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This is somewhat related to this question on question closure due to speculative answers, but it goes a bit further.

I've seen a couple of questions here and here that are clearly stackworthy, but generate a lot of unsupported opinion-based answers that generate upvotes.

This suggests that we may need to look at ways to help educate the community on how to answer these types appropriately because what we're doing now doesn't seem to resolve the issue moving forward.

Are there things that can be done or is this just an ongoing issue without a good solution besides closure of question in the hopes that the community can self-correct?

What I don't want to do is look at borderline questions and say to myself "This is probably okay, but I know the answers won't be, so I'm going to VTC" It seems unfair that questions that should be good questions here end up not being so because the community isn't answering them from the correct lens.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Both linked questions have been put on hold, and I disagree that the first one is clearly stackworthy - specifically because of what I said in my comment: "I think as written, it sort of just asks "this happened, what do I do?". I think it'd be a better question (and a more answerable one) if you added a sentence or two about what you want to accomplish, and then we can answer how you can do that." (The second question had a different problem - it was written like an idea-generation question, and currently it's a very broad question about how to write out a character.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 18 '18 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Both linked questions are on hold. The older one because of the issue of opinion-based answers, and the 2nd seems like a mix of both (something mxy addresses in his comments.) THe specific examples aren't up for discussion here, it's just the recent ones that come to mind showing that there are questions we think can be answered, but get answers we don't like to have. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I know your broader question isn't about those specific questions, which is why I addressed it as a comment rather than as an answer. :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 18 '18 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ with your latest edit, surely the solution to that is to wait and see what answers a question gets before VTC? It feels like that needs to be a reactive thing rather than predictive. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Sep 20 '18 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs Maybe, and that would be a valid answer for you to post. But if the issue is always 'wait and see', but there's possibly a way to help get the community to provide answers that are good rather than bad then that's what I"m trying gather here. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 20 '18 at 18:58
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What can we do? Two things.

  1. Up vote answers that pass muster (Back it up!)
    and
  2. Down vote (and / or flag for deletion) those answers that do not pass muster.

The tools for that are already in hand. Rewarding the desired behavior seems to me to be as important as sending a signal on undesired behavior.

Optional: Engage with users who offer up low quality material

If you have the time and inclination, do so, with the hope of educating or informing the user of desired behavior, or how an answer can be improved.

About that question

I don't find it to be a good question because it was poorly written. I do find the situation interesting in terms of someone trying to figure out how to do something as a player at a table. I get the idea that the asker is in a bit of an X-Y problem in terms of the problem statement, but that may be me casting too critical of an eye on how the question was presented.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sadly, my point is that the current upvote/downvote doesnt seem to be doing it's job. We're getting upvotes on answers we don't want to see, which then generates more of those types of answers. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Hence the engagement bit; should I make a point like "it's worth spending that rep to down vote, don't fear the cost" or something like that? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 18 '18 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe? I dunno. That feels like 'status-quo', but maybe it's not because we need the community to be more active in comments (much like BESW's crusade on welcome comments). \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I think that a lot of users are reluctant to down vote. Not sure how I got that feeling, but it's my gut. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 18 '18 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ That could be very true. But that makes this answer less likely. If we can't get the community to downvote bad answers, we're already starting with a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Then maybe you have touched on a symptom, in your question, of a long standing and likely unsolvable problem. Not sure. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 18 '18 at 17:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a really good point. But it does feed back into the current methods not doing their job. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 18:00
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This is an informational post. It’s not a solution. It’s important information that we’ll need to keep in mind to tackle this.

The mods don’t like having to police answers. It’s a lot of thankless work that starts arguments in comments and brush fires on Meta. But worse, it doesn’t work. People just keep posting opinions (then arguing that should be allowed).

The reason we close questions that draw mostly speculative answers is because

answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions

When we think a question looks like it should be fine, but its answers are tending to be almost entirely based on opinions, then we were wrong that it’s fine based on its looks. Rather than try to hold back the tide by policing answers, we just put up a dam and call it a day.

Any solution that wants to avoid closing will have to not ask mods to fight losing battles with the tide, and just make it so that we don’t need to solve a flood of speculation with the tool SE provides for it. In other words, it has to solve the problem at the root so that the close reason doesn’t apply.

