13

We have a few questions that while not off topic I do not think are high quality questions as asked but have been upvoted:

Workplace gossip makes me uncomfortable - how do I deal with it?

How can I find a better work-life balance in an internet company which is "always on"?

How important is a grade point average on a resume?

Handling Credit-takers

Dealing with someone who thinks he's "divinely right"

These questions are broad and generic enough that they hit alot of peoples buttons. But I think they are too general to be good questions. They get up votes because people can relate not because they are good questions.

We have great participation and the one question that was clearly a rant as a question was closed off quickly. But these questions being voted up during private beta scream "DANGER WILL ROBINSON" to me.

Is there anything we can do about this? Should we do anything about this?

  • 1
    Isn't this an old issue? Don't silly, less serious questions quite often attract more upvotes and answers than more serious ones? – Adam Rackis Apr 11 '12 at 16:30
  • 3
    Yes they do, @Adam, but these aren't necessarily "light" or joke questions - the topics are serious enough - but rather, vague enough to both appeal to a lot of people without necessarily appealing to them for the same reason. Consider that gossip question: the asker didn't describe a specific scenario, or even let on why he was having a problem - other than suggesting that whatever method he was using to deal with the problem was instead making it worse. This leaves each reader - and answerer - to substitute their own experiences and prejudices, and respond to those. – Shog9 Apr 11 '12 at 17:35
  • 2
    I think closing is a very important first step...questions here get answers very quickly right now and it's very hard (and rude) to then rescope the question after multiple answers are already there. I'm not seeing much closing going on. – Rarity Apr 11 '12 at 18:12
  • 3
    Great question. Having been involved in a few Betas now, I see this every time at the start and then people start asking questions like this and gradually the quality improves. It will take a lot of hard work at the start, though. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Apr 11 '12 at 18:38
  • I've edited my question so hopefully it's a bit more narrow and answerable without totally changing it. – Rarity Apr 11 '12 at 21:24
  • @Rarity - Good edit! Thanks – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 13 '12 at 12:21
22

Thank you for asking.

My biggest concern for this site is that these overly-broad "how can I be more awesome?" questions will become the mainstay of this site. It's not that they're inherently off-topic — but you don't stand a chance at making the Internet a better place by asking generalized, generic questions that have been asked 100's of times on every other site on the topic… and the trite, hackneyed answers they attract aren't going to be all that interesting, either.

That's a death knell to this site.

It takes a bit of re-training and forethought to get the hang of asking unambiguous questions about very specific problems you have encountered in your day-to-day work. For example, if you want to ask about improving your work-life balance, ask instead about a specific situation you encounter recently. Describe it. What did you try? Why couldn't you solve the problem on your own? -- Those are the types of specific day-to-day questions that users have a chance of answering. The "damn the man, go home" answers aren't really helping anyone. That's just an example — and it applies equally well to all the "how do I get that raise," "how do I improve my resume," and "how do I work better with my co-workers?" -style questions that are going to get asked in endless variations.

If the answers do not address a very specific problem, you might be taking the wrong, scatter-shot approach to your questions — You're just throwing out a basic premise to start a discussion. Users are left only guessing what might actually help you. That's a good use of a support group or discussion forum, but not a Q&A site.

The remediation is to stay vigilant. Guard jealously the core purpose of this site. If a question can be improved, improve it. If you have concerns, leave a comment or start a meta post. If a question is not a good fit, close it.

But don't be rude or overly curt. You can be a bit more strict early in the beta, because these earliest days are more about setting the right path than getting everyone's questions answered. But take every opportunity you have to discuss why you took an action or feel a post or behavior might need consideration. Leave lots of signposts to help guide users who might not "get" what this site is about.

  • 7
    Last two sentences are key: doesn't help to shut these down unless everyone understands why they're getting shut down - and what needs to be done to revive them. – Shog9 Apr 11 '12 at 17:29
  • @Shog9 - Which is why I started this post here. I try to put out fires that I see. But the problem I have right now is they are not really off topic and they could easily fall into the ok category. If we can address them consistantly and effectively from the start we have a better chance of containing them when the flood gates open. We have had a huge response(at least in my experience) right off the bat. If this continues to grow when we go public containing these will become a real problem. I fear losing the site because of poor quality despite popularity. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 17:57
  • Thanks for reminding about bad subjective questions. They need to be specific rather than generalized one to get into good subjective category. – noob Apr 11 '12 at 20:48
9

This site is inherently different from lots of other SE sites, in that the central theme of the site deals directly with people and the interactions between them.

As people don't have manuals, there are going to be far fewer hard and fast answers and a lot more questions that, in order not to be overly localised, are broader than those allowed on something like SO or ServerFault.

There is also the fact that answers on this site tend to be broader - even if the question is more localised. That's because part of the goal of the site is to be a repository of searchable knowledge. If we try to force questions to be more specific than they naturally are, we're going to end up seeing 5 different but related questions, all of which have largely the same answers.

