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In this meta thread I proposed a solution to the "is x a sin" problem, namely "destroy the intent of the OP" by "engaging in extreme modifications" to their questions.

I did not simply intend for this form of editing to be applied to "is x a sin" questions, but all poor questions, which, as we know, are common to this stack exchange from new members who don't understand the parameters of our philosophy.

This post is quite a good candidate for my solution. It is the author's very first post. By his name (bob the goblin slayer), the title of his question (Mommy, from where come from babies), and the content of his question, you can tell he is a troll or a 12 year old. Here is the content of his question:

So... many people, around the ages, around the world, are speaking about where we are going when we die... But ME, I would like to know where I was before I was made by my parents!

In some other way, it's look like to be impossible to answer the question : « mommy, from where come from babies ? »

so, can the holy bible helps ?

Currently the post has three downvotes. A mod will come and put it on hold soon. When a new visitor comes to this site and sees a question like this, downvoted and put on hold, they will be bound to assume only bad things about this stack exchange and may not return. Note how currently on the front page of C.SE that 30% of the posts are downvoted, and 100% of the downvoted posts make this site look bad.

This could all be avoided by engaging in the extreme modification of poor questions by new members who don't understand the point of this stack exchange. In the example above, the question can simply be reworded to:

"Does the Bible or Holy Tradition suggest that human life begins before conception or at the moment of conception, meaning does God form the human soul before the sexual union of the parents, or is the human soul formed after the sexual union of the parents, and which verses or Tradition supports either view?"

BOOM!! Immediately the ratio of poor questions to good questions goes down, the perception of this website goes up, and, more importantly, the content of this stackexchange increases.

Sure, the intent of the OP was to be a troll and deface this site. With the 3 downvotes and the soon-to-be hold, he has succeeded. Why not violate his intention by violating his question and turning it into a legitimate exercise in scholarly study of Christianity? Note how buried in the grammatical massacre of his post there laid a legitimate question which fits perfectly within the parameters of the site. Instead of downvoting, why not excavate the legitimate question and rephrase it as I suggest?

I will copy and paste from the other meta-post, as I believe it sums the problem up nicely:

Of course, this [suggestion] completely destroys the intent of the OP. However, I think it looks bad when I come here and see most of the front page down voted and put on hold, with questions like "Is anal sex evil" -- it puts me off, to be honest.

  • 2
    Maybe we should propose whether or not these question types should be deleted instead of locked/closed. – Double U Mar 17 '14 at 2:02
  • @Anonymous I would definitely prefer deleted too locked. On the other hand, that could discourage people who are new to the website, whereas I think the forced edits of their poor posts would help them to grasp how they should phrase their question. – Matthew Moisen Mar 17 '14 at 2:58
  • I think new members should take a step back off the keyboard and learn from the more experienced members. – Double U Mar 17 '14 at 3:23
  • Great question. I think the 3 answers we have answer it very well. I just can't think of why all the downvotes? Very strange. You got +1 from me though (and to Dave's answer). – The Preacher Mar 19 '14 at 3:23
  • @ThePreacher voting on meta indicates disagreement. A lot of us disagree with the premise of this question (namely that we should put lipstick on pigs). – wax eagle Mar 19 '14 at 12:48
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In my opinion, you'd be better off voting to close the original bad question, and posting the good re-phrasing as your own. That way you don't reward bad posters with up-votes based on your own hard work.

The LAST thing we want to do is give trolls free reputation points. Reputation = privileges on StackeExchange sites, and that means that if we do as you suggest, and fix their questions, then they earn more rights on the site, they can do more damage.

Write the question as your own and take the credit you deserve, don't fix a troll's post.

  • I understand your point. The example post I referenced was most likely a troll. But, many of the poor questions are not by trolls -- they are simply new and didn't read the philosophy. Perhaps if they saw how they should phrase their question, they would do better the next time? – Matthew Moisen Mar 17 '14 at 0:24
  • ...unless a good person suddenly turns into a troll. Though, that probably wouldn't happen, considering the amount of social capital they put into it. – Double U Mar 17 '14 at 1:38
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I am a huge fan of the Delete vote. I regularly use that on trollish questions. Delete votes send the exact right signal - this is not the kind of thing we do here.

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Troll or well intentioned doesn't really matter: you cannot fix all questions this way. It just doesn't work. The result is A) not what the OP wanted to know and B) usually not a really constructive question format anyway. Not all questions can or should be gerrymandered into fitting a mold just to exist here. Worse yet, that encourages shoddy answers which do backflips to fit the format just to avoid deletion rather that the sort we really after. Instead if a question inspires you and there is something you want to ask which does fit this model then go ahead and ask it.

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