There's one user here (and I don't plan to name names) who asks a lot of questions as they read various aspects of statistical literature (though they often don't say what exact document they're reading; it sometimes seems to be well outside the mainstream), but whose questions often betray a failure to actually read the document they're quoting, a failure to read the responses that they get and so on down the line.

I get the impression that if an idea isn't instantly obvious - even right in the middle of a sentence, the response is "post a question!". In some threads, every response seems to just generate another question, or even two, or three, even when those questions have already been answered (I think in the last day or so I have been asked at least four questions I had already answered in previous responses to the same user in the last day or so). New questions then spin off the responses, with little regard for how easily the answers may be found with google or wikipedia or CV itself (or indeed that someone posting such questions would already have the resources to find out even without any of those).

As such, I sometimes take to downvoting for fairly obvious lack of research. At other times I try to ignore that poster. And sometimes I try to answer (... and am then back reliving when my son was a three year old who would just say "why?" to absolutely everything, without actually listening to any of the answers).

So far it's probably only been about one post in 30 that I have resorted to downvoting (I don't know the fraction for sure, I don't keep track, and I've probably voted at least as many up), but I find myself considering it more often recently.

(This is not a concern about elementary questions; I answer much less sophisticated questions from less knowledgeable users quite happily.)

Clearly the 'ignore' route would be okay -- we're free to choose who we want to answer.

But to what extent is (possibly frequent, given the frequency of posts) downvoting for lack of research okay?

I'm particularly interested in suggestions of criteria to apply or strategies to use, both when deciding how to vote on such posts and when replying (if at all) to the user.

Edit: by way of information - this user has generated over 2000 questions on the SE network in under 4 years, a large majority of them in the last two years. I strongly suspect that they actually face virtually none of these questions as actual problems, and sometimes seem to ask questions as little more than a form of entertainment. (If I saw this on one of the stats groups on reddit, I'd consider some of their behavior as effectively trolling.)

Edit2: To clarify - I am in no way suggesting I would vote down a post because someone with a number of substandard posts has posted something which itself is not substandard -- I think each post should stand on its merits (indeed I wish there were more good posts from this user I could upvote - I'd much prefer to upvote good posts and try to encourage suitable behaviour that way); I mention other posts to point out that if I voted down every post of theirs that I thought merited downvoting on its own (through lack of research), then some days I would be downvoting a significant number of posts.

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    I vote on the merits of the questions, regardless of their originator, but I selectively ignore threads based on my annoyance level with the OPs. People who ask a very long string of very closely related questions are particularly aggravating to moderators, who are obliged to search for possible duplicates. The community can be extremely helpful in this regard by identifying the duplicates and voting accordingly. – whuber Jul 11 '13 at 16:56
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    @whuber Thanks for your comment; please see the additional note under Edit2 – Glen_b Jul 12 '13 at 0:52

This is my ramble: My guiding rule is whether the question will help make an internet artefact that will be useful to others. Helping the person asking the question is a small good. Helping the thousands of people that eventually access many of the questions on this site is a big good.

I don't particularly care whether the person asking the question is grateful. I don't particularly care whether the person asking the question reads my answer. I care that the resource will be useful for the thousands of people who land on the page in the future via Google.

The person asking the question is just a useful means of creating such a seed.

If I think someone is asking a lot of questions that will all be of general appeal, then that's fine by me. Other times questions can be edited into something of more ongoing utility.

The main issue is where someone is asking a lot of poor questions that won't be of general value. Then I find downvoting and voting to close are good options; however, I'd focus it on the specific question that has problems rather than the user.

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    This is an excellent answer. – Fomite Sep 25 '13 at 21:07

My two cents:

  • I'm generally reluctant to downvote, but you've laid out a reasonable argument, and I couldn't much fault you for downvoting. (I think you should include an explanatory comment in each case, though.)
  • If you go on a downvoting spree, it will undoubtedly get the OP's attention (whether it will help is another issue... ), but it will be automatically reversed, as @Macro notes.
  • Ultimately, you are free to do whatever you want, as @Macro also notes.

Here's another suggestion:

If the OP asks a question that you have answered in your answer to the OP's previous question, vote to close as a duplicate (again, with an explanatory comment). This does not match the duplicate close vote definition exactly, but it's certainly close enough, in my opinion. Likewise, several of your other descriptions of poor use of the site are close enough to one or another of the official close vote reasons for my satisfaction. Moreover, I suspect having question after question put on hold pending improvements (as opposed to downvoted) is more likely to lead to improved behavior.