Having said all of this, some of these questions are at the upper limit of broadness I would set personally, but they are still valid questions to me.

  • 2
    I wish I could upvote this more. The point about people and interactions between them is extremely important, and you're right, that makes this site different from the technology-oriented sites by definition. – weronika Apr 24 '12 at 16:15
  • 1
    Very insightful comment. – Jim In Texas May 7 '12 at 17:30
6

My concern is that, by requiring these questions to be much more specific, they either become too localized or there's really no net difference as this is a little softer topic than some of the other sites in the network.

These questions have seemingly originated from a specific experience by the poster and been generalized to be more broadly appropriate.

For example, let's make the "Handling Credit Takers" question more specific:

"Last week, at work, my senior co-worker presented the innovative approach to designing Widget X in our project at a status meeting as his own. I believe that I should've received the credit for it. This happens a lot with my senior co-worker. How should I handle it?"

Does the question stand when written in this way? Is it really any different than the original? I don't think so.

Now, let's make the "How can I prevent gossip?" question more specific:

"At work yesterday, I overheard two of my colleagues speaking negatively about the weight of another coworker who is known to be going through some tough times. I was uncomfortable with this situation. What should I do?"

Does this question stand when written this way? While it may be different than the original, is it "better?" Do answers to this question provide more value to discoverers and searchers than answers to the original?

  • Both of those revised questions are still bad subjective IMO. I think that a more localized how do i handle this situation is actually preferable to a how do i handle this broader more generic situation. At least there is an answer to the more specific one. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 19:23
  • 1
    So, if those revisions are still bad, I'm missing the point here. If I'm having an issue with gossip in the office or not getting credit where due, can I not get assistance on those topics here? Are questions about whether or not references are necessary or when to respond to a job offer really any more objective? – Jacob G Apr 11 '12 at 19:42
  • On topic questions I see from there: Is this gossip harassment? Can I get in trouble for not reporting it? Questions like these need specific targets. Read Robert Cartaino's answer I think it sums up precisely why. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 19:53
  • 3
    My answer was developed as a response to Robert's. There are two goals, as I understand it, of a StackExchange site- 1) Provide answers to questions that are valuable to the asker. 2) Serve as a searchable repository of knowledge that is valuable to the internet. If I ask a question about whether or not I could get in trouble for not reporting gossip, that satisfies #1 but likely not #2. If I ask a question about strategies on handling gossip in the workplace, then that appears to satisfy both #1 and #2. This really seems like a softer topic to me - like the parenting site. – Jacob G Apr 11 '12 at 20:06
  • I see what you are saying. I disagree but we will see what the community wants to do. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 20:09
  • I'd rather see questions be too localized than not constructive. Some of those questions are just "What do you feel about X" questions. Too localized questions are easier to tone down than not constructive questions that are missing a lot of detail. I'd prefer to remove details than to have to try and guess what the op's situation is really like. – jmort253 Apr 12 '12 at 5:02
3

I would recommend using the tools at our disposal - comment to suggest revisions, guide OPs with specific advice, edit or suggested edits to questions, down vote, vote to close, and flag as appropriate, etc. Basically, keep using the tools at your disposal as the first mode of handling things. We have to first trust that the tools will help us lead the community in the right direction.

I see you've made comments on at least one of these questions. I think continuing to use the tools on the questions themselves is probably the most effective way of providing feedback to the question, and if you keep saying what you believe, a community opinion will start to form around the issues that you bring up. So, keep saying something if you feel there are issues, and be prepared to argue your point.

3

Downvoting is a very powerful tool. They have a much more immediate psychological impact on a poster than close votes do. Something about seeing that minus sign really gets people's attention.

All of us in this private beta read the same facts. We know not to ask generic or textbook questions here. We know that this is the most critical time for the fledgling site. We know we're supposed to ask really detailed, great questions.

Therefore, if you see someone asking very general questions, in addition to voting to close, also give it a downvote.

Leaving a constructive comment is also helpful. We can also remind the question-asker that we will gladly remove the downvote once they've revised the question to meet the Q&A criteria that was explained to them in the welcome email.

Again, every user on this site at this point should be familiar with the expectations. Here is an important paragraph from that welcome email:

The first questions set the tone for the site. If you ask high quality, expert-level questions, you'll build a site that attracts the experts and pros who will make it really successful. But if you ask beginner questions, survey questions, or social-conversation questions, experts and pros will not be interested.

I don't think it can be made any clearer than that. Now, let's build a great list of expert, private beta questions and answers so we can make this really successful!

1

One of my questions is in there, I try to keep to the FaQ. Maybe there should be examples of good questions and bad questions like we have on serverfault.

  • I do not post these to say we need to burn the OP's at the stake... even metaphorically. That your question is in here just points out how easy it is to meander down the road unintentionally. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 11 '12 at 17:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .