By far, the biggest close reason we have is because of personal medical questions. I think I could hit my close limit everyday for month just looking for personal medical questions.

Can we add to the side box on how to ask a question? If so, how do people feel about clearly stating that we don't allow personal medical questions? I assume we will still have plenty of people stream by such a warning, but it would be nice if it was clearly and profoundly placed (every time someone wanted to ask a question).


2 Answers 2


I don't think that will help because most people don't bother reading anything before they post.

The personal medical questions now completely dominate the group. Today I cast close votes on nearly a dozen of the newest questions, all of which were requests for personal medical advice. Worst of all, they're rarely even true medical problems. Most of them involve crises such as pimples on their ass, how to lose weight, and how much masturbation is too much.

IMO, the real problem is:

  1. Too few people with enough rep to cast close votes. There are very few of us, and we can rarely muster enough votes to close any question. If a mod doesn't step in, even the most egregious questions usually remain open forever, which just leads others to think those questions are perfectly okay, and so it just gets steadily worse. I think requiring 5 close votes no matter how small the group is a serious flaw in SE's model.

  2. A lack of attention from those who can cast close votes. It's pretty common for me to find that the question I just voted to close has an answer from someone who should know better.

  3. Too few mods with too little time. Flags that would get acted on within minutes in other groups sometimes take a day or more here.

Honestly, this problem has reached the stage where I think it's an existential threat to the group. I get very tired of finding nothing else here, and I'm sure others do too. Obviously, that doesn't foster participation. The people most likely to offer real value here will be the first ones to read a sampling of questions about pimples, weight loss and masturbation, and then just roll their eyes and walk away.

If there's anything that should be aggressively policed here, it is those questions. Until they start getting closed promptly, it will just get worse until even the close voters leave.

  • For the record, I don't think that questions about acne, weight loss, and masturbation are inherently off topic, I think I've even answered a question on each, but they do have a tendency to cover several low-quality questions.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 5, 2016 at 22:23
  • I wonder if there is a way to have a pop up from looking at the content of a question, for example that has lots of personal pronouns, that prompts if you're asking a personal medical question. Sort of like the prompt that already exists for "is this a question"
    – Atl LED
    Dec 5, 2016 at 22:25
  • @AtlLED Almost nothing is inherently off topic, but when the question boils down to "I have acne, how do I get rid of it?" it IS off topic. (As opposed to "What causes acne and how is it treated?")
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Dec 5, 2016 at 22:54
  • 1
    Reading this now @CareyGregory is rather discouraging to see how long we have been pushing this issue!
    – DoctorWhom
    Aug 30, 2018 at 15:41
  • 1
    @DoctorWhom Indeed. As I commented on another answer here, I think SE has dismissed our proposals for no good reason and has simply walked away.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Aug 30, 2018 at 17:45

I disagree with the answer here in thinking that changing the sidebar text won't help. I think that all of the FAQs and tutorials and guidelines here are hidden behind hyperlinks in non-obvious locations and walls of text, so you can't really blame new users for being misled by the name "Health". A user can go from front page to Ask Question to Post Your Question without anything jumping out at them saying that hey, no personal medical advice questions, or read these rules first.

  • Tour doesn't sound like something you're required to do. I don't know about you, but whenever I try out a new IDE or new web app and the tour comes up, I skip it, because if the designers did their job, the interface should be easy to pick up.

  • How to Ask doesn't sound like something you're required to read. It sounds like "hey, if you're not sure about something you can check here, or not, no big deal".

  • FAQ doesn't sound like something you're required to read. It sounds like "hey, if you have a question about the site, it might already be answered here, so if you're curious, check it out, or not, no big deal".

So, it would help a lot to make the salient pieces of information more visible. See The "Just In Time" Theory of User Behavior. Users won't click on a super non-obvious "asking help" hyperlink tucked away in a corner, but I do think they're a lot more likely to read something that's right in their face as they're writing the question.

I feel that a small change to the sidebar text could really do a lot towards preventing off-topic questions from appearing on this site. As it stands, the guidance in that box right now is awfully generic and possibly even misleading:

How to Ask

Is your question about health?

We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.

Provide details. Share your research.

If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.

Instead, why not extract the most salient points from the How to Ask page and put it in the sidebar? For example, maybe something like this:

How to Ask

  1. Read the full guidelines here.

  2. Personal medical advice questions are off-topic here on Health.SE.

    • We care! And that is why Health.SE cannot give individualized medical advice or diagnosis for multiple important reasons! Such questions will be downvoted and closed.
  3. Focus in on a clear topic, be specific! Phrase it to address the health topic itself, rather than an individual situation. If your question is relevant to more people than just you, and more people will be interested in your question and willing to look into it.

  4. If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.

I mean, the Hardware Recommendations Stack Exchange has gotten their sidebar text changed in the past, so this ought to be doable...

Side note: There's also a feature request on Meta SE advocating for making "what's on topic for this site?" more visible, which I think could also be helpful here.

  • 3
    I upvoted your answer because I think it could help, but only a little. Changing the name of the group is far and away the most important change needed as discussed in other meta topics. Unfortunately, it appears that SE has dismissed our proposal and simply washed their hands of this group.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Aug 30, 2018 at 17:42

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