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I would like to raise a slight concern about the treatment of this question.

Yes, it's a bad question, and, no, we're not here to do people's homework for them. But the sheer naivete suggests the OP is very young and drove me, (rightly or wrongly) to do a quick Google and suggest a few starting points. It is, after all, not a particularly easy question to research.

But the question was almost immediately - and understandably - put on hold, and by some of the leading contributors, whose depth and breadth of expertise overawe me. However I do have some concerns that instantly shutting down such questions from embryonic historians could be counter-productive in the long term. We want to encourage historical enquiry, don't we?

I am quite sure I have asked stupid questions, and given stupid answers, on occasions, but people have been kind enough not to say so!

Should we not give younger members a little more leeway? Discuss ;-)

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    I don't know how young you're thinking, but as a technical ToS matter, StackExchange does have an age minimum of 13. – T.E.D. Apr 29 at 3:29
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    Hmm... does that mean I can pretend to be a young user and get a free pass? :) – Andrew T. Apr 29 at 3:49
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    I don't really have anything to add to the other answers, but I do want to say thank you for adding those starting points in the comments. – sempaiscuba Apr 29 at 15:24
  • We want to encourage historical enquiry, don't we? - No. That is not the objective of any SE site, historical or otherwise. What SE encourages, above and beyond everything else, is the service of posterity. (and now that I've looked at the question... the other thing SE does is teach you how to ask one that can be answered). – Mazura Apr 30 at 1:05
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    @Mazura3 "What SE encourages, above and beyond everything else, is the service of posterity." I am sorry, and one of the mods may delete this comment, but I find that extraordinarily arrogant, not to say pompous. We are a community of enthusiatists, with varying levels of expertise, sharing knowledge and information. People at the cutting edge of research, poring over ancient documents in obscure languages or excavating in a rainstorm, are serving posterity! And what is "posterity" if it isn't the young and inexperienced? – TheHonRose Apr 30 at 4:25
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    How is posterity served by having a link under the "hot questions" sidebar to a meta-discussion about a post that isn't available on the site "for reasons of moderation"? – Michael Kay May 10 at 23:30
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I think I tend to be more willing to err towards editing than most here, but I don't really think that question's salvageable given what we have to work with. "Some fun facts" could be the textbook example of an off-topic subjective question, and there's no other content in the question to narrow down what kind of answers the poster is hoping for. Without an edit on their part, I'm not sure what could be done.

Given that, I think what happened with that question is about the most generous we could really be. It was closed, but a kind user commented with helpful external resources for the (budding?) researcher.

Jeff Atwood made a blog post about this kind of question way back in 2010. Stack Overflow: Where We Hate Fun. Since that post, the example question and many other of my favorite "fun" questions have been closed and deleted. So the lenience of this post didn't age well. This post of his from two years later, The trouble with Popularity, probably explains a bit of why.

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    Kudos to the "kind user", btw. :-) – T.E.D. Apr 29 at 13:02
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    That 'edit by OP' part is crucial, and alas, (since 'we' have to wait a bit now?) less likely for an unregistered user (and the on hold message probably received as sth like 'unfriendly wtf'). – LangLangC Apr 29 at 15:56
  • Heh. Somehow I didn't notice when I posted this that both of my examples of deleted "fun" posts were linked in The trouble with Popularity as well. – T.E.D. May 10 at 15:03
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I do have some concerns that instantly shutting down such questions from embryonic historians could be counter-productive in the long term.

In my experience, the questions that get put on hold instantly are ones where it's clearly a homework question that is "pasted" directly (e.g. "Give three reasons why..."). In these cases, the OP is hoping for an answer that they can cut-n-paste directly into their homework. So we aren't dealing with an embryonic historian, we're dealing with someone that's trying to avoid learning history altogether.

The whole point of this type of homework is teaching children how to research and evaluate the information that they find. It's developing those skills (rather than the knowledge that the answers might (or might not) contain) that are important. If we indulge them with bypassing that learning process then we're doing them a disservice.

Also putting an question on hold doesn't prevent them from being edited into better (more appropriate) questions. The 'on hold' status merely stops answers being made before the question is properly formed.

3

Sure, but the correct way to do this isn't to re-open a poor question just because the OP seems young.

Rather, it is to rephrase the original question so it's good enough to be left open or reopened.

  • Yep. In this case my internal calculation gives: -0.5 for (unregistered) and +1 in good will for "informed", increasing willingness to help and re-open, but 'age' scoring ±0 either way. – LangLangC Apr 29 at 10:17
  • Addition to TED's A, but here: if would have 'lived', then it by now would be HNQ. I'll bet an amount… – LangLangC Apr 29 at 22:16
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You make a good point about potential young historians, and maybe we should have given the user a little more time, but I'm not sure how we can leave such questions open.

I think you did exactly the right thing in leaving a couple of links in the comments, and maybe that is the policy we should adopt when closing questions, especially ones which we consider either too basic or too broad. I've had a few 'thank yous' when I've left a link so it is appreciated by some people at least - and, of course, it gives them a helping hand.

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    Thank you. I think my main niggle was the speed with which it was closed, giving the OP no time to even try to improve it. I agree it was untenable as it stood, but perhaps we could have just waited a little longer, particularly in view of sempaiscuba's helpful advice on "How to ask". – TheHonRose Apr 29 at 19:21
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    @TheHonRose My perspective on that is slightly different: the DVs were a bit hefty IMO, but leaving it open would have risked that that Q, in 'untenable state', "going hot". These sub-par HNQs are now an even bigger problem than the SE-design calling for quality, applicable to this mainQ. 'On-hold', properly explained, is a good thing, even better when actually fixed, and best if fixed by OP after grasping the explanation. Our problem is the hold/close-trap door and driving away newbies, true, but we need a different approach than pure leniency on Qs from presumed youngsters. In general. – LangLangC Apr 29 at 22:27

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