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I have to admit, I haven't read it yet. The way I see it, the site is pretty much self explanatory. Or, at least, I'm assuming that enough thought has gone into making the UI as intuitive as possible. But, it seems like I might be missing something important in the FAQ. But, if I have to read some law book in order to participate, I'm not sure this is going to work for a bunch of us.

Here's another perspective. If you did away with the FAQ and put the entire contents of the FAQ on the question/answer page as creatively neat and tidy as possible, would the page look ridiculously cluttered and scare people away? If so, then the rules are too complicated for all but those like investing a lot in their online egos.

The trend for UIs is moving away from requiring the users to RTFM before use. People want UIs that are intuitive. I think the same goes for web interfaces.

Is it a mistake to put so much reliance on users reading the FAQ?

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closed as not constructive by Brad Mace, Lorem Ipsum, Aarobot, Rosinante, Mark Trapp Aug 15 '11 at 1:32

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This is discussed in the FAQ. Please read them. (jk) –  Pëkka Aug 14 '11 at 10:52
    
LOL... you mean there's more than one?! –  Tom Jones Aug 14 '11 at 10:57
    
well, FAQ stands for "frequently asked question**s**" :) –  Pëkka Aug 14 '11 at 11:01
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Alternatively-phrased question: Is it a mistake for users not to read the FAQ? –  Cody Gray Aug 14 '11 at 11:31
    
Yes, but FAQs stand for "Frequently Asked Questions"s. A FAQ is usually a single document. The plural form of FAQ would be FAQs. That's why it is proper to ask, "where is the FAQ?" rather than "where are the FAQ?" –  Tom Jones Aug 14 '11 at 12:41
    
Sort of. The real answer is that you're treating the FAQ as a single, indivisible entity, which means that grammatically, it is used as a singular rather than a plural. When used in a sentence like "Where is the FAQ?", you're actually asking, "Where is the [list of] FAQ?", or "Where is the [list of] Frequently Asked Questions?", where "[list of]" is implied. –  Cody Gray Aug 14 '11 at 13:28
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"the rules are too complicated for all but those like investing a lot in their online egos". I have trouble caring about a question when the premise is "by the way, if you're active on the site you're an ass" –  Michael Mrozek Aug 14 '11 at 16:44
    
@Michael, why do you take a diplomatically crafted sentence and turn it into a reason to start a flame war? Are you the owner of this site? Am I committing heresy? –  Tom Jones Aug 15 '11 at 4:01
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@Tom: You really have quite a complex about these things, don't you? No, Michael is just a regular user that's making a comment. He deftly combined humour with a bit of truth to highlight a potential problem with your question. You need to make sure that you bring your own sense of humour to Meta. No one said you were committing heresy. But you're not likely to go very far with an attitude like that. –  Cody Gray Aug 15 '11 at 10:17
    
"If you did away with the FAQ and put the entire contents of the FAQ on the question/answer page as creatively neat and tidy as possible" We already do; check out the sidebar on the /question/ask page and there's a dynamic <div> that appears above the answer input area when low-rep users focus it: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/84668/… –  Jeff Atwood Aug 18 '11 at 10:06
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2 Answers

Your question is a false dichotomy. The FAQs aren't the "FM" for a user interface, they are the FM of a community of humans. The mechanics of the UI are, in fact, about as self-explanatory as any web site is likely to be. The issues of topicality, civility, etc. are self-explanatory insofar as anyone who watches the site for a few days will see them all in action—but most would consider it cruel to remove the extended explanation altogether.

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Wooow! You people delete posts and comments with no compunction whatsoever. I see what these forums are all about... perception management. BTW, that's what they used to call deception in the old days but I guess it's A-OK on these sites. This site must be run by the Fox News consultants. –  Tom Jones Aug 15 '11 at 6:57
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Yup. We're very fair and balanced around here. We report, you decide. –  Cody Gray Aug 15 '11 at 10:17
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@Tom Jones: I see what these forums are all about... nuh-uh-uhhhh. We're not forums. From the About Page: Stack Overflow is a programming Q & A site that’s free. There is a (big) difference and you will get called on on calling SE sites "forums". –  tombull89 Aug 18 '11 at 10:14
    
@Tom Jones, do you care? I guess not. That attitude will not get you far here, or in life. –  tombull89 Aug 19 '11 at 12:54
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would the page look ridiculously cluttered and scare people away?

I'm fairly sure it would. I'm not saying the FAQ are ideal in their current form, but it is impossible to condense them onto one page.

If so, then the rules are too complicated for all but those like investing a lot in their online egos.

Too complicated by what standard? The number of things you need to know in order to post your first question is fairly small.

The number of rules and specifics that become relevant if you have a specific issue, or want to get more involved is large - not because the site's developers and the community prefer complication, but because building the site made them necessary. It's a structure that has grown over three years now and all in all, I think a pretty good balance has been struck between simplicity and complication.

If, of course, you have a suggestion about how a specific feature or area could be made more intuitive, absolutely feel free to suggest so, of course - good and new suggestions are definitely noted by the community.

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That is true: You cannot condensate in a single page what reported from all the questions tagged faq. –  kiamlaluno Aug 14 '11 at 11:27
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