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A month ago, I asked a question about getting a black eye. I didn’t expect much of a response, but boy was I wrong. The question is sitting at a score of 74, with 14 answers and lots of discussion.

The problem is, it’s a bad question.

  • 14 answers, repeating variations of the same three ideas- lie, don’t lie, and don't worry about it.
  • Many answers make an attempt to answer my specific situation instead of making it relevant to others.
  • The question produced a lot of discussion, not content. Dozens of deleted comments and the question is now protected.
  • The only answer I would consider accepting is in a comment.

In my view, the main causes of this are:

  • The question is interesting and dramatic. A black eye is a lot more fun to think about than how to navigate a mundane workday.
  • The question made it into the “Hot Network Questions” list, which brought a lot of eyes that are not aware of how the Workplace community functions.
  • The question leaves room for speculation. I left out the details to keep the question from being specific to my circumstance, and that generated a lot of discussion and speculation.
  • The community disagreed with the premise. A significant amount of the discussion revolved around disagreeing with my concern that a black eye would feed into the office gossip machine.

Can questions like this be handled differently to prevent the high moderator workload and low community value?

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    This is sort of a million-dollar-qurstion for stack exchange! – user30031 Nov 29 '16 at 0:56
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    It's not a bad question just because a bunch of silly people wrote bad answers without bothering to check if they were novel or relevant. The only way to handle it better is for people not to be silly when answering - and that's reliant on the majority recognising the fact, wanting such a change to happen, and acting to make it so. – user53718 Nov 29 '16 at 5:29
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  • This reveals that whims guide the community, not any values. If you look at the history of democracies without values, you find none of them lasted long. – user29416 Nov 30 '16 at 19:05
  • black eyes are a common occurrence in some workplaces, totally relevant question. – Kilisi Dec 2 '16 at 13:49
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Checked the question and sure enough, virtually no established users answered and none that I've heard of. In my view, good answers take some experience to write, especially in the context of the workplace, so it's not so surprising that you feel like the answers didn't cover your situation very well or weren't helpful. It's the curse of writing an "accessible" question like this and HNQ only complicates it.

Can anything be done? Not as far as I know. It's hard enough to salvage bad questions that get to HNQ and there are no tools for dealing with the answers. Votes by people who know what a good answer would look like are simply drowned out. Even when they comment why a popular answer is wrong or misguided, what results is a comment with a few dozen upvotes but no one who wants to take the -1 to their 100 bonus reputation.

The only way to prevent this is for the people submitting the question to critically reflect before posting and to update or edit the question based on the community's comments and responses. Some of it is unavoidable but the meaningless speculation on the "real reason" for your black eye could have been avoided if you just made up a boring reason ("My buddy socked me in the eye playing squash") and the disagreement could be avoided by stating that you know people love the gossip about that sort of thing at your work, or even by making up a previous time that happened.

Beyond that, I'd say there's at least some value to the answers there so it's not a total loss.

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    Maybe the HNQ algorithm should emphasize "very probably a good question" signal? e.g. votes from established users – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 1:15
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    @djechlin Practically every established user on SE has a problem with at least some aspect of the algortihm but nothing has changed yet. My guess is that SE's take on it is that it works well enough for what it is and is a huge view driver. – Lilienthal Dec 6 '16 at 9:40

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