1. Let's edit imperfectly posed questions which are salvageable.

    What I have learned from my participation at Academia SE and ELU SE is that when a newcomer asks a question that isn't on topic, rather than just slapping "closed" on it, it is best to edit the question to make it fit the site. If it is too broad, the constructive editor should prune the question, keeping the most on-topic portions and removing the hopeless portions. (Of course, if no portions of the question are on topic, then the question does indeed need to be closed.)

    Example: Questions about a few grammar and vocabulary points

    Portions of this question were acceptable. They might not have been acceptable according to the stringent requirements of English Language & Usage (ELU), but they would have worked at English Language Learners (ELL). Our site doesn't have the luxury yet of splitting into two sites about the Spanish language. Let's try to avoid appearing unfriendly and unwelcoming to newcomers.

  2. Let's take the time to teach newcomers which questions should not be answered.

    Example: https://spanish.stackexchange.com/a/26521/9385 (deleted answer to the above question)

    Here we have a new participant who clearly needs some guidance. Yes, we should teach newcomers not to write answers to badly posed questions. But it takes time to learn this. As we are training participants in this, we should keep in mind that although this may be obvious to an experienced site participant, it is not obvious to a new participant. In fact, this is not even always obvious to a medium-experienced participant.

    The guidance comment given to the author was

    Please, if you are aware that a question is off topic, do not answer it. Instead, use comments to help a bit and mainly persuade to improve the question.

    Everything is great in this comment except "if you are aware that a question is off topic." We can't assume that a participant of reputation 141 understands this. Granted the author's sentence "P.S: Tell me when have you read this so I can delete it" does look suspicious, but it would be a rare newcomer who would truly understand (a) what is on topic and what is not; and (b) why it is not a good idea to write an answer to a badly posed question. I've even seen experienced participants need a few iterations to understand (b). (And I remember that I didn't understand this myself at ELU until my rep was in the four figures.)

    To avoid rebuffing newcomers who want to help Spanish learners, we can be more careful about our assumptions in our guidance comments; and a moderator can convert a portion of the newcomer's answer to a comment. It can feel like a slap in the face to have a long answer summarily deleted in its entirety.


It seems my salvage effort is still too broad to pass muster. Would appreciate guidance now to edit further, or additional editing from those with more experience. Of the remaining parts, which I left intact because I thought they showed effort, I'm wondering which is/are more/most work keeping? I would like to end up with something that can be answered. It seems a shame, when someone throws a big handful of questions at us, to throw them all out and not answer any of them.

  • 2
    I would like to end up with something that can be answered One of the problems in that question is that it has several unrelated questions, even if they are answerable. As it's now, Q1 is answerable (although a proper question should give some context + some examples of intended use). For Q2, if we don't have something addressing that already, same thing: in a separate question I would provide some more context when asking "when I used this over that?". For Q3, very broad, and we have a wealth of questions about "ser vs. estar". Q4 and Q5 are just trying to get corrections in a text.
    – Diego
    Jun 11, 2018 at 19:59

2 Answers 2

  1. Let's edit imperfectly posed questions which are salvageable.

The question contains many different questions. The user is still around, so we can hope they will edit it some day (in fact, they asked another question later on). But we cannot reopen it as is now, as I mentioned in a comment:

@aparente001 if you see stuff that can be saved, do so. However, it is still too broad as it contains many questions in it. So instead of trying to reopen something that cannot be, you can create a brand new question with one of those that were written down in here. The philosophy of the site is to have pieces of good information that are easy to search and find; a post with multiple questions does not fit since it would just help the OP, nobody else.

I of course agree that we have to welcome and help new users. However, we also have to be consistent on our rules if we want to grow consistently. It is not helpful to answer bad questions and to leave them open, because they are probably not going to help anyone else in the future. It is better to focus on well posed questions, in teaching users how to ask, and then answering those that are really ok.

  1. Let's take the time to teach newcomers which questions should not be answered.

The answer you mention has this in its body:

Second, read quickly, because your question is too broad and without effort so it'll be closed (my answer will be also closed), even possibly downvoted. Well, let go!

