Should experienced users be held for higher standards when posting questions?

There are many discussions about whether or we should close questions which include only a short statement of the problem. But these threads are often concerned with new users, less familiar with the website and its working.

Should we be more insistent that high rep (5/7.5/10k) users post better questions?

I'm not saying that every question should include a full length discussion, but some effort and discussion more than just stating a problem. For example, asking whether or not a certain assumption is used in a basic theorem's proof should perhaps include some testimony that the user has reviewed the standard proof and outlined the places where this assumption might be used.

• I believe so: Reputation is meant to be a measure of the level of trust the community places in a user, and when high-rep users post very low quality questions and answers, it's particularly harmful to the site.
– user61527
Apr 13 '14 at 22:35
• For the very fact that high rep. users have high rep., I think they should be held to lower standards (in a sense). The question must make sense, but demanding 'show your effort' from someone who almost by definition has put a lot of effort into the site seems unfair. And I'm pretty sure that if Asaf (just as an example) posted a dry PSQ, no one would complain (and that's only fair in my opinion). Apr 13 '14 at 23:33
• @GitGud: So you'll be fine with me posting a question whose entire content is "Do we need induction to prove that $1+1=2$?" as for the second comment, I hold myself to higher standards.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 13 '14 at 23:38
• @AsafKaragila I'd be fine and I'd laugh. But perhaps I should insist more on the point that effort shouldn't be demanded from such users. In any case, assuming we don't want to be picky with the foundational context, that question is in accordance with the FAQ. I'm not sure if it matters who asked. Apr 13 '14 at 23:41
• I think it is reasonable to believe that an experienced user has done some thinking about the problem before posting. So bare problem statement seems quite appropriate in this context. Apr 14 '14 at 3:19
• I agree it is reasonable to believe, and equally reasonable to expect a couple of lines explaining the thoughts for lines of attack. Reading a post with those extra couple of lines is pleasurable even if it has $n \in \mathbb{N}$ lines, for small $n$. It guides what's expected as "some effort". Apr 14 '14 at 9:28
• @André Nicolas: I normally think so, also. But for a question like Asaf's "Is induction needed to prove 1+1=2?", the plain appearance is that the user would have already solved the problem if they had thought about it. If there is some particular aspect that troubles the user, I cannot guess it from the quoted question. Asking a question here is like asking a question of a friend, colleague, or professor - the question is quite likely to begin a conversation back and forth to clarify the exact issue. The asker can save people a lot of effort by bringing them up to speed with what's known. Apr 14 '14 at 10:40
• @AsafKaragila [Because mathematics is dependent on people making at least some sort of basic effort.] You seem to have an opinion that such a question is a result of no effort. Could you explain why you think so if that is the case? Apr 15 '14 at 1:18
• @Makoto: I didn't say that you didn't put any effort into it. You didn't show that you put any effort into it. But now we have proof, because now you sat down and tried to write the argument and found out that you don't quite know how to do it. So now you have put the effort. But now I am also sure, 100% percent, that you didn't put any effort before hand.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 15 '14 at 5:28
• @AsafKaragila [I didn't say that you didn't put any effort into it. You didn't show that you put any effort into it.] Since you don't seem to understand my question, I repeat. You seem to have an opinion that a non-homework question which does not show effort is a result of no effort. Could you explain why you think so if that is the case? Apr 15 '14 at 22:45
• @Makoto: I have answered. If you are going to pretend that I haven't, we really can't have a discussion here.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 16 '14 at 0:31
• @Makoto: I am not a mind reader. If a question doesn't show any sign of effort, I will assume no effort has been made. Or am I suppose to think otherwise?
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 16 '14 at 1:34
• @MakotoKato Notice that the closure reason that's frequently applied states that the question is missing context and details. It doesn't say "we don't think you tried hard enough," but rather that the question, as posted on this website, is missing vital information.
– user61527
Apr 16 '14 at 1:45
• @Makoto: I also don't understand where you're going with this. Are you trying to understand my point, or are you trying to prove your point by finding inconsistencies in my point?
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 16 '14 at 1:47
• @MakotoKato do we really have to do this again? You're being deliberately obtuse and gave no indication of what you were doing nor conceded to the validity of anyone else's perception of the situation. You remember what happened last time you did that? Don't force everyone to babytalk to you by constantly claiming confusion and refusing to elaborate on what it is you find confusing. Apr 16 '14 at 2:45

(Promoting my comment to a full answer):

The purpose of reputation is to be a measure of the level of trust the community places in a user, and indicates to users what community standards and proper use of the site entail. When high-rep users post very low quality questions or answers, this is particularly harmful to the site.

• Reputation points do not mean anything in particular, and are an artificial creation of an internet site. Investing the hazy pseudo-concept of reputation with patriotic and emotionally loaded ideas like trust and community and standards and proper use does not make it any better. There also is no phenomenon of "high rep users posting very low quality questions or answers", rather there is the OP and a couple of others on a war against one particular user.
– zyx
Apr 14 '14 at 17:57
• @zyx The first sentence in the help center article on reputation is Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you; it is earned by convincing your peers that you know what you’re talking about. At a minimum, the intended purpose of reputation is to do exactly what I said in my answer: measure how much trust the community has in a user. And regarding the other issue you're referring to, I'd point out that there have been no less than 15 distinct users casting close votes on a certain question - not "a couple."
– user61527
Apr 14 '14 at 18:23
• We all know that Stackexchange blurb, which is far from a definition of what reputation (once the system is in place and utilized) actually does, and does not talk about "community standards" or "proper use" or anything corresponding to the words "very low quality questions and answers" in the answer. Regarding the other issue, you might want to compile more specific statistics on who casts how many votes on the questions of the particular user; there is a very small number, much lower than 15, who oppose every single thing he posts to the meta, with additional Delete votes and comments etc.
– zyx
Apr 14 '14 at 18:39
• Also, did you have any particular phenomenon of "high rep users posting very low quality questions and answers" on MSE in mind, other than the (much contested) case of the user who appears to be the unique target of the OP? You disputed the words "a couple of others", but the point at issue was that in this answer, the last sentence is scary FUD talk about a harmful pattern of activity that does not actually exist on the site. [regarding the number of voters: 15 close votes implies at least 10 votes to open, plus whatever upvotes and answers on the questions of the user (with 10k+ rep).]
– zyx
Apr 14 '14 at 18:49
• @zyx My last sentence was simply meant to state my opinion that when high reputation users do bad things, it's particularly harmful to the side. I'm not referring to any specific incidents or patterns.
– user61527
Apr 14 '14 at 19:19
• @zyx: Tis true that a particular user has incited this question, but it is not its intention. I haven't asked this in order to chastise a particular user in the future, but rather in order to bring to discussion whether or not high reputation users should be held to a higher standard in their questions.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 14 '14 at 20:49

Same spirit to Mad Scientist answer to the question What standards should moderators should adhere to? There should only be one standard of behavior.

Aside from giving really new users (new not low reputation) some slippage. Everyone else, no matter how high or low his or her reputation, should not be allowed anything a regular user cannot do nor denied any action permitted for a regular user. The rules apply to every user.

This is the only way to make the whole system fair to everyone.

• The problem is that systems are not fair. Some people set example and some people follow. Some people must be held to higher standards than the rest, or it all breaks down.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 14 '14 at 11:24
• There is also a problem of "rules". It's a nice idea to think that there is some set of firm rules, which form a bright line, so that we can easily tell whether someone is following the rules. As with many areas of life, that is not true on this site. Much of the site is about social conventions and best practices, not about firm rules. Apr 14 '14 at 11:36

Obviously, I am not a high rep user. But for one, in my point of view the high rep users should not be expected to put any extra effort into their questions above the level of what is expected of ALL questions. Of course, their questions should make sense and they should be asked in a sensible way, but as these are experienced users, no one expecting anything less.

On the other hand, reputation is not just a number. And as you spend time around the site, chances are your nickname becomes more or less known. Then the question is whether you are willing to risk this other incalculable reputation by asking dumb or poorly researched questions.

• Please know, if you haven't already heard, that votes on meta simply indicate agreement or disagreement; they are used very differently than votes on the main site. Also, votes on meta do not affect your reputation. Apr 14 '14 at 10:34
• Personally, I would hold higher-rep users to the level I expect of all questions; the difference to me is that I am more likely to let a low-reputation user "slide by" with a question that does not meet site expectations, because I think a low rep user might not have learned what is expected. Apr 14 '14 at 10:36
• Honestly I would not let either slide by, but I would provide low reputation and/or new users constructive criticism and a chance to improve their posts. Apr 22 '14 at 12:04

Speaking as a high-rep user, I think that you forget that it is very easy to pretend to be a low-rep user by opening a new account, so I think that this suggestion is a bit silly.

• Presumably, there are some advantages of being a high-rep user too. Apr 17 '14 at 21:58
• Presumably, there is some significance when a new user sees a question was posted by a user with very little activity and reputation; and when they see a question posted by a user with a lot of previous activity, and a lot of points.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 17 '14 at 23:25

I think that high-rep users hold themselves to a higher standard - they have seen many badly phrased questions, and have spent significant effort educating users on how to ask questions so that they may be answerable. This is not so much a "standard" as a "necessity".

As such, when an experienced user of the site has a question they want to see answered, it is likely they will phrase it in a way that they believe makes it answerable - and having seen many questions, they should have a pretty good idea of what that takes.

Note that this is not the same as "showing effort" - something that is often asked of new users who copy/pasted a homework assignment with "gives me pruf plz". Instead, the experienced user will typically explain what he/she has already done, because that will increase the likelihood that answers will be on target - namely, filling in the gaps left unfilled by the person asking the question.

I don't think that needs to be formalized. With a certain reputation comes pride - the realization that people might pay attention to what you write, and consequently an urge to do a good job.

I completely agree with T.Bongers. Members with high rep are generally those who help out. It seems like common sense to me that if you help out a lot, you'd clarify your questions so as to provide better help. Why frustrate others who want to help you, in the same ways that you have been frustrated trying to help others? It really seems like common sense to me that people with high rep should do this automatically.

Edit: I think to bottom line it is that it is fair to expect more experienced users to be willing to engage the topic at hand, rather than sit and wait to be spoon fed.

It seems like common sense that those who help out others a lot should not be held to higher standards than others when they want help.

And I realize that this whole discussion is probably motivated by the posts of a particular user, but this makes it even more annoying that this "general" question is about reputation, because the real question is probably "Should someone who has already posted several substandard questions and has been repeatedly reminded of this be held to higher standards than a newcomer?".

Which has little to do with reputation.

• Your final sentence makes a false presumption (that said user has already posted substandard questions). Apr 22 '14 at 22:26
• No it does not, because I just speculate what the OP of this thread actually wants to ask. Apr 22 '14 at 22:45
• @Bill: We're not here to debate a particular user, or what constitutes as a standard or substandard; Phira: There's a reason why 20k is called a "trusted user", and if we consider trust is more than just being able to vote to close, reopen or delete properly and not abuse the system too much, I think that trust can, and should, include trusting the user to put more effort into their question. When a user with several thousand points don't put any effort into solving their question before posting it, why should any user put any effort into solving their questions on their own?
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 22 '14 at 22:46
• @Phira I didn't say it was your presumption. Apr 22 '14 at 22:46
• @Asaf The deep and interesting (constructive) program of MK shows infinitely more effort, deep reflection, and critical (foundational) analysis than 99.9% of the questions asked here. These questions have elicited some of the most beautiful answers from some of the most knowledgeable members of MSE. So your claim that he should put more effort in his questions is pure an utter nonsense. Apr 22 '14 at 22:51
• @Bill: I have no intention to be dragged into your straw man argument about MK. And I'd appreciate it if you don't call my claims nonsense, because they're not. And if you call them nonsense then you add a huge subtext which says "I don't want to have a discussion, I want you to agree with me", and that's not how things work with me. So unless you want to be constructive, please stop talking.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 22 '14 at 22:52
• @Bill: I guess that "constructive" means something else where you come from. I'll keep that in mind for future reference. Good night.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 22 '14 at 22:59
• @Asaf Above, "constructive" is a technical term referring to one aspect of the foundational approach MK is investigating. This is a standard meaning that I presume you should know. If not, I can supply references. Apr 22 '14 at 23:07
• @Bill: I was referring to "constructive" in my second-previous comment. But I see now that you really don't bother reading a lot of what I write anyway... (And that will be my last comment here on the topic.)
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 22 '14 at 23:09