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I find the Bitcoin stackexchange a gold mine of information about the Bitcoin network. Unfortunately the large number of good questions and answers is dwarfed by the much larger number of poor questions and answers.

I'm concerned valuable information is harder to find for a visitor and good contributions are not put forward as much as they would deserve compared to the rest of the content. I think this may create a negative feedback loop: if what's put forward to new visitors is lower quality content, they are less inclined to start contributing good questions and answers. The same goes for keeping active contributors interested. To be honest, the state of the landing page is sometimes quite depressing.

I think we've got three main types of questions on this site, with some nuances between them:

I didn't put too much time into compiling these lists of examples for each category. I might update them as i encounter new, more illustrative, ones. But i trust any active contributor to this site would have instances in mind for each category.

The issue with those questions is that since there seems to be a tiny bit of something relevant, and there is usually an answer, it's not clear what to do. Of course one obvious answer is to edit to improve the question if possible and if one finds out they can't, suggest to close them. But we get so many bad questions that it would basically become a full time job.

Another recommendation is to simply downvote poor questions (and answers). But this needs a coordinated effort to achieve anything. Worse yet, a non-coordinated effort costs a contributor its internet points. Whereas answering a poor question with a poor answer earns you the internet point for an accepted answer even if nobody upvotes you. edit: @Murch points out downvoting questions is actually free. It's not the case for answers though.

Therefore it seems the incentives aren't quite right: a contributor trying to fight against the load of poor questions and answers on this site would see their reputation decrease while another actually feeding this bad feedback loop would increase their reputation. So we see very little downvotes and a lot of poor questions get answered.

Do other contributors share my concern about the load of bad, or mildly bad, questions we get on this site? Do you also share my analysis that while obviously bad questions can be flagged or closed, mildly bad ones often are not, worse they are often answered, and thereby become by far the most common threads? Is there anything we can do to improve this situation?

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    Repeat after me: Downvoting questions is free. ;)
    – Murch Mod
    Jan 7 at 13:52
  • Downvoting questions is free. Jan 7 at 14:36
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    Added bitcoin.stackexchange.com/q/121307/101498 to the list as it's the exact illustration of what i'm describing. A very poor question gets downvoted (only) twice, someone answers and gets 2 upvotes.. Jan 7 at 14:45

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Thank you for bringing this up. Yes, we absolutely should be more proactive against bad questions. I agree with your analysis: an uninviting frontpage drives away would-be contributors, and I especially share your concern about "mediocre" questions.

One clarification: Downvoting questions is free, only downvoting answers costs one reputation.

Your downvote matters

Downvoted questions disappear more quickly from the frontpage and a negative score prevents a question from being bumped back to the frontpage. There is also an automated deletion process that cleans up abandoned or low-quality questions:

  • Closed topics where neither the question nor any answer have upvotes, and no answer is accepted are automatically cleaned up after 9 days.
  • Unanswered question with negative score and no answers get automatically deleted after 30 days (including duplicates).

Please close vote where appropriate and downvote any question that “does not show any research effort; is unclear or not useful”. You can also cast both a downvote and a close vote.

Upvotes help too

Upvotes motivate users to continue contributing. Upvote posts that you find interesting, valuable, or useful. Upvoted content is shown longer on the frontpage. If you see topics that should get more attention and are more interesting, please upvote. Vote early, vote often!

Don’t answer bad questions

If you write a good answer on a bad question, you are protecting bad content. It may also be a waste of your time, because the correct course of action is for your answer to get deleted along with the bad question (also see Reminder: Please DON’T answer "bad" questions).

While it is recommended to upvote any question that you answer, perhaps the rule is also useful in reverse: if the question doesn’t deserve your upvote, it doesn’t deserve your answer.

Don’t reward answers to bad questions

This might be more controversial, but I would suggest not to upvote or even to downvote answers to bad questions. As you describe, if answering bad questions earns reputation, people will do it more. If the answer is good, perhaps ask them to delete it and post it on a better question instead. If there is a no good home for a good answer on a bad question, you can even ask a new good question just for this purpose. Moderators can merge topics. This can be used to move good answers on a bad question to a good question. Please raise a moderator flag to ask for a merge where it would obviously improve our site. Alternatively, open a meta topic or swing by chat to start a discussion whether this should be done for a specific topic.

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    "if the question doesn’t deserve your upvote, it doesn’t deserve your answer" that's a good takeaway. Jan 7 at 14:34
  • Another takeaway from an offline discussion with Murch is that votes should be used for triage, not for "deserving" post. We should vote more. Always upvote content which shows some effort, is on-topic and well-formatted even if you don't find the question particularly smart or otherwise good. Always downvote content which is not a good fit for the site, even if it's not extremely bad. Jan 9 at 11:46

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