Forum: Suggesting The Removal Of Post Closing
9
gravatar for Istvan Albert
5.5 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k wrote:

As we observe the operation of the site we notice situations that appear to negatively impact the goals and purpose of it. For example downvotes have been disabled because they caused several situations where new users were discouraged, communities were split with half upvoting and half downvoting questions for no other reason than to support/disagree a point of view rather than the content. This behavior is well know and documented on other social sites.

Post closings seem to be the next example of good intentions occasionally going the other way. This applies to me as well, I have closed many posts that I later regretted, in fact in hindsight I can't see the value of any post closing that I've performed. So why do we even need them?

The concept of post closing has been imported from StackOverflow but the reasons for having that in SO are radically different. We need to recognize that the content produced at SO covers a radically different domain. The answer to How to sort a list in Python will not change from one year to the other. It is perfectly valid to use the answer to the old question and close every other such question as a duplicate.

Bioinformatics is different. It is a rapidly advancing field where the correct/recommended answers may change within a short period of time. The rationale of trying to maintain a single set of answers does not apply. Most importantly old and potentially highly voted answers may actually contain somewhat obsoleted advice. Fact is we don't go back to old answers and correct them, nor do people usually visit old questions to add new, updated answers (it happens but not it is not common).

So I propose to remove post closing. Only post deletion remains and should be applied as follows:

  • If a post has no answers or comments then the original poster (author) may delete the post (this removes the post with no trace and no option of restoring the post)
  • If a post is radically off topic with no possible bio-science connection then moderators should comment on it (to notify the author) then delete the post (this action can be reversed)
  • If a post is spam then moderators should delete the post and suspend the user (both actions can be reversed)

Actions for posts that previously may have been closed:

  • If the post is a duplicate question (identical to a previously asked and answered question) paste the link to the duplicate into an answer and let that be the answer.
  • If the post appears to be slightly off topic: python programming, plotting with R, installation of a software tool, how to get started in science, please put a link to the more appropriate forum/resource into a comment or answer
forum biostar • 4.9k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.4 years ago by Neilfws48k • written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
6

I think what we need is not to disable post closing, but to set guidelines for admins or to restrict the permission to a few core admins. There are many admins on this site (how many?) and they (well, I should say 'we', as I am one of them) have different standards on closing posts. We are essentially closing posts based on the union of individual rules, which is the main cause of over-deleting posts IMO.

I prefer to enable downvoting. We get a better view of the quality of a question/answer with both up and down votes. As to your point "for no other reason than to support/disagree a point of view rather than the content", disabling downvoting does not help to improve the situation as we can still upvote to support "a point of view rather than the content". That is the limitation of the voting system, not the limitation of downvoting alone. The two major Q&A sites both have downvote enabled. I do not see why we are different.

To avoid hurting the feeling of new users, we can disable negative votes.

Btw, to improve the general question quality, I think it is very important to suggest related questions and suggest potential duplicates as we see from stackoverflow. We may consider to use some existing libraries, or if none of them are good, we can implement our own. I guess even the most naive approach such as keyword counts may do better than not showing related questions at all.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by lh331k
8

In my view, downvotes are a harsh but fair way of indicating that a question/answer requires improvement. And a quick indicator of whether one should spend (waste?) time on a question.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Neilfws48k

The number of moderators/admins can be seen towards the bottom of the about page: http://www.biostars.org/about/

Other comments:

  1. I personally think (but I have no direct proof other than a hunch) that the creators of SO regret the existence of down votes. For example if one tries down-voting on SO the first thing they will get is a popup message from SO trying to discourage them from doing so. Instead SO tries to get them to do improve the question in some other way. To me that is the best indicator that they too greatly dislike the feature and they believe that it is not useful. But they are bound by the past - changing how their site works is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Even if the vast majority of people wouldn't mind those that do would be very vocal and overall would cause too much disturbance.

  2. The more skilled one is with computing the thicker skin they have - having the computer expose every single mistake makes us all used to the concept of being absolutely wrong and we know that is just a way of life. For someone new this is different. Any negative action is perceived as amplified manyfold, plus it is a person doing it not a computer. It is not as much hurt feelings but being discouraged, depressed by and turned off of science. My overall feeling is that not getting an answer is already punishment enough - the post does not need to also have a downvote or a closing to make that point. The person is already down - with these actions we're just adding to their problems.

