There is this really egregiously zero-researched question:

When did the number of motor driven vehicles surpass the number of horse driven vehicles in Paris?

Putting in the keywords of the current version into a search engine gives an immediate (simple) answer.

It was closed, rightly so.

Too broad, unclear, in first version requiring a long list-type answer, with much explanation or even frame-challenges required to contextualise any raw numbers or qualifications.
In the revised version the question is now easily answered, but the zero research effort is even present version.

Then it was re-opened despite not adding any prior research!

Can someone voting in this way explain why?

That OP eventually narrowed this down to a specific location did indeed improve the post a bit, but despite explicit comments pointing at shortcomings and explicit requests for documenting research, none was presented.

What's going on here?

Then we have an 'answer' that continues to receive upvotes. And that in light of:

  • answering prematurely a low quality question
  • being completely invalidated by 2nd revision of question
  • without any revisions of the answer addressing the entirely changed scope of the question
  • but it is also not really answering the first revision of the question, because:

    • speculating around about dates (giving "1930" initially, which is very clearly much too late, then answering "exact date" with "1925–1930", for which we see from another answer that even "1925" is too late — if it were answering a question about "Berlin" it would clearly come down to give a wrong date (too late)
    • addressing broad regions instead of the – asked from the beginning "capitals" – in other words using country wide data that includes rural numbers, despite question looking for urban data; including other cities despite only one of them interesting for an answer, with arguably much more modernity in a range of aspects compared to the vast majority of other cities providing data presented in the third hand source used for that answer
    • presents also a wide range of either peripheral or even completely irrelevant information for answering the question in first and revised form
    • not in the least a needless detour about dating a peripheral image because answerer embarrassed himself in trying to abuse me and my answer in a now deleted comment below my answer (trying to make an appeal to authority mixed with insults; producing an epic fail in the process; mods: there is entertainment value in it)
    • most of the answer seems to indicate that answerer misunderstood the question, which asks for a change in majority of vehicles, not (almost complete) disappearance of urban horses; which asks for capital cities, not "central European" ones

    • suggestion for improvements made in comments were only met with contempt and making general dismissive arguments that boil down to ad hominem attacks (which are even upvoted)

    @LangLangC Why? For a general question, giving a answer based on central Europe (Germany, Switzerland and France, based on the available historical data of time) must not include other areas not referenced in that answer. As to your (extremely naive) reference of the Potsdamer Platz I will comment later. (And please remember I have lived in this area for the greater portion of my life and therefore through my historical studies am knowledgeable about the conditions existing at that time.)

    Your (@LangLangC) basic assumptions that the world (based on many of your previous answers) is back and white is wrong. Within in a city of 6 million peaple, do not assume that occasionally taken photos of what was (at that time) the ' busiest traffic center in all of Europe' (an area of 250 meters around the Potsdamer Platz) represents the average traffic of the day in that city (of more that 10.000 meters around the Postsdamer Platz). The area North/East and partialy South of the Potsdamer Platz was a govermental or business area. The area west a residential area...

    ... This is not an area that slow moving vehicles would travel through. For those knowable, serving Friedrichvorstadt (as the area was called) would of be done from areas north (through the Tiergarten) or south from Schöneberg. Just as it is true today, it was true then: trafic jams are to be avoided. Sorry @LangLangC this is something that someone who attempts to claim to be a historian should know. The world is not black and white, but full of difersities (including the individuals contained within - that aspect which you consistently which to ignore).

    Summa Summarum : The idea that the slowest moving vehicle cannot be seen in occasional photos that are taken 1919 in an area considered to be at the time 'the busiest traffic center in all of Europe' as absolute proof that such vehicles don't exist at that time to be humbug. Sorry @LangLangC, allthough you have contributed many (for me) informative answers in great detail (which I appreciate) - in certain areas you are one sided and bias. In a politics forum such a behaviour is probably a precondition for participation, in a historical forum the opposite should be true.

    @LangLangC That is what one calls an educated guess based on previous knowledge and conclusions (the basis of which much historical 'knowledge' comes from. Thus the statement in the answer 1930 may be considered realistic.

  • or demanding 'debate in comments'

    "Realy, stop adding extra questions in your comments without adreesinf the answers to your previous comments."

Note that I didn't flag any of these comments. They should speak for themselves and allow inferences about the answer as well (then the upvotes on comments and answer make me think I am overly optimistic).
But really they also just failed to insult me personally. Although I do see that they are clearly meant as being insulting.

The resulting votes on question and this substandard answer are an embarrassment for this site.

