I've seen a number of "off-topic" questions get quickly downvoted and closed due to someone asking about minimum specs or similar issues.

Is Arqade really such a vast community that such questions need to be erased from the site? I understand that asking such questions goes against the spirit of the QA Stack Exchange format and guidelines, but it seems like there's plenty of leeway to allow these questions to linger and be answered without questioners and answerers getting downvoted and losing rep.

I can see how on a community like SO, questions with little relevance or research into them can really bog down the entire site since there's millions of questions to go through. But Arqade isn't exactly the same type of site or users, just wonder why the moderation is so strict.

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    It ain't cause it is a smaller site that enforcing the rules should be any different. Downvotes can't be stopped regardless of how fast it is closed. – Jonathan Drapeau Apr 14 '15 at 16:53
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    That's exactly my argument though, the size of the site should cause the enforcement of rules to be different. Smaller site means less impact on users with "off topic" "bad question" etc type questions, and helps other users grow their rep by providing answers/help to these questions without so much rep that it can adversely effect credibility of users. I understand what you mean about downvotes, but downvotes comes from users/mods sticking to a strict adherence to QA format rules. – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 16:57
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    If there are fewer questions, it makes it even more important that the ones we get are good. I do think some of our rules are detrimental but the solution is fixing those rules, not haphazard moderation. – Studoku Apr 14 '15 at 17:00
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    Arqade doesn't get as much traffic as SO. So bad questions there might still sneak through, whereas the bad questions here will be seen more. – Rapitor Apr 14 '15 at 17:02
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    On downsite from leaving those questions open and not downvoted is giving anyone seeing them that they are "ok" questions while they are not. A strong indication of what is not on-topic is better than a soft one, regardless of the size of the site. – Jonathan Drapeau Apr 14 '15 at 17:16
  • @rapitor that's a good point, but there's also WAY less bad questions in Arqade and the "bad" ones are typically not even bad, just off topic like someone asking if their specs are ok vs asking someone how to parse an Integer, I only think it would be good to allow "bad questions" so as to help grow the community, right now GameFAQs is better Q/A site than Arqade and that shouldn't be IMO – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 17:18
  • @JonathanDrapeau i completely understand the philosophy behind it, but i don't think it quite has that effect on users, a new users who asks a "bad" question typically never bothered to read through the guidelines, when they get downvoted or closed it only really effect them, alienating a user from the site in some cases. a new users who wants to ask a "bad" question wont bother looking at other downvoted questions, they will just ask anyway – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 17:22
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    You might be surprised at the amount of low-quality stuff that makes its way onto AQ, both questions and answers. As someone whose main contribution consists of working the review queues and seeing what comes through there every day, I'm thankful that we're so disciplined about removing low-quality content, so that it doesn't overrun the good content. – CloudyMusic Apr 14 '15 at 17:36
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    Please note that on meta, like on the main site, question downvotes should be due to lack of research, or if the question is unclear or not useful. Only on feature request questions should downvotes be used to indicate disagreement with the question. See What is "meta"?. I for one, think that this is a good meta question where we can discuss why we close bad questions. – au revoir Apr 14 '15 at 19:06
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    @RenaissanceProgrammer GameFAQs is a better Q/A site than Arqade!?? After reading this incredulous comment, I decided to perform an anecdotal test and looked up one of my recent favorites, Hearthstone, on GameFAQs. In the Q/A part of the site (called Answers), they had exactly one question with one answer. In the FAQs section (the bread and butter of GameFAQs, which is not Q/A), there appear to be two contributors. -- I prefer Arqade. – ken.ganong Apr 14 '15 at 19:11
  • GameFAQs is definitely superior for certain types of information. Like FAQs. It is sometimes better for Q&A, though where that tends to happen is in the forums, not the actual Q&A section. I've found many answers there to questions I had. However, the signal to noise is definitely lower there. – Sterno Apr 14 '15 at 19:18
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    @JasonBerkan I somewhat agree with you here, but there is also this answer. While it would, in my mind, be perfectly reasonable to ask the community why we are as gung-ho about closing/downvoting as we are... This question (in addition to asking that question) also puts forth a position that based on our (relatively) smaller community size we should probably allow more leeway than we do. While not a direct 'feature request', the question, as written, does partly propose a change in behavior, and voting down based on that proposal is fine – Trent Hawkins Apr 14 '15 at 21:01
  • Having said all that, my instinct is to upvote for the question, but downvote based on the premise. As I am evenly split between the two, I am not voting on the question at all, as it works out to a neutral in my mind. – Trent Hawkins Apr 14 '15 at 21:06
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    One other thing to mention: Downvotes and closure are signal for the roomba. It will auto-delete neutrally voted closed questions without a postively scored or accepted answer. It helps us keep the site clean, and refunds reputation lost from the downvotes when it deletes it. Also, I downvoted this because I disagree with the premise. We want less junk here, not encourage more. – Frank Apr 14 '15 at 22:05
  • @TrentHawkins - Part of my problem is that I only saw this question because someone linked an answer in The Bridge. The large number of downvotes hides the post from the community at large, which seems like the opposite of what we want with a meta post. – au revoir Apr 15 '15 at 1:05