  3. Adding title suggestion is definitely priority on the todo list.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k

I do not think the creators of SO regret about down voting. Down voting should be used with caution in general. It is a good behavior to leave comments about why you down vote. However, I would argue downvoting is still an essential feature. Say we have two software packages, A and B, for the same task. Many use A but they don't like A; in contrast, fewer use B (because, for example, it is from a small group) but everyone who has tried B likes it. Without downvoting, A gets more votes simply because it has a larger user base, but B is actually the right choice here. Downvoting will help to balance the two sides, to some extend. For a question with some votes, I don't see how downvoting is a bad thing to have. For a question with few votes, not giving negative votes should address most of your concerns wrt "our feeling".

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by lh331k

odd things can happen if one starts add rules of when a downvote is allowed, may lead to other headaches:

Say we don't allow negative scores and only posts with upvotes can be downvoted. Suppose you upvote and I downvote, now the post is at zero. But what should now happen if you want to remove your upvote because you've changed your mind: either the post will become negative or the score does not change or the the removal is not allowed. Each is option is suboptimal.

In your example in the end I think the stronger, larger group will win out no matter what the rules are, there is always a workaround.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
5

On negative votes, you way is too complicated. The right way is to keep the exact vote in database. You display negative vote as zero when generating the webpages we see. As to my example, the stronger and larger group will probably choose A and we will be propagating a suboptimal choice. Even if we ultimately choose B, having downvoting enabled helps to give a more accurate picture, doesn't it? Another related (but slightly differerent) example is to vote for favorite programming languages. The language with the largest user base will be the winner, but that language may be hated by more. You cannot solve the problem without downvote. In my view, at a Q&A site, a voting system without downvote is fundamentally flawed. That is why the major Q&A sites support downvote.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by lh331k
1

but if a user votes on a post that others have downvoted already then the displayed score will not increase and stay zero

wouldn't that feel confusing and/or counterintuitive, perhaps even feel like a programming bug: "I voted but the score is still zero"

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
1

You can show a tooltip to explain the situation. Even if we show negative votes, I do not see this hurts too much. Those who get negative votes are less likely to return no matter how you encourage them. The merit of downvote outweighs.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by lh331k
4

I think there may be some benefit to closing posts in order to control what type of content you and others want on the site. That is the goal of the posting guidelines after all, which have been discussed numerous times, but often people don't follow the guidelines and post a one-line question that can easily be answered with google, for example. Or, they don't demonstrate an actual question or if they have tried anything. Quite often you see "What is your question?" or "What have you tried?" on a post. I don't think that is funny and I also don't think the questions that get those responses are of interest or helpful, in my opinion. It seems to me that closing posts is one way of making sure there are some guidelines that everyone follows, but maybe there is a better way to go about it. Perhaps a better system would be where you vote to close, and after a certain number of votes a post may be closed. Even with the admins, there is always differing opinions on this issue, so maybe a voting system could help resolve these disagreements.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by SES8.1k
3

I agree. I guess the issue is how important signal-to-noise is for question quality, and how to promote it (if indeed we agree that it's important). I personally don't mind downvotes as much, but I acknowledge that they can come across as punitive and discouraging. I think in some cases, however, that's a proper response for questions where minimal effort was taken to form a well-posed question or asking something that is trivially "Googleable", as an (admittedly negative) inducement to try harder.

If only it were easier to get users to always live by the 'Ten Simple Rules for Getting Help from Online Scientific Communities.'

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by matted6.9k
3

But you see when we close a post the OP can't make it better anymore, and even if they did they would have to wait for someone to open it before it could be answered. That's really what I dislike the most about it.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
3

Would it be useful to have a mechanism for temporary closing that would lift if the OP edits (hopefully improving) their question? So maybe it would show as closed to everyone else, but the OP could improve it and have it automatically reincluded.