The question should not have been re-opened in that state.

The answer just criticised needs ample improvement. Meaningful, that is.

And to the voters on that question or this answer: you are free to do in any way it pleases you. But what is your goal here for the site? Does that answer deserve these votes?

  • 5 upvotes for low quality question, resistant to significant improvement
  • 9 upvotes for low quality and wrong answer, aggressively resistant to significant improvement
  • 5 votes for re-opening a low quality question

After this laundry list of "wrong" surrounding this post and the community reaction to it and the resulting answers:

How shall a user that cares for quality react to such a torrent of problems? If the answer to that is just "move on", I will. That seems not like the best advice.

  • 5
    Not being a voter in either action I can't answer, but I will comment that I notice a subset of the community treats putting questions on hold as a punishment (that they may consider too harsh) rather than a part of the process.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 7:40
  • 1
    Like Semaphore, I didn't vote to re-open, so I'm not going to post an answer, However, having looked at the histories of the review queues, I think it's clear that we have some members of the community who don't agree with the generally-accepted view of what is on-topic and what isn't. Some of those members also seem to be using upvotes as a kind of "Welcome to History:SE". The problem, of course, (IMO) is that this encourages more low-quality questions in future by suggesting that they are OK on this site. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 1:58
  • @sempaiscuba You voted to close. And both of you might still have an opinion about proceedings. I hope in time you'll find your ordinary-user-hat, wear it, and post under its guise and guidance. On the other hand, a decidedly mod-perspective might also worth a read here? Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 10:59
  • @LаngLаngС I did vote to close - for the reasons you listed above. I didn't vote to re-open because (again, IMO) it still falls far below the standards that we should require. As I said, leaving questions like this open simply encourages more low-quality questions in future since we are effectively saying that they are OK on this site. But that is just my opinion. Until we have an agreed method of reaching consensus I don't know how (or even if) we can enforce an agreed standard. Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 15:58
  • @LаngLаngС One might also reasonably ask why questions which appear to be duplicates are answered rather than closed. So how do we, as a community, enforce a 'standard' that seems to be as often honoured in the breach as the observance? Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 1:00
  • @sempaiscuba Yup. For dupes, someone has to find/remember them.Here, even after re-reading the old, I guess the new has a slightly different focus. But it is broad, unclear, 0research and requests ignored. It may even be a perfect dupe (but the unclearness prevents definite conclusions?) Sad story, as there'd be quite a few examples for my current reading of it. As most As and comments also seem to ignore the "from other" angle, VtC was easier though. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


I voted to re-open but I didn't upvote either the question or the answers, so I'm only responding to the former.

Most of your criticisms of the question are spot on and I have no argument with them. In particular, the question is/was too broad, unclear and lacks research. All these are good reasons for closing in many cases.

Nonetheless, I didn't vote to close (but I did downvote it) and I'll explain why before getting to the re-opening bit. At its core, there is an interesting question here on a hugely important phase in the history of transport. Despite the obvious weaknesses of the question, I felt closing was a bit like throwing the baby out with bathwater. Also, despite the weaknesses in the original, I think a decent answer could have been constructed by someone setting some reasonable boundaries within his/her answer.

Some folks here want quick closure of questions which are too broad, unclear and / or lack research. I strongly disagree as we should (in most cases I think) give people a chance to revise and improve before voting to close. OK, so questions are put 'on hold' first to give time to improve rather than closed, but there is little difference in practice.

That said, questions which are guilty of one of the aforementioned offences may also have another fault, the most serious being offensive / poor taste. Questions such as this depraved one must be closed fast (in fact, this one should be completely nuked off the site).

As to why I voted to re-open, I felt the edit had addressed the broadness issue. It still lacked research, but if we routinely started closing questions for that reason alone, we would lose a very large percentage of questions. Downvote them to show disapproval, yes, but closing for that reason alone is going to far. Further, if this question should be closed for lack of research and / or because it is easily answered with a single link (which I dispute - see below), then why not close the following for the same 'offences'?

and so on.... If we not just left these open but also heavily upvoted them, why should we not also keep the horse / car transport question open? And if we had closed all of the above, we would probably have been denied some excellent, well-researched answers which are fine advertisements for this site - and thousands of people have seen those quality answers instead of just the few hundred (or none at all) if these questions had been closed.

As to the revised question being answerable with a single link, this does sometimes depend on what the search engine throws up. I googled the revised question and did not get a satisfactory answer despite trying several combinations of key words. The link you found did not turn up in any of my searches.

