Definitely not a priority, but I dream of a day when SE sites will have that.

There's a common trend, especially with newcomers but also present with slightly more seasoned asked, to add useless noise in their questions that would be more appropriate on a traditional forum/board or in e-mail conversations.

My particular grief is with the 4 worst offenders:

  • greetings

    These creep in in the form of "hello", "good bye", "dear P.SE", etc...

  • signatures

    Either simple names at the end of posts (e.g. "John Doe"), or the more advanced but fortunately rare variants (e.g. "John Doe, law student turned programmer, co-founder of crap site").

  • thanks and apologies

    "Sorry for my English", "Thanks in advance", ...

  • circling

    "I wanted to ask...", "my friend X", "I know this guy..."

I don't mind posters being polite ("could you provide me with X" is fine, though I'd rather the question be direct), and we understand that not everybody writes perfect English, and it's nice to see beforehand that the OP as some perception of the service answerers are providing and is thankful in advance (but we shouldn't care that much, and thanks in comments are appreciated, and votes are here for that).

The circling is probably what's the most annoying, as it's usually the noisiest and is right in the middle of the post, whereas the other 3 offenders are slightly annoying and are usually around the top and bottom edges and can be mentally clipped. But jumping through hoops to get to a question is a pain when that doesn't add any value to the question is a pain.

Just a crazy thought and I don't suppose that will get lots of pull, as you can't expect the sites to fix the users, but I'd welcome any attempts to fight this trend.

  • 2
    There's already an automated filter that prevents questions that contain stuff like "thank you" and "hi" from being posted. It's not perfect, and it only checks for basic stuff. You can see the full regex here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/93989/162704 – yannis Sep 18 '13 at 18:50
  • @YannisRizos: Interesting, thanks for that. Considering how many we see go through it indeed looks like there's room for improvement. – haylem Sep 18 '13 at 23:21

A possible approach:


While it would be practically impossible to identify all these, some should be relatively easy to identify, including known keywords around the edges ("hello" etc near the top, "bye", "thanks", poster's username or full name near the bottom) or some likely to be unnecessary (I'm not sure I've seen many paragraph starting with "apologies" or "sorry" being actually useful, except for the OP's conscience).

Unfortunately, detecting hoops/circles is harde, but I assume some common idiots could be detected.

Visual Feedback

In terms of visual aid, I think a simple "popup" dialog showing up like the one advertisting possible duplicates could be enough, reminding users that "thanks" and "signatures" aren't necessary.

And maybe an additional information box recommending direct questions as good style, though that would be hard to cram in, or maybe as part of the initial "greyed" text of the text area?

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