I agree that eliminating the chance for improvements is bad, but I think it's also not good when there are a lot of poor-quality questions clogging things up. This is just my possibly wrong impression, but I feel like many questions are abandoned after posting even when other users respond asking for clarification or improvement. Those orphan questions would be better candidates for closure.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by matted6.9k
2

how about if someone asks a bad question, others chime in and ask for clarifications and for a followup and if that does not happen in some reasonable amount of time maybe it is best if we just delete the whole question.

I too feel that abandoned and un-answerable questions add nothing and should be penalized.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
3

I think overall I have to agree with Istvan on both issues of downvoting and post closing. In the thread above, there are given some real concrete examples where (rarely on this forum) downvoting or closing a post has a positive effect. But, in my opinion the ecosystem of BioStar is very different from SO. For one thing, we have a much much smaller user base (both creators and consumers). It is (or should be) more of a community of colleagues talking to each other than a forum of a few domain experts helping masses at large. We should make it as welcoming as possible for new comers. We are very dependent on fresh blood coming in to deal with the constantly changing landscape in which relatively few people have the knowledge that others need. We don't have a critical mass like wikipedia that would allow us to be very strict on posting rules and still continue to grow. We need to be more flexible and understanding of newbs so as not to scare them away. For these reasons, I think the downsides of downvoting outweigh the benefits. Same thing for closing all but the most flagrantly off-topic posts.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by Obi Griffith17k
7

Educated undergraduates and most postgraduates can ask naive but good questions. Such questions are less likely to be downvoted or closed. In the old biostar, most questions getting downvoted were impropriate questions where the questioners did not bother to spend a minute to even try to find the answer by themselves while expecting a long answer requring 10+ minutes to write. Most of these questioners either asked once or kept asking low-quality questions even after others suggested improving the questions. They wouldn't learn. Such behaviors should be discouraged for good.

For the future of biostar, attracting expertises is more important than encouraging those who don't respect others' works. To attract expertises, we should make them feel that biostar is a high-quality Q&A site and that they can benefit from it. We need to improve the overall quality. Although I agree that post closing is a little aggressive right now, I don't think we should get rid of post closing and downvoting. When used properly, these mechanisms will help to reduce bad questions but not alienate new comers who are willing to make contributions.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by lh331k
2

You make a good argument. I think the problem is that an inappropriate question is easy to observe. But, the effects of inappropriate negative voting are hidden from us and much harder to observe. Nevertheless they can have pervasive and undesired effect on the forum. I agree that attracting expertise is more important than saving the feelings of a few "bad actors". With question closing I think moderators can agree and follow a good policy which strikes a balance. But, with negative voting being open to all, we can't really enforce "proper use". In my opinion a much bigger problem than negative voting is insufficient positive voting. I would rather people take more effort to upvote and accept good questions/answers than spend time down-voting or not voting at all.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by Obi Griffith17k

Asking for improvements and deleting if it does not happen after some time would be my favoured mechanism. It needs to be combined with a redirect to a guide of how to post good questions.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.9k
4

Here is also something that I just realized - as I happen to have some further insight into the last two post closings. Each were performed and agreed to by one or more male moderators (including me) and involved a female poster. This just occurred to me this morning and really gave me a lot of pause and caused some reevaluation of my own approach to everything.

Let me make it clear that I don't accuse anyone of sexism - after all we can't even tell the gender of the poster. But there is a different type of sexism one that still alienates the other gender. And perhaps promoting and relying too much on actions with negative connotations: downvoting, closing and the overall sentiment where every action needs to be judged and must be fixed or else are such actions. Look around - there are so few women participating on this site and I think that is probably true for StackOverflow as well.

Couldn't that also be because we are adopting rules that are unpleasant and alienating to women? Something to think about.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
2

+1 on this and absolute agreement.

I think the use of closing/deleting questions has been (inappropriately?) implemented for questions that are difficult to understand and one concern I have in this regard is the proliferation of poorly worded questions from first time users (this is just an observation, not a rule).

Just trying to brainstorm ways that we can most efficiently handle what I see is a proliferation of "new, yet old" questions.

