I was going through WPSE this morning doing my best to answer what I can and I came accross a few closed questions, mostly for off topic.

Let me get this out of the way, I do agree with the scope as defined in the faq, and I do agree with flagging post's that are clearly off topic or thinly veiled attempts at driving traffic to sites

sidebar: the links, if not already, should be auto appended to be nofollow

I do however have an issue with instantly closing peoples questions, particularly when they are new and/or have been answered already and pointed out that it is OT.

I bring forth Exhibit A: Name of JQuery technique used on this site

This question is definatly off topic, however it had already been answered and pointed out that it was OT.

I do not think this should have been closed as now the answerer loses the rep they may have gained for contributing to the communinty, and as mentioned above it had already been pointed out as OT.

Exhibit B: Printing an Array as an Unordered List

Whilst on face value it is OT; he is using a WP plugin, albeit of dubious legitamacy, and appears to have hard coded a testing array (something I do myself so I know that when I start pulling things from the DB I know my code checks out, I am just pulling the wrong data).

Secondly, It is the poor guys first post and within 3 hours (at time of posting) he has felt the smiting that is having your topic closed with no helpful hint or direction to the faq aside from the reason box.

Thirdly, his issue is not at all that major. If it required hours of dev time or a really obsucure research terms, sure. But it's iterating through an array and showing a list based on the output. Anybody who codes PHP ever will know how to do this with their eyes closed. Something like this would be more appropriate, in my mind, for OT posts of new users:

Hey,

Firstly, your question is off topic for more information please visit the FAQ

Secondly, iterating through an array is a fairly easy process normally done with a for loop or a foreach loop like so

foreach ($array as $row) {
    echo '<li>'.$row['field'].'</li>';
}

Once again, be sure to post according to the FAQ, and as a general rule, if you think it may be a little to OT, it probably is. Post it instead to the folks over at stackoverflow.com I am sure they would be more than willing to help you out.

I see the above answer better because it makes us not come accross as Nazi's, still provides an answer and gives them direction on how to not do this again rather than the cold "this has been closed due to being off topic" box.

We want to nurture the new people so that they will grow and be productive members of the community not close their first post because they didn't read the FAQ. They probably came here either through another stack site or a search for Wordpress help forum or something of the like and posted based on that not the FAQ.

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5 Answers 5

Some notes …

  1. A question can be reopened once the poster has improved it to fit into our scope. Such a decision is reversible.
  2. We moderators have no control over the message appended to the close notice. It is automated. Yes, it could be more friendly. But the link to the FAQ should help.
  3. It doesn’t matter how many answers there are already. SO closed questions with dozens of answers during the last clean up. A tight scope is more important than some reputation points someone loses for an answer that shouldn’t have been given on this site.

We expect our members to do their homework: Prepare a good question, knowing the FAQ etc. If I close or delete a post, an answer or a comment from a new member I add an explanation. Example: Where can I find WordPress jobs?. Yes, that’s the same user who didn’t get another explanation when I closed this question.

I do care about the first impression new users get here. Very much. I say Welcome before I give a close reason. :)
But I also expect some time and willingness to learn.

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As I said, I don't want to let it fly, maybe increase the flag minimum for users with <50 rep before it is closed due to flagging. –  Joshua Mar 21 '12 at 0:58
    
Perhaps this low return rate is due to excessive closing. Perchance to hit two birds with one stone on all new posts a big red popup, similar to the one that pops up when you get a badge or login, says something along the lines of "All Questions must fit into the scope as defined here." –  Joshua Mar 21 '12 at 23:20

I disagree completely. The quality of the site is directly related to the questions and what gets answered. WPSE's quality is actually harmed by bogus or OT questions.

WPSE has a problem of drive-by low quality questions that drive experienced developers and administrators away. The stats show ( Link1, Link2 ) we have the lowest return rate or answers threshold out of any stack site.

