If you want a good answer, ask a decent question. That’s the startling conclusion to a study of online Q&As.
If you spend any time programming, you’ll probably have come across the question and answer site Stack Overflow. The site allows anybody to post a question related to programing and receive answers from the community.
And it has been hugely successful. According to Alexa, the site is the 3rd most popular Q&A site in the world and 79th most popular website overall.
But this success has naturally led to a problem–the sheer number of questions and answers the site has to deal with. To help filter this information, users can rank both the questions and the answers, gaining a reputation for themselves as they contribute.
Nevertheless, Stack Overflow still struggles to weed out off topic and irrelevant questions and answers. This requires considerable input from experienced moderators. So an interesting question is whether it is possible to automate the process of weeding out the less useful question and answers as they are posted.
Today we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Yuan Yao at the State Key Laboratory for Novel Software Technology in China and a team of buddies who say they’ve developed an algorithm that does the job.
And they say their work reveals an interesting insight: if you want good answers, ask a decent question. That may sound like a truism, but these guys point out that there has been no evidence to support this insight, until now.
“To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to quantitatively validate the correlation between the question quality and its associated answer quality,” say Yuan and co.