Should we also enlist a "start-page" for first time users, ideally just the about and FAQ tabs with a check box "I have read the following and understand how to post". Perhaps even a one page tutorial on how to get the most out of the forum that each new user should read? I think the idea of a "have you checked for a similar question" flag has come up before too. Should these (Ten Simple Rules for Getting Help from Online Scientific Communities and BioStar: An Online Question & Answer Resource for the Bioinformatics Community) be mandatory reading for all new posters?

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by Josh Herr5.6k
1

good ideas, one way would be to add a mechanism where people posting their first question would get some extra tips/help and messages inserted into the form to help them guide through the process.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
4

I know I am frequently the minority - but I do not think that helps. If it were me, I would be annoyed a little by requiring me to read through a lengthy article. I would simply skip this step just as I click "I agree" without reading the agreement when I regiester to most forums. Users who already know how to ask proper questions do not need to read the articles; users who don't know how to ask proper questions will not bother to read them.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by lh331k

I would also probably ignore a lengthy article. But, having some short posting tips for newbies probably wouldn't hurt. It can just be a few gentle reminders like: have you searched the forum for an answer to your question? and then an optional link to a guide on good posting habits. I don't really see the harm in (apparently) poor questions. I have seen many weak questions which get improved/corrected by a moderator and/or clarified by the poster and then go on to have quite good answers. Our goal as moderators should be to lead by example, respond to newcomers positively, in such a way that new users are encouraged to come in and hopefully help carry the effort forward themselves.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Obi Griffith17k
2

What about implementing a system where 2 mods are required to close a question? Or maybe even more than 2?

Or maybe a system where mods are able to downvote a question, and when the question becomes more than a certain negative value, mods are able to close the question.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Damian Kao15k
2

well, it is something to consider. I wish the suggestions were towards simplifying the site not making things more complicated. Minimalism and removing features are like Ockham's razor, when in doubt they are almost always the better choice.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
2

I have to agree with Istvan's comment: "Bioinformatics is different. It is a rapidly advancing field where the correct/recommended answers may change within a short period of time. The rationale of trying to maintain a single set of answers does not apply. Most importantly old and potentially highly voted answers may actually contain somewhat obsoleted advice. Fact is we don't go back to old answers and correct them, nor do people usually visit old questions to add new, updated answers (it happens but not it is not common)."

This to me is a very important difference between Biostar and SO, where a vast majority of answers are timeless.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Robert Sicko540
1

I strongly agree with this and posted to this effect in the newsgroup last year

ADD REPLYlink written 5.5 years ago by Ben2.0k

is it possible to use some kind of question revision to improve the question and admin consume a little time in human revision also we can use short sentence pop up to guide the user and give him tips to how to post a question?

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Medhat7.9k

When reading your post again, I do not see any real arguments. It is solely your wishes. Also, you do seem to miss the concept of post closing and what it is good for. If there is something that should be closed it is this discussion, desperately hitting the close button.... You seem to want to turn the board into a 'petting zoo'.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k

A poll has been initiated here: Poll: Should the "post closing" option exists? Vote Now!

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k

Post closing has been added back

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
8
gravatar for KCC
5.4 years ago by
KCC3.9k
Cambridge, MA
KCC3.9k wrote:

The main concept behind the StackOverflow platform is 'gamification'. I have been thinking for a while that Biostars is drifting away from the gamification philosophy. Jeff Atwood, one of the main intellectual forces behind the design of StackOverflow, designed with the gaming principles in mind. Granted bioinformatics is not a game.

On the other hand, there is a reason the StackOverflow platform is so powerful and leads to an engaging experience that keeps people coming back for more.

To mirror Giovanni's concern, I am worried we will keep removing features until we break whatever magic it is that makes StackOverflow work to begin with.

Anyway, now let me get to the matter at hand. I think if a feature is getting overused, one should increase the cost in points required to do it. Eventually, people will be less and less inclined to do it. Or eventually, they will run out of points and then they can't do it anyway. So why not increase the point penalty of closing a question? (The same could be said for other behaviors, we might want to discourage, overly frequent downvoting for instance. We could simply increase the cost of a downvote to the downvoter.) I don't know what the backend of biostars looks like, but I would assume that managing things through the point system would be an easy way to do it.

