volume. People want to improve the site but haven't figured out how they can do it. I'm confident that people will come back to realizing that we need to be aggressive with our edits, and everyone has to pitch in and help a bit now and again. We have lots of people with experience, we just need them to take that leap of faith in to the world of editing. – jmac Dec 13 '13 at 4:43

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