  • +1 Your suggestion is good advice, specifically when questions (not answers) are the problem. – Macro Jul 11 '13 at 17:35
  • Thanks for your response. On this -- "If the OP asks a question that you have answered in your answer to the OP's previous question". To clarify, these questions are often in comments; I can't vote to close as duplicate a followup comment. And even when it does occur in a formally posted question, it's not that they necessarily asked the question twice, it's that I anticipated the issue and already answered it. I can, in exasperation, point out that it's previously been answered, and they should try reading the answers rather than just responding every few seconds with further questions... – Glen_b Jul 12 '13 at 1:08
  • ctd... but I'd really like to encourage them to just stop and think about what information they're receiving. Repeatedly asking the user to do so has had no discernable effect. – Glen_b Jul 12 '13 at 1:17
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    If it's a comment, I'm not sure what to say--you can't downvote comments, eg. Nonetheless, for those formally posted questions, I say you are in your rights to vote to close, & that it might prove more helpful in changing the behavior in the long run. – gung Jul 12 '13 at 1:30

If you think a question/answer should be downvoted - whatever that means to you - you should downvote it. I personally would try to stay away from voting down a question/answer purely due to who is posting it and would try to restrict my reasons to something inherently related to post (which I think is what you're describing) but I wouldn't deride you for doing so if you thought there was a good reason.

IMO, it's a waste of energy to try to understand how others vote, what is the "right way" to vote, and why vote counts may disagree with your own opinion about the quality of post. Disagreements about these things are inherently part of an anonymous voting system like this and I've yet to see a productive discussion about it on the SE network. So, do whatever you think is appropriate. Just be aware that if you downvote a person many times in a short period, those votes may be automatically reversed by the system.

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    +1 I think you make good points. You've also at least once done me the courtesy of explaining a downvote (making it not anonymous) - which explanation I found both helpful and fair (and have tried, if not always successfully, to keep in mind). – Glen_b Jul 11 '13 at 14:29

Edit 2: After reading, all the other three answers (+3) and which were better than mine, I have partly changed my mind.

In such extreme situation (after you have tried a couple of times to advise or make a point) ignore the pattern / behaviour (in case one does not want to consider each post as an individual situation).

With time, community will give guidelines about how to act in such situations.

IMO, the great majority of questions are legitimate (some / many of them are very good ones).

What bothers me, and maybe other users are:

  • misleading feedback;

  • editing the question and modifying its meaning after someone provides a good answer,

However, from an objective point of view, what rules does this kind of conduct disobey in CV? I am not sure, but I think none.

(I read on a SO's meta thread once, someone advising if a question is edited after an answer is posted, the answerer can leave a note / edition, saying the question was edited and the answer does not fully address the question anymore).

Answer to the question:

Yes, but focusing on the thread and applying same criteria for other users.

Lastly, I would like to reinforce @whuber's comment, as questions very related or duplicates are not, let's say, a good thing for the site, and community can help a lot to identify them.

  • Although I agree with much of what is stated or implied here, not answering other questions, not contributing in other ways and not voting much are all personal choices. None is out of order on this site. – Nick Cox Jul 15 '13 at 19:07
  • OK to roll it back, naturally, but I don't think what you mean in your second paragraph is at all clear. – Nick Cox Jul 15 '13 at 20:43
  • @NickCox, it was not clear indeed. Sometimes, my English still betrays me to make a point or to get a point. I edited my question, expressing I've changed my mind, and I hope to have clarified that paragraph. Thank's for the help, again. – Andre Silva Jul 22 '13 at 17:22
  • There's no need to apologize, @AndreSilva; once you've edited, everyone who upvoted has the opportunity to change their vote. However, I doubt any will. I, at least, see no problem w/ your thinking on this topic evolving in the way it has. (I had upvoted originally, & am content to leave my vote as is.) – gung Jul 22 '13 at 20:34
  • On a different topic, I did a little editing for standard English on this post. I hope you don't mind; feel free to roll the edits back if you don't like them. 1 example: it's not common in English to start each sentence w/ a newline, so I grouped some of your sentences into paragraphs. – gung Jul 22 '13 at 20:36

The user in question seems to have an oddly Scholastic approach to the study of Statistics: putting me in mind of a mediæval monk sitting in the library poring over ancient texts to try to clarify & reconcile their meanings, but lacking the conceptual apparatus that would allow him to begin to form his own judgements on the subjects they address. Furthermore, he keeps having to be prodded to give the context & definitions needed to make his questions comprehensible on their own without reference to his sources.

As he's been on Cross Validated long enough to know better (& has been told often enough), I don't think we should feel any compunction in down-voting his bad questions. Of course, like everyone else, I think we should up-vote his good questions. But I think it's fair to hold a seasoned, high-reputation user to a higher standard than one posting his first question.

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    I think this gets to much of what seems to be going on, and I think the view expressed here is sensible. (Incidentally, since posting this question I've mostly avoided responding to the user at all; I think it's more productive all around if I avoid getting annoyed, though the volume also seems to be way down recently.) – Glen_b Sep 2 '13 at 21:04

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