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This policy discussion is now out of date. Critique questions are off-topic on Writers.SE. Please look for more recent posts on this topic.

We frequently have difficulty with questions phrased as critique requests, but failing to adhere to our critique guidelines. While we've been trying to clarify our guidelines both for ourselves and for others, it occurs to me we might be able to approach the problem from a different direction.

Since we deal with a rather atypical form of question, what if we could have a special page specifically for critique requests?

Such a page could be built specifically to include all our minimal requirements of a critique question. Instead of a single "question content" field, we could have several fields, including:

  • The actual text for critique.
  • Context - what the piece is, what it's for, some explanation.
  • Critique goal - what goal the writer is requesting help in reaching.

Effectively, we can hard-code our requirements into the submission form. This makes the requirements infinitely more visible and immediate, which in turn makes them clearer and easier to follow. This also provides room to give simple tips and possibly even detect potential problems - just like the Ask Question page already does, but for this specific, unique type of question.

I'm aware this is probably a rather drastic measure, breaking significantly from the consistent interface of the SE network. However, I feel this is appropriate as we are trying to include a type of question which is (when all is said and done) quite different (and more difficult to grasp) than most SE questions.

Possibly this might be implemented as a layer around the Ask Question mechanism, merely formatting the critique fields as a normal question. However, I think it is important that the editing view be able to display the differentiated fields, and that it be possible to convert a non-critique question into a critique question (with differentiated fields) in some reasonable way.

  • I think this would be great, but when Seasoned Advice wanted something like this for recipe type questions it never happened. Instead they ended up using chat and now their blog for things that were outside the Q&A scope. – justkt Apr 12 '12 at 15:12
  • @justkt: OK, and how are they doing with off-topic recipe questions? – Standback Apr 15 '12 at 4:18
  • they're just flat-out not allowed. The closest thing that is allowed is asking about the culinary uses of unusual ingredients. – justkt Apr 15 '12 at 17:31
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Even though he's being a little harsh here, I agree with John's answer. Users who want to post a vague "make it better" "critique" will do so. We will close them for editing, and they will complain. A form like this will only be used by people who already post good questions. It would also involve changing the very nature of Stack Exchange for a rare, marginal case.

The Stack Exchange folks would also probably respond to the idea along these lines: Asking good questions is supposed to be very hard.

I hate to be discouraging about this, since I think it's great that ideas like this are bring proposed here in Meta. Please keep these coming!

  • I don't understand why you assume the form won't be used by new/poor users? If it's visible, it'll be used - that's just good interface. – Standback Apr 14 '12 at 21:40
  • It the interface were designed to be easier to use than the regular form - specifically in the case of one of these questions, I'd be behind the idea. Guiding people towards great questions is a great goal. As it stands right now, I was envisioning that users would have to either specify that they were writing a critique question (when many new users might not even know what that was) or the regular form would look for language specific to critiques, at which point they'd be sent to the form. Or am I missing something obvious? – Neil Fein Apr 15 '12 at 0:42
  • Well, we could have a "Request Critique" button right up with the "Ask Question" - for Writers.SE, that might not be inappropriate. Alternatively, perhaps (and this would be a good idea regardless) an obvious "asking for feedback on your work?" link on the "Ask Question" page. – Standback Apr 15 '12 at 4:17
  • Put that way, that's not a bad idea. The only problem would be selling it to the SE folks. Are there question types on other sites that could also benefit from something like this? How to avoid the subjective not-really-a-question attitude we'll doubtless see? (Which is sometimes really "questions and answers, end of story. Now that's elegant" in disguise.) – Neil Fein Apr 15 '12 at 4:39
  • I don't understand your comment - neither the description of the attitude, nor the quote. could you clarify? – Standback Apr 15 '12 at 7:13
  • @standback - I think that this would encounter resistance because people will look at critique questions as an edge case, and one that's centered on subjective questions that can be looked at as not really answerable questions. Also, disrupting a simple, elegant question-and-answer setup with what is essentially an entirely new way of entering questions screams of "kludgey". (I have no problem with that last, but I think this idea would encounter that. But I've been wrong before.) Ping me on chat? – Neil Fein Apr 15 '12 at 13:38
  • Precisely the same can (and perhaps should) be said about critique questions as a whole. Either we take them - in which case they should receive adequate support and an appropriate interface - or we don't. You can't say "they don't fit well, but we're going to take them anyway, but we're not going to adjust to that decision in any way." – Standback Apr 15 '12 at 13:51
  • Further clarification: I think critique questions make sense for this site and I'm not looking to get rid of them. I'm saying what I think the SE folks are going to say. – Neil Fein Apr 15 '12 at 13:55
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Your idea is flawed.

which in turn makes them clearer and easier to follow.

What should be easier and clearer than ignoring the critique form and write a "normal" question (which really should be a critique question)?

This also provides room to give simple tips ...

... which will be ignored by the vast majority of people ...

... just like the Ask Question page already does ...

... just as it is ignored on the "Ask Question" page.

You dream up a solution which would help people who care. But people who care do not need a solution. They just follow our guideline.

  • Disagree. The naive use first encountering a site would have two buttons. "Ask Question" and "Critique Request." A naive user wanting a critique would certainly pick the latter, and would find those tips infinitely more useful than the generic ones on "Ask Question." Somebody using "Ask Question" instead, to get around the crit guidelines, knows that he's trying something silly and won't be surprised when his question is closed. It's the naive and cooperative user I'm worried about. – Standback Apr 14 '12 at 21:37
  • Re: "People who care follow our guideline" - only if they (a) find it, and (b) understand what we mean by it. This suggestion makes it far easier to do both. – Standback Apr 14 '12 at 21:38
  • You are so nicely naive, @Standback :). If they have a button "critique request" they will think "WTF" and click "Ask question", because they have a question. They have no clue, what a "critique request" is (no matter how you formulate it) and they will not read any instructions, because they have just a little question, nothing fancy, they want to ask. You have the perspective of an experienced SE user, they do not. – John Smithers Apr 16 '12 at 8:37
  • The problems we've seen aren't from people who feel like they have a question; they're from people who want whatever people will give 'em - a critique. – Standback Apr 16 '12 at 8:54

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