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We have something of a problem here on TWP with high numbers of questions getting closed. Sure many of them are bad and closure is the only way but there are many that could be salvaged - they just need a decent edit.

Unfortunately many of our users are very busy people (this is the workplace after all and employers have this nasty habit of wanting you to do what they are paying you for) and don't have much time to spend doing the sort of rewrite-level edits that some of these questions need. And frankly the site offers no real incentive for them to do so, sure newbies can earn small amounts of rep by having successful edits but it's really minimal and goes away relatively early in the rep progression.

So what I'm proposing is that there be a bounty system for edits to on-hold questions, I would envisage it working similarly to the existing answer-bounty system. A high-rep user places a bounty on the on-hold question inviting edits (with a short description of the sort of thing they are looking perhaps?) and if a good enough edit comes along then they can award that bounty to the editor.

Pros:

  • Users would have an incentive to actively work to improve and salvage on-hold questions

  • Askers would hopefully see their questions answered, (and new users who these often are would feel more welcomed)

  • Rep-rich but time-poor members would have a way to still help and give back to the site

Cons

  • The system could be abused, either by encouraging more closes in order to entice bounties (possible but the multiple close-vote system should largely prevent this) or by people offering bounties that they never award.
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  • I feel very tempted to discuss my feelings on the topic, but you have asked the question in such a way that I feel that would be frivolous of me. – Lumberjack Apr 12 '18 at 18:33
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    Keep in mind that this would be a pretty major core site change that would most likely need to have extensive support on main meta before SE would even consider it. Since I don't think many sites have this problem (or consider it to be one) that's probably unlikely to happen. – Lilienthal Apr 12 '18 at 19:41
  • @Lilienthal you're probably right, and I can certainly understand the reasons. – motosubatsu Apr 12 '18 at 20:24
  • @Lilienthal - I think there is a large amount of engagement potential lost due to the steep learning curve that asking a question on SE can have for some people. I think there is a great deal of business value in the proposal. I would hope that the mods would support this sort of Idea even if it is doomed for the round file in Meta. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 13 '18 at 0:32
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    @MaskedMan Your thoughts on main meta aside, this is on-topic here. Site-wide changes can be discussed on individual metas first to build support and establish scope/value before going to main meta with a proposal. – Lilienthal Apr 13 '18 at 6:54
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I didn't give my opinion on this proposal but was just pointing out how difficult it would be to get it realised. – Lilienthal Apr 13 '18 at 6:56
  • @MaskedMan - Please dont steal our hope. Hope is our light, with out hope that we can improve even when its hard, there is nothing but darkness and despair. Different people have different motivations. Mine and I believe Moto's motivations are we want to see things improved, especially when things cause stress. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 13 '18 at 10:05
  • Because it requires either 5 people or a mod to close a question, and only one person can get the bounty, I don't think it will be that easy to abuse. The con may be that people may be reluctant to edit a still open question in hopes they can do it after it is on hold for a bounty. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 13 '18 at 12:28
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I know what you are saying re: people not editing open questions but in my (anecdotal) experience people aren't really editing them now anyway and the VTCs tend to come thick and fast in any case. – motosubatsu Apr 13 '18 at 13:08
  • @motosubatsu - I still think that despite that con this is a superb Idea – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 13 '18 at 13:12
  • @motosubatsu Hard to say how much of it is confirmation bias, personal opinion, and so on. We do get a low of low-effort or unanswerable posts. For a lot of the closed posts there's little point in salvaging them since the general question they might contain deep down has usually already been asked before, often several times. You'd have to start tracking stats on closures beyond what we can do right now. – Lilienthal Apr 13 '18 at 14:36
  • @Lilienthal true (while I do think we are a bit trigger-happy on declaring something to be a duplicate here that's a can of worms I have no intention of opening here), some analysis of the closures would be a good place to start to see if this issue is as prevalent as I think it is. Unfortunately I don't have access to site analytics yet (still 1.2k rep to go!) but when I do I might have a sit down one rainy Sunday and see what I can find out. – motosubatsu Apr 13 '18 at 14:57
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I completely agree with moto's and your sentiments. However, I don't run the show. The know-it-alls at SE have decided ages ago that the current incentives for editing are sufficient, and they see no incentive for providing further incentives. Take a look at Adding incentive for editing and Let me reward a good edit on my question/answer. Since I love you guys, I thought I should spare you the pain, but oh well, whatever floats your boat. – Masked Man Apr 13 '18 at 16:53
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    Apart from the above issue related to SE not giving a damn about this request, there is one other problem. Writing good questions is the primary responsibility of the user asking the question, and we should keep it that way. We don't want to create a "culture" where editing questions into good shape is seen as a "community service", which leads to people throwing even more garbage across the wall for the community to clean up. We certainly want to help people by editing their posts but let's be wary of the law of unintended consequences, and not overdo it. – Masked Man Apr 15 '18 at 18:06
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    @motosubatsu I am all in favour of being less harsh and lowering the bar a bit for relatively new users. However, my only concern is with making the editing some kind of a "talent show". We should certainly keep making edits to improve posts and not chase users with torches and pitchforks, but going to the opposite extreme where we start calling out close voters with "if the question is poorly written, why don't you just start a bounty to improve it" will do more harm than good. – Masked Man Apr 16 '18 at 11:43
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This proposal is highly unlikely to be accepted by Stack Exchange, and for once, I don't disagree with them. (I propose an alternative approach further down in this answer.)

As You Know, users earn 2 points when their suggested edit gets approved. It is a small reputation gain, but it is an incentive. When their reputation reaches 2000 points, this incentive gets replaced by the edit privilege. They get this privilege because it is assumed that (1) they will use this privilege responsibly and (2) they know how to use the privilege correctly on this site. This linking of privileges to reputation is the core of the Stack Exchange moderation theory.

The moderation theory trusts the users to use the privilege responsibly, but it doesn't tell us what to do if they don't use the privilege at all! Now we want to tell the Stack Exchange guys to plug the loophole by providing incentive for using the privilege, which is likely to get the response:

We trust the users of your site to use their privileges responsibly. If your community isn't using their privileges correctly, that is something for you to fix. We cannot provide additional incentives so that people will use their hard earned privileges.

Moreover, offering bounties for editing will stick out like a sore thumb. Why not offer bounties for using the other privileges as well, one would wonder.


Nonetheless, the problem of closing questions which could have been edited is a significant one. We should try harder as a community within the confines of the existing system:

  • Engage constructively with the askers to obtain the missing information.
  • Improve the questions as much as you can without waiting to make a "perfect" edit. It is easier for other users to pick up from there rather than starting from scratch.
  • Do not discourage good faith edits with comments like "your edit removed X, which changes the intent of the question". Instead restore the "removed" relevant information yourself.
  • If you know a question can be improved, but cannot do it yourself (due to lack of time, etc.), create a meta post so that someone else may be able to put in the required effort. Include as much information as you can to help them along. We should perhaps consider an tag akin to the tag.
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  • +1 Despite my earlier answer, I don't honestly think the capability will ever be implemented. I do like the idea of having an edit-request tag, particularly since that's something we can do all on our own. – David K Apr 18 '18 at 15:30
  • @DavidK Your answer is a good one as well, and I am sure if SE were still a relatively new site, they would have considered some of those ideas. Unfortunately though, this requires a significant "refactoring" in the SE policy (and not just in the code). Moreover, I am wary of introducing "special cases" in rules, which opens up a Pandora's box of "me too" requests ("Why not bounty for reopen votes?" for example). I also find the "protected" questions jarring in that regard, as it essentially implies, "we trust you to answer properly, except in this one specific case, where we don't". – Masked Man Apr 18 '18 at 16:37
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I don't think this proposal will work well

As it has been mentioned in the question, there's a cons, and potentially a big one.

