Like other successful Stack Exchange sites, The Workplace gets a lot of questions. This is great! And we have a good-sized group of knowledgable users who answer those questions. This is great, too! Helping people get answers to their questions about the workplace is what the site is for, after all.
But sometimes questions that are obviously not good fits for the site as written get asked. Often, these questions can be improved with an edit or put on hold until the asker can clarify. A question put on hold is not a bad thing; it is how the community can help revise/clarify a question before reopening it. After a time, if a question cannot be salvaged (or there is no community interest), "on hold" changes into "closed." This process is by design -- questions that don't fit should be put on hold quickly with the goal of editing and reopening them whenever possible.
So what's the problem? As a site, we do not do this consistently. Some of us do, of course, and the moderators are not shy about unilaterally putting questions on hold when needed. But meanwhile, many answer those questions instead of voting to close them (or flagging to close). Often, by the time five users or one moderator see a close-worthy question, it has several answers already.
What is wrong with a question getting answers? Isn't helping the asker a good thing? The main problem is:
- When we edit a question, we're not supposed to invalidate existing answers.
But if the existing answers answer a question that shouldn't have been asked in the first place it causes a lot of work for a lot of people. A couple times recently we moderators have made the decision to make the edit anyway and leave comments on the answers pointing out the change. That has not always been received well. But we will prioritize fixing a question so it belongs here over protecting answers that ought not have been posted yet. Keep in mind a large audience for this site is people arriving through Google. Well-formed questions with great, clear, relevant answers help these people immensely!
But there is another problem:
- When ill-fitting questions with highly-upvoted answers remain on the site, other readers see them and conclude that this is ok -- even though the questions are closed.
Yeah, that question about how to avoid paying your payroll taxes totally shouldn't have been here, but the "dude, you need a lawyer not the internet!" answer still gets highly upvoted and causes broken windows.
Since graduation we have seen an increase in answered closed questions, questions whose closure was not ambiguous or controversial, questions that couldn't be fixed.
We want to break this cycle.
How you can help
There are two key ways you can help:
- First, actively use your site community privileges and vote to close unclear or off-topic questions. If you don't have enough reputation to vote to close you can still flag, which only takes 15 reputation. If you do not know how to best use these tools ask here on meta or in chat.
- Help with cleanup (see below).
We're going to try being more proactive with cleaning up old question. We moderators plan to post questions facing deletion every week or two on meta for the community to review. We want your input on these questions. Can they be edited and fixed? Should they be deleted? Many of you can vote to delete and nearly everyone can edit/vote or post replies to the meta discussion. Moderators are not the sole arbiters of content here -- we want your input.
Just a note to anyone who consistently posts answers to these questions: with deletions being more timely, you will likely see more rep losses (rep is only lost from deleted content within a short window of time). So when you see a question that is pretty clearly a poor fit in its current form, we urge you to prioritize the needs of the community by helping to close and then fix the question rather than simply answering. But once the question is fixed and reopened, please do answer it -- and know that your answer will likely endure.
Please help us make The Workplace the best place on the Internet for focused questions with good answers about navigating the workplace. As said above, you can help by voting to close (or flagging) problematic questions, editing the ones you can improve, not answering questions that are obviously going to be closed, and participating in these deletion reviews.
Note: Moderators may still delete some questions outright, without going through this community review. This does not happen often but we are not going to tie our hands. Users with 10k rep are encouraged to periodically review posts with delete votes and recently-deleted posts. We want your help.