We all love English Language Learners Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!

  • 2
    Why the downvote? Dec 28, 2013 at 10:29
  • @DamkerngT. How odd! Good thing Community's rep is always 1 ;) Related reading.
    – WendiKidd
    Dec 29, 2013 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


"Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not?" I find it interesting that you ask this question, but do not bring up the obvious opposite question: Is there a pattern of questions that should not have been closed but were?

Maybe that was just a moment of carelessness, but in my humble opinion, it reflects a really annoying bias on several of these Stack Exchange sites: When in doubt, close the question.

Of course one can imagine questions that are totally irrelevant and so should be promptly closed. If someone posted on ELL, "Who is your favorite baseball player?", that has nothing to do with the subject and should be closed.

But besides that, I think we should be very slow to close a question. For example, I've seen lots of questions closed as "general reference" on the grounds that the writer is asking about the meaning of a word, and so someone says he should look it up in a dictionary. But in at least some cases, the poster is not asking for a dictionary definition, but rather for an explanation of connotations and nuance that are often lost in dictionary definitions. Etc.

In my humble opinion, if you think it's beneath your dignity to answer a question, then don't answer it. But why stop others from answering? Some say we need to maintain the "quality of the board". But if someone visits the site to see if he wants to get involved, which do you think will turn him off faster: Seeing that there are some number of dumb or debatable questions, or seeing that every question he asks is rejected because it fails to meet some "question quality" criterion?

Okay, I've thumped this drum before and maybe I've just been outvoted and you're all tired of hearing from me.

  • 1
    If they're asking for more beyond the dictionary definition, let them state that in the question. I don't knee-jerk VTC these sorts of questions, because sometimes the OP will edit in details of what they're looking for. But when 24-48 hours have gone by with no explanation from the OP, I'm not interested in keeping the question around. It doesn't add anything positive to the site to have 1,001 different questions that are basically "gimme t3h lookupz". Aggression in closing questions is very important during a site's beta period, as Programmers.SE found out the hard way. Jan 2, 2014 at 18:33
  • Well here's where I have a problem. If someone asks, "What does the word 'framnitz' mean in this context?", you're saying that's a general reference question and should be closed. But if they add, "I looked it up in a dictionary and it said X but I still don't get it", then you'd consider it a valid question. If a criterion for a valid question is that the poster add boiler plate text that adds no information to the question, I think that's just wasting the time of the poster to write it and of potential answerers to read it. To be snarky, it's like saying that we will only answer your ...
    – Jay
    Jan 3, 2014 at 5:14
  • 1
    ... question if you say, "Simon says". I am not aware of the problem with Programmers SE that you mention. I take it they got a bunch of junk questions?
    – Jay
    Jan 3, 2014 at 5:15
  • Prog.SE is a story. A short idea of what it was like can be had from Jeff's meta question from 2010. As for Simon Says, that's a straw man. You may have seen him referenced before, but Yoichi Oishi is a classic example of How To Ask Correctly. His question on the difference between an Emperor and a King is probably the definitive example of how to ask for a definition correctly. Jan 3, 2014 at 13:53
  • 1
    @JonathanGarber: I don't think we can compare Yoichi Oishi's questions on ELU to questions asked on ELL. Although not a native speaker of English, Yoichi Oishi has a great command of English - even greater than some English natives. Most EFL learners who come to ELL don't have that command of English and therefore do not have the words to express the problem they have. Of course I do agree that ELL is not here to give definitions found in a dictionary or to do homework for the OP and that such questions should be closed very quickly.
    – None
    Jan 6, 2014 at 10:04
  • @JonathanGarber My point about the "Simon says" is: If you say that an invalid question can be made valid by the user adding, "I looked this up in a dictionary and it said X but I still don't understand", I just don't think that's a helpful rule. Why can't we work on the assumption that a question is valid unless there's evidence to the contrary, rather than saying that a user must add boiler plate text certifying that he did indeed try to look it up before asking. Why can't we just assume that?
    – Jay
    Jan 6, 2014 at 15:04
  • In the king/emperor question, ok, the poster added some information about what he found when looking it up. But how helpful was that to answering the question, really? What if he had just asked, "What is the difference between an emperor and a king?" and stopped there? Would good answers have been noticeably different? You seem to be saying, "This was a good question because he added the sort of boilerplate that I demand". But that doesn't prove that the boilerplate adds value to the question, just that it's possible to meet your requirement.
    – Jay
    Jan 6, 2014 at 15:13
  • 1
    I think there's a difference of opinion on what constitutes boilerplate. To me, knowing the context of the question is nearly as important as the question itself, particularly when the asker is or may be unfamiliar with the subject. That being said, there's an earlier Meta post on the subject. Given its unprecedented score of 26, it can probably be considered community consensus on the issue. It may be worth opening a new question to see whether we should adjust our standards. Jan 6, 2014 at 16:57
  • Additionally, I'm not saying we need the same context in all questions. But surely we can at least agree that "what is the meaning of word X" should be improved, or closed if the asker doesn't clarify? One of my top-scoring answers is for a one-liner question. There's no ambiguity there. But if the asker had simply asked what "hear" means, I would have asked for clarification, and close-voted if that clarification hadn't turned up after a few days. Jan 6, 2014 at 17:19

Final Results

Net Score: 12 (Excellent: 12, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 9 (Excellent: 9, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 9 (Excellent: 9, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 7 (Excellent: 7, Satisfactory: 8, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 5 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 5 (Excellent: 5, Satisfactory: 10, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 3 (Excellent: 4, Satisfactory: 8, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 0 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 8, Needs Improvement: 3)

Net Score: -1 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 9, Needs Improvement: 3)

Net Score: -6 (Excellent: 1, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 7)

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