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I've noticed that some questions of late are being voted closed before they've been edited to reveal other content that was hidden. This happens when improperly formatted code causes the meat of the post to never be displayed. I've seen this more than just a couple of times. I saw an example of it again this morning which prompted me to pose this question for discussion. This isn't to point a finger at any one in particular as this post still had problems, but it included 24 lines of code with only 3 lines partially appearing at the time it was closed. I thought it especially unfortunate that a new member had at least made some effort to comply with our requirements (his post still needed further help), yet was dismissed without having that effort being noticed or acknowledged by any of the 5 people who voted to close.

Here's another one from this morning where half the code was obstructed. It too needed more help, but showed more effort than perhaps it was given credit for. Further, it had been downvoted twice with no comments left. :(

I believe this was one where we deleted the poster's reply that was a follow-up to another question, telling them to post a new question of their own. Its clear, the new member doesn't understand how our site works nor how to use it. I feel as though we've failed this new member by not making this easier for them. We've especially failed them by not editing their question to discover the code they posted and then asking for clarification of their question about the code, then waiting to give them an opportunity to clarify before closing it.

So, perhaps part of my question is, are we being too quick to "pull the trigger" and close new questions before a member can edit their question to meet our requirements? How quickly do we want to close questions that don't meet our posting criteria? Do we want to close right away and then reopen after editing or do we want to allow some reasonable amount of time before closing? What guidelines would we like to set or do we have for this?

I'm asking this in part, because I've never seen so many questions put on hold as I have over the last couple of months. I'm wondering how helpful this is to us in creating community; i.e. are we "turning away" potentially valuable new members by causing them to feel as though this is a hostile environment instead of being friendly by helping them become accustomed to our model? I think that's a question we've been asking ourselves in a variety of ways over the past couple of months that merits further discussion in this context.

EDIT

This is primarily in response to comments by @JesseAltman. "The StackExchange provides a Tour that makes it very obvious what the community expects." and "They didn't look up how to do code formatting."

The above two areas are where I think our Tour does an inadequate job of providing what new members need to know "at a glance" when joining SF.SE. Its very clear that we expect members to post their code along with an explanation of where they're having problems with it when they post a question. I don't think we make that at all clear or provide appropriate emphasis in the Tour.

As for posting code, IMO, our editor is not at all intuitive. It would seem entirely appropriate to me that we include a tip on how to do that as part of our Tour. In most editors I've worked with, "pre-formatted anything" would be pasted into a selection after pressing the {} pre-formatted text button. I'd have never expected to do the paste, select the code, then press that button! Nor would it have ever been at all intuitive that I type in 4 spaces on each line to get it to appear as code. Speaking for myself, it took me a while to catch on to these nuances. The errors I made at the time weren't out of disrespect, they were from learning to use a new tool I wasn't accustomed to that worked entirely different than what I'd ever used before.

Part of what I'm saying here is that in the examples I cited above, while perhaps not the best, at least those members had made an effort to post their code using an interface that to me, is still rather foreign and counter-intuitive to use. I'm sure we all know of good software that died because of poorly designed interfaces. Do we say that the users who didn't understand and make adjustments to use the interface failed to do their part, or is it more common to say to the developers "You guys could have done a better job in making your product user friendly"? I've observed the latter as typically what happens, yet we're saying to new members you're being disrespectful to us for not understanding how to use our oddball interface?

Sorry, but I just can't quite buy that. When the effort that's been made by a new member is hidden from those who read their post when voting to close it, I think StackExchange has failed to make it easy for a member to post on SF.SE or understand what's necessary to easily format their post such that it can be read.

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    Fully agree. I tend to vote to keep questions open that have no effort of the community to help the OP improve their question. If you're not willing to help .. don't bother voting to have it closed. Those should go hand in hand. – Samuel De Rycke Jun 22 '14 at 20:35
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    Great points with your edit. My only response would be that you have to scroll down past a preview of what your question is going to look like before you post. While the editor may not be intuitive, I think the Preview functionality is pretty self explanatory. These people have to scroll past that, realizing none of their code is displaying. I'm sorry, but I really feel don't feel that the tools available on SFSE are that hard to use, especially for people who are supposed to be tech savvy users (developers/admins for instance). That's just my 2c. – Jesse Altman Jun 25 '14 at 15:34
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This is a good question. The StackExchange community can be harsh, but only if you abuse it. I'm sorry, but I just don't feel bad that the two questions that user asked were closed. It is painfully clear that user spent absolutely zero effort attempting to learn how our community works, so why should the community spend time trying to clear up their question and help them? The StackExchange provides a Tour that makes it very obvious what the community expects.