Community education to do that would be great. However, there are always new answerers, so I’m dubious that education by itself can be a lasting solution as our membership turns over. Education is the solution we tried for these kinds of things in the past (designer reasons, game rec), and it’s never worked for very long.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t look for a solution. I would love to see one. But we’ve been here before and it’s important to understand what kinds of solutions haven’t succeeded in the past, and that mods deleting things isn’t a silver bullet.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Has this been a battle fought and won/lost in the past? Is there any historical data we can learn from? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yes, actually most of the things we determined to be off-topic via meta (rather than just being blatantly unrelated to our subject) have been deemed so because of flood of these sorts of problems. Look into [game-recommendation] and [designer-reasons] for some examples. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 18 '18 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan If that's the case, should a possible answer here (maybe written by you?) be to make these potential questions off-topic? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I think d7 has done a fine job writing that answer, and he’s in a far better position to comment on what does or does not work. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 18 '18 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan But he began with "this is not an answer". I think if you believe that making these questions off-topic is the answer, then posting an answer would be helpful. If you don't ant to, maybe someone else that's in agreement will. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch And like him, I’m not ready to actually propose making anything off-topic. I’m just backing up what he’s saying about these problems, and how they have led to some topics becoming off-topic because these problems couldn’t be resolved (for them). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 18 '18 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clear something up, I’m not proposing that anything be made off topic. The meta Q isn’t about a single topic anyway. I’m only pointing out that it’s harder to save Qs that tend to draw opinions than it seems. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '18 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I don't know what subject we think we're talking about making off topic... Sometimes a single subject does "always degenerate" into opinion-based (like alignment) but it's also a problem with general player/GM advice stuff where people are more tempted to just spout off instead of keeping Back It Up! in mind. We don't want to ban all non-hard-rules topics however. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Sep 19 '18 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I think the conversation keeps moving from my concern on answers back to issues with questions. I don't think the questions are the problem and I don't think it's about off-topic questions.It's about whether or not there's a different method we can use to help make sure answers stay within guidelines because I don't think the status quo is necessarily working. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 19 '18 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are proceeding from a faulty premise. If the question pulls exclusively bad answers, it is a bad question in need of retooling. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Sep 19 '18 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this is where my distinction between how a question looks and what its answers are actually doing comes from. Notably, the Primarily Opinion-Based close reason doesn't dictate how we figure out that a Q will tend to draw opinions. We can look at the question and guess it might, and we can also look at the answers after they come in and know from that evidence that it is drawing mostly opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 19 '18 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk When you say 'exclusively bad answers', do you really mean 100% of the answers are bad? If that's the case, then how would you address what happened on this question that you yourself answered (and answered well!) In that case, you thought the question was fine and provided a fine answer. But the influx of not good answers then prompted you to close it. Does that mean the question was originally bad? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 20 '18 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch “If the question pulls exclusively bad answers” it’ll get closed, but that doesn’t mean only questions with exclusively bad answers need closing. It’s a spectrum, and “exclusively bad answers” is one end of the spectrum. This Meta appears to be including those in a worth-saving category though, so it bears saying that closing those should be a slam-dunk, not controversial. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 20 '18 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ And yes, later answer patterns can open our eyes to problems with a question that weren’t obvious until it was “tested” by exposing it to answer-writers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 20 '18 at 18:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch We should push! Better quality answers is something we should encourage. It just doesn’t effectively replace closing questions that are drawing lots of opinion. In practice what has happened when we’ve strongly insisted on and enforced Back It Up instead of closing Qs, is that we make a small dent in the problem, but answer authors get more and more upset by the comments and by answers that aren’t fixed being removed, and it eventually (over months) blows up. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 20 '18 at 22:17
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My suggestion is to look at these questions very strictly:

  • If the question passes the bar to allow a well-founded subjective answer, leave it open. Otherwise, lock and key. This is a question of if there is good/bad subjective on the topic. Just make sure it passed, maybe there is something that could be improved!
  • If an answer does not pass the bar to explain HOW or WHY this suggestion is done, it is the answer's fault. Downvote and comment, maybe even flag the offending answer, not close the question. We have had cases where mods put the "place references in here or we go to delete this!" boxes on answers. I got one myself once. BACK IT UP!
    • YES, that means, ask the person to fix them.
    • If the answers are unredeemable, (flag) & BURN them. [as I was told recenty: use custom flag reason and explain!]
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    \$\begingroup\$ To note, this is not an issue I have with questions - it's an issue with answers and that the community seems to support those answers rather than devalue them to prevent those types of answers in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know, but if the answers are bad, check back if the question passed the bar in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Sep 18 '18 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not questioning the question, though. The two examples I gave are questions that pass the bar (although the second one may not, but the first one definitely did.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ nomination for reopening helps: people that are not mods can only close a question once. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Sep 18 '18 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ that's not solving the problem about the bad answers. It's closed because it's getting bad answers and not because it's a bad question. Opening it only resumes the bad answers instead of correcting and preventing them. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Burn the answers. That is what I suggested. a burnt answer still stings the owner of it in a rep cost. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Sep 18 '18 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha! I don't think I full comprehended your answer until now. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 '18 at 14:18
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It IS the question, not the answer

Based on mxyzplk's comments under SevenSideDie's informational post, it seems like that there isn't much we can do with regard to guiding the community towards answering borderline questions appropriately beyond the upvote/downvote system we currently have.

Instead, we must focus on the question itself and will need to close what was thought to be a good question due to the answers it generates and try to work with the author to rewrite it in a manner that would generate better answers or leave it as Primarily Opinion-Based.

Not the optimal choice

While this doesn't really fix the issue of closing good questions (or what was thought to be a good question) due to bad answers, it does seem like the only option we've got.

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