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I choose to use this question as an example arguing for assistance. We're a relatively small community and I think we may be at risk of driving off people who will be productive users by being too quick and terse in our "not a question" "no citation" style comments. Sure if someone has 500+ rep, that's cool. But, for newer users, would it not be more to our benefit to create a tradition of helping them get started... especially with questions?

After all, the premise is experts answering questions posed by less-than-experts. If we presume that someone is not an expert skeptic, we should presume that they might not know the correct way to phrase a skeptics question.

Yeah, it's a gradient, and some questions are a lost cause. But some questions are from someone trying to express a skeptical viewpoint and just using poor phrasing.

  • 3
    There's a reason you get the right to edit others' posts at 1K while the site is in Beta: everyone's new. If you see a post you can improve, jump in and do it! Nothing beats demonstrating the correct way to ask a question... – Shog9 Mar 25 '11 at 1:51
  • If you know, what the good question inside the question is, the question is obviously good enough to be understood. On the other side: Do you want to google for some esoteric claims? And: The question is about that: helping people with their question, it is just addressed to the whole audience, and not just to Russel Steen. He is asking for a common culture, afaik. – user unknown Mar 25 '11 at 7:44
  • @user: you're over-thinking this... But it's an excellent example! I read this post as an honest attempt to avoid unnecessary closing, while you read the very same post and saw an unneeded attempt at quashing diversity. On meta, that's food for discussion - but on the parent site, it's fodder for pointless side arguments. – Shog9 Mar 25 '11 at 13:49
  • I don't deny the general possibility to improve a question. It is encouraged, if you clarify meaning without changing it, correct minor mistakes and such. But often the question may tend in the one way or the other. (Great Flood - is it about proving the bible is right, or is it just about a weather phenomena?) Imho, the first try should be to ask the person who opened it for improvement, and to do that, it is nice to point in detail on what is wrong, than to use a generic phrase and closing it. – user unknown Mar 25 '11 at 14:31
  • @user: I agree, however... If there are two possible ways to interpret a question, where only one of them is on-topic / appropriate for the site... Then editing to emphasize that interpretation is preferable to closing. Obviously you should also explain why your editing, since if the author actually intended the other interpretation then he may feel his meaning was altered - but you should be careful to emphasize that insisting on it will result in the question being closed or removed completely! – Shog9 Mar 25 '11 at 15:26
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I think that question is a perfect example of why the approach works. Closing the question early prevented bad answers from being written. After that, the community jumped in (Sklivvz, you, and Robert) and improved it. Now, it's a great example of a well-asked question.

We have to raise the level of questions being asked here, even if it chases a few users away. Currently, our problem isn't growth. Our traffic has increased significantly over the last week. Take a look at all the Stack Exchange site listed by traffic. We have traffic similar to many several months older launched sites, and our traffic is underestimated there because it averages the last two weeks. There was a noted increase in traffic this week.

Our primary concerns should be quality and building a community, not growth.

We may have a lot of traffic already, but we don't have a community yet. We are building one. Slowly. Post by post. It's the quality of these posts that will determine what kind of community we have. If we demand high quality, we build a community interested in high quality content. Likewise, if we content ourselves with low quality material, we will end up with a community that relish in mediocrity.

With all of that said, I think we did one thing wrong in the question you linked to: we didn't try to improve it ourselves until later. If we understand what's being discussed here, we should try to improve the question so it's better. There's no reason to close a potentially great question if we can improve.

  • Thanks! This pretty much explains precisely what I was trying to puzzle out. – Russell Steen Mar 25 '11 at 2:14
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I think a closed question is a psychological barrier for a person, who hasn't observed some closing and reopening before. It should be accompanied by an

  • encouraging, friendly note to improve the post
  • concrete indication where a question falls short
  • maybe, especially for beginners, point to a short and simple but though good question as example (in the faq).

What claim needs citation? What is too vague?

For example. The sugar question was:


Is there a difference between sugar found in fruit juice and sugar found in confectionery?

Sugar in confectionery is regularly described as the root of all evil! While sugar in fruit juice slips under the net. I just noticed my 330ml juice has 33g of sugar in it.

I am just wondering what the science behind the differences are.


Problems of the post:

  • the headline just talks about 'differences'. In which aspect? Cost, health-aspects (which?), production, saturation - maybe color? First-best guess: Health-care and obesity should be emphasized, if meant.
  • Comparing confectionery and juice is very good; it's polarizing and colorful. Keep that!
  • A link to a typical source, which engages against refined sugar, would be fine, so people would know where to go into the details.
  • The last sentence is way too vague. Science doesn't claim 'root of all evil'. :)

In some cases it might be sufficient to improve the question yourself, if there isn't much doubt what might be meant. A generic comment might be right too, and could clarify, that closing a question is by no means final.

Else, the original author should get the first chance to improve the question, to keep it in the intended direction.

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