Inspired by the comments on my answer here and a comment made by DoubleAA here:

The FAQ's regarding a "good question" seem to require some research be done by the asker prior to posting the question. They read, "Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!"

As such, downvoting a question when it shows no evidence of research makes sense. As DoubleAA eloquently put it, "afaik the faq is site policy." However, the comments on the thread I linked to indicate that the FAQ's on this site are standardized and, as Shokhet said clearly "It's the same FAQ on all SE sites, IINM. It's not correct here..."

I still view myself as a relative newcomer and don't know how policy gets set or who has authority to decide if the FAQ's apply or not. I know some people are "moderators" and seem to have certain rights and abilities that other users don't -- do they make policy or just enforce it? As a community (somewhat self-) moderated site, how does one resolve these opposing viewpoints?

If there is any condoning of a request to change the FAQ language, that would seem (IMHO) to indicate that such a change would better represent the sentiment of the community. Of course, maybe it wouldn't. I don't know. I just want to know what expectation any reader can have of a question and what demand can be made of a question's background work.

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    Thanks for bringing this question here. To answer one of your side questions, moderators don't make policy, though we sometimes end up enforcing it if the community doesn't/can't. Policy about site scope, how much research to do before asking, what level of support is required in answers, etc should be decided by the community on meta. Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:35
  • @MonicaCellio I don't actually know who is or isn't a moderator (though I did just find the list), but for those who are, is there a fixed canon of policy to enforce?
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:36
  • The moderators are listed in the moderators tab of the user list. Moderators and certain SE employees have diamonds after their names. As a moderator I follow what I understand to be meta consensus, as codified in the help center where applicable. Sometimes policy on a point isn't clear and somebody brings it up in chat (for a quick huddle) or meta (for permanence). I think the comments you've linked to are some people's individual opinions and how much work is enough isn't clear to all. Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:42
  • @MonicaCellio is it clear to moderators? I'd love a simple answer that I can go forward with.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:45
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    Speaking personally, I want to see some effort but it should be calibrated to the user. Somebody who doesn't know much about Judaism might have tried to Google and failed; just tell us that and that's fine. If somebody named "Rabbi Ploni" asks something that's clearly answered in the Rashi on that very verse or is apparently unambiguous in Shulchan Aruch, and he doesn't explain why what those say doesn't answer his question, I think he needed to do a little more work. But I wouldn't expect the gentile visitor to know that Rashi, let alone that SA> Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:47
  • I think it's clear to moderators (or, at least, I think it's clear to me) that the FAQ is correct on this, albeit not fully spelled-out, unless somebody brings some evidence to the contrary. That said, we're talking about (down)voting here, which is not something mods control -- everybody is free to vote how he likes. Or are you asking whether such questions should be closed and not just downvoted? Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:50
  • So that is personally, but as a matter of policy, is the FAQ still prescribing normative expectations of research? Or is the FAQ as listed not representative of the Mi Yodea ethos but simply a relic of other sites? Would a moderator put a question which shows no research on hold with a recommendation that research be done?
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:50
  • Danno, I recommend you split this into two questions: one about MY's policy about research for a question, and one about who mods are and how they function.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, that FAQ page applies on this site. A couple things to note:

  • It asks you to try a little (e.g. to search the site). It doesn't require that you have undertaken a major effort -- though the more you do, the better. An asker might not even have the right vocabulary to find an answer; that's ok. But telling us something about what you tried -- "I looked at the Rashi on that verse but..." or "I searched for (mis-heard, misspelled term here) but..." or "I asked my Jewish coworker but..." both (A) shows some effort and (B) helps us calibrate, so we provide enough of a path from the asker's apparent background to his answer instead of just quoting some highly-technical source (maybe in Hebrew) that he'll never understand. The more work you can show up front, the better the community can do at answering your question and, probably, the better-received your question will be.

  • There is nothing moderator-actionable there. This is advice about how to ask a good question; it doesn't say, for example, that moderators will close your question if you don't do it. I think that section is in large part there to explain why you might be getting downvotes -- but votes are under the control of the voter, not anybody else. We can't tell people how to vote, and we sure can't enforce it.1

That covers the main part of your question. You also asked about how the community decides things (such as changing the FAQ). The answer to that is: here on meta. You linked to comments from one or two people who disagree with the FAQ, which tells me that they aren't going to downvote questions that don't show some effort. That's fine; they're allowed to. But if we want a site-wide change, such as a change to the wording in the FAQ, then we would need to see a meta discussion with consensus expressed through voting. This is how we've addressed other policy issues in the past, such as our policies on p'sak questions, jargon, citing sources, and questions from non-Jews, to name but a few.

1 Technically SE can tell people how not to vote; targeted voting is disallowed and reversed when discovered. But that's different.

  • I don't expect MY to tell me how to vote, but it might tell me on the basis of what to make my vote. If there is a policy expectation and it is not met, I can vote one way. If there is no expectation, I would vote differently. The idea that two different people could give opposite votes based on the same facts troubles me. But thank you for the clarification.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 21:54
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    @Danno Everyone is encouraged to follow the same guidelines, but there's really nothing we can do about it even if they say out loud that they vote up when they hate the post and down when they like it.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 22:43
  • @DoubleAA that makes sense. I just try to be a slave to the guidelines so I want to make sure I am following the right ones in the right way.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 22:47

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