Closing question is important for maintaining site quality, and waiting to close questions until after the asker already has an answer would completely defeat the purpose of closing questions. Downvotes are equally important, and not using them just because our community is smaller than SO would hurt site quality as much as holding off on closing.

Additionally, even when we close questions, our community still tries to help users by redirecting askers to helpful resources in the comments (like /r/shouldibuythisgame or our chat room).

  • I got 7 downvotes and don't see how this question hurt the community, proof is in the pudding. – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 17:06
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    Votes on meta are used to indicate agreement (or disagreement), not to reflect the quality of the post. I had trouble with that for a while myself. – GnomeSlice Apr 14 '15 at 17:14
  • @GnomeSlice ok thanks for explaining that makes more sense – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 17:15
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    Related: What do downvotes on Meta mean? – Sterno Apr 14 '15 at 17:28

The idea I'm taking away from your post seems to be that we should allow off-topic or even bad questions to linger so that users have a chance to build up some reputation and grow the community. However, if we're specifically trying to reward the behavior that we see as undesirable just so that we can increase the user base, we're doing it wrong. You'll end up with a lot of high reputation users who are churning out the exact kind of content we don't want.

As far as the issue of downvotes hurting their score, in the cases of downvoted questions that end up deleted, there is no actual reputation loss occurring. When the question is deleted, all reputation lost from downvotes is restored to the user. The reputation punishment for those closed questions is only temporary. If the question remains open and is down-voted (likely because it's on-topic, but bad), then yes, the user will lose reputation. If they want it back and it hasn't been answered yet, they can delete the question. Better yet, they can improve the question (which usually means clarifying the problem and showing their research)! That is exactly the sort of behavior we wish to encourage.

  • What about for answers given to those downvoted questions? I've seen those answers get downvotes also without any clear indication that it was a bad answer or why. Seems that answers get downvotes just for providing that answer. I see your point about enabling the poor quality to encourage new users is a bad strategy, but I couldn't hardly claim to be able to work my rep from 200+ to 21K like yours simply from answering some spec questions. – RenaissanceProgrammer Apr 14 '15 at 18:04
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    The privileges that actually matter unlock far below 21k. As for downvoted answers, I can't really speak in generalities. I would say that I rarely see answers downvoted simply because the question is bad... usually the answer has to be bad too. I have not seen the phenomenon you're describing of answers being downvoted merely for existing. And like the questions, if the answer is deleted, all rep is refunded (unless they're more than a year old, or something like that) – Sterno Apr 14 '15 at 18:21
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    @RenaissanceProgrammer It can be seen as discouragement to answer questions that we don't want here. If you know a question is off-topic, we close it specifically so that it doesn't garner answers. If you answer it anyways, it just encourages the asker to ask another off-topic question, in the hopes that they'll get an answer before their question gets closed. That's exactly the behaviour we don't want happening here. – Frank Apr 14 '15 at 22:10

Arqade is moderated according to its policies. Stack Overflow is moderated according to theirs. The sites have very different focuses and very different challenges to their community in the fight for quality.

Because of the dramatically lower level of traffic to this site compared to Stack Overflow and a much smaller, core group of users -- off-topic crap is noticed more than it would be on Stack Overflow.

We don't generally get more than a page of new questions a day. Every question will probably get read by the same 5-10 people and so if it is a bad question, it will get down-voted and if it is off-topic it will get closed.

This is very much preferable to Stack Overflow where crap, off-topic questions can hang around indefinitely if they're not in a tag that people care about keeping clean.

Letting bad questions remain open until answered is counter-productive. We close them because they are not a good fit for this format or, for a small number of topics (like "Can I run X?"), just add no value to the Internet. We don't want to encourage these people.

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