IDrinkandIKnowThings commented on the question

Because it requires either 5 people or a mod to close a question, and only one person can get the bounty, I don't think it will be that easy to abuse. The con may be that people may be reluctant to edit a still open question in hopes they can do it after it is on hold for a bounty.

  1. Some questions are close-worthy but salvageable. This is why there's "Edit" on "Close Votes" queue. With this proposal, some users might exploit it and thus deliberately vote to close instead.

  2. It's relatively easy to monitor questions that will be potentially closed (3 or 4 close votes on SEDE, updated weekly), or already closed (advanced search, real-time). Some users might monitor and analyze those questions waiting for a potential bounty on salvageable questions.

  3. There's a "featured" tab that lists all bountied questions. Some users could just leave the tab open there and got notified for new bounty, then immediately (propose an) edit it.

Also consider Masked Man's comment

I am all in favour of being less harsh and lowering the bar a bit for relatively new users. However, my only concern is with making the editing some kind of a "talent show". We should certainly keep making edits to improve posts and not chase users with torches and pitchforks, but going to the opposite extreme where we start calling out close voters with "if the question is poorly written, why don't you just start a bounty to improve it" will do more harm than good.

All of these could be prevented if there's a Good Samaritan editing and improving the question before it got bountied, but then... this proposal is moot.

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  • As for your first two points, that's part of why I suggested not limiting edit bounties to closed questions. That way someone can award a bounty on an edit that has already occurred, and users won't necessarily wait around until a question closes to edit it. The biggest downside I see is that this could lead to edit wars or unnecessary edits from people who are fighting over a bounty. – David K Apr 17 '18 at 12:10
  • As for your third point, if people are watching the featured list to see which questions to edit, isn't that the whole point? – David K Apr 17 '18 at 12:12
  • @DavidK FWIW, the adjustments on your answer is fair, I don't have a problem with that. Regarding the "featured" tab, the difference between normal bounty and edit-improvement bounty is, the latter is more predictable: "Salvageable question but closed? Probably someone will put a bounty on it!" then delaying to salvage it. Compared to normal bounty where I can't ever guess when/if a post will get bounties. – Andrew T. Apr 17 '18 at 12:30
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I think this idea could work, but I would suggest some slight changes to make it more closely follow the model of the current bounty system.

  • I see no need to limit bounties to currently on-hold questions. Like the standard bounty system, sometimes you will want to reward a very good edit that has already improved a question. This also prevents abuse from unnecessarily closing questions.
  • Like answer bounties, edit bounties should be non-refundable once they have started. This also discourages abuse from offering bounties that are never awarded, as the rep will be lost to the user no matter what.
  • If bounties for answers are not awarded by the user within the time limit, then the highest voted answer (with some caveats) is automatically given half the bounty value. Since there is no voting system in place for edits, I'm not sure that an automatic award would work for edit bounties.
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  • I like the first point. In fact, I'd probably modify the proposal to only limit to edit that has been made. This is more manageable and will (hopefully) push anyone to improve any questions as best as they can, instead of playing a waiting game. – Andrew T. Apr 17 '18 at 12:33
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I like the idea, and I would make use of the new system

Assuming I could set aside my cynicism for salvaging questions, I think I would like to make use of the system you propose.

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  • If you would care to discuss my cynicism I would love to Chat over at the Water Cooler. – Lumberjack Apr 12 '18 at 18:35
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I like this idea, and I think it could benefit other sites with high closure rates, too.

Ultimately the proposal should probably be made on Meta.SE, but it is quite ok to have discussions like these on per-site metas too. One good use of this post could be to collect data and build a strong argument so it can then be taken to Meta.SE.

SE gets far more feature requests than they can implement, and we don't always understand all of their priorities (there's an actual business to run, after all). A proposal might not get traction, but a proposal that's never made definitely won't.

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