Let's take this one, currently sitting at -4: Why doesn't any nuclear power country which is supporting Ukraine hand them a Nuclear Bomb?

Now, it's, from my POV anyway, an extremely naive question. This is a horrible idea!

The fact that it is a horrible idea doesn't mean it's a horrible question however. We have had a number of similar questions here and such policy questions are being asked in the media:

We should be able to answer it objectively without closing it and without hefty downvotes. It's not an attempt to troll or to discredit one or the other party. Neither is it whataboutism.

Especially because of that New contributor flag.

It seems petty to remind everyone our goal to be a welcoming community when bigger things are afoot, but...

What are the ways we can engage more constructively with those questions that are either unrealistic, maybe too influenced by the churn of questionable news ("Babies killed by invading German troops" was not that far off the WW1 coverage of Germany invading Belgium ). Or just generally indicative of the profound anxiety people are feeling about this war?

p.s. meanwhile Does the UK have the military capability to deny Russia air supremacy over Ukraine? is sitting at +16. The difference between the 2, in terms of actual question being asked rather than perhaps the phrasing, is not obvious.

Except that the person posting that other question it was more clearly distancing themselves from the idea: the original suggestion, by a UK politician, to send RAF to contest the airspace, is equally naive.

p.s. For what it's worth, the person originally asking the question I took as an example, has cancelled their login for Politics. I hope my involvement here didn't contribute. However, it does show, in my opinion, possible outcomes of being so unwelcoming.

  • I would suggest that one question is asking about a way to make a nuclear war more likely by providing a country that is under attack nuclear weapons.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:13
  • 6
    @JoeW Nope, both are. One is just more obvious about it. Mar 4 at 18:14
  • 1
    And it seems we will have to agree to disagree here as one question is handing one side a nuclear weapon with the implied goal of them needing to use it which would in turn lead to Russia launching nukes. The other question is about providing air support which will increase the hostility but not need to lead to a nuclear response like a nuclear attack would.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:18
  • Even naive questions are kind of useful. The wisdom is then in the answers. Maybe they can be formulated better. Instead of "Why not X" better ask: "What would be advantages and disadvantages of X?" which sounds better although it's almost the same.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 7 at 7:18
  • @JoeW You can only maintain a no-fly zone if you're ready to shoot down any offenders. Russia has stated they will not tolerate this, to consider this the equivalent of sending troops and getting involved in the confrontation. The idea has repeatedly and explicitly been explicitly shut down for that reason, so Italian is absolutely right here.
    – Mast
    Mar 10 at 7:56
  • @Mast Air support/sending in troops to non Russian territory is not going to be treated the same as a country that is under attack getting and using nuclear weapons. Ukraine getting nuclear weapons is going to mean nothing and considering the threat they are under they could easily have reason to use them if they felt that Ukraine was not going to exist anymore. What exactly would the point of giving the the weapons if it is just to say they have them but not use them?
    – Joe W
    Mar 10 at 13:35
  • @JoeW This is not the place to be debating about the tactics of the war. that's on main section. This wasn't personal about your views on those questions but I felt that we were likely to get an influx of new people and needed to be welcoming, especially when it concerns people new to StackExchange network as a whole, rather than just SE.Po. In the wider world, we don't always have a rep for a welcoming place with all the special rules and does and donts that can seem very cliquish. Mar 10 at 16:26
  • I am not debating about the tactics of war, I am clarifying my comments to someone else who appears to be wanting to debate the tactics of war. And I am allowed to respond to people who respond to a comment that I left almost a week ago.
    – Joe W
    Mar 10 at 16:48

9 Answers 9


Yes, new users should be treated with kid gloves. It doesn't mean that poor quality content should not be downvoted, but any action taken against new users (including downvoting) should err on the side of over-explaining.

If you feel you are in a mood to be curt, just be mindful of the fact that a new user is not expected to "know better than..."

