Last months, we're seeing more and more apps created by people who are following a certain Android tutorial. I'm not going to give examples because it's really hard not seeing them. I feel we can't really blame the users doing this; "they're just following the instructions" and even if there are/were rules forbidding this, most of them are not really active on Stack Exchange so they're not aware of them. And one of these users might one day really be able to create a useful Stack App.

As @BrockAdams noted, most of these are downvoted and get roomba'd after 30 days.

So, what can we do to minimize the noise here? Some options:

  • Contact the site, asking to rewrite their tutorial so that users make proper placeholder posts and delete them when they're done.
  • Edit the tag wiki excerpt, asking people to delete their placeholder once they're done
  • Add a new close reason, e.g. "Placeholder apps must show some kind of intention to follow-up with real functionality". If they get closed, Roomba already activates within 9 days, even when the score is 0 and when there is a (non-positive scoring) answer.
  • Have a script running that closes/deletes placeholder questions after x days of inactivity.
  • Have a special API key for tutorial apps, so that users don't need to post a question.
  • Have a ♦ moderator delete these questions more aggressively.

Credits to @BrockAdams for some of the suggestions.

  • Actually, most of them don't even bother with the placeholder tag or text. I sometimes added that to the "better" posts. Also, our 1 mod does close (but never deletes) a lot of these, but not all. – Brock Adams Jul 5 '17 at 8:36
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    "A special API key for tutorial apps" would get abused by bad guys eventually -- unless we could get the devs to code special restrictions for it. – Brock Adams Jul 5 '17 at 8:36
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    Heh, I just brought this up internally too! I definitely agree that we need consensus on what to do here. They are crappy posts but they wouldn't have been created if not for the API restrictions (and tutorial), so it's tricky – Tim Stone Jul 5 '17 at 13:53
  • What close reason should be used? – programmer5000 Jul 25 '17 at 21:14
  • @programmer5000 my proposal is in the third bullet. Until that is available, only a custom reason would work. – Glorfindel Jul 25 '17 at 21:23
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    I'm one of the writer of Until a few minutes ago, I was not aware that the tutorial creates pain, sorry for this. I will now remove the part of the tutorial that give instructions for registering the app. I update this thread once this is online. – vogella Sep 12 '17 at 18:58
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    Thanks for responding, @vogella! It's awesome that your tutorial has managed to generate so much interest in this; we just want to make sure folks have a good time here. As the old nature trail guidance goes, "take only pictures, leave only footprints" - it's important that folks remember to pick up after themselves when they're done learning. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 19:02
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    The problematic part of the tutorial (register you app with Stackoverflow) should not be available anymore in Let me know if you see more issues. Again sorry for the inconvenience caused. – vogella Sep 12 '17 at 19:11
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I like the idea of adding a close reason for this. A custom off-topic reason, something like,

This is a placeholder question for an app that's still under development; it will be deleted within 9 days unless regularly edited to show progress on development. If the app is ready for others to use, follow the template and flag for moderator attention to indicate that this post can be reopened.

I went ahead and added this; go ahead and use it if you like.

Additionally, I sent a message to the folks at vogella asking them to add a tiny bit of guidance to the tutorial.

I've also added a warning to the app tag itself:

enter image description here

Finally, I updated the sidebar guidance on the /questions/ask page:

enter image description here

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    It's good that you added that close reason, but now the general off-topic reason is missing. ("Questions on Stack Apps are expected to relate to Stack Exchange API, app, or script within the scope defined by the community. ...") Please add that one back. – Brock Adams Sep 12 '17 at 21:19
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    Yeah, that's done. Normally we wouldn't use that reason once a custom reason is added, but with the rarity of OT questions here that's probably not worth the effort. Try not to use it if a question is close to on-topic. – Shog9 Sep 21 '17 at 22:21
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    Thanks, @Shog9. Note that up to 50% of new questions here are off topic (and 6 of the last 10, for example). – Brock Adams Sep 21 '17 at 23:21

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