Restrict certain types of VTC votes on questions to users who have passed a minimal positive threshold of question asking activity.

Rationale and Details

One of the things in Stack Exchange mechanics that makes it work is that the more you participate in the site's activity, the more you show yourself as being good at it; and (as reflected in your increased rep as a proxy for such) you are given more rights to do things (edit, then close, then delete).

Over the years of participation on this SE, I have observed a troubling phenomena - people severely denigrate and criticize other people's questions (from mere downvotes, to un-warranted VTCs such as "unclear what you're asking" or "opinion based", to un-constructive comments that the question is "useless", "boring" or "un-interesting", to similar comments in chat, to Meta posts).

What makes the phenomena troubling is not the criticism itself - but the fact that it often comes from people who have themselves NOT shown any specific interest or expertise in asking good/interesting questions on this site, as evidenced by them asking almost no good (or any) questions of their own. Sometimes they are great contributors to the site by answering - and sometimes barely participate in the site at all.

As such, I would propose that we - if technically possible - restrict certain types of VTC votes on questions to users who have passed a minimal positive threshold of question asking activity - e.g. at least X questions with at least Y score (Say, >=10 questions with score 5+ each but I'm not very hung up on specific #s).

This rule would not apply to all types of VTC - for example, "Duplicate" vote should remain unrestricted as the expertise to find duplicates is uncorrellated to being able/interested in asking your own questions. Perhaps Off-Topic as well.

However, "primarily opinion-based" and especially "too broad" and "unclear what you're asking" seem to require at least some successful experience in writing your own questions to understand the difference between a question that's truly too broad vs. merely imprecisely worded; between "I am curious about this slightly hypothetical sutuation that is quite plausible in canon" vs "I want to facilitate discussion about opinions where no answer can be 'correct'"

As a side note, while I was too lazy to actually go and run Data Exchange statistics, from personal observation this new rule - if agreed to - would not really be a big burden. There are very few people who VTC questions yet don't bother asking their own, and I can only think of 2 counter-examples where this would false-flag a user who clearly has question asking expertise yet chooses to not ask too many.

  • 2
    As someone who doesn't really ask questions, I don't feel that you need to ask lots of questions in order to understand the site's philosophy. I regularly vote to close and it's pretty rare for me to find myself in a minority of one.
    – Valorum
    Apr 11 '14 at 19:15
  • 1
    @Richard - TRY it :) That's my point - asking good interesting questions isn't as easy as it looks. Heck, I spend more time on many of my questions than on a large chunk of my answers. Once you wear those shoes, your POV of which questions are awful and which merely poorly worded shifts. Apr 12 '14 at 0:24
  • My problem is that after I've done my due diligence on my own questions, I've either answered them or decided (to my own satisfaction) that there's unlikely to be an acceptable answer.
    – Valorum
    Apr 12 '14 at 0:31
  • 1
    @Richard - First, you never know. Slytherincess has found canon answers to declared-improbable-to-answer questions, quite late in the game. Repeatedly. So did I (for Star Wars tag as well as HP). So did some other experts for LOTR tags. I can probably dig ST examples of it as well. Second, "unlikely to have an answer" isn't a good reason to NOT ask an interesting question. Especially for still leaving creator, you ALWAYS have an option of someone contacting them and asking directly. Third, even if you already know the answer, if the question is good, you're depriving the site readers of good Q Apr 12 '14 at 0:34
  • BTW, I have asked at least a couple of questions where I knew the answer (let someone else answer, at least for 2-3 days). They were quite popular and liked and got good answers from others. Apr 12 '14 at 0:36

TL;DR: No, we should not have such a rule, nor request such a functionality change. Answering questions gives insight that is every bit as valuable as asking, and in some ways, the insight gained is more useful in identifying good/bad questions than merely asking your own questions might provide.

Setting aside the logistic difficulties of this (which I presume exist to an undetermined extent), I don't see the benefit.

By your own observation, "There are very few people who VTC questions yet don't bother asking their own."

Voting, including voting to close, is a way of expressing your opinion.

The higher your reputation, the heavier your opinion is supposed to weigh, but it is still opinion, which is why close votes aren't binding (unless from a moderator). If these few people who VTC questions yet don't have sufficient understanding (in your opinion) of what constitutes a valid question are in the minority, then either they won't have enough people voting with them to get the question closed, or the majority can overrule them, either by bumping them out of the review queue, or by reopening the question after it gets closed.