  • 1
    And it should be noted that it does say bad content should still be treated accordingly
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:21
  • 4
    Yes, but if you don't feel like explaining your downvote, maybe wait some time until you are in a different mood.
    – wrod
    Mar 4 at 18:25
  • 6
    Users are not expected/required to explain their downvotes.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:29
  • 9
    @JoeW and yet they have an opportunity to be nice when they do.
    – wrod
    Mar 4 at 18:39
  • @wrod I most definitely won't say that niceness is a bad thing, but leaving a comment on all or most of your downvotes can tire someone and lead to burnout, which leads to less moderation. Having less moderation is significantly worse than having a little less niceness. Mar 15 at 16:00
  • @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica that depends on their relative levels at the time. Certainly there is a point at which less niceness becomes worse than less moderation.
    – wrod
    Mar 15 at 16:03
  • @wrod I'd argue that the only time that is the case is when the site has a problem with meanness, and needs niceness to balance it out (in which case, I would go after the meanness instead of supporting niceness, but they are both legitimate options), if there is no meanness and no niceness then the site is just a Q&A site, which is what it is supposed to be. Mar 15 at 16:06
  • @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica it's certainly subjective.
    – wrod
    Mar 15 at 16:14

I initially wrote some critical comment about this question because I found it was not very well motivated (it just dealt with possible implementation problems). If somebody asks "Why not doing X?" I expect some kind of reasoning why X would be advantageous compared to existing alternatives.

I found the premise of the question too unrealistic, but then the question creator replied to my comments and they kind of made sense. I realized that in the context of nuclear deterrence some people might want Ukraine to have nuclear weapons because that might have saved them from an attack. So I ended reversing my downvote to an upvote.

That may be a hint that my voting behavior was premature. I should have first waited for further clarifications and then vote.

It may also hint at a general issue. All questions starting with "Why not" should put extra attention to motivate it at least a bit. A good "Why not doing X" question is a question that asks why X is not done although X might be beneficial to do. From these questions one probably can learn something. Therefore, always add a paragraph about the motivation.

  • 2
    Yeah, after qualifying that "bad idea does not mean bad question" I ended up upvoting the question as well. It's a straight "would this help?". The answer is an equally straight "no" but that doesn't mean it was wrong to ask. Mar 8 at 7:29
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Yes, bad ideas can be useful to demonstrate in answers how exactly they are bad. The question has to be interesting on its own though. It has to be a bad idea that has something that might appear as if it could be a good idea to some. Then the whole thing becomes useful. After the answers have been written and it becomes clear that X was a bad idea from the votes, we could even change the wording of the title from "Why not X" to "What's wrong with X" to match answers and question even more. The question could still motivate why X might be a good idea.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 8 at 7:41

How do you determine that someone is a naive new user and not someone posting with an agenda? In the end that isn't something that can easily be determined and not how we should be judging posts in the first place.

All questions and answers should be judged on the content in them instead of the user that posted them. It doesn't matter if it is an experienced user or a new user what is important is the content of the post itself.

  • 3
    and this post came off as naive, rather than agenda-pushing. But it got to -4 rather while Does the UK have the military capability to deny Russia air supremacy over Ukraine? is at +16. Without being an obviously more clever question. Why the discrepancy? Mar 4 at 18:09
  • 2
    That's literally the guidance for treating new users though. You are voicing an opinion that the community goals should be something other than what the community guidance is.
    – wrod
    Mar 4 at 18:10
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica That is how it came off to you but others seem to have seen it differently. In the end does that really change my answer about judging things on the content of the post rather then the status of the user?
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:11
  • @wrod If there is guidance around this it would make a good answer for you to post (or at least share a link to the guidance in your comment)
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:12
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    This message is posted above an edit box if you attempt to write a comment for this exact question: "Abhinav Lenka is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct." It might disappear later if the user gets more rep, but for now it's there.
    – wrod
    Mar 4 at 18:16
  • 3
    Question: if we can judge the question just by its contents and act accordingly, why do we have that New contributor flag? Mar 4 at 18:16
  • @wrod I will still always judge a question based on the question and not the poster but I will ask again why not make that into an answer instead of just commenting on mine?
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:19
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I don't know why we have it, I just prefer to judge questions based on the content. Maybe it is to help encourage fixes to a question? If that is the case I am not sure how you can fix a question suggesting giving nuclear weapons to the Ukraine.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:21
  • Meta discussions are more interactive. And can involve some back and forth. But your point is valid. I have written an answer of my own.
    – wrod
    Mar 4 at 18:21
  • 3
    @JoeW all right, I can spell it out. It's to be a welcoming community and not gang up immediately on people who may not know the exact customs and etiquette of the site. That intent, not to immediately project hostility to people who don't "know the rules" is a pretty common trope throughout a lot of communities and organizations. Hardcore "just the facts" doesn't seem all that valuable, to me. Mar 4 at 18:23
  • Downvoting what you see as a bad question isn't ganging up on someone. We shouldn't let bad questions sit around because it is a new user especially if we don't see them as salvageable.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 18:28
  • " not someone posting with an agenda? ..."Can you clarify what agenda could my question be supposedly trying to propagate?
    – user42212
    Mar 4 at 18:56
  • 1
    @AbhinavLenka I don't think he's necessarily saying you had an agenda with this question. But he's just in favor of evaluating questions solely on their content. Some questions do have agendas. Mar 4 at 18:59
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Thank you for talking about my question.I understand that my phrasing is naive.Can you please suggest some edit to make it more answerable?It would be a great help.
    – user42212
    Mar 4 at 19:00
  • @AbhinavLenka as Italian Philosophers 4 Monica said I was not saying your question had an agenda just that a question should be judged by the question itself rather then the person who asked it. This is supposed to be an answer about judging questions in general and not a reflection on your question.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4 at 19:01

