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How can I tell when I'm working on a Sinking Ship?

This question is a broken window. I know it is very popular but it is a bad question by SE Standards and the answers, while not bad are not backed up they are just a list of potential problems.

Can we please have this question deleted before it creates more problems.

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Given the exposure and the good reception of the question, this should instead receive a historical lock, not a deletion. While the HNQ is largely at fault here, we can't deny that the question is popular and has some good, nearly comprehensive questions despite it being a typical list question / popularity poll. Locking would make it clear that this type of question is unsuitable for the site while preserving useful content.

I would also make sure that users don't waste effort on answering as "better" answers are unlikely to overcome the current votes. But that is arguably a problem of the HNQ and probably not what historical locks are intended for.

The one criterion for a historical lock that it perhaps doesn't meet is that the question is being actively maintained, but it's unlikely to be edited into a form that better suits our format as that would probably invalidate existing answers.

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    Historical locks are supposed to be for questions that no longer meet criteria set out but did at the time they were asked. This is not that. At no time has this type of question been acceptable anywhere on SE. (Yes I was around for NPR) – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 3 '16 at 21:33
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    "we can't deny that the question is popular " - does popularity make a difference in this context? – Joe Strazzere Feb 3 '16 at 23:52
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    collaborative effort lock looks worth considering. Though I think @JoeStrazzere makes quite a strong point that popularity in this case is irrelevant - it's fake, only from hot list lemmings, flash in the pan kind of – gnat Feb 4 '16 at 7:31
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    @Chad Despite the name, the description of historical locks has no criteria for the age of the question. It should not be used lightly on recent questions but I believe this may be more useful than outright deleting a question that many people found helpful. – Lilienthal Feb 4 '16 at 7:41
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    @JoeStrazzere Speaking of many people, I'm aware that the numbers are inflated by the HNQ, as I mentioned in my answer. Accounting for those, this particular question has significantly higher upvotes, favorites and considerably better spread of answer votes (beyond the top-voted) than other questions that have ~4K more views. That tells me that the question was well-received. – Lilienthal Feb 4 '16 at 7:45
  • @Lilienthal - I understand. But I had thought that how well the question was received, if it was popular or not, if it had answers, etc - none of that mattered if the question doesn't belong on The Workplace. Perhaps I am wrong. But if I am indeed wrong, then we are just encouraging off-topic, but popular questions and answers. (After all this time I still struggle with understanding the "rules" for declaring a question off-topic and/or deleting it. I don't see any consistency, and that leads me to think we are better off never deleting anything. Just my opinion.) – Joe Strazzere Feb 4 '16 at 12:06
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    @JoeStrazzere You're quite right that it probably shouldn't matter, but given that a full quarter of our questions are closed and not deleted, I'd say that deleting popular questions which are useful, even if they are off-topic, should not be our priority. The off-topic "rules" are incredibly ambiguous and ill-defined; I've taken to interpreting them as guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules. – Lilienthal Feb 4 '16 at 13:20
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    If the question is truly useful then it should not be closed. To me it is a much bigger broken window because of its popularity. Removing the question removes the incentive to participate in this type of question, which will help keep them off of the hot list improving the site. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 4 '16 at 16:19
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    @Lilienthal - all of this just reinforces for me my belief that trying to set up and enforce rules for deleting questions is a waste of time. Some questions are "off topic" but useful. Some are not useful but got a lot of votes. There's always a reason... All of this leads to a front page where half the questions are "on hold" most of the time, and where the userbase gets frustrated by the seemingly random enforcement of "rules". I think we are getting way off track as a community. I think we'd be better off never deleting any questions, and probably never closing any questions. Oh well. – Joe Strazzere Feb 6 '16 at 12:21
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    @JoeStrazzere I think one difficulty is that Workplace is all opinion based to some extent. This makes it complicated, to say the least. But when I look through the recent closed questions list it feels like most of those are pretty appropriate closes - some duplicates, a lot of "plz [research, write, etc] this for me" types, a fair number of "talk to a lawyer" types, and the majority of the remainder seem to require reading someone's mind to answer. – enderland Feb 9 '16 at 2:38
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    @JoeStrazzere: Great points, Joe. – Jim G. Feb 9 '16 at 14:44
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    @enderland - I agree it's difficult due to the nature of Workplace. On the other hand, approximately half of all questions on the front page are closed at any given time. To me that says that the rules aren't being understood, or that they are too aggressively applied, or both. That's a systemic problem. Just encouraging everyone to race to be the first to vote for closing lots of questions isn't a good thing for the community, IMHO. I don't believe it leads to better questions and answers - it sets a poor tone, frustrates members, and doesn't get them the help they are seeking. Just my $0.02. – Joe Strazzere Feb 9 '16 at 15:01
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    @JimG. historical locks aren't needed to preserve rep. Deleted posts keep author's rep if it was +3 or higher score and has been visible for at least 60 days. See Reputation and Historical Archives – gnat Feb 9 '16 at 16:47
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    @JimG. From what I can tell very few questions on this site ever get deleted, and it certainly doesn't happen immediately. Quick closes are good because they prevent people from answering a question that's been identified as off-topic or that needs to be improved to focus on the core question. And if you're comparing current standards to the original guidelines from the site's launch then it's only natural that our scope is better defined now. – Lilienthal Feb 9 '16 at 21:07
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    @Lilienthal lots get deleted - it's amazing how often people seem to want to sell various products here! Oh you mean normal posts? You can look through the recently deleted questions here (10k only, I think) and see what the recent deletions are. It looks like nearly all are either spam or heavily downvoted questions the community user deletes. – enderland Feb 10 '16 at 0:05
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I disagree that it is a bad question.