(An interesting article by Atwood on gamification in the Stack Exchange platform: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/10/the-gamification.html)

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by KCC3.9k
7
gravatar for Michael Dondrup
5.4 years ago by
Bergen, Norway
Michael Dondrup44k wrote:

Hi Istvan and all, I am very sorry but I am completely opposed to Istvan's opinion and I heavily opt for keeping closing posts, but with a set of improvements and changes. In fact I see measure to remove post closing as one more step to remove concepts that work quite well on stackexchange, just in order to give everybody a good feeling and make sure nobody is ever hurt.

However, this approach is misguided, because post-closing has several advantages over a delete only solution. I believe that post deletion is in fact more punitive than post closing, while closing on the other hand is more transparent and overall democratic, because it leaves the question to debate, and also allows to refer to closed posts from the past to define the borderline for what is acceptable and what is not. While a post that is deleted, simply disappears for most users, a closed post remains visible. It may attract other users to advocate to re-open the post and discusshow content could be improved, while a deleted post simply is gone. Even the original poster might not be aware of what happened.

Instead, I opt for improving the post closing system with a mandatory comment and selecting a reason from a list of options, pretty much as it was in the beginning. In my experience, I have had problems with only having the delete option available, because it is sometimes hard to decide. Just leave it or delete the question outright. If I delete the questions only few admins will be able to see and to recover it, but in fact I would rather have the feed back of all users on the acceptability of a borderline question. Decisions to acceptable and inacceptable content should be debated and visible to the whole community, not only 4 admins. Such decisions should be taken in a totally transparent way.

Also, I think that your argument that SE is very different from Biostar does not hold. There is not only stackoverflow, but a large number of different QA sites related to a wide variety of topics, like academics, biology, statistics, etc. some fields open for discussion at least as much as bioinformatics, and they all seem to use the close option in one or the other way.

I have my doubts though, that the closing option will finally fall whatever the outcome of this discussion is, because in the end it is Istvan's decision, and you have made your opinion very clear, I assume you have already made up your mind. I am aware that you implemented the software and respect that you provide funding, also I realize that someone has to take the final decision about features.

I heavily concerned about taking a 'top-down' approach to changing biostar, and I am truly convinced that each feature change should be and should have always been based on a long discussion involving the whole community and resulting in a final poll, which outcome should be respected.

Why not have a poll? Put a question with two answers: 'keep closing' and 'remove closing', and see which wins after say 1 or two months.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k
4

Alas I have found that long discussions or polling in such case are not all that useful, only a minority will participate and it is not obvious that all sides or points of views are represented equally. Moreover the vast majority people always want the keep the status quo. Most people don't like change and rightfully so, there are many examples where change is associated with negative experiences.

I believe in experimentation. For example half the users have a feature others don't. Or say run the site with some features enabled for an amount time then look back and evaluate. This is what we were doing here, post closing are disabled via a simple flag, the functionality is still there only that it is bypassed. We run the site this way for a few months then we can evaluate the effects and objective observations can be made.

I don't like post closings because I have observed a number of clear cut cases where they had well defined and clear negative impact. But now that post closing is disabled I would urge those that believe in their value to compile examples that they believe show how the lack of this feature reduces the utility and value of the site.

By the way it is a good observation that a deleted post that goes invisible may be puzzling to the creator of that post but for that adding post closing is not the right solution. It does not actually solve the problem. Rather a deleted post should remain visible to the author of the post.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
5

I had thought about giving some use cases but then I thought it is not worth it, because you have made your decision already. You have made it very clear in the past that BioStar is your site, if that is the case then we could save the time for this discussion. Btw, it is a common defensive posture of authoritarian regimes that its citizens are unworthy or inapt of democracy. I might give it a try though, but then in another post. Also, you should give concrete examples of cases where post closings had negative impact. Did you get a feed back from the posters, if so which?

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k
1

I think the reason that discussions like this are not useful because they easily get off track losing sight of what this is about.