I asked a question that was intended to allow 'closing as duplicate' on questions like this. This question got closed as too broad. I'm not trying to whine about that here on meta, but other boards have rather broad questions with this reasoning, like the excellent Should I submit bank statements ... on Travel SE.

Is doing something like this on Politics SE a good idea, and if so how would one go about it in a better way?

  • I think your original One can debate going to war over Ukraine, but please do it with open eyes. is an excellent starting point to any of these questions. Put it as a header or as footnote. Then either answer the question if it's an actual variant on the same theme. Or close it as a duplicate if and put that link as a comment as well if it is a straight out dupe. Mar 6 at 19:12
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, what do you think about this answer? politics.stackexchange.com/questions/71696/…
    – o.m.
    Mar 12 at 6:41
  • I'd put in a quick sentence or two responding to the current question, and then copy/paste your predefined answer template. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/71840/… . This would, IMHO, have been better leading with: Transporting equipment like jet fighters or tanks from NATO territory to Ukraine has a much higher risk of triggering a fight between NATO and Russia than man-portable weapons like Stinger or Javelin. Then your template response. Mar 16 at 20:03
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, doing that would focus on the specific rather than the pattern of questions. I'll think about it. It would mean I'd have to paraphrase rather than quote the other answer to make the text flow.
    – o.m.
    Mar 17 at 4:50

That question lacked research effort. A lack of research effort is a very common reason to downvote. The new contributor flag has nothing to do with whether or not to downvote, it just means that you should try to be nice when writing comments. Also, trolling is not the only reason to downvote, nor is whataboutism. If those were thinly reasons to downvote, this site and many others, would have significantly more upvoted posts. Therefore, I think that what the community did by downvoting that question is perfectly acceptable, and that there is no problem with it whatsoever.


First, an observation: ultimately it doesn't matter whether we're dealing with a new user of experienced user. What's at issue is the question, not the user, and while new users might be expected not to know the rules, plenty of experienced users mess them up as well. As a matter of self-expression, everyone ought to know better than to write a problematic question. But problematic questions happen, and we should show an amount of consideration to the authors.

There are a few things I measure when I'm thinking about a question that influence how I respond to it:

  • Is the question pointed: the expression of an opinion with a trivial question line that challenges readers to agree or disagree, in whole or part?
  • Is the question juvenile or excessively naïve: something that a typical young adult ought to be able to form a reasoned opinion on without prompting?
  • Is the question deliberately insulting or provocative: invoking assumptions or using language that is clearly meant to demean, scare, and/or infuriate certain people?
  • Is the question gaslighting: asserting positions that are clearly unreasonable and attempting to frame responses so that these unreasonable positions must be accept as truths?

A well-framed question delineates clearly between what is known, what is believed, and what is yet to be understood (the immutable, the mutable, and the undefined). That allows answerers to find the context, address (possibly) mistaken beliefs, and fill in the gaps to produce a good answer. Questions that present beliefs as 'alternative facts', that offer a pre-given answer that must be refuted before another answer can be given, or that try to poison the well by dismissing or disparaging certain viewpoints are not well-framed, and ought to be fixed or deleted.

When someone offers a question that badly violates any of these principles then I generally have no qualms about saying so (and voting immediately for closure). There's a certain point where I have to presume that no one is that unintentionally wrong-headed, and there's no value in pussy-footing around with such people. They won't learn anything in any case; they're here for purposes other than learning. with less extreme violations I usually try to cue them in to the problem, and I watch how they respond; if after a couple of exchanges they seem defensive and fully committed to maintaining the worldview they expressed, then (again) I will give up on the idea that they are unintentionally that wrong-headed.