Finally, being able to answer a question with a single link does not automatically mean the question should be closed (again, we would have to close a lot of questions if that were the case). Wikipedia and certain other links always come up easily (and in such cases the question should be closed promptly), but some others do not, or they may in some searches but not in others. Also, a single link may need some qualifying or expansion to produce a fuller or more satisfactory answer.

EDIT (partly in response to comment):

On 'bad' questions, let's keep a few things in mind:

  1. Labelling a question 'bad' simply because it lacks research is an over-simplification. In reality, a question can be good in some ways (e.g. interesting, significant, stimulating, clearly-phrased) but bad in that it lacks research (or vice-wersa).
  2. We can downvote questions which show lack of research or clarity. Having a minus next to a question is a pretty clear sign that questions lacking research (among other failings) are discouraged.
  3. Voting to close is only an effective way to discourage poor questions once 5 people have voted. Prior to that, votes to close aren't visible to the new / low rep users who have come here to ask a question. Non-spam/offensive/bad-faith questions often take up to a day or even longer to close, during which time new/low rep users' only way of knowing what the community thinks is by looking at the minus votes next to the question.

  4. We can and must close and delete questions which are offensive / spam / in bad faith as quickly as possible.

  • 2
    FWIW: The linked question was deleted 8 hours ago, which means its only visible to very high-rep users such as yourself (and certainly not to search engines), and to the author (whose account was destroyed, so that's not happening). If you think that isn't enough, you can flag it to have the content removed with an edit, so the original verbiage isn't available without manually clicking to examine the edit history.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 15:46
  • 2
    Not sure I follow "hard & fast"?. Are you conflating two different sets of cases? When closed that is (also) the "time to improve". That was until recently explicit by status "on hold". That we do not re-open enough, as raw number, is a related but other matter. The percentage argument is also quite weak imo: leaving low-quality open enables & encourages bad As to bad Qs, and more bad Qs by bad example. But what if most Qs posted are SPAM, bad-faith etc? We should agree that then closing (& in this case deleting) almost all Qs might be a good idea? Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 16:52
  • 1
    @LаngLаngС 'Hard & fast' - I just mean fast really (will edit). As for the percentage argument being weak, it isn't intended as an argument but rather a pointer to the fact that, on its own, lack of research is not deemed by the community as a whole to be a good reason to close. If a question lacking research is also shown to be easily answerable, then we have a good reason to close. Not sure why you bring spam, bad-faith etc into this - my point is about lack of research and closing for that reason. Obviously, if we get spam, bad-faith questions, 100% of them should be closed. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 2:01
  • 1
    @T.E.D. Yes, thanks, I'm aware that it's not visible to all but high rep users, but my main concern is actually that nasty stuff like this is visible to all until the time it gets closed and deleted. Mods can't be on site/guard every second of the day to dispatch such posts the second they appear so I guess there isn't much that can done. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 7:38
  • 1
    Ad1: I consider 0-research per definition as bad. ad2: insufficient, as bad Qs attract bad As, + visitors also see DVs as 'unkind' (&DV+CV can be combined) ad3: I miss 'on hold'; CV doesn't mean 'go away', it means 'dire fixing needed' ad4 we need quicker closing for all that needs closing & SPAM needs just. deletion. The number/ratio thing is: if most Qs are bad, most Qs need CV; this relativistic quality standard you propose here drags everything down. Going by your UV/DV ratio you seldom see bad stuff here? The 'number of questions' left unclosed as prime guideline leads to inflation? Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 11:01
  • In fact, "being able to answer a question with a single link" does mean that the question should be closed, if that link is likely to be returned by a simple Google search. The fact that such questions are off-topic is made explicit in our Help Centre. If you want to change those rules, then by all means make a case for that here on meta. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 1:28
  • @sempaiscuba "if that link is likely to be returned by a simple Google search". I rather thought my answer already made clear that easily found single links should be closed. My point is that some are not always easily found: "Wikipedia links always come up easily but some others do not". I think my actions on this site show that I've been fairly consistent in voting to close easily googled single link answers. Anyway, editing to make it clearer. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 3:15
  • @LarsBosteen Actually, if I enter the keywords into Google and find a result that appears to answer the question, I'm generally going to assume that would also be the case for the OP unless they have documented their research to show that they did search and didn't get the same hits on Google. In cases like that, it should be up to the OP to show that the question is, in fact, on-topic. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 3:25
  • Just noticed that we operate here on one dubious assumption: in fact Google is not universally reliable, does not return the same results for everyone! Depends on region/IP, local censorship (+other laws), cookies, logged-in/search history etc. Plus: what is "easily"? First result? (I insist: at least 'first page'! (+ 1 alternative search-engine)) Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 9:01
  • @LаngLаngС Yes, as a rule of thumb, 1st page seems reasonable to me. Maybe we should amend / clarify our help page. Are we able to do that? Problem is that those who don't bother to do research are unlikely to have read the help page. Putting a stronger message on the Ask a Question page would be more effective (the yellow box contents seem rather tame). Adding 'Please google your title question and check the results before asking here' might be more effective. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 10:58
  • Altering help-centre should be even much easier 'post-grad'. / Yup, but I see the plus side: comment with link under LQ posr then directly points ppl to expectation ;) The 'addition' is indeed a ho2fix-howto that we should include somewhere easy to find/pointed to. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 11:17
  • @LаngLаngС Altering that page of our Help Centre shouldn't be particularly difficult, although I'm not sure if we can change the Ask a Question page. The problem is once again likely to come down to how do we achieve a consensus? Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 12:18
  • @sempaiscuba Is this meta question with 7 upvotes enough? Perhaps we should start a separate meta-question? Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 12:06
  • 1
    @sempaiscuba I'm a little surprised that there hasn't been more activity on LangLangC's very useful question When do we consider a question to be easily answered by “a simple search”? Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 12:50
  • 1
    @LarsBosteen I am not. There is too much loaded content (e.g. "It almost follows from concentrating on this evil engine ..."). As a rule, if you want people to respond, ask just one question and keep the wording neutral. The question of whether we say "Google", "google", or just "search engine" has nothing to do with the main question being asked. If it wasn't on Meta, I'd probably expect it to be closed because "the primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific idea, theory, cause, group or person". Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 12:59

