I have noticed a series of rather lazy questions appearing on TGO, I would say mostly from new(ish) users, some questions get put on hold and others are not. The problem is that very often these questions get an answer anyways, or some more experienced user edits them rather than the OP. I feel that in this way they have no reason to put a bit of effort in their contribution to TGO.

Should TGO be ruthless with these users and quickly close a question that shows very little effort not only in prior research but even in how the question is written? (I'm not referring to bad English, I mean incomplete, lack of meaningful details to make answers appropriate, typed in a rush like if it was a cellphone message or getting away with one simple link to other websites rather than describing a product...). Should more experienced users refrain from editing or answering these questions until they are put on hold and the OPs fix them?

Some examples are:

  • Sailing from the Wash, UK to France during World War II.. My problem with this question wasn't really the fact that it didn't bother to locate "The Wash", which would have taken very little time, but it obviously shows no effort in research: a simple search for "Dunkirk boats" brings up The Little Ships of Dunkirk. Even if someone didn't know anything about sailing and boats, or WW2, just reading a Wikipedia article gives a clear answer to the question. The question author not only did not bother editing it but has not shown up since. In this case it brought up an interesting subject but in principle the question itself was rather bad, it felt like it was some sort of high school assignment for which the OP needed a quick answer.

  • How can I prevent this canvas swag from sagging in the middle? and What's the best or easiest way to attach a loop tag onto canvas?. Two questions by the same user that show the same behavior, in one he doesn't bother describing the tent but just links a website about it. Had he bothered explaining that the sagging sides of the tent are meant to be opened and that under those there is an equally sagging mosquito net the answers given would have been more appropriate and the whole thing would have been more useful for other users. In the second question, which was clearly following the previous one, the OP shows even less effort than before. In both cases the OP received and accepted answers, which pretty much means he won't bother editing them. I would even say that this user made a point to not make an effort which makes me not wanting to edit them myself.

Am I the only one that feels like we are doing somebody else's homework if not only we take our time to answer a question but even have to edit them to the point that they would be rewritten almost completely so that they will be useful for others?

I understand the need of being welcoming to new users but, since we are putting effort and research in the answers to maintain the quality of the whole site, I don't think its wrong to demand the same courtesy from users asking the questions.

Edit following some answers, just to clarify some points: Im not scared of researching something, Im not against finding a way to help someone to improve their question, Im not against answering basic questions and Im not even against stupid questions since what can seem stupid for an experienced person often is a legitimate doubt for a beginner. If I am hiking in a group I am always willing to carry someone's pack on top of mine if they cant do so, my attitude changes when they make no effort to try to lift their pack and just expect me to carry their load every single time.


3 Answers 3


I feel like I am repeating myself, but once again my opinion is to not do/decide anything in this case as a community.

It is not like with have more such questions that we can deal with. To me it feels like there is so low activity compared to pretty high interest of regular users, that "problems" are blown out of proportion.

When faced with a low quality question, just use any of the options you have according to your judgment and interest/time you have:

If you think that you understand the question and think it could be interesting, I see no problem in investing time and editing to improve a question. Note the understand part though, I think it is wrong to edit a question to make it viable when changing the original intent (open a new question). If you believe it is on-topic, but simply really bad (boring, short, no investment by the person posting) just downvote and move on. If there is a reason to close, do that. In any case, if you want to be helpful leave an honest but polite comment pointing out how the question should be improved (not why it is so bad).

Do what you think is appropriate while staying polite or move away if not interested.

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    Im not working myself up, Im just wondering if salvaging questions to the point of re-writing them would just encourage the bad habits of some users. I think that quality would attract users rather than quantity and if all the activity we have are questions we have to rewrite then we might as well pick a subject per day and write and answer the questions by ourselves. I cant help feeling that if we all move on if not interested, and all the questions are not interesting, then even the old users will stop adding to the site Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 12:20
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    @ErikvanDoren That comment was out of place, sorry (wasn't actually directed at you, but definitely came over that way, sorry again either way). I agree, rewriting is too much and I would expect askers to put in some effort, after all they expect the same for the answerers. However reality is they don't in many cases. So if such a question could be good, I don't see the harm in editing it.
    – imsodin
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 13:05
  • No worries about that one comment. You are right in saying that reality is that they don't in many cases and I'm wondering if that happens only because TGO allows it. I don't want to see users turned away from TGO, and that happens often in many of the SE sites, but are we really in such bad of a situation to have to let users that don't follow the "good question" rule to keep doing that over and over? Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 13:23
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    Shame I can only up-vote once :) Every post made in the Stack Exchange network should be seen as community work.
    – OddDeer
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 14:39
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    I agree, I find myself frustrated by peoples need for rules on this site. If it's not actually causing damage, leave it be.
    – user2766
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:38

