This is an idea we've had for a while. It's widely known that asking questions is pretty difficult on H.SE, and people often get frustrated if their questions get put on hold. On the other hand, if we don't close problematic questions, poor questions tend to receive poor answers. And then if we fix the question, we risk invalidating early answers that were made in good faith. This is a recipe for frustration and hurt feelings all around.

Rather than pushing every question into the deep end of the pool, I propose a sandbox for asking questions. The idea being, people wanting to ask questions can post a draft as an "answer", and more experienced users could comment with suggestions and point out common pitfalls. I don't know how much interest there is in this, but I think it would help improve the quality and atmosphere of the community.

  • I'd like to know some facts about question writers. Are they current users of History.se? Current members of associated SE sites? Random people from the Internet? What brought them here? Etc.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:30
  • @CGCampbell Not sure that information is readily available, unless someone invest some serious effort into collecting it and/or using the data explorer.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 19:11
  • Well, can't say I didn't try. Don't really understand why a completely impractical idea with the exact same issue my proposal is being criticised for has more apparent support, but I guess that's that.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 7:11
  • I think that's what First posts review queue is about, sorta? If a user makes problematic first post, experienced users often guide them to SE guidelines on asking a good question and give them suggestions. If that user continues to make bad posts after first one, its his own problem.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 6:02
  • @NSNoob First posts only works for people making their first posts. My idea is to provide a contained space for people to give feedback to a question before it goes public.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 6:05
  • Yes I understand that. My point is, we do provide feedback the first time. After that the burden of learning from that experience is on the poster. If he still makes bad posts, it's on his head. Of course perfection is rare and most do need some fine tuning so If someone still needs help, we can use functionality of chatrooms for that. Post your manuscript and get feedback from room users.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 6:23
  • @NSNoob I'm well aware of how it works currently. This is a proposal for extending feedback beyond that first time. I am precisely tryign to arguing it shouldn't be "on his head" after the first time. People never post in the chatroom either; if people were okay with reviewing questions there then they should be okay with doing it here too.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 7:04

1 Answer 1


I think this is a pretty bad idea, actually. I completely agree that we have issues with acceptance coupled with a really low tolerance for the 'level' of questions. However, there would be no way to stop people from attempting to answer the sandboxed questions, in good faith, and then either the mods would need to migrate the answers (adding to their load) or the initial answers would be lost, only creating a new source of ill-will and bad blood.

What we may need to do, instead, is come up with a large enough explanation that "on hold" does not mean closed, and to further explain, if possible, just what needs to be done to improve the question. I know that this is sometimes already in the comments, but maybe we need to "do it better".

An idea I have thought of, but not thought out (the ramifications of) is that any question that gets put "on hold" be somehow automatically opened in meta, and that we require those who show up as having voted on the hold to add reasons ( Mark, before you yell at me, I know your feelings on anonymity of voting...:p ) and/or (and more importantly) add what each person expects the user to do to get the question to an acceptable level.

Might it be possible to migrate "on holds" automatically? or link them? I don't really know the inner workings of SE so I'm just throwing out half formed ideas here.

  • I really don't think telling people to not answer sandbox questions in meta, will be harder than conveying the proper function of on hold, though. Explaining what put on hold is and what it's supposed to do hasn't really worked in the past. Actually, I don't think answering the sandbox questions on meta should be considered good faith at all, if we put a disclaimer on top. Mods should just delete those answers. Migrating questions to meta is possible manually but then, people could answer those questions on meta - if we argue that is a realistic possibility.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 16:02
  • My problem is that for a majority of questions put on hold (ok ok, a majority that I've looked at, which I grant is a minority itself) there is either no explanation, or what there is is hit and miss to a comment and a buried one at that.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:28
  • Well, what I've observed is that putting a question on hold sort of poisons the well for the user, and makes constructive dialogue difficult.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:49

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