When I wrote the comment you mention I had dug around a bit to see who was answering. The user may not be an avid user of Spanish.SE (even though he registered almost a year ago), but has multiple accounts in different SE sites, with some thousands of reputation. So he is not a newcomer.

All in all, it was clear that the user knew the rules and that his answer was not appropriate, so it was counterproductive to let that answer remain in the site. Still, I left a comment (and someone else downvoted), so he then deleted the answer.

By the way, I don't understand why you flag a message to be deleted and then highlight it in a Meta post... I have no problem on commenting on Meta, but I think it is best to escalate instead of doing two different things at the same time.

  • I see why you're confused, sorry. Actually, I didn't do them both at the same time. It was more of a step by step on my part. I had two concerns on the original page. One was that I thought it would be good to try to prune and salvage the question; the other was that I was concerned about the deletion of the answer. (I stupidly didn't notice that it was a self-deletion.) The reason that I posted here, subsequently, was that I noticed that you wrote a negative response comment about my edit-and-salvage attempt, and I wanted to respond in turn, but I didn't think it would Jun 11, 2018 at 13:38
  • ... be good to clutter up that page with a lot of back and forth; also, since we weren't immediately converging in our views about that page, I thought it would be a good idea to post on Meta so the community would have the opportunity to participate. Jun 11, 2018 at 13:39
  • I do want to clarify something important, which apparently I wasn't clear about in my post here. Re your sentence "It is not helpful to answer bad questions and to leave them open, because they are probably not going to help anyone else in the future." I couldn't agree more, and I want to make sure it's clear that I am not in favor of either (a) the writing of answers to badly posed questions, or (b) the leaving open of badly posed questions as is. // Sometimes a question can be salvaged through several rounds of edits. Please feel free to work on it too if you think it's still too broad. Jun 11, 2018 at 13:43
  • @aparente001 and I am happy to talk about this in Meta, no problem.
    – fedorqui
    Jun 11, 2018 at 14:24
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    @aparente001 I myself have been (and still am) a very, very active editor and try to salvage questions as much as I can. However, if the OP is active and the question is not very interesting, they have to be the main concerned in its quality and salvaging them. If they are long time gone and the question can be interesting to others, we can hijack it a little. In this case, I don't think the question is salvageable by others, it really needs the OP to make the effort and chose one question.
    – fedorqui
    Jun 11, 2018 at 14:26
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    "I myself have been (and still am) a very, very active editor and try to salvage questions as much as I can." Yes, of course. And the more others step up to the plate to do their part too, the more your load can be lightened, and the more the site will grow. Jun 11, 2018 at 14:29

My thoughts on this:

Let's edit imperfectly posed questions which are salvageable.

You probably picked one of the worst examples possible for this discussion. That question-post had like other 7 questions on it, each of them unrelated to each other and with some of them clearly off-topic (like, request to correct a text).

In order to salvage that content you would have needed to edit that question to contain one single question and open 6 brand-new additional questions on behalf of the OP (supposing that you could have worked to make everything on-topic, for which I have my doubts, seeing for that very broad question that just ask for an explanation of the differences between "ser" and "estar").

Let's take the time to teach newcomers which questions should not be answered.

As I said in Let's not answer questions that are not well posed (asked by you about a year ago) some people might see badly posed and off-topic questions as a chance to answer a question and earn some rep, or they might be motivated to help regardless of the site's recommendations.

I would say that if we keep encountering this situation, we might want to add this message-template to our list of Lista de comentarios útiles para el sitio and use it every time it comes handy. Seeing what happens in other stacks is completely impossible to get rid of this problem, but at least we could

  1. Educate a good part of the community users who are not aware of why is a bad idea to answer badly posed questions
  2. Be consistent in our reasoning to avoid answering such questions when we explain this to new users
  3. Facilitate a way of educating users (the comments requesting people not to downvote new users' questions and to encourage imporving low quality answers seemed to work well).
  • I like your proposal. // I wasn't looking for an example to illustrate a general idea -- the post developed the other way around. I read the response to the question (and to my attempt to rescue it), and I read the response to the answer, and it struck me that it is possible to be more gentle. Jun 13, 2018 at 3:08

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