If a question can be fixed by simply editing it, I don't see a reason to make a huge fuss about making the OP fix it.

In the case of The Wash question, if the OP never came back (which might be reasonable given the rudeness of the comments) would you really prefer the closed question to the one we have now?

Here are examples of edits that I have done instead of trying to get the OP to fix it.

  • This question had improper capitalization so I fixed it.
  • This one had needed the units clarified
  • This one need a source for the quote
  • Source needed to be formatted properly.
  • Title wasn't a question
  • Question didn't flow well

All of these are examples where I probably could have chosen to flag as plagiarism or to close as unclear or downvoted but instead to I choose to just fix the problem.

For the questions you linked,

  • The one about the Wash just needed someone to be willing to do a very simple Google search to locate it and do a little reading between the lines. I find it ridiculous that people claim the this site should be for experts and yet refuse to do basic research.

  • The tent had a picture so it shouldn't be unclear

  • It should take less than five minutes to edit the loop tag question to be clear. I am pretty certain that you knew exactly what he was asking and yet chose to give him a hard time.

The reasons why we should just edit to fix the problem are,

  • It makes it feel like a much friendlier place when we help each other instead of pointing out the other users mistakes.
  • If you make the question more clear, it is way easier to answer and that helps everybody. Stackexchange encourages this with the Refiner badge.
  • The more questions we can salvage the more questions we have to answer.
  • Being nicer to new users encourages them to stick around which means more people to ask questions and to be active on the site. Would you want to stick around if they called you arrogant?
  • I appreciate people who help improve my questions, the ones who just point out how it's wrong, not so much.

At the same time no one is obligated to edit anyone else's posts, but at the same time I don't think we should stop people from trying. There are a lot of benefits to editing posts, and if someone chooses forgoe those benefits, that's their choice.

In the case of a user who completely chooses not to improve then downvote, vote to delete, and flag as very low quality.

People have tried editing that user's answers and it hasn't made much of a difference in the quality of the users writing where the editing was not done.

