What exactly is the word "there" in an existential construction? And related questions

This question recently had an answer posted to it that came up in the first post queue, (which I've screencapped in case it's deleted in the meantime) which simply states:

This is a place-holding answer, just in case this thread accidentally gets closed. - araucaria

Screencap of the same

I haven't acted on this queue item.

I guess there are questions to be asked about this behaviour:

  1. Are such answers acceptable?
    I can't recall seeing anything like this on ELL recently, but I don't know whether I'm just too new to the stack to be familiar with it. Does it appear on other stacks?
  2. Are we gaining a reputation (whether justified or not) for too quickly closing questions (whether justified or not)?
    This kind of reputation is no doubt harmful and detrimental to the organic supply of high-quality questions and answers. Is is something that we're becoming known for? We've had other threads about whether we're closing too quickly
  3. Should we be answering questions that are of dubious quality?
    My instinctive answer to this, based on nothing more than my own sentiment and experience, is that we ought not to be encouraging low-quality questions with answers, no matter how tempting it is to do it for the reputation. Doing it solely to assist a fellow human? Probably more acceptable, but again, I'm not sure.

What do we think?

Also, I'm not sure whether these should all be separate questions, which we can certainly do; but I think they're related to each other enough so that for now, I'm comfortable posting it as one.

| |
  • 2
    It's basically an inside joke, between @Araucaria and me -- which is, unfortunately, based on actual incidents. It isn't about ELL (it's about another site that already has a well-earned reputation for closing threads quickly, and when a thread is closed, a person cannot create a new answer post for that thread, not even if he was in the middle of writing it up). Also, it is expected that Araucaria will eventually write a detailed answer post. – F.E. Sep 23 '14 at 9:01
  • 1
    @F.E. Or, possibly, "There is an expectation that" Araucaria will write it. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 23 '14 at 11:12
  • @F.E. Is that appropriate here, though? It's currently the top-rated answer, so it appears first... 10 hours later and there's still no answer... – jimsug Sep 23 '14 at 18:22
  • jimsug: In general, it probably wouldn't be appropriate when a thread has no close votes (also, ELL doesn't have the problem of quick closings of threads). But this specific instance is kinda different, in that it was an inside joke between him and me--though perhaps unfair to others who aren't in on the joke. Hopefully, within a few days, there will be at least a decent partial answer to one of the questions (hint: #2 should be easy to write up @Araucaria ). Aside: Currently, his answer post doesn't seem to be any worse than the other one, which is actually saying more about that other post. – F.E. Sep 23 '14 at 18:47
  • 1
    The answer has been deleted by J.R., which seems appropriate. – Tyler James Young Sep 30 '14 at 22:55

Please note that this answer does contain a large amount of my own bias on the issues. I'm aware of this, and I leave it to others to write a more neutral response.

Regardless of how funny the answer may be, (and I do agree that there's humour value in this instance,) this isn't appropriate by SE or ELL standards. The joke would have worked just as well if Araucaria had left a comment along the lines of "I should post a placeholder quick, before they lock this thing!" Call slippery-slope on this if you must, but if it's permitted in one place, it will be demanded elsewhere. This is the Internet, after all.


1: Are such answers acceptable?

No. Answers should answer the question and stand alone without need for external knowledge. It's been minimally discussed over at Meta.SE, although in a slightly more acceptable form. See also "Placeholder Downvoting".

2: Are we gaining a reputation for closing too quickly?

Perhaps, perhaps not. The last time I can see that we discussed it, we didn't have the "on-hold" verbiage in place. My personal feeling is that closure is a good thing. Questions can always be re-opened. As much as encouraging site growth is a worthy goal, it's even more important to ensure that broken windows don't take over.

3: Should we be answering questions of dubious quality?

No. We should either be closing them or editing them into better shape and then answering them. (Or at a minimum ensuring that edits do occur sometime around the same time as the answer.) Something of this latter sort is even encouraged by our SE overlords, in the form of the new badges. (See ELL's pages for Explainer, Refiner, and Illuminator.)

| |
  • 2
    I agree with you (and share your bias). When a site is designed to be moderated as a community, I see placeholder answers as gaming the system instead of acting within the established framework to help correct a possible issue. I also think it's off-putting to the person asking the question to have that kind of nonsense going on in the answers when they're trying to get help. – ColleenV Oct 1 '14 at 21:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .