1

In the site tour page, there is an "example" question shown for the purposes of showcasing the Q&A model. On sites that haven't configured it or have no "eligible" questions to show there, it shows a generic "unicorns are eating my daisies, what should I do?" question (which refers to an SE-wide meme, unicorns).

That generic question was deemed inappropriate to show there in a prior community discussion since it is a "what should I do" question, which are off-topic for this site.

It was later changed by a moderator to the question When should I use Mrs. or Ms. in emails?, as it was the only one that met the eligibility criteria (question less than 400 characters long with at least two answers less than 400 characters long). However, there are two problems:

  1. I don't exactly think that that is the right "model" question for our site, as it's more of a writing/phrasing question, which as far as I've seen isn't accepted very much here.

  2. Even if you disagree with 1, that question has been edited such that it no longer meets the criteria, so the system automatically reverted the tour page back to the generic "unicorns" question.

So we're stuck with no eligible question to show there, the generic question shown on most sites isn't appropriate there, and the only one that can reasonably be edited to be eligible is not really the right "showcase" question.

Another site got around this by creating an artificial question and artificially voting on it to have an eligible question. Basically, the moderator team posted a real question and two answers, had other users vote on them, accepted one answer, and then historically locked the question. This is the ending result.

This shouldn't really have that many ramifications, as historically locking the post will remove it from search results, essentially rendering it "unlisted". The only drawback is that it can result in the question reaching Hot Network Questions, but that's not exactly an issue for this site. (update: since this question was asked, Interpersonal Skills is once again on Hot Network Questions, though a mod can remove the fake question from the list if it gets added.)

Ideally, there should be functionality to configure "fake" questions for the tour page easily, as forcing sites to use real questions there may not be a great idea since the standards for good questions may differ from, or entirely contradict, the criteria for being eligible for the tour page.

However, given the system's current configuration, should we go ahead and do this now? If we do, we should do it now while the site is still not part of HNQ so the fake question doesn't hit HNQ.

And if we should, what are some good example "fake" questions to show there?

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4

The sample question isn't that off-topic, and we can explain this instead of creating a fake one.

IMO, the unicorn question isn't really a "what should I do" question. It doesn't even contain that phrase - it asks "What can I do about this?" Let's not lose sight of the intent of that close reason: to avoid questions where the OP doesn't really know what they want to accomplish and wants us to choose a goal for them.

The example unicorn question does have a defined goal - in the title. If it were an editable post, I probably would have just changed the last sentence to better match the title when it was brought up the first time.

For instance:

How to prevent unicorns from eating daisies?

I love the unicorns who hang out behind my kitchen, but they do tend to eat rather a lot of the daisies. How can I stop them from eating my flowers?

This is a pretty minor change and just restates what's already in the title - something that on main I hope any regular here would realize and edit.

Of course, this still isn't about interpersonal skills, but I think Tinkeringbell's answer makes a good point in that people will know it's obviously fake and (hopefully) not think it's a perfect example of an actual IPS question.

Overall, I don't think this small of a change is worth creating a fake post for.

Instead, if new users are confused, we can either point them to this post, and/or I'll edit my original answer to include this reasoning in an update. I probably should have done that earlier, but at the time just updating to use a real question was an easy fix, so I didn't think it was worth potentially confusing or frustrating a new user by getting into what might seem like nitpicky details of our rules.

(Side note - I would be wary of reading too much into meta posts that have no other comments or answers; the 6 votes when I changed the tour question could mean anything from "yes, the unicorn question was definitely a problem and we needed an IPS-specific question" or simply "sure, that works too, glad the mods responded". I'd feel much more confident saying there is a community consensus one way or another if people support it with comments (it's meta, you're allowed ;)), their own answers, or even if there is an answer opposing that decision being downvoted - that way it's more clear why people think it's a good idea or not.)

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  • Apparently it's possible for SE to exempt specific sites from the 400-character limit and allow them to put a longer question in the tour, as was done with Skeptics. What do you think of this option? – gparyani May 21 '19 at 4:21
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    @gparyani The answers to the question over on the Skeptics tour are still shown as short and note that their question is only 322 or 456 (depending on whether you count the link or not) long. I'm guessing if the question would've been longer, it would be shown in the same way as the answers: Cut short. This wouldn't solve anything with regards to sending a clear message on question quality or good subjective answers. – Tinkeringbell May 21 '19 at 6:37
  • I'm torn by this unicorn question example. Some questions here were closed because they were asking how to stop someone to do something (one of mine was edited because of this). Maybe something like "how to make them understand I don't like it when they eat my flowers?" would be better? – avazula May 23 '19 at 9:10
  • @avazula That would be a phrasing request. Maybe something like this would work better: "How to tell them I don't like when they eat my flower without making them feel like they aren't welcome here?" – Ael May 23 '19 at 9:13
4

There are a few downsides to faking a question:

