I've noticed an alarming increase in the number of highly-upvoted open-ended questions that just aren't good. Here's the problem I'm seeing:
- Nobody learns anything from them. The answers are completely uninformative, and present no new concepts or ideas. Compare this to a site like code golf, where good answers incorporate paradigms of programming and require a lot of effort to shrink down, thus presenting new ideas to the reader.
- Our job here is to optimize for pearls, not sand. These questions are failing this philosophical goal -- just look at the answer count, and try to figure out how many of them are actually useful.
- Two syndromes appear: "Here's what I got, but I have no idea if it's actually optimal." and "Here's what I got, but I'm not going to explain how I got there."
What this results in is -- quite literally -- an unbounded number of possible answers that are low-effort. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
- All those questions about filling in the operators to make a number (i.e. this, this, this, and this)
- Questions about the longest possible phrase, word sequence, etc. (i.e. this, this, or this)
- Questions like Building a 2 mile runway on a 1x1 mile island
- Other questions like Shortest sentence with two auto-antonyms
We need restrictions on these questions. These questions are generating some of the least informative, worst answers I've seen on any Stack Exchange site. The questions, though, are asking for answers like that, and everyone is upvoting them which only encourages it further.
We need to stop this problem cold, because it's growing increasingly worse.
Here's what I'm proposing to fix this:
Delete any answer which doesn't contain an explanation or justification as to why it could be the optimal solution. That doesn't mean that it has to be the optimal solution or that the justification has to be complete, but rather that you can't just arbitrarily guess "Mississippi gets a score of 14, I think?" and roll with it with no justification.
As a user, flag these answers when you see them.
Put any question which actively encourages too many answers as 'too broad' until the author can limit the scope of possible answers to something reasonable.
If the author of an on-hold open-ended question doesn't elect to improve their question within a reasonable time, delete it. It's just not useful to anyone in that state.
Feel free to answer as well if you have other ideas on how to fix this problem, or refinements on what the problem actually is.