The problem with this particular 'nuclear bomb' question is that it's on the naïve and provocative side. I mean, I'm certain that if I posed this question to a typical class of high-school seniors, they would all (over the course of a class period) recognize problems with the idea of handing a nuke to some country in the middle of an invasion, and would do a halfway decent job of explaining the issue. That makes me wonder why the question asker didn't do the basic due-diligence of thinking the question through before posting. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem in itself — I've seen my share of 'Dude!' questions from stoned kids with a sudden, cool, but ill-considered thought — but questions involving the use of nuclear weapons are provocative by nature. It's difficult not to view such questions satirically, and this isn't the right place for snide, satirical commentary.

I mean (for example) there is an episode of the Simpsons ("The Cartridge Family") where Homer buys a gun and uses it in ridiculous ways: to shoot a basketball off the roof, open a beer, turn off a light-switch... That's satire. Now if I were to post a question suggesting that someone do that in real life (as the solution to some odd problem), could you honestly take the question seriously? That's the problem we face here.

  • I disagree. While you may have a point about the nuclear bomb question being naive, my own question merely took it as an example. We have had lot of newcomers - good. They've asked a lot of not great questions - not great, but that's life. We, as a community, have neither been very welcoming nor very explanatory when we don't "like" those questions - not good at all. This answer misses the point of my question, which actually is not so much a question as a reminder that we are supposed to be welcoming. Mar 12 at 19:27
  • 1
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: I disagree with your disagreement. I don't think we want this to be a shovel-through-the-shit site, where a reader has to dig through a ton of badly written, ill-considered, blatantly biased, or outright rude questions just to get to something useful and interesting. A bit of regression to the mean is unavoidable, but full-scale capitulation to the lowest common denominator is not advisable. Mar 12 at 22:14

I would basically be careful with double standards; such might split a congregation. Also I don't see, why the question should be specific for Ukraine topics. What new people need, is a chance to adapt quality. This happens, when a vote comes with a qualified comment, e.g. a hint or reference. This would be good attitude towards anyone and might become standard.


We can start by not downvoting questions that are well-written. If they are incomprehensible, written in poor English, etc, then maybe, but if they are serious questions then we should not downvote them. We don't have to upvote, but we should not downvote.

As of time of writing there are many heavily downvoted questions on the site. I'm going to upvote all of them, you can do it too.

  • You should based purely on the quality of the question, not on its score. If you think a question is good, then by all means upvote, but pity upvotes and upvotes on bad questions to balance out a low score you don't think it deserves are not in the spirit of the site.
    – divibisan
    Mar 7 at 18:15
  • 1
    Doesn't matter, I'm doing it anyway. Feel free to downvote liberally to cancel out my "pity upvotes".
    – Allure
    Mar 7 at 23:26
  • there are plenty of folks who understand and appreciate the importance of "cognitive upvoting" and the pitfalls of "reflexive down voting" :-)
    – uhoh
    Mar 18 at 2:43

A related problem here: I have just had my answer suppressed, because I tried to explain the basic timeline of presidential elections in Ukraine - see here (deleted by a moderator) and here for discussion. The OP author apparently misunderstood the essence of the disagreement, and hence formulated a question that was actually unrelated to the events in Ukraine - hence my answer formally was not addressing the question as stated.

Following @JJJ suggestion I have used the my answer to answer my own question, in order to educate the general public about the basic facts of the recent Ukrainian history. I was again accused of spreading propaganda, and the answer was deleted by moderator @Philipp. I have to bring to the attention to the community that this is not the first time that this particular moderator appears partial.

  • 3
    I don't think the problem is with your answer content, the post itself meets our guidelines for answers (defensible claims backed up by Wikipedia). The problem is that you focus on an irrelevant claim in the question without answering the question itself. If you really want to post the answer then it might be better to ask a new question and repost the answer there. That way the effort you took to write the answer doesn't go to waste and then the answer actually fits the (new) question.
    – JJJ Mod
    Mar 7 at 13:50
  • 1
    @JJJ thanks, it is a good idea. Mar 7 at 13:57
  • @JJJ I followed your advice, see here Mar 7 at 14:13
  • @JJJ it was again deleted as supposed propaganda. See the update above. Mar 7 at 15:37
  • 1
    Your deleted answer didn't seem on topic for the question. Come to think of it, neither is this answer on topic to my question. However, your deleted answer, as written, would be a great fit for politics.stackexchange.com/questions/71523/… Mar 7 at 17:33
  • 2
    where... it was deleted, despite being on topic there (well, it was your own question). Yeah, I see your beef here. Still leaves the problem that you should ask it as its own question on meta, not somehow using it an answer to a totally unrelated question. Personally, on a very superficial first read, I'm also dubious at deleting your answer, though upvote/downvotes might be warranted. Mar 7 at 17:37

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