I'm a young member (as of April 15, 2015 I've been here for 45 days) and I've noticed a lot of questions that get closed for being opinion based or off topic.

This is especially true with shopping questions.

Looking at the newest 30 questions, 10 of them are low score, on hold, or marked as duplicate.

Looking at those first 30 questions, there aren't too many people with new accounts (< 100) who have non-closed questions.

This makes me think that we may be scaring off new users from ever joining or contributing because they don't want to have their question rejected.

Now, I see nothing wrong with flagging those sorts of questions. All of the reasons given as to why we should do so are sound (in my opinion).

What I think the problem is looking at the newest question page and seeing all of the negative numbers and flags makes possibly good new users not want to post.

These are my thoughts and I'd like to hear others.

I do think we might be able to fix this problem rather easily. That is, if we see a poster with a reputation less than 1,000 or some other constraint and they tag it as equipment-recommendation or lens-recommendation that we pop a banner and say:

"Hold on, we do not give shopping advice, are you sure this isn't that type of question?"

and allow the users to say

"Yes, this is not a shopping question. I've done my homework."

It might be tedious for beginners, but it might make the newest question page look a lot less daunting.

**2015/04/17 EDIT**

mattdm as recommended starting a photo-shopping SE. It might be worth while checking it out. I've said my piece on it; however, I'm very glad that I'm not the only one who realizes this problem.

I do think we can solve this, but I just don't know how.

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  • Note that new users don't see the negative numbers and flags, at least not prominently. But, yeah, I hear you. – mattdm Apr 15 '15 at 20:18
  • See also meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2110/… – mattdm Apr 15 '15 at 20:19
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    Programmers implemented something similar with one of their tags that was causing a lot of off-topic questions to be asked. Here's a link to their meta post about it. – Peter Parker Apr 15 '15 at 20:21
  • @mattdm I don't have the rep to see vote counts, but I can see total vote numbers (-5 at the moment) and when a question is put on hold or closed. I saw that other question as well and it made me think. – SailorCire Apr 15 '15 at 20:22
  • @MattS. well, there we go. :) At least I know it is possible. – SailorCire Apr 15 '15 at 20:23
  • New users asking equipment recommend questions rarely if ever tag them as such so I don't know how in practice this would actually work. They usually tag as "Canon" or "aperture" or something completely irrelevant. – dpollitt Apr 17 '15 at 20:15
  • @dpollitt that would make it very difficult then. And doing it for canon or nikon tags would be way too annoying. – SailorCire Apr 17 '15 at 20:16

For what it's worth, I'm probably what you'd call a new member and a relative newcomer to serious photography. I've asked a few questions and got valuable actionable answers on a level that I could understand. I've also learned a great deal from the other questions and answers addressing things that I wanted to learn and also some things that I didn't know that I needed to know. I've seen the closed questions, the off topic replies etc. and have not found them objectionable or offputting at all. This keeps the questions and answers valuable to a community and a great source for focused answers.

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This makes me think that we may be scaring off new users from ever joining or contributing because they don't want to have their question rejected.

An alternative interpretation is that the people who come here to ask shopping questions are coming for the wrong reason in the first place. Finding that this site isn't what they're looking for, they move on to other sites that are more in line with what they want. There's nothing wrong with this -- we don't need to be all things to all people, and we don't need to feel badly if not everyone decides to join the Photo.SE community.

Questions like yours pop up all the time on StackExchange meta sites. Search meta.stackoverflow.com, for example, and you'll find lots of questions like Why do people scare off new users?. It's certainly good to keep the community friendly and inviting, but it's a two-way street: new users also need to invest a little (and it really doesn't take much) effort to ask good questions, find out about community standards, etc. I think Photo.SE does a pretty good job of being friendly (you stayed, right?), and I don't think unclear standards are a big problem here.

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  • I stayed because I realized: 1) DuckDuckGo and other websites are my friend for some things 2) I'm not going to wake up one day and become a professional. :) We also need to realize that we are a small community. Our top user (mattdm) hasn't broken 100K on this site. I'm normally on U&L and we are very grouchy over there, but they have over 2000 members with over 200 rep compared to our 590. – SailorCire Apr 21 '15 at 16:46
  • Also, to me, the standards are clear. I have no problem with the flags and closing of shopping questions and others. I just feel like all of the [on-hold] and [closed] titles might scare off the new people. I do thank you for your insight and opinion. – SailorCire Apr 21 '15 at 16:48
  • The on hold state was added specifically to make things friendlier. It used to be that when enough people voted to close, the question was marked "closed." Now it goes to an "on hold" state for some period (7 days?) with a message explaining that the OP should improve the question. If the question is edited during that time, it'll automatically go into the review queue for possible reopening. If you can think of terminology that's even nicer than "on hold" but still conveys that the question needs work before it's available to answer, suggest it in meta.stackexchange.com. – Caleb Apr 21 '15 at 18:29

I added lens/equipment-recommendation to the shopping questions on page 1, so they were not added at the time of the question being asked. And one other just has [canon] [printer] [ink-jet] tags. Relying on those tags being added by the OP is probably not going to work in practice. It may be that some variation of logic will work.