If anything more questions need to be closed (my opinion), this is not a forum. If you don't spend the time to actually figure out how a stack site works (the faq takes about 10 seconds to read) , it's very likely you don't plan on coming back to contribute.

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If a question is off-topic, then it is off-topic; period. Answering off-topic questions only encourages more off-topic questions to be asked.

If a question is valid on another SE site, then it's up to the Moderators to move the question to the relevant site. As users, our only recourse is:

  1. Close-vote the question as off-topic
  2. Flag the question as off-topic

If we had another, third option, such as vote to migrate the question [elsewhere] (perhaps even with a recommended site to which to migrate), then we'd be happy to use such an option. But we don't have that option.

So what else are we supposed to do?

We've already written a FAQ, which includes a scope, as well as instructions for how SE sites operate (i.e. as a question-and-answer site, rather than as a forum). If users don't take the time to read that boilerplate content before posting, what reason do we have to believe that those same users would read such boilerplate content that we post in their off-topic questions?

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As a follow up on @toscho and @Wyck answers (which I totally aggree with):

The idea of the site is not really to be another Forum. The site has a tagging mechanism, which already is hard to keep clean. This tagging system should offer subsites with feeds and all the magic, so you'd a have something like an extension of codex with all the common and special-edge-case questions that come up, which can't be covered by codex (in the best case sorted/rated by vote count).

So searching inside a specific tag archive should help you…

  1. …avoiding to ask a Q that was already asked and answered.
  2. …avoiding you to figure it out yourself.
  3. …to understand things more in detail/depth.
  4. …avoiding to spend an endless time searching for non-profen source on Big G.

If the amount of doubled Qs rises and we get more and more Qs that are better off somewhere else (jQuery/Css/Html/Php), we'll get cluttered and tag archives get worthless to the point where searching is impossible (a problem that SO already has in some places → you'll find better SO results with Big G-search than with scanning the tag archives).

In an ideal world, we'd have a tag for every core-function and every core-task and one Q for every idea that you can come up with (the sky is the limit) on how to (miss)use a part of core, plugin or theme. And in this ideal world, every answerer would go through an tag archive and quickly search if the Q was already answered and - in case - close vote as exact dublicate.

As you can see, the idea is more in the direction of building an in-depth community wiki-system that acts as an addition to the Codex.

Sidenotes:

  • There's a big difference in flagging a Q (set flag for moderator - urgent cases) and close vote (5 close votes by community members needed).
  • What I really don't understand/like is that off-topic Qs get downvoted by high rep users (pointing at you @ChipBennet :). I did this myself for quite some time, but now I think that it's not needed, probably gives new users a bad feeling and does completely miss the target: Downvoting means bad Q (too less detail, etc.) and Close voting means off topic, etc. I think this is something that could really change and wouldn't harm the system.
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Note that when question is closed for issues, it is automatically downvoted by Community bot. Downvotes are appropriate and encouraged for off-topic or otherwise problematic questions. –  Rarst Mar 21 '12 at 11:31
    
Aha...? Didn't know that. Lesson learned. –  kaiser Mar 21 '12 at 11:36
    
Uh, how do you know what questions I do or do not downvote? For the record: I always leave a comment indicating that I have close-voted, with a reason why, and a close-vote from me does not automatically imply a downvote. If I do downvote a question, I try always to leave a comment indicating why I downvoted. Usually the two actions are not simultaneous. –  Chip Bennett Mar 21 '12 at 12:03
    
Yes, I need to edit the answer. Maybe this impression comes from the automagic-downvote-mechanism and you leaving comments before. My excuse for that. –  kaiser Mar 21 '12 at 12:56

While it is easy to care for first (and second, and third...) user that gets question closed... It is very hard to care for hundredth.

People are given plenty of tools to deal with closed questions (comments, edits, moderators, meta). I think that existing tools are perfectly sufficient for people who give a damn about their question.

Those who do care don't need special treatment, those who don't are not entitled to it.

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