And as my comment to Neil states, this is about whether it is right to preclude anyone here from answering a beginner's question that also happens to be very badly formulated or duplicated or easily found otherwise etc. What post closing does it takes away opportunity from people to interact the way we promised them they could.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
1

I agree we the discussion has gone the wrong way. We should spend our time on discussion of new features instead of removing features that are working. That is the reason why you are getting such strong responses, nobody will complain about a new feature but taking away proven tools will certainly cause resistance.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k
4
gravatar for Hmm
5.4 years ago by
Hmm490
Hmm490 wrote:

a couple of years ago when i joined biostars, the community was friendly and most questions were answered by intelligent people. No matter what kind of question! But now there are moderators that pounce on you make you feel like dumb bioinformatician asking a stupid question .I think the whole idea of forum is to discuss and answer any kind of question. Of course duplicated questions should be redirected to the original source.I am very disappointed in Biostars and hope that some of the arrogant moderators need to be moderated by someone! Lets make this community a fit for all rather than people who only ask super smart questions! Thats how we all learn and teach! I hope this message get across.

ADD COMMENTlink written 5.4 years ago by Hmm490
6

What you're seeing is frustration at the very high volume of poor questions. By poor, I do not mean "stupid". There are no stupid questions - your assertion that we only want "super smart" questions is incorrect. Poor questions are, as Eric says, those which are "half-formed, easily google-able or unintelligible."

That is the point of this forum discussion: to suggest ways, other than rude responses, in which this type of question might be moderated.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Neilfws48k
4

Hi Hmm. I may be wrong but I feel somewhat targeted by your answer. I have to say that I agree with most of it, including having moderators being less harsh (I wouldn't use the word arrogant). I too feel that the community has changed a lot and was better and more pleasant in its first year. I am myself trying to work on both points currently.

I do not think that the moderators are trying to make anybody feel dumb intentionally. Moderators, including me, are sometimes irritated by some questions when the poster has failed to understand, not how to ask intelligent questions (all questions are legitimate), but how to ask their question intelligently. That is a huge difference. Asking a half-formed, easily googleable or unintelligible question is not respectful of other members and the time they devote to the forum. I am working on this point currently too, and so are some other of the moderators. I also think that it is crucial to have some mechanisms to tell people that their question, in its present form, is not very helpful to the community and should be improved.

I will personally work to remove the 'edge' in my comments to members who ask poorly formed questions, but I will remain direct when I feel a question is poorly asked because I believe a forum which piles up poor quality questions quickly become a poor quality forum, even if the 'motive' of the posters was valid.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.9k
2

I agree with the sentiment of 'hmm' here to some degree. A high level of patience is required to prevent the tone of BioStars from being perceived by new members as unwelcoming. The aggressive responses of moderators can be off putting to many. And these many are those most silent among the community, the least likely to speak up here, by a huge margin I suspect. If post closing and deletion had been used more judiciously in the past we would might not be having this discussion now. A 'high volume' of poor questions quickly becomes any amount higher than zero if you are sufficiently annoyed by them. As the chasm between the perspective of veteran moderators and new users grows, the environment of the site can become increasingly negative. Rather than removing questions that are lower quality, I'm more interested in ways to encourage users to improve their questions. Failing that, better searching of existing content and encouraging up-voting so that the cream rises to the top seem like good areas to invest effort. If poor questions are quickly weighted downwards in favor of better questions, the user will be less likely to even notice them, never mind being annoyed by them. 'Camelbbs' made an interesting point recently that sometimes a question seems incredibly vague to some users, but another user may know exactly what they are talking about because of their own research interests. As the question gets answers, commented on, etc. the phrasing of the question itself can be clarified. One can always hope for better quality, but the total volume of questions entering the stream each day doesn't really seem that high...

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Malachi Griffith16k
3
gravatar for Neilfws
5.4 years ago by
Neilfws48k
Sydney, Australia
Neilfws48k wrote:

I have always favoured StackOverflow-style downvotes and closure.

However, since this is not going to happen, perhaps we should address the deeper issue. Rather than dealing with poor questions by various means, could we not go some way to preventing them in the first place?