I think we come across as not very welcoming sometimes. That's a shame. We maybe need to just be a bit more gentle in our responses to shopping questions. We can help reword questions to be on-topic, invite them into chat or direct them to a review site. At least we interact with them that way. If we show a popup, they may just leave and never interact at all.

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    Don't they need 20 rep to talk in chat? So if I'm a 1 rep new user I don't think I can chat. Also, how should we handle shopping questions? If we don't close it or try to discourage it then we'll be spending every waking moment recommending cameras which will discourage the non-beginner user. It's a tough balance, no doubt. – SailorCire Apr 16 '15 at 20:48
  • Drat. Yes, they need 20 rep to use chat. Not suggesting we start answering shopping questions - they are off-topic for good reason. Just saying that if the idea of a popup doesn't work out, it's not entirely bad to get those questions - some of them can be reworked into on-topic questions or we can at least point the OP to a site that will help (as opposed to a popup which discourages them from asking, so we don't interact with them at all) – MikeW Apr 16 '15 at 20:58
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    I share the concern about not seeming welcoming, but I think encouraging endless crushing wave of "what camera to buy?" questions may make a few people looking for purchase advice happier but unlikely to return with real photographic experience and expertise, crowding out more interesting questions about photography itself - and thus the people who might answer such questions. Maybe it's time to revisit the idea of a Camera Shopping Stack Exchange, now that softwarerecs.stackexchange.com shows that the network in general is willing to explore that space. – mattdm Apr 17 '15 at 2:02
  • I in no way want to encourage shopping questions or answer them here. Just saying that a popup may not work, and it's not too tedious dealing with the ones we get, and pointing out that a terse comment and closing is a bit cold. We could be a bit gentler in our comments sometimes. A camerarecs would be awesome though as we could direct them to another network site. – MikeW Apr 17 '15 at 2:38
  • @MikeW taking other approaches from Programmers.SE, you might want to consider writing a self answered meta post that goes into the "why shopping questions don't work" so that the terse comment and closing can point to a longer meta reference. Consider, where to start (a constant problem on Programmers) or On discussions and why they don't make good questions as examples of what can be done. One could even link that directly into the close reason or help center. – user13451 Apr 20 '15 at 15:56
  • @MichaelT Or a variation of this blog post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping – MikeW Apr 20 '15 at 19:00
  • @MikeW indeed. That one specifically talks about the photography site and process. – user13451 Apr 20 '15 at 19:01

I have not been the most active moderator lately, however back when I was, I tried not to immediately address every single flag. I tried to let my fellow moderators have a look as well, before questions were closed. It's possible we mods have gotten a little lax on our evaluations, and some questions may need more time for the community to evaluate whether the question is a good fit, give the OP time to improve the question so it DOES fit before closure, etc.

It's something we can address if we need to. I would prefer not to scare away new users with overly heavy handed moderation and community closure. The general pattern for StackExchange sites is a closed question can always be improved and reopened. Problem with that is new users often don't know that. We can either be clear about that fact when questions are closed, and actively encourage question improvement, or we can jut give these users more time to respond to community comments about the nature of their questions before closure.

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  • If I had the rep I wouldn't mind modding just to try to help make the site a little more "beginner" friendly; however, my technical knowledge is limited. I think I'm better suited gaining the rep to vote on flags at least at this point. See the update on the post. – SailorCire Apr 17 '15 at 20:12
  • One bit to consider is that it is rarely possible for unregistered users to even come back to improve their questions. Once the cookie is gone... well, its gone. A poorly asked question from an unregistered user is very unlikely to be improved by the user at all. – user13451 Apr 20 '15 at 16:04
  • @SailorCire Making a site friendly in part means providing helpful messages about why something is off topic (or too broad, or opinion), editing existing new user questions so that they are better formatted (title, tags, remove hi and thanks, better markdown use, etc... - along with a helpful edit message explaining the whys) so that they then get upvotes based on that, having an active and welcoming chat so that whey users do get 20 rep they can participate in the community... lots of things that can be done well before 2k rep. – user13451 Apr 20 '15 at 16:56
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    ... A newbie friendly site is one that attracts and retains the experts who are willing to answer the questions that newbies have. This means cultivating some questions and weeding out others. When the weeding is done, providing guidance as to why it was done. Neither new users nor experts want to be on a site that is poorly maintained. – user13451 Apr 20 '15 at 16:58
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    Flags don't appear as fast in our queue as they used to, so it's usually after the system has decided that the community isn't responding quickly enough. Typically, my call at that point often depends on whether the user is registered or not and how long it has been. I'm finding that unregistered users often don't return after the initial ask. – John Cavan Apr 21 '15 at 10:52
  • Aye, when it comes to unregistered users, I am not sure they actually apply to the question at hand. An unregistered user isn't really a new user, they are a hit and run. :P A new user would be someone who actually registered, in which case I would be more interested in addressing their questions and getting them fine tuned, than just closing them. – jrista Apr 21 '15 at 17:15
  • +1 I like that general position. Less common than I think it should be on some other SE pages. I know from working offlist with new users who have had questions placed on hold that an "on hold" question is a much more formidable barrier to new users than most people appreciate. – Russell McMahon Apr 28 '15 at 9:20

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