Oftentimes, a new user comes on here and posts a question to the tune of:

I need a syntax tree for each of these sentences

and in the question body: a list of sentences.

Fair enough; if it's a new user, that person is probably not going to be familiar with the rules and culture here.

So can we somehow put a warning, which pops up when a low-rep or new user types a question title containing a substring like syntax tree, saying that "If your question is a request to have a syntax tree drawn, it's explicitly off-topic and will be closed". That should warn

Stackoverflow has something similar, as I discovered yesterday. I posted a question which had a very similar wording to many other questions which had all been closed and I got a warning saying essentially "do you really want to post this question, it's going to get closed".

2 Answers 2


You question implies two other questions. The first is the technical on "can we technically do it": I don't know what the state of the art is but I suspect we cannot do it successfully (it is not an automatable task). The second is the deontic one, should we?

I would like to see a massive reduction of flagrantly off-topic questions. But I would not like to see pointless and ineffective hurdles be placed in front of questioners. It would be pointless to add a filter that sets off warnings "Your question may be off topic" if they mention "Chinese" in the body of the question. The intent might be to eliminate those "language-specific" questions, but what filter effectively identifies "language-specific" questions when the flesh and blood filters can't decide whether a question is or is not? We don't need to generally discourage people from asking questions, we need to encourage people to read the "on-topic" literature and then act accordingly.

I suggest that there are only two kinds of questions that rise to the level of irritation warranting an automated preemptive response: "Draw trees for these sentences!", and "What is this script/language?". Perhaps a short and prominent text box can be displayed for all users when they ask their first question, saying in effect "Don't ask tree questions, don't ask language-ID questions", and you could even require the user to acknowledge that text. That at least would filter out those people who innocently didn't know that such questions are off topic.


I think that such a warning would be better as part of the tag itself, which would be less obtrusive than a pop-up message but more prominent than the warning in the help center.

I propose adding this sentence to the tag excerpt:

Requests to make syntax trees are off-topic.

This uses the language from the close reason, following help center and meta, and is modeled off of similar tag wikis on other sites (two examples: ffmpeg and career-development).

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