This is something that I wish someone had shown me 20 years ago. I would have really appreciated knowing what to look for on a couple of occasions when I was younger.

I know that there is a tendency to believe this is a "grocery list" question, but it is not asking for "What is the best tool to ..." or "What is the best thing to buy." It is asking what an employee could notice to indicate there is a problem with their company.

I think it should be "locked" to keep others from dog-piling on with their individual situations, but it is a VERY valid topic of discussion for Workplace, IMO.

Also, your (Chad's) criticism of my answer indicates that you have not grocked the context of the question. This answer is from MY EXPERIENCE of indicators that things at a company are going bad, and I said so (although pithily) in my intro.

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    Wesley there are rules for the site. One is that all answers will explain why they are right not just say what the answer is., You just choose to ignore that rule consistantly – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 4 '16 at 16:03
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    Well pardon the hell out of me for trying to be helpful rather than being a pedantic .... Person. I believe personal experience is still a valid "Back it up" source, last I checked. – Wesley Long Feb 4 '16 at 16:22
  • I did not say that personal experience was not valid. But you are not doing explaining why in your personal experience makes you believe this. That is the most important part. Saying in my expereince is not enough if you dont explain why. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 4 '16 at 16:56
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    You know, Chad, I understand you don't like me. This is not the first time we've locked horns. I believe I have followed the letter and spirit of the site's guidelines. Just because I dove to the meat of the issue rather than spreading garnishes out everywhere doesn't mean I didn't make the meal. The answer was on THINGS I'VE SEEN that, looking back, were warning signs that a client/company was about to fail. That, incidentally, is what was asked for. – Wesley Long Feb 4 '16 at 17:54
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    It is not that I dont like you. There are basic rules and you have been around long enough that you should understand them and at least try to play by them. Why are those things warning signs? How can I tell if they are warning signs or just a quirk of my company if I do not understand that? That is why we have the rule of explain your answer not just say what it is – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 4 '16 at 19:55
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    @Chad citing personal experience without going into details meets our minimum "back it up" requirement. Obviously the more specifics an answer provides the stronger it is, and you're free to ask for further explanation, downvote, write a competing answer, ignore the question entirely, vote to close if you think it's close-worthy, bring it up on meta (as you did), and so on. But Wesley is not ignoring the rules as I understand them. – Monica Cellio Feb 5 '16 at 3:06
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    @Chad Please remember that this is a community-run site and many rules/guidelines are intentionally kept vague to allow room for discretion. We have voting thresholds and meta to build consensus but at the end of the day it could be that your view of how this site should work is different from someone else's. It's fine to argue your point but please don't resort to absolutes like "you are just wrong based on how I see the rules" as it's very confrontational. I've had my share of disagreements on this site and its chat but in some cases you just have to conclude that you see things differently. – Lilienthal Feb 5 '16 at 8:47
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    @MonicaCellio - It is not the experince that needs details it is that the answer must explain why it is correct. That is the part that is consistantly missing. The rule i quite clear that just saying what the answer is, is not enough. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 5 '16 at 15:59
  • @WesleyLong - I upvoted your answer, because I agree with your sentiment. For good or for bad, the culture of this community is "we got rules". And sometimes the rules are viewed as more important than actually helping or encouraging the userbase. Virtually all the questions that have been put "on hold" or have been deleted held value for some users. I agree that this question has value for you, and for (many?) others. But the rules allow it to be put on hold and the rules allow it to be deleted. Personally, I don't like the way some of these rules work in practice. But I'm not in charge. – Joe Strazzere Feb 6 '16 at 12:29
  • @JoeStrazzere so propose a change to the rules. Thats the thing about this you can change the rules if you dont like them but we do not do it unilaterally. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 8 '16 at 15:27
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    @Chad - I've already proposed eliminating most of these rules. I tend to be a strong believer in avoiding rules that aren't consistently followed, rules that are so vague most people cannot apply them, and those that don't have the desired effect. It doesn't appear that enough folks share my sentiment. So I struggle to understand which rules apply in each circumstance. I think the lack of consistency hurts this community. But it will survive anyway, if not in the manner I think would be even better. – Joe Strazzere Feb 8 '16 at 15:36
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    @JoeStrazzere - I agree. But instead of abandoning the rules I think they just need to be enforced. But I agree that inconsistent application of the rules is very bad for the site. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 8 '16 at 18:51
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    @JoeStrazzere: 100% agree. Rules have never been followed consistently. If I had asked this question, it would have been deleted by a diamond mod within minutes; even if it was Saturday morning.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/10769/437 – Jim G. Feb 9 '16 at 14:53
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    @JimG. - have the rules actually been changed? I don't think so. I just think they get more or less aggressively interpreted at times. It seems to go in waves. I think the mods do the best they can under the circumstances. – Joe Strazzere Feb 9 '16 at 15:04
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    @JimG. do you actually have any evidence to support your claims? – Monica Cellio Feb 9 '16 at 15:28
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First, a lot of people have a ton of perspectives on this - I think one way everyone can win is making edits as necessary to improve questions. Especially for marginal questions, relatively small edits can make a huge difference. A marginal or even poorly received question can have a significant difference.

