I have been vocal in several early discussions about the need to gently redirect the enthusiasm of first time posters rather than sharply remind them that their contribution is inappropriate. I fear that my liberal attitudes have now been demonstrated to have failed miserably.

A new user posted a question (now titled) What criteria should I look for to publish my cemetery records online? which self-evidently failed to meet the criteria of a good SE question when it asks for "the best ...". I commented with a warm fuzzy welcome and a gentle suggestion of how the question might be improved.

Predictably, the question has attracted a number of short answers that together constitute a list of options and personal preferences. The OP clearly sees no need to amend the body of the question because the community has given him the answer he was wanting.

More seriously, the question that I probably should have voted to close (as "not a question") has now earned a Nice Question badge through upvoting.

What is the appropriate middle way that will encourage new or inexperienced users to continue to visit and contribute without leaving open the possibility that their less-than-desirable first efforts will be seen as the norm?

  • I note the new question is similar to your suggestion - Perhaps you could rephrase your question to something like "What characteristics should I look for in a site for my cemetery records?"
    – Those Legs
    Dec 3 '12 at 5:16
  • I hope you're not suggesting that all questions should have just one "correct" answer @Fortiter. This type of research is not an exact science and many answers will necesarily have to be subjective because there is no absolute. I found the answers to that particular question helpful to myself (which is good for the site) and so we should not let dogma get in the way of usefulness. Apologies if I misunderstood your criticism of that particular question.
    – ACProctor
    Dec 3 '12 at 13:01
  • You are quite correct that I am not suggesting all questions should have one answer. I find those that do are generally rather boring. My objection to Q2384 (as originally asked) is that it has NO correct answer. There is no "best" site.
    – Fortiter
    Dec 3 '12 at 13:35
  • Before the last edit, the question might have made a fine CW. now it's better, but the answers are still from the original question. What's done is done, but the best option, IMO, would have been to close as NC or to make CW and ask a new question about the criteria. Dec 3 '12 at 22:26
  • 1
    What is CW and NC
    – Those Legs
    Dec 4 '12 at 1:12
  • CW means Community Wiki and NC means Not Constructive, one of the five major reasons to close. Dec 5 '12 at 13:58
  • Hi @Luke, I sometimes see Community Wiki offered as a quick fix. But the problem is that it's not a quick fix. In The Future of Community Wiki, it's clear that this doesn't always help discourage questions that can hurt the site. I suggest trying to fix a post with edits, if at all possible, or even closing a question, over trying to make it community wiki. As the article points out, one community wiki post actually squashes the possibility of asking several really outstanding Q&A questions, so they should be avoided.
    – jmort253
    Dec 9 '12 at 1:06

I don't think your initial comment could have been improved upon -- it struck the right welcoming tone but pointed out the problems. However, the OP has edited the question title and is editing the body. I made another gentle suggestion how to change it and why, and they responded and edited it again immediately. Now, I think it's looking OK.

On this important and more general point:

What is the appropriate middle way that will encourage new or inexperienced users to continue to visit and contribute without leaving open the possibility that their less-than-desirable first efforts will be seen as the norm?

it may be that we need to be a little less wary of editing questions that need improving on behalf of the OP, always telling them what we've done and why and inviting them to rollback if they're unhappy, rather than hoping they'll do the edit themselves. If the comment we make is just as warm and fuzzy and encouraging, it should still have the desired effect.

  • 1
    I am not sure that a meta discussion can have an accepted answer; but I believe your proposal has great merit and I propose to adopt it. Don't just suggest an edit -- step in and make it and explain why.
    – Fortiter
    Dec 3 '12 at 13:39

The best thing to do with first questions is to close them and not reply to comments asking how they can be made acceptable.

That's what was done with my first question and it's given me a very clear picture of how this community operates and whether it's an appropriate one for me to be involved with.

If you welcome newcomers, you'll just find the site attracting even more newcomers, exacerbating the problem.

  • 1
    Tom, as you didn't ping anybody in your comment of 30th November asking how your question could be made more acceptable, none of us are likely to have seen it. I'll go over there and see if I can make any suggestions.
    – user104
    Dec 8 '12 at 17:40
  • This is a good point. Not every new user is a delicate little flower that will wilt if someone, even kindly, points out something they're doing wrong. ;) Most people, as long as they're treated respectfully, will adapt to the rules of whatever community they are joining.
    – jmort253
    Dec 9 '12 at 1:12

I think we do need to recognize this is a crowd-sourced project and that these things will happen. Don't let one question change your sentiments concerning encouraging new users.

I agree subjective questions are bad and we need to be very careful with list questions (mainly because they are both subjective and easily dated) and this question is both. However the need was clearly there by the large upvoting. Is there a way to reword the question to meet both needs? Note you have sufficient privilege to edit the question even if he OP won't.

I think we need to distinguish between closing for not-constructive and closing for low-quality. My pushback (on other questions) on closing was questions should not be closed for low quality (which has a different stack exchange mechanism for dealing with - not closing). Not construcive is appropriate to close. Interestingly enough some of the highest voted questions on other sites were closed as well in almost identical situations. See best-online-resource-to-learn-python - it was closed with 28 upvotes over 4 years ago. In the meantime, it's had 7K hits (ie people still use the closed question).

So if you don't think the question can be improved (ie it is out of scope, not low quality) then maybe it is appropriate to close.

  • Duncan, not sure what you mean by 'closing for low-quality' -- do you mean closing as 'not a real question?'
    – user104
    Dec 3 '12 at 11:04
  • Duncan I am well aware of what I COULD do with the privilege afforded by my reputation. Until now, I have been uncertain that I SHOULD do it.
    – Fortiter
    Dec 3 '12 at 13:41

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