One option suggested to me is that users are required to earn some (small) reputation before being allowed to post a question. For example by voting/commenting on another question and/or answer. In theory, this might encourage community participation and cut down on those very many people who create accounts solely to ask a single (poor) question, then never contribute (or often, even visit) again. We could also flash them a "Thanks for participating! Now before your question, perhaps you'd like to read the FAQ" message.

ADD COMMENTlink written 5.4 years ago by Neilfws48k
2

My fundamental problem with post closing is that it prevents other people from answering if they wish so.

No one ever has laid out a logical argument that would describe the benefits of precluding a person to answer a question that seems to be on topic enough to be kept but somehow not "worthy" enough to be answered.

That's my only issue with post closing. Is there a way that a post could be marked closed but still allow someone to answer if they wish so or is the post closing in some way irrevocably tied to imposing this limitation.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k

My fundamental problem with post closing is that it prevents other people from answering if they wish so.

This is the fundamental concept of closing, in order to prevent the "garbage in (poor Question)" -> "garbage out (poor Answer)" dilemma.

Also, if you allow me to say it very directly, your feelings, opinions, or problems towards it are mostly irrelevant unless backed by facts.

"No one ever has laid out a logical argument that would describe the benefits of precluding a person to answer a question that seems to be on topic enough to be kept but somehow not "worthy" enough to be answered."

It is not about worthy, that is not the point, indeed a question that is on-topic should be answered. Instead there are several arguments for preventing people from answering poorly posed questions:

  • closing a question can serve as a review process before deleting a question. An open review is more fair than simply deleting a question, what is more, closed question get marked with the [closed] item and can be and will be thoroughly inspected by the community for fair usage of moderation procedures.

  • Moderators are not expected to use moderation functions lightheartedly, if they do or did in the past, it is a problem with the moderator, not with the moderation process, and a discussion on the correctness of moderation decisions should take place.

  • the question is off-topic, it shouldn't be answered because it will attract more such questions.

  • the question is so vague that it cannot be answered, we must prevent such questions from being answered, if that would involve a lot of guess work. The result might otherwise be misleading the OP or the community. Still we should give the possibility and encourage OP to improve the question. Often, more experienced moderators should have a good insight into what is intelligible and can be answered, and what is unclear.

  • the question is a duplicate, then there should be a link to the aggregate question. Some plain duplicates might be deleted, other duplicates could serve as a sort of "thesaurus" when they show a very different phrasing of the same problem. E.g. one question might have a very technical language, while another might describe the problem in lay terms. While they might be duplicates in the technical sense, it might be hard for new users to immediately know the correct technical search terms. Such questions are best left closed but not deleted, because they might serve as an aid to search for the correctly worded question. Allowing answers to such questions is a possibility, but only the second best option, because of redundancy.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k
1

This is an interesting idea. Even if the bar is pretty low it might encourage people to give more thought to their initial interaction with the community. I would be curious to see what the first (sometimes only) question of new users looks like. How often is it a great question that might be lost if they are annoyed by having to participate before asking and simply leave without asking the question in the first place? Hopefully that is incredibly rare.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Malachi Griffith16k
2
gravatar for Giovanni M Dall'Olio
5.4 years ago by
London, UK
Giovanni M Dall'Olio26k wrote:

I think that the best solution to any problem is to discuss it. If somebody thinks that a moderator has been to strict, and that he has closed a question that didn't deserve to be closed, then the best solution is to send a message to the mailing list. If instead of discussing what goes wrong we keep removing features, then we will end up with a feature-less forum, and without understanding what we did wrong :-)

In particular, can we discuss about specific examples of questions that have been closed? I think that analyzing specific cases will help a lot understanding the situation.

These are some of the last questions that have been closed in Biostar:

  1. Phenol-Chloroform Extraction this question was closed because it was related to chemistry and not bioinformatics
  2. Convert Cdna To Amino Acid Iteratively 3 Base Pairs At A Time? -> this question was closed because too vague. A moderator took some time to explain why the question was not well formulated, and how it could have been improved. Then, it was closed.
  3. Ask For A Script To Carry Out Reverse Complement Of Dna Sequence -> this questions was simply too badly formulated and vague
  4. Gene Isolation From Plants -> this question was off-topic
ADD COMMENTlink written 5.4 years ago by Giovanni M Dall'Olio26k
1

Personally I think the way the ask for a script to carry out reverse complement of DNA sequence post was handled is the optimal way. User asks a really bad question, people request clarifications, user does not provide those, question is deleted. We all won here, a useless question is not polluting the site.

