Over on my other favorite StackExchange site, there's a problem with quality questions that's so pervasive that the community has sort of adopted a no-tolerance, no exceptions approach to such questions. The question is always a rephrasing of the following:

I want to accomplish X. How do I do that?

(With no detail other than what they want to accomplish, what they've tried, where they're confused, or half a dozen other details that would be helpful.)

This particular type of question is so awful that community doesn't even bother trying to improve the question, they simply vote to close it with the same comment.. Over and over again... "What have you tried?"

There's an excellent blog post, by the way, that details why people react this way, and why such questions elicit no mercy from the community. The comment borders on the snarky, is utterly unhelpful, and would, on the surface, seem to violate the precepts set forth for the Summer of Love.

Yet,the community tends to agree that the practice of asking the snarky-sounding question is perfectly OK, as long as you're nice about it.

If the OP doesn't improve the question, it's closed. Asking the question (and for some, posting the link to the blog post) is a way to let the OP know that the question isn't acceptable in its present format, gives them a chance to improve the question, and if they don't want to take the effort to bring it up to site standards, it gets closed in short order.

Just as SO has one common, persistent, inherent, hard to kill problem that keeps cropping up, so do we. We continue to have "new kids" (and I don't mean that in a mean way) coming to the site looking for "Truth". Today alone, we've had six of these, and the experienced members are answering. (Except for those that are closed as duplicates)

  1. Of whom is God jealous?
  2. Is it possible to get into heaven, but then be cast out at a later date?
  3. http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/10039/why-did-god-create-people
  4. What could persuade a presumably otherwise-rational Satan to turn on God?
  5. Genesis 19. 8 Why should he protect strangers above protect his daughters?
  6. Original sin and its consequences

Not all of these are necessarily bad questions (although some of them are). It's just that they miss the point of what the site is supposed to be. I don't know what the will of the community is, but it doesn't seem consistent to say we want questions about Christianity, and to still be answering questions about Truth.

Many of these questions could be rephrased to "what is the x teaching on this subject" and be salvageable.

I thinks we need to be nice to the new kids, but this isn't the site to come seeking that kind of truth.

I'm wondering if we need (or already have) a blog post, or a Meta post that can address this in a way that's as friendly, yet descriptive as the "What have you tried" blog. Something that kindly, and nicely steers users away from asking these types of questions, or gives them tips for improving them.


Spot on. +2 –  Caleb Oct 4 '12 at 5:37
(And for the record, I can't actually +2 nor did I try. I actually needed two more characters to post that comment, so + supplied the first and 2 the second ;) –  Caleb Oct 4 '12 at 5:40
I've been referred here from the could people be immortal question. I don't understand the problem (please help). I do understand when someone writes, "fix me code plz" (too vague) but I've answered some of these questions because I think they are good questions. Can anyone tell me what is wrong with, e.g. q3 (except it is a dupe) or 4? –  Wikis Oct 4 '12 at 9:56
@Wikis maybe this link would have been more appropriate: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1379/… –  David Stratton Oct 4 '12 at 11:41
@Wikis the point is that if you ask a question "seeking truth" then you're asking the wrong question for this site. "Tell me what's true" is our equivalent of "solve my problem, I don't know what it is, I don't even know what language I'm coding in" –  wax eagle Oct 4 '12 at 12:45
@waxeagle: yes, thank you. Also DavidStratton's second link helped clarify that. Right now, I'm not sure I agree. Will come back if I can clarify my thoughts on this... –  Wikis Oct 4 '12 at 12:54
@Wikis no problem if you disagree. Just wanted to clarify the rationale for why this would get linked. Just glad we're talking about this. –  wax eagle Oct 4 '12 at 12:56
@waxeagle: thanks! –  Wikis Oct 4 '12 at 13:43
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1 Answer 1

Expert level questions would be nice, I'd imagine that the powers that be, who modeled stackoverflow as an anti-experts exchange, intentionally did not place a difficulty level on questions. And, when they/we (I was a beta user on stackoverflow) got rid of the subjective tag when it became obvious that a subjective badge was a farce, it became clear that the only way to avoid all the foibles of the other q&a sites was to avoid any meta tags.

Therefore, the presumption is that all questions should be useful questions and all useful questions should be broad and all broad questions should be answerable by experts or people of a given experience. So... I'm kind of of the mind that if users are willing to take the site seriously, they may have a decent chance.

I don't really like asking questions on stack exchanges where I'm merely curious because we're all pretty much the same, if your question doesn't fit the mold of 60% of all the other questions, you're likely to be eaten by a Grue.

It's happened to me on English, cogsci, skeptics, scifi and others. It's very hard for speculative questions to exist. The difference here is, we actually want to answe these questions because most of us are motivated by a desire to not only pass on the faith, but actually evangelize. Not outright proselytizing, but certainly apologetically answering questions.

I couldn't agree more on the reason we want to answer them. There are times I wish the site were what I originally thought it was. I feel a bit jaded sometimes when answering anything, because even though I believe in my heart that some teaching or another is way off base, or is Truth, I can't really frame the answer that way. Part of me wants to simply evangelize, or present what I believe as total truth, but the honest-to-goodness truth is that once I "got it" I started appreciating other views more, and I'm finding a deeper understanding of things I just assumed. My faith isn't shaken.. –  David Stratton Oct 4 '12 at 3:35
but rather strengthened. I can verbalize things that were just vague ideas before. I worry, however, that seekers will come here seeking truth and go away discouraged, and thinking there is no Truth. I worry about that a lot. That's why, lately, the idea of what the site is and isn't gelled for me and became really important to me. –  David Stratton Oct 4 '12 at 3:36
@DavidStratton I think the key factor is that this site is not for seekers and I would never ever refer a seeker here. This is a site to learn about what other traditions believe, to learn about what your tradition believes. One of the primary purposes it can serve is to try to correct misconceptions about certain traditions and help us see the benefits other traditions bring to the table –  wax eagle Oct 4 '12 at 12:42
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