jmac made a great post about this and I think it's a good perspective still. Ultimately people here want answers to their questions. In many cases, us regular users can make small edits to make that more clear. Or sometimes more significant edits.

Also voting can help, right now the question is closed with 0 reopen and 0 delete votes.


I have been thinking about this a fair bit. This is a good example of a question which fits the following:

  1. Quite useful to the Internet as a whole
  2. Is quite simple
  3. Somewhat broad and "give me a list"

However, I think that it is an ok question because it is asking for information to be used to make a decision. It isn't asking for "is my company failing?" or "can you tell me if I'm going to lose my job" -- these would require a crystal ball. I do think that there are many characteristics of companies which can be described in a useful fashion, such as done by the answers there.

Additionally, it is helpful to have a good post to point to for other related questions - we seem to get a lot of questions here actually asking for the crystal ball to answer "are we going to run out of money?" and those are not really answerable. Having a good duplicate target is better than closing in those cases.

It is somewhat list based, but I think in this case it is an entirely reasonable list type of question - it's asking for information regarding what factors to evaluate to determine workplace financial viability.

Ultimately though, the main reason I think it is a decent question is because I can easily imagine a different and more lengthy question which would essentially boil down to the same core question. Such as:

My company is having some problems getting my paycheck to me on time and I'm beginning to question whether they are actually financially solvent. It seems weird that they would have this problem because for the first several years I have worked here, we have had no problems.

I know there are legitimate reasons this could be the case, but I am concerned my company is actually close to financial collapse.

What other things I should be looking for in order to understand whether they are in a position financially to remain? Perhaps other warning signs or characteristics which would suggest I will be out of an employer soon?

While this question still somewhat suffers from the "list" problem, it is a viable question in my opinion - but the core question is still the same. It's just wordier and prettier, but ultimately the same question.

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    "somewhat suffers" seems to be a bit understatement when an answer opening with "Just to add to the list..." gets three legitimate upvotes (legitimate as in, answer matches what was asked in the question). Real questions have answers... "not items or ideas or opinions" – gnat Feb 9 '16 at 14:58
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    So change the rules to allow for this type of question. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 9 '16 at 16:29

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