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I do not know if there is a way to adjust the SE software to accommodate this request, but this idea has come up REPEATEDLY in multiple meta discussions, so I'm formally proposing it.

ALL new questions start out "on hold" for 1 hour

WorldBuilding SE exists on the edge of topics that work for the SE format -- multiple people have acknowledged that. With GoodSubjective/BadSubjective, it is easy for our open-ended brainstorms to veer toward Bad, but there's a lot of Good that we want to keep. We allow for hypotheticals and we have questions where there is no "one right answer", but more where there is a "best of the several right answers".

To make this work, we need good questions, and we need to get those good questions without making new users feel picked on and to catch errors that even experienced users make.

  1. We need time to check a question for internal consistency.
  2. We need time to make sure everyone agrees what is being asked.
  3. We need time to format the question so that responses get the right form.
  4. We need to do all of those things without worrying that answers are already coming in that might be invalidated if we edit the question.

All of these would be facilitated by starting questions on hold and then releasing them when they're cleaned up. A time delay wouldn't fly on most SE sites because people need answers quickly -- StackOverflow is critical to my job, and a 1 hour delay is an hour lost from my day. But even if I'm writing on deadline, I cannot imagine needing to know the right way to make a Dyson Sphere right now. :-)

I believe a time delay would not hurt the site; moreover, I think it would substantially improve question quality.

So:

  • Is this a good idea?
  • If so, can the SE software make it happen?
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea...not sure how I feel about it yet. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 21 '17 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea. My upvote on the question means "we should talk about this"; I haven't thought about it enough to know if this exact proposal is the right answer to the problem yet. Some questions for consideration: (1) All users or just ones below some threshold? (rep, number of questions, something else?) (2) Time-based, or after some sort of "yup, looks ok" review? (3) Guidance to the OP, since this will come as a surprise? (4) Overlap with SO's triage? (I haven't used it so don't know how it works, but it addresses a related problem.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '17 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ I've thought that making it all questions would help new users not feel picked on. And even experienced users can have a flaw they forgot about in their question when first posted. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 21 '17 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't even put a time limit - just leave it closed until the community feels it's worth to open it, and make that restriction go away with some amount of rep. Really, we have so many good answers that ended up on bad questions... We really, really should do something like this. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 21 '17 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Something else to keep in mind: If a newcomer has their question immediately put "on hold", they might be more likely to lose interest, close the browser and consequently lose their cookies. If they haven't registered an account before posting the question, losing your cookies is a real problem; something like this might increase the risk. Yet at the same time, questions from newcomers IMO is exactly the ones that need this the most. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 21 '17 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ Also, out of curiosity: How are other sites handling similar problems? I'm thinking Physics for one, as they have quite high standards. They "should" be facing a rather similar situation; what are they doing in response? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 21 '17 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I wonder if it'd be worth it to actually ask the other sites on their Metas how they're handling it. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 21 '17 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ Related (SO's triage): meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/4541/28 $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '17 at 22:20
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It won't be implemented

First of all, SE won't implement that. This is not useful to StackOverflow and goes against the idea of the site:

Ask questions, get answers, no distractions

Putting questions on-hold would go against the fine-tuned SE workflow, this is not only a pain to implement, but also has a high risk of failure.

This is not what on-hold means

Now let's address the elephant in the room: on-hold is not a punishment, I'm not suggesting it is, no one should.

But on-hold is not a review-queue $+$ answer-limitation as well. It is a sign that a question has problems that need fixing. It is a clear indication to the OP that he needs to improve. Also, it usually comes after the OP didn't answer the clarifications asked for by the community for more than an hour.

The current workflow is already pretty efficient

Our review queues are almost always empty, our questions get answered... why do we want to review more?

Most questions (and specially first posts) are seen and commented on within the hour. Several times now, I've asked as nicely as possible if a "young" OP could help me make their question better... and did not get an answer.

We need good users to post good questions

Disclaimer: I'm a nice guy, and WB.SE is a community of kind people. I love this kindness and all but it doesn't mean we should constantly try to include people that don't want to be included.

I agree with the "we need good questions" idea. But I do not agree that we should try to salvage every questions into a good one while flattering the OP's feelings.

I know this sounds snobbish, but a user that comes, asks a poorly-written and off-topic question then gets angry because we point it out to them is unlikely to produce good posts. The most likely is a stream of poorly written questions bounced up through their multiple edits, while the good questions which we could focus on lose visibility and effort.

The problem of early answers

I'd like to note that if a question's edits makes an existing answer totally irrelevant then probably the question, the edit or the answer was a bad idea.

If the answer's author is still around, they should agree to edit their answer (or delete it). If not, we have this thing called downvote.

This seems harsh, yes. But keep in mind that adding a 1-hour on-hold would also make also make us lose good answers to good questions. Whatever solution we use to improve bad posts, it should not interfere with the good posts.


We do have a problem of users that post off-topic content and get upset when it's pointed out. I really don't think the solution lies in our workflow. In our tone while talking to newcomers maybe, but SE's workflow is what makes this site collection so good and we shouldn't modify it "because maybe we feel it could improve some of our bad questions and help us keep the users who ask them".

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  • $\begingroup$ "Whatever solution we use to improve bad posts, it should not interfere with the good posts." <<< My contention is that this does not interfere with good posts. It just means that all the people who are currently looking through the questions answering what they can would get the answers an hour later. In practical terms, it means you scroll down passed the newest questions when you start trawling through for that day's questions (or that hour's questions if you check the site more frequently). $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 22 '17 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM If the first question you see is one you can't answer to, that's interference. The whole point of your proposal is to have an effect. This would have an effect on good questions too. $\endgroup$ – PatJ Feb 22 '17 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ I don't believe in good questions on first post. The ones that haven't needed some amount of editing are statistical anomalies. I've been keeping count (not all that need edits actually get edits, but pretty much all need it). $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 22 '17 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM But you don't propose your holding on first post, you propose it on all questions. Also, I'm ready to bet that a great majority of the long-term users posted answers before posting questions. I'd say the best way to keep new users is to encourage answers. $\endgroup$ – PatJ Feb 22 '17 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ I mean on first post of any question, not a user's first post. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 22 '17 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ (And, yes, that includes my own questions.) $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 22 '17 at 5:54
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM I agree that (almost) all questions need editing, but I disagree that they need to be put on hold. Most questions, even if they have flaws, can and should be answered right away. $\endgroup$ – PatJ Feb 22 '17 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that the current way of getting put on hold is not a clear signal to the OP that the question needs to be improved - else far more of the questions on hold would be edited and reopened. I don't know the statistics for reopened questions, but I am guessing that the amount of inexperienced users that edits and requests a reopen are quite few. Maybe all we need is clearer communication - the current "help" many offer is just a comment along the lines of "your Q is off topic/too broad, edit it". Such comment doesn't tell an inexperienced user what is actually wrong. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Feb 22 '17 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @PatJ "Most questions, even if they have flaws, can and should be answered right away." That is the statement that I believe most people on Meta would disagree with based on the commentary over the last month or so. Disagreement with that statement is at the heart of why I made this proposal. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 24 '17 at 18:16
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Not "on hold", but "pending" + review.

Justification and background:

We put a lot of questions on hold, few of which get reopened. (Many do get edited, though a majority do not.) We know anecdotally (example, another example) that closure causes frustration for the asker, for people who answered and then saw the question change, and for the whole community trying to be fair to all involved.

The question sandbox has helped to refine a lot of questions before posting (link is to the latest instantiation; there are others). The sandbox is completely optional and should remain so; we don't want to place extra hurdles in front of people trying to get answers to their questions. But it demonstrates the value of a "trial period" before people start answering.

Stack Overflow has a "triage" system for questions from new users. I don't have enough reputation there to use it, so I don't know the details, but it was created to solve the general problem of poor questions from new users. I mention it to point out that there's precedent on the network.

Proposal:

  • New questions from users below some reputation threshold (TBD) start as "pending". (Not "on hold", which means something different as I will demonstrate, and anyway has negative associations.) Treat this as a privilege level -- "ask questions immediately" or something like that.

    Rationale for rep threshold instead of applying to everybody: while high-rep users can certainly ask poor questions too, this casts it more as a "getting to know us" thing than a "there's so much bad stuff that everybody has to wait" thing. We don't want to deter people; we just want to slow them down a little.

  • "Pending" questions get a banner, similar to the close banner, that says something like: "This question will open for answers in (time interval). Please review it to make sure it's on-topic, not too broad, and so on (link to help). Help the asker by leaving comments asking for clarifications or improvements." Meanwhile, the user gets a notification when he submits the question; the notification explains briefly why we're doing this temporarily and links to an explanation (to be written).

  • Ideally we'd have a new review queue for pending questions (like SO has for triage). Failing that, pending questions should go to, and be prioritized in, the reopen queue. I suppose if the community wants to reopen a pending question early, there's no harm in that.

  • Pending questions appear on the front page and in the list of questions with a "[pending]" suffix. Don't hide them away; the whole point is to get eyes on them.

  • But pending questions shouldn't be allowed to enter the Hot Network Questions list. Not that many eyes. :-)

  • How long? I dunno; an hour doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Answer flags only wait for community action for 15 minutes before going to mods, so SE assumes the community responds quickly in general. We want the delay to be short enough that the user stays engaged but long enough to get help from users who are around at the time. If it happens to be the middle of a Saturday night for most users and nobody sees it, eh, that's no worse than what we have now. Don't make the user wait too long; if we can't help him quickly that shouldn't be his problem.

The community is already good about monitoring the front page and helping people refine questions. (It's just that we're also good at answering, sometimes prematurely.) It'd be nice to be able to feed new pending questions into chat to provide more notification. But even without that, I think this change would help our community.

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  • $\begingroup$ I proposed something similar, though by far not as detailed as you, some time ago and the community seemed to like the proposal. Just to add to this discussion and to underline that I think we should try this: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4540/… $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 19 '17 at 9:33
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It might not be the absolute best solution, but it might be a working one. One problem is still communication, we need to become much better at telling (new) users why their question is too broad/off topic/too unclear so they understand what they need to change; maybe one hour on hold is enough to do so.

Many experienced users are just tossing a link to the tutorial, which is highly unhelpful as there is nothing there which will guide a new user to how to ask a good question; there is barely enough information to give an indication of the full scope. Simply put, we need to explain better for new users; maybe one hour on hold is enough to do so, maybe we also need to improve the help texts on the site.

New users also need to take the time to read up on what is expected by them. Most people I ever interacted with don't want to read the rules, they just want to go straight for the action. With a delay before their question can get answers, then they will have time to read but will they, or will they just be frustrated that they need to wait one hour before they know how to build a Dyson Sphere? If we are making sure that there is a clear message stating

your question will be on hold for an hour to give some time to check that it is on topic and that we understand what you really is asking for. Use this time to edit your question if you get suggestions and to read the rules. If the question is deemed off topic, too broad, or too unclear after the grace period, then it will be closed again until it is improved.

With a clear notice, no one can blame not knowing what is expected of them. Hopefully one hour on hold is enough to let them improve.

I have no clue if it is possible to implement it, but I am for giving it a try. As long as we are communicating clearly and we all do our best to help out, then it should at least not get worse.

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  • $\begingroup$ @HDE you crapped up my (crappy) attempt at making paragraphs end with a similar rhetoric :p Although, my attempt was not beautiful, and the format change does make the clear message more clear, which aligns with what I wanted to state, so I guess it's a good change :) $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Feb 21 '17 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe 24 hours rather than just one. I find myself at various times of the day where I post something, then having to do something else. I may not get back to it for several hours. If one hour is all you get before full closure, you may not be in a position to edit your question in time. That also gives Mods and other users a chance to craft informative comments and the reliance on a generalized faq or help page goes down. The diference between hold in closed is one of perception, but it is important $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 21 '17 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI I would personally feel that 24 hours is too long to wait for responses (as I am a bit eager to jump into discussion), so I guess many others would feel the same - but I see your point, it is a very valid one. The exact time will, of course, be up for debate if this is something we implement. I just chose 1h as that's what SRM stated in the question. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Feb 21 '17 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, 24hrs would be a deadline before closure. anything might be taken off of hold sooner depending on the responsiveness of the person asking the Question. That would facilitate someone wanting to dive right in and balance against people who are busy enough that 1hr is too fast. It would also help with time zones and all that nonsense. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 21 '17 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI a 24-hour hold (or requiring manual intervention by five users to reopen) feels like a roadblock, while I think what we need is a bit of a speed bump. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '17 at 0:30
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I see one potential problem, maybe. Are there enough people on the site at any time throughout the day to be able to get to every new question with suggested edits/comments?

I'm seeing the solution as a logistical puzzle within a framework like this:

1) Question is posted and put in a pre-determined time on hold, with a clear and impartial message as to why

2) Experienced users (certain amount of rep) review the question and either give specific feedback or vote to open.

3) User has a chance to look at the comments and feedback and make appropriate edits

4) After experienced users look at the edits they can vote to open or vote to extend hold WITH MORE SPECIFIC feedback.

5) Repeat until enough votes to open are recorded. If no attempt to edit the question were made, close it, If no comments or suggestions made, leave it on hold but flag it in someway so that it will get adequate attention. Be sure to notify the person asking the question. This part should be automated if possible.

Err on the side of letting the question get answers. World building is all about speculation and what ifs. Someone new may not have the thought completed in their own mind and one or 2 solid answers may help unlock that last bit of thought in a way that the limits of a comment cannot. It's up to us to police and help each other which is why the logistics of the process are important. It is also incumbent on everyone to offer constructive advice before shutting something down. Also, consider that Time on Worldbuilding may be less of a factor that some of the other parts of SE where a timely answer is critical for someone's job. That is to say, Time spent on an answer that doesn't exactly fit what is initially wanted may provide for what is actually needed. I see people riffing on each others answers and the syntheses that happens creates some truly cool ideas.

Finally, don't be too serious about it all. We are in a place that references handwavium, unobtainium, and the rule of cool on a regular basis. How serious should we be?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not particularly worried about something "slipping through" in whichever hours are lowest-activity for us; if there aren't people around to review, there probably aren't lots of people rushing to post answers either. Some questions might get through the hour and still have problems, and the usual tools are available to handle that. A temporary hold shouldn't be seen as a guarantee of anything, just a little extra help. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '17 at 0:32

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