Not so easy to formulate what I want to ask...

Lots of questions on MO are being (sort of) rejected as more appropriate for SE or not belonging here in some other way. Not only does this distract attention, it also creates some highbrow atmosphere.

Maybe there is a way to deal with this by restricting new users from posting a question for a while, until they have looked around a bit?

Frankly speaking I could not come up with concrete measures - maybe allow first question only after certain amount of votes or comments. What I want to ask at this point is whether this is acceptable in principle, and whether there have been similar proposals before.

What I found here was only about what to do with inappropriate questions after they are already asked.

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    $\begingroup$ I highly doubt that the SE folks can easily separate the "create posts" privilege into "ask question" and "post answer" sub-privileges, so requiring additional rep to post a new question is likely a non-starter. I also don't see a way to implement a "look around for a while" requirement that would actually have any force. Unfortunately, there is probably no effective way to stop bad questions from being asked, but downvoting bad questions can remove them from the front page in a short time. $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer It might be something different from reputation - any kind of measurable activity maybe just to ensure that the user has at least browsed MO for some time... (Not that I know what it should be) $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2014 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ This has been discussed before. But there is the argument: Any measure that discourages first-time askers will drive away not only bad questioners, but would also be unwelcoming to well-known mathematicians who arrive for the first time. Especially older ones not familiar with on-line participation. $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer I think the separating of posting privileges should not be that much of a technical problem as it is in fact done in other contexts, eg, limitation on number of questions and certain types of bans. That being said I agree the idea is not feasible. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ dislike use of word "bad" for questions that merely (in se terminology) go "on hold" and/or the conflation of these two distinct concepts. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


Yes, we can help decrease the number of "bad" questions by politely and constructively helping people ask better questions.

We're not interested in making it more difficult for new users to participate. The vast majority of new users contribute constructively and appropriately, and it's just not worth making their lives even slightly more difficult. (This has been discussed at length in the past; perhaps someone would like to dig up references to old discussion here or on tea.)

The first step with a bad question is to helpfully engage with the poster --- either by offering suggestions of how to improve their question, or politely explaining why their question is unlikely ever to be suitable.

The second step, only necessary if the first step fails or is somehow insufficient is to use the moderation tools to close or delete the question, or ask the moderators to intervene.

The third step, rarely used but available to the moderators, is to delete or ban the user, if they are repeatedly abusing the site.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have data to back up your statement "The vast majority of new users contribute constructively and appropriately". My impression is that most first time users ask a poor question that is closed quickly and do not return. This is just an impression, though. $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2014 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ There is excellent advice on writing a better question in this page: meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/882/… . It's a shame that it is not as accessible or visible to new users as it was on the old site (the "how to ask" link at the top of every page). $\endgroup$
    – j.c.
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @BillJohnson, you're right that I overstated the point. I'll think about what data might be available, in any case. The main problem is that deleted questions disappear from the readily available data sources. $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2014 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ A histogram of "reputation of first question" would be informative, if someone is willing to produce it. Perhaps also "percentage of first questions with an upvoted answer". $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2014 at 1:20

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