I think SE.History has two kind of persons.

  1. A small group of people (less than 10) that participate the most, moderate the site, answer questions after a deep investigation, follow the rules, visit Meta and try to set policies.
  2. A vast batch of people, who ignores the rules, do not agree with them or maybe their interpretation is different. Who surely are not even aware of this question in Meta.

Only by having clear texts used when a question is closed or put on hold (same thing with answers) we will reach people who belongs to the second group. But the risk is that the site will be to elitist for many of them.

As an example, often I do not answer a question because I do not have the time to search for sources about things I already know. Also, english isn't my first language, so I always write short answers. Since the rules demand research and deep explanations, I finally choose to not participate. I'm sure than others, like the ones of the original reopened question, choose to participate and ignore the rules because they feel they are too harsh.

  • 1
    Alas, set 2 needs to be reached somehow. Ignorance is not always bliss. Where do you suggest to put the "clear text"? In comment, in full & directly; or in help center or on meta (2b-linked-to)? And where would you suggest to draw the line between avoiding 'elitism' and avoiding "do all my work for me" Qs? Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 13:58
  • Hi @LаngLаngС I think the clear text must be in the comments or in the close/hold option. Because that is what people will actually read. The help center instead is just a secondary link that not many people will follow. Regarding your second question, I think is hard to draw a line. I feel that only homework or repeated questions should be removed. But I'm sure that will be boring or frustating for you, because your quality threshold (due to the quality of your answers) is far higher than that. Unless you ignore "do all my work for me" questions, leaving them for others less skilled.
    – Santiago
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 14:18
  • Welcome to the problem Stack Overflow has been wrestling with for years. A short summary of what we've learned so far: trying to reach group #2 is impossible because they simply aren't interested in being reached. They post questions here not because they are interested in history, but because they need an answer for their homework or somesuch. They have no desire to become part of a history community, and as such no interest in abiding by or even learning its norms and customs.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 9:55
  • (contd.) You might think this is solved by having group #1 being harsh on those users, except for the fact that group #2 is the largest in terms of traffic, and Stack Exchange Inc. is a for-profit company. As they've aptly demonstrated on Stack Overflow, the company is more than willing to... let us say, discard any person or group that becomes an obstacle to ad revenue. And group #1, due to its desire to curate and ensure quality as opposed to opening the floodgates, is naturally seen as the biggest obstacle and as such, becomes the first to get the sharp end of the axe.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 10:04
  • tl;dr: you are fighting a losing battle trying to enforce quality here. My advice, as a decade-long veteran of Stack Overflow: find a new place to participate in, that does value quality, and concentrate your efforts there - rather than spending years pouring part of yourself into a site whose owners will eventually make you the problem in their pursuit of the almighty dollar.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 10:08

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