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    I dont mean that we should not try to salvage certain questions but, you cant deny that some people come in TGO simply because its less work to ask in here than look at a couple pages of google results. In some parts of this network, you need to demonstrate you did some work or they close your answer. Sorry but I dont accept that a user refuses to edit his question and just demands us to answer and solve his problems, especially when they have a history of doing so. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 12:08
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    Yes, I know exactly what is the problem with the guy's tent, I decided to give him an hard time because his laziness misled people that took time to help him, because I wanted to be him the one to add the details the question needed to be properly addressed, because of his attitude when I asked for those details. I know it would have taken less time for me to edit it directly or answer it but that would just reinforce his behavior. The OP has done that several times on SE Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 13:01
  • @ErikvanDoren As you probably noticed the OP just got defensive. Personnally I doubt that giving the user a hard time is a good way of getting them to change. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 15:12
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    Maybe Its being defensive but dont see it that way, sorry: I read the "lets just try to answer the question" as a sense of entitlement. And the upvotes make me think that there are more users exactly like that. Giving a bit of an hard time to someone that wrote a bad question might not work for all of them but spoonfeeding them doesnt work for any... I understand your line of thought but Im afraid it would just make other users less likely to contribute. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 15:45
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    Please bear with me regarding pics in questions. A bad picture without a description just misleads everyone trying to answer. In this case it made people think that swag works like a ridge tent, and it doesnt. I dont think that a picture automatically makes a question clear. When I flagged that question I pointed it out in a comment to the mods exactly because I wanted to avoid the "well, theres a pic that show it sagging so its clear whats going on" Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 16:54
  • @ErikvanDoren I get that you don't want to edit the questions, what I don't get is why you would not want someone else to edit the question Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 17:24
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    Sorry, I will try to explain myself: its because I feel that if we keep doing all the "bad users" homework we reinforce that habit. Editing their questions to make them better for others to answer, or to answer them ourselves closing an eye on the condition of the question, its spoonfeeding. In my second example, OP did return and clearly refused to add details, when you edited his question and added an answer you did all his work and gave him what he wanted. No reason for him to build a better question next time he needs help (well... maybe spite if he reads meta ;) ) Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:00
  • @ErikvanDoren If someone keeps posting bad content, people will eventually get tired of editing it. (see the answers I linked in the last part of may answer) Personally, I am not at that point yet with either of the OPs Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:19
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    I get that, but then there's gonna be somebody else taking your place when you get tired of it. (AFAIK the user you brought as example writes in that format everywhere on SE, I hope it's just a language barrier, English isn't my language either so I think of that first. English is a requirement, I get that. I have seen someone with some form of agraphia writing in a similar manner... I wouldn't know how to ask him) Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 19:24
  • @ErikvanDoren Thats my point though if you want to help a user and I don't you can help them and I won't complain and vice versa. Nobody is obligated to help anyone else by editing, but I don't think that we should stop anyone who wants to help from helping Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 20:01
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    @Erik vanDoren I suggest we give that user the benefit of the doubt, and ask ourselves how well we could write answers in Tagalog (language of the Philippines). As for "everywhere on SE", is he on other sites? I didn't see that in his bio. Of course, he could be a teenager in NJ having fun, but I don't think so.
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 22:49
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    @ab, exactly my thoughts. Yes, that user belongs to other communities in SE and the writing style is always the same and, like you, I don't think he is a teen, but rather the opposite One of the reasons I specified that I was not referring to bad English was exactly because I didn't want to lump together those users with the "lazy ones" (which are the ones I wanted to concentrate on) Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 10:02
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    "I choose to just fix the problem." No, you made the problem worse. The real problem is people dumping crap on us in the first place. By still letting them get the desired result, you have taught them and anyone watching that dumping crap here works. That's a lot worse than losing a few questions. Shame on you! Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 11:17
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    "I don't think that we should stop anyone who wants to help from helping". That's exactly the point. We DO need to stop some people because their actions hurt the site as a whole. This is why we have a close question mechanism. If we didn't make it impossible to answer a bad question, there would eventually be someone that would answer it anyway. All it takes is a very small minority of user to defeat the quality controls. There is a big difference between not bothering to help, and actively wanting the OP to not receive any help. You seem to ignore that the second exists. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 11:24

Yes, it is not a good idea for people that ask bad questions to be rewarded with the desired result. Not only does that show the OP that dumping junk on us works, but it gives the same message to bystanders. The OP and others will then continue doing the same. Your second bullet point is a great example of exactly this happening.

The site is more important than any one question. While it may seem simple and logical to edit a bad question to a good one, this is actually damaging to the site in the long term.

The better action is to vote to close and downvote as appropriate, then leave a comment explaining the problems. If the OP reacts to the comment and cleans up the mess before 5 close votes accumulate, then we have a good question and a good result. If the OP doesn't fix anything, then the question gets closed. That's also a useful result since it shows everyone what is not acceptable here.

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    Other sites in here use exactly that principle, sometimes to an extreme (and I dont mean to get to that point). It would be sad if we accept whatever question just to show some sort of activity. I understand that people need to learn things, and I would want to see more of them here but, when some feel entitled to get an answer things change Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 12:30
  • @Erik: Yes. My "main" site is EE, and we don't tolerate crap there anywhere near as much as here. We are headed for trouble here if we keep letting the crap writers get their desired result. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 12:38
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    While it may seem simple and logical to edit a bad question to a good one, this is actually damaging to the site in the long term. how? It seems to me that pushing people away by being overly draconian is more likely to be damaging than editing a question.
    – user2766
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:37
  • @Liam: I answered that in the first paragraph. Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 11:21

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