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There has to be a balance between the ability of newbies to ask questions of gurus and the problem of newbie accounts being used to spaminate SO.

On one hand, we see that experienced users frequently ignore newcomers by looking at reputation and accept rate. If this happens often enough to a question, the majority of users will just skip the question. There are exceptions, to be sure, but the fact that they are exceptions and not the rule is sad.

On another hand, experienced users are afraid of poorly formatted or poorly formulated questions — which are typical among newbies — and rightfully so, because those questions interfere with users' ability to readily find and understand answers among tons of questions.

To find a balance between these two points, I propose the following feature:

  1. Each question from any user with reputation less than 100 should be marked as "sandboxed"
  2. "Sandboxed" questions are searchable only under special conditions
  3. "Sandboxed" questions can't be down voted, but can be upvoted
  4. Each user with reputation more than 1000 can remove any "sandboxed" mark, making a post an ordinary question that may be voted on in the usual way
  5. "Sandboxed" questions with two or more upvotes automatically become regular ones
  6. Optionally, introduce a new silver badge Sandbox Savior for removing more than 100 "sandboxed" marks

The general idea is to have a sandbox for newbie questions, so that gurus can't downvote them — encouraging newbies to ask more — and so that spammy questions won't interfere with SO activities. This will also provide some reward for gurus who help newbies to become more informed and useful.

ADD Primary goal is that SO should be recognized as a source for good ideas: questions/remarks/answers and so on, rather than tons of spam and somewhere among them there're brilliants. So we need establish some kind of filtration or as in proposal sandboxing.

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We see that experienced users frequently used to ignore newcomers I don't think this is true at all. Is this your subjective impression or do you have some hard data for it? – Pëkka Oct 7 '11 at 14:02
I mean it's feeling, I can't justify it, because I don't have statistics, anyway - I'm only about general idea of proposal - not details, ok? – barmaley Oct 7 '11 at 14:04
I don't think established users ignore poor questions. What they do is to edit the question, downvote and answer. – Mob Oct 7 '11 at 14:04
It seems like every day we alternate between "users jump all over easy questions so they can get cheap rep" and "users ignore easy questions because the asker doesn't have enough rep" – Michael Mrozek Oct 7 '11 at 14:11
Sounds like premature purgatory to me. But I'll upvote as I think the current way we deal with this situation could use some improvement. – Won't Oct 7 '11 at 14:15
Strongly disagree that new users' questions are ignored. Poor questions are ignored, because a) the question will likely be closed, and b) if the asker doesn't make an effort asking the question, why should I waste my time trying to provide a good answer? – James Johnson Oct 7 '11 at 16:22
up vote 16 down vote accepted

While I don't agree with your premise that high-rep users ignore low-rep users, I think the basic idea of having a "sandbox" that all questions have to go through first is intriguing.

How about every new question goes into sandbox mode first. Questions in the sandbox

  • Can be upvoted, downvoted and closevoted
  • Can not be searched (but are of course visible in all the tab views)
  • Leave the sandbox once they have achieved a net score of +1
  • Can't be answered before they have left the sandbox

That would have a twofold effect: Experienced users would be encouraged to look at new questions, knowing that it is their vote that gives new questions a chance.

The askers would get a very clear message that they have to work on their question if they want an answer. There is no clearer way to get the message across than a lack of answers.

At the moment, even crappy questions get answers. This generosity has always been one of the great strengths of the community but as time progresses and more and more people come on board, it may be becoming a problem because it doesn't enforce discipline among askers.

Bad or mediocre content would stay in the sandbox, out of sