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It seems that that a lot of unclear or ill-posed questions get premature answers, which may effectively "freeze" the question in its current bad formulation, instead of revealing a perhaps more profound question hiding underneath.

(One example: Use of the mathematical concept 'function' in theoretical physics NB: It is not my intention to discredit or debate this particular question or its answers; I take comfort in the fact that the question poser himself can laugh over the outcome.)

Or perhaps, in other cases, there is actually no real question at all, and the bad question should have been closed immediately instead of proliferating/cluttering the site with trivialities, misunderstandings, or duplicate entries.

I propose that questions, posed by users with less than X reputation points, cannot be answered for a Y hours curfew, in-which only comments, edits and chats are allowed. The philosophy is to make the question perfect before an answer is attempted. This is to increase quality of both question and answers. Initially, one could, e.g., let X=500 and let Y=24. What do you think?

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    $\begingroup$ Not a bad idea at all @Qmechanic. Perhaps instead of a curfew some other threshold might be preferable. But yes, good call. $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Mar 13 '11 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea; might cut down on homework as well. But it should be posed on the stack exchange meta rather than here: meta.stackoverflow.com $\endgroup$ – Carl Brannen Mar 14 '11 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ But wouldn't that reduce good answers too? $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jul 1 '13 at 16:20
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Or perhaps, in other cases, there is actually no real question at all, and the bad question should have been closed immediately instead of proliferating/cluttering the site with trivialities, misunderstandings, or duplicate entries.

I think this might be what you are looking for.

Assuming the question has any merit at all, I can't imagine why "locking" it for a period of time would do anything but hinder the person asking, and those who wish to answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to be clear: The proposal does not hinder people in asking questions; the question should be fully visible for everybody to read during the answering curfew. The proposal does only hinder sending answers during the first 24 hours. And it might take 24 hours to compose some stellar answers, anyway. In other words, the validity of the type of answers, that we would like to encourage, hopefully does not depend on whether it was sent on a Tuesday or on a Wednesday... $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Mar 14 '11 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic: It would hinder them in receiving answers which is why they asked the question in the first place. One of the things that makes Stack Overflow different from other programming related forums is how incredibly fast you can get a range of answers and then get them evaluated by the community. If a SE site is to thrive it will need to have a least a little of that magic. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 14 '11 at 14:32
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This isn't fundamentally different from closing the question and commenting.

The current system has these features

  • A close makes it clear that the question is sub-standard
  • The close reason give a hint why, and closers can leave detailed comments
  • The OP can still edit a closed question, to correct its deficiencies
  • Editing bumps the question to the top of the active queue, so it gets seen again.
  • If the OP doesn't fix it (the usual case) the question is in the proper place in its lifecycle: closed and ready to be deleted.

There are two things the current system doesn't do correctly as a matter of course:

  • Clear out the comment noise after the changes have been made---for that flag for moderator attention
  • Tell new users explicitly that they can get the question re-opened if they fix it---I use comments for that.
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  • $\begingroup$ +1 excellent points. I try to point some of these things out to new posters whenever I close their questions. $\endgroup$ – David Z Mar 14 '11 at 15:27
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It's an interesting idea, but I think in order for this to make sense, it would have to be the case that a majority of questions asked by users with less than X reputation (for some X) are bad in their submitted form - bad enough that they can't even be improved by editing without further input from the OP. I don't believe that's actually the situation here.

Besides, not every problem has to have a technical solution. The site relies on its users (primarily the experienced, high-rep ones) to detect bad questions and deal with them. If you see a question of this sort that you think is not clear enough to answer, or is inappropriate for some other reason:

  1. If you think you can edit it to make it better, please do so! As long as there is enough information present to make the questioner's intent clear, there's no reason not to edit the question itself into a better form.
  2. Otherwise, you can flag the question as being of low quality (or flag for moderator attention, it works out to kind of the same thing). In this case it helps if you leave a comment explaining why you think the question is bad and what could be done to fix it. (You could also consider downvoting the question - that's what downvotes are for.) If a question really shouldn't be accumulating answers, a moderator can close it until it's improved.
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