A majority of our community are highly trained, highly paid professionals who do Salesforce development for a living. There is a certain amount of respect that should go both ways. After having an answer that was a question deleted, a question that provided no details deleted, and finally even a third question deleted that still had no details deleted, you would think the person would learn. They didn't look up how to do code formatting, they didn't look into why their answer was deleted. They didn't look into why their question was deleted. The entire time, all that user cared about was getting their answer from the community as quickly as possible. That is abusing what this community provides, free professional quality assistance.

So don't feel bad about closing a question or deleting an answer that doesn't follow the rules. No question get closed without some sort of information telling the user why it was closed (there are messages that are included in every single on hold/closed questions). If a question/answer gets deleted, that new user will do one of two things:

  • Take some time to learn our rules and repost that question/answer properly
  • Leave the community because they can't be bothered to learn why their question/answer was deleted

If they choose the first option, the community is more than welcoming. We have had some new users start off rough and become excellent members with some time. If they choose the second option, that is better for the overall health of the community. They don't really want to contribute at that point, all they want is to get their information. If we start pandering to everyone who would leave because of that, it will only hurt our main members because they will basically be on clean up duty 24/7. Why should our main user base suffer just to increase our numbers with users who don't really care about the community at all.

The community to user relationship is a delicate one. For it to work, both sides must benefit. The StackExchange model works. We may not grow to be the largest community ever, but we will definitely have a very high quality community which I would definitely prefer.

  • See my edited question that addresses some of your points/comments. – crmprogdev Jun 25 '14 at 15:24
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I have to agree with @JesseAltman here.

I get very frustrated when I see questions that literally have zero effort put into them. The two examples that were used above were just code, no context, no elaboration. While yes, maybe it was closed before it was edited so ALL the code could be seen, they were still questions that consisted of NOTHING BUT CODE. To me, those are people looking for freebies. As Jesse put absolutely correctly, many of us here make a living doing SF development and offer this help free of charge, the least you can do is put in a smidge of effort.

I'm not saying there first questions have to be perfect and yes, there is a learning curve, but when absolutely ZERO effort is put in besides pasting some code, then no, I don't feel bad about closing it. This forum has a ton of extremely generous and smart people helping the community, I see it as a bit disrespectful when someone expects us to spend our time constructing well thought out answers, when they can't take 5 minutes to at least provide some context and details around there question. If its not worth your time to fully explain and describe your question and specific use case, why would I want to spend my time answering.

I'm just looking for effort. Someone could ask the most basic and simple question in the world, but if it looks like they have

  1. Put in a little effort to search for their answer on their own
  2. Spent more than 30 seconds on the question (not just copied and pasted code)
  3. Seem eager to learn, not just looking for you to solve their urgent issue. (Urgent, Requirement due, Needed ASAP, or any of those other lovely keywords I love seeing in the title of question)

Then I am all in, I will spend time trying to answer and explain things to them.

These code only, no context, no appreciation questions....sorry but I don;t feel terribly bad about closing them.

Effort is all I am looking for....I don't think that's too much to ask.

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    I totally agree with you when it comes to searching for answers on their own. I've frequently given out the following link to a SF specific search engine: findsf.info that's been very fruitful for me, not to mention the one built-in here on SF.SE. – crmprogdev Jun 25 '14 at 16:06
  • I honestly was unaware of that Search Engine. Cool stuff, thanks for sharing. – Chris Duncombe Jun 25 '14 at 16:13
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I think this help topic on On Hold/Closed questions is very clear about how we should use this functionality.

By putting a question On Hold, we are telling the poster that it needs a lot of work before it can be answered. If they make an effort to improve the question, then it can be taken off hold and answered.

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    I would rather see questions on hold than closed, unless it is an obvious troll or abusive content. Even if the asker puts zero effort into it, give them a chance. The community needs to grow, and if we can help someone become a productive member of the community that helps us and them. – user6861 Jun 26 '14 at 14:46
  • Questions go on hold for 5 days and then get closed unless they have been improved. – Daniel Hoechst Jun 26 '14 at 14:53
  • If a question is not improved in five days, it obviously is neither important nor urgent to the asker. – user6861 Jun 26 '14 at 14:58

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