  • While we do allow hypothetical questions, the big point is that they should live up to the same standard as any other 'real' question and be about a problem that is reasonably likely to happen. Especially when it comes to details. In fact, asking for necessary details is often needed on IPS, and we should not have a fake question that's so short it lacks those and sets a bad example that way.
  • It is easier to expect people to realize a question about unicorns is fake than explaining that a short example on the tour page isn't representative. Just as the question that was in the tour for a while might have given the impression that we focus on helping with writing e-mails or letters, the 'standard' unicorn question asks a 'wrong thing' and is bad, but at least that one is obviously fake.
  • 400 characters are too short for any good IPS question OR answer. In fact, it's exactly the length of the point I made above. If it's already bad for questions, it certainly does not allow anyone to write a proper answer which will meet our citation expectations. So besides that there is no question that might reasonably be asked within 400 characters that will be a great question, there will also be no way to fake great answers.

All in all, it's in my opinion better to refer people to both a tour with an obviously fake question about unicorns, the help center and some of our faq posts like the ones on good questions and answers or citation expectations, then to contrive a fake question that does not accurately reflect anything about the quality of posts on Interpersonal Skills as a site.

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  • Apparently it's possible for SE to exempt specific sites from the 400-character limit and allow them to put a longer question in the tour, as was done with Skeptics. What do you think of this option? – gparyani May 21 '19 at 4:21
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    @gparyani The answers to the question over on the Skeptics tour are still shown as short and note that their question is only 322 or 456 (depending on whether you count the link or not) long. I'm guessing if the question would've been longer, it would be shown in the same way as the answers: Cut short. This wouldn't solve anything with regards to sending a clear message on question quality or good subjective answers. – Tinkeringbell May 21 '19 at 6:37
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Allow a question that doesn't strictly fit the general tour criteria

On the Skeptics tour page, they are using an example question that exceeds the 400-character criteria maximum for the question and answers. Apparently, it's possible for SE to exempt specific sites from the criteria and allow them to put a longer question there instead.

This option would involve requesting SE to enable that feature for this site, which would allow longer questions to be put into the tour page. If we do go with this option, what question should we put there?

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  • The answers to the question over on the Skeptics tour are still shown as short and note that their question is only 322 or 456 (depending on whether you count the link or not) long. I'm guessing if the question would've been longer, it would be shown in the same way as the answers: Cut short. This wouldn't solve anything with regards to sending a clear message on question quality or good subjective answers. – Tinkeringbell May 21 '19 at 6:37
-2

Change the fake question network-wide to not ask "what should I do"

This would have the same advantages as my other alternative answer, but without the drawbacks of a lot of work required on the community's end or an actual fake question posted on the site itself.

This option, if agreed, would involve requesting on Meta Stack Exchange to have the tour page's generic question changed network-wide to something like this:

How to stop unicorns from eating daisies?

I love the unicorns who hang out behind my kitchen, but they do tend to eat rather a lot of the daisies. How can I stop them from eating my flowers? credit: Em C

To restate, I still agree with the earlier discussion: the fake question shouldn't use the words "what should I do" because that type of question is off-topic here. The fact that it's been asked about it means that someone ended up getting confused as a result of it.

I'm normally against making network-wide changes just for one site, but in this case, other sites wouldn't really care about this rephrasing as it's still an obviously fake question, but it would do this site a big favor in my opinion.

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-2

Create a fake "unicorns" question that does not ask "what should I do"

Tinkeringbell makes a great point of how we don't want to have a real IPS-related question in the tour page, as it gives off the impression that we accept short questions and answers, and that it's better to have an obviously fake question in the tour page so that people don't infer much into it.

However, I still agree with the earlier discussion: the fake question shouldn't use the words "what should I do" because that type of question is off-topic here. The fact that it's been asked about it means that someone ended up getting confused as a result of it, and for this reason I favor creating a fake question that is obviously fake (keeping in line with Tinkeringbell's points), but does not use the words "what should I do" (respecting the points raised in the earlier discussion).

An example:

How to stop unicorns from eating daisies?

I love the unicorns who hang out behind my kitchen, but they do tend to eat rather a lot of the daisies. How can I stop them from eating my flowers? credit: Em C

Em C states that it's better to just point new users to this meta post if they claim to have gotten confused by the tour page, but in my opinion, we should stop all confusion before it occurs, rather than have it occur and then try to explain it. From what I've seen on other sites, the process of explaining can be very difficult and can result in unnecessary negativity being thrown around.

In summary, I think it's important that the tour page feature a question that is not "what should I do", as it's bad to have people get confused and have to point them to meta. This outweighs the drawback of the extra work needed to set this up: the initial work cost might be high, but over time it's lower.

Additionally, the overall ramifications to the site as a result of setting up the fake question will be low: historically locking it will remove it from the site's listings, essentially rendering it "unlisted", and the fact that this site is currently excluded from HNQ the ability for mods to remove questions from HNQ will prevent this from being an issue.

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