Forum: guiding for posting better questions
gravatar for Medhat
2.5 years ago by
Medhat8.1k wrote:

Recently a lot of questions was out of the hook, most of it comes from new users that may be not familiar with rules and how to ask proper question "there was a lot of posts here on how to ask a question but I think no one follow it How To Ask Good Questions On Technical And Scientific Forums
How to Use Biostars, Part-I: Questions, Answers, Comments and Replies".

  • I think this could be overcome by implementing script that search in biostars db before posting the question and give suggestion to user that his question was asked before and he needs to have a look.

  • Also before accepting the question you could remind the user of the
    rules to ask and post a question

  • In the registration step you could ask the user to read about rules and how to ask a question and you give him small multiple choice to make sure he read it "something like coursera"
  • last and I do not support, to give moderator the right to downvote
forum bioinformatics • 894 views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 2.5 years ago by RamRS20k • written 2.5 years ago by Medhat8.1k

I am going to link a brief discussion @SES and I had in an unrelated thread yesterday to provide context.

That thread (which started out as a completely different question than what the OP was looking for) was a good example (it has since been fixed) for the phenomenon we are discussing.

ADD REPLYlink modified 2.5 years ago • written 2.5 years ago by genomax62k

I do think that what happened in the thread is the optimal outcome - the question was not well formulated but the OP fixed it after being told so.

One thing though that crossed my mind is to "raise the cost" of asking a question a bit. This is kind of the antithetical to most "community" oriented sites - but that is because just about everyone else is about eyeballs and they want to sell ads at all costs.

I think if it was a little more difficult to ask question, for example someone had to fill in their autobiography or validate their email before asking a question it might weed out people that are unable to even understand that. A really low hurdle might solve some problems.

This would not be necessary to answer a question though - since we don't want to annoy people that want to help.

ADD REPLYlink modified 2.5 years ago • written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k

The email verification would also have the added advantage of preventing spammer bots, no?

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by RamRS20k

Good point, it would have that effect too.

Though again one has to be careful here. The law of unintended consequences has mysterious ways of working.

I always worry that cracking down too hard just turns them to a solution that is even harder to police. I think the smart way is to give a little.

For example if spammers started adding spam as answers or comments it would be much harder for us all. You see the top level spam is temporarily visible on the main page, the spammer thinks they succeeded and leave to spam somewhere else - in reality their post is deleted in five minutes or so and they are banned with all posts removed within hours.

But if they posted only as answers or comments a lot fewer moderators will see it, and it will stay up, the word spreads that it is an effective way to spam and even more spammer come here.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k

For further context, here is another recent example that motivated this discussion on my part. In this case, there was no response from the OP so the post is in its original form. It's not clear what the issue was there, so I asked for more information. I then added another comment soon after with more context to hopefully encourage discussion and make it clear that doing a web search is likely not helping. It's not clear to me why people ask questions sometimes and then disappear and there's probably nothing to be done about that. Though, I do think it would benefit everyone if we could put a question on hold to indicate we need more details to get an informed response.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by SES8.1k

More often than not people get what they need from a thread and never accept (or upvote) the answer/suggestions provided. A matter of educating new forum users.

@Istvan: I remember some talk of perma-linking @Ram's guides on Biostars question/answer etiquette on the front page. Is that a viable option still?

PS: Owner of the question you linked did log in an hour ago so they have been back on Biostars since. So my speculation likely applies in this case.

ADD REPLYlink modified 2.5 years ago • written 2.5 years ago by genomax62k

@genomax it is not clear where to link it so that it does not use up useful space yet still be read by new users.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k

Is there a way to add the links on the page where new users sign-up?

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by genomax62k

I think it belongs to the Create New Post page, no? A concise write up with links to just the etiquette post. Mine is more of a how-to, so it would be too much for people to take in.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by RamRS20k

Here is how I think it goes - asking a question as a newbie is not a casual task - people have to work up their courage to do it - once they commit to it they want to complete that action. Going away on a different page is not really on their mind, plus they think they will ask the right question to begin with. Experienced people can tell the difference between a good and a not so good question but a newcome may not.

Think about the last time you've registered with a site, did you interrupt that process to go read some other pages, terms and conditions etc ... I for one don't ever do it ... we are looking for the submit button to complete the action that we have initiated.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k

You are correct, Istvan. Asking a question as a new user can be really scary at times, and we should not entry-control them there. I think we could add an option for Mods to put the post "on hold for clarification" if it needs more info.

I also think it might be helpful for regular non-mod users to have a flag option to add a "need more info" flag. That way, mods could be alerted to these posts even if they somehow miss it. I do wonder what would be the room for abuse with this particular feature though.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by RamRS20k

yes the flag is a great idea - basically it would signal a commitment from someone to help out if the other party is willing to put in more work. The signaler will automatically subscribe to the question as well.

It should be something that is available only for unanswered and reasonably new questions. I will add this to the new features list.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k

I agree with

"I do think it would benefit everyone if we could put a question on hold "

, even user just may give up if he/she is a new member

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Medhat8.1k
gravatar for WouterDeCoster
2.5 years ago by
WouterDeCoster36k wrote:

This is worth the discussion, but perfect solutions do likely not exist.

The type of questions you refer to are often poorly formulated and lack information, and as such your suggestion 1 likely will not work unless it's some very powerful semantic search script.

A link to guidelines when submitting a post could be useful, everyone can find that when a users needs it. The same link could be present in the registration.

I'm in favor of having a standard moderation option (like we have for crossposting, duplicate posting and inappropriate posts) to flag questions as not informative enough, as suggested (if I'm not mistaken) by genomax2.

ADD COMMENTlink written 2.5 years ago by WouterDeCoster36k

Yes, I agree here. While it is frustrating to see ill formulated questions few reliable solutions exist.

We often greatly underestimate the amazing powers of our mind for recognizing patterns and behaviors.

It is a bit like peak prediction in data it is very easy to see a peak by eye, it is easy separate neighboring peaks or see which ones are fake bumps on existing peaks. But if we try to write that up as an algorithm we'll soon realize just how difficult it is to formulate that pattern recognition as computing statements.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 79k
gravatar for RamRS
2.5 years ago by
Houston, TX
RamRS20k wrote:

This is a bit of a dilemma. We should be encouraging new users, and also getting them to follow some modicum of etiquette. When they do not invest even a minimal amount of effort before asking a question, neither the close-until-details-added approach nor snide remarks in comments help. We want people coming in, we cannot turn bitter or overly restrictive like stackoverflow.

I agree with WouterDeCoster - an option that adds a comment and tweaks the title, or something like what /r/Excel does (a "Waiting on OP" tag) might help.

I wonder what Istvan thinks a good solution would be.

ADD COMMENTlink written 2.5 years ago by RamRS20k
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