We have users with over 20k reputation, who have few or even no questions asked. Are you really saying that even though they've gained "Trusted User" status and privileges, they aren't qualified to express an educated opinion on what constitutes an on-topic or valid question?

Note that even users with 1 reputation and 0 participation are entitled to express an opinion on closing questions. Their opinion is handled by flagging, and is subject to a review. Higher reputation users are similarly subject to review, although in their case it is a review of peers.

Asking questions doesn't necessarily correlate with being able to identify "valid" VTC material, either. We've got users who have a significant portion of their participation in the form of questions, yet they argue to ban entire categories of questions even though they aren't in the slightest bit familiar with the materials in question. We have others who, as you mentioned, do not ask many questions, yet clearly have "question asking expertise".

About half of my posts are questions, yet many of my questions aren't terribly great. I think they've generally improved over time, but I consider my answering experience a better indication of my ability to judge a question than my asking experience.

Answering questions gives important insight when evaluating questions. If I read a question, and can't figure out what type of answer would satisfy the question, or feel that no level of detail I could reasonably provide would adequately address the question, how is that less valid than my experience asking my own questions?

If anything, I'd argue that experience providing quality answers gives more insight into whether a question is answerable than experience asking questions.

Some examples:

I've seen "cannot be answered because this isn't discussed in canon" cited a few times as arguments to close questions. Yet I've written a few answers that, in my opinion, adequately addressed questions that fit into that category by providing logical extrapolations from canon materials. I've also seen answers provided that found unexpected sources of canon.

I've seen "boring" questions that, when I went to find an authoritative source for the "boring" answer, led to surprising, and quite interesting, trivia associated with the question. Asking questions wouldn't give you better insight than answering that boring questions can have exciting answers.

  • 1
    I agree that answering questions gives you insight. I merely think that asking them gives fairly special insight that can NOT be gained by answering. Please don't misread my suggestion as somehow thinking question-asking should be more valuable than answering - I was one of the most voluble critics of "both Q and A are worth 10 rep" back before that was fixed; and very strongly stated on MSO that SO needs more expert answerers and less ... "not expert", shall we say, askers. Apr 12 '14 at 0:48
  • 1
    However, asking good questions on SFF is more difficult than it may appear to someone who hasn't tried; and getting spurious critique (see your examples on the bottom :) makes an asker more dispirited than someone who has not experienced it can appreciate. Apr 12 '14 at 0:50

I agree with Beofett's answer (and have erased similar one I was working on), but I would like to ask another question: is there a problem, a real problem, that this suggestion aims to fix? Not a vague "close votes should be better", but a real problem where a lot of questions are getting drive-by VTCed by random passers-by (with the 3k rep needed to cast close votes), and that these VTCs are causing otherwise good questions to be closed, and that these closures aren't quickly reversed by the mods or community?

  • The only problem I've seen (granted, I haven't been particularly active in the review queue lately) is that some questions do seem to receive a few seemingly inappropriate close votes, which rarely amount to enough to result in a closure (and which are usually reversed if they do), but which generate some pointless discussion and bickering in comments.
    – Beofett
    Apr 11 '14 at 13:32
  • @Avner - I have seen people put down questions on meta/chat/comments, who, once I look at their profile, asked 0-5 questions themselves. Frequently NOT very good ones. "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, criticize" Apr 12 '14 at 0:26
  • 1
    As far as problem, there are 2: (#1) people who have very poor judgement about question quality driving away and dispiriting people who ask questions; (#2) generally low amount of questions (see this comment). The more questions the site has, the better it is (assuming they get answers better than the rest of Internet) Apr 12 '14 at 0:38
  • These seem to be two distinct issues, both different than the one in the original proposal. The first is "We shouldn't drive good questioners away", which is important, but I don't see how this proposal will do that without seriously compromising the site's ability to close bad questions, which is as important, if not more. Apr 12 '14 at 17:07
  • The second is that the site needs more good quality questions. Again, I agree that it's an important goal. But I don't see how penalizing people who don't ask questions will do anything except motivate people to ask bad questions just for the sake of meeting some quota. People should ask questions because they have questions they want answered, not for any other reason. Apr 12 '14 at 17:09
  • I've seen a lot of ID questions VTCed within minutes, only to be sufficiently answered within an hour or two. The guidelines (the 2-week rule) are ignored in this category more than most. Jun 1 '14 at 17:39

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