In fact I will put this example into my little dossier of "Why post closings my be redundant". If we had the post closing someone would have closed it as punishment, no one would have ever come back to other than google and web crawlers and indexers.We would have a page of zero value that will still pop up in search results under various terms.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
3

Zero value? In terms of providing a good question/answer, yes. In terms of providing an archived discussion around what users think is acceptable at the site, no.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Neilfws48k
2

Couldn't one make the same argument to all deleted questions? They could be kept visible to show people what not to ask.

I would caution everyone to not generalize from other sites. The vast majority of website want "eyeballs", they don't really care if they have extra pages that lead nowhere because each page is an extra ad impression. More pages more ads.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
4

Google search almost never directs me to poor SO questions. I don't really see how these pages add much to the revenue of SO.

My major concern with the current BioStar is that it throws away years-worth experiences from other sites without the consensus of users or even the top contributors. There are solid reasons why SO and its numerous sub-sites are designed and evolved into that way. I am yet convinced that we Bioinformatics community is much different. Altering or removing SO features should be carried with great caution. Honestly, I quite like the old BioStar: its reputation calculation, badges, downvotes, the 5-minute delay, post closing and, most importantly in my view, suggestion of related questions. I wouldn't say these features are perfect, but having them and then fine tuning them is much better than removing them without the community consensus.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by lh331k
1

some features don't exists because we never get enough time to implement them - for example related posts is one such feature that I would love to have as well. I think that is a really important feature. Better badges as well.

But I don't fully agree though with the statement saying that the SE model is all that great outside of SO and its other, conceptually very similar sister sites like: superuser etc.

Most science oriented SE sites that I looked at don't seem to be all that successful. A cursory examination of Area 51, Science Proposals indicates that they had 77 science oriented proposals in the past three years and they launched 4 out of them. Wouldn't that be an indication that SE is not a good model for scientific sites and that we should not be afraid to question their design?

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
2

BioStar is the best Q&A site in bioinformatics mainly because it is the first that reaches the critical mass, but not because the current BioStar is technically or methodologically better than SE. Also, BioStar reached the critical mass when it was a SE site. If SE were bad, we wouldn't have BioStar in the first place. Anyway, as the developer, you should seek the consensus of users. When a decision is opposed by many, including the top few contributors, you should reconsider. PS: I think it would be better if BioStar had something like "administration board" consisting of several top contributors. Personally, I would be happier if I knew a decision was made by a group of people, even if I disagreed with the decision.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by lh331k
4

Indeed, to put it frankly, biostar is technically inferior and reached is impact despite the move from SE. You will also find this in the closing system as well. In SE the moderator must provide a reason, and link a duplicated question for example. Also, users can vote to close and re-open.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Michael Dondrup44k
1

The issue is whether what SE implements is the ideal and optimal solution - would the site be better off if these features did not exist in the first place.

you should seek the consensus of users I agree and it may sound strange but that is what I am trying to do. I believe that there are more people that do not want this feature than those that do -

What makes this difficult is that I understand that people wish to use this feature to proactively improve the site.

Here is a compromise. I will add this back to the todo list, but will be back on only once that there is an easy way for a user to appeal the process. Like a "One-Click Appeal"!

If a user disagrees with a post closing they can appeal it instantly and that will immediately push this appeal as a notification to every moderator's news feed and will be kept being added back there unless the issue is resolved.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 77k
1

On the consensus, I see the contrary - more like SE or the old biostar - but maybe I am biasing towards my own opinion. On the one-click appeal, I don't see how that helps. If you really want to implement it, you should also let users appeal for poor questions.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by lh331k
Please log in to add an answer.

Help
Access

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy.
Powered by Biostar version 2.3.0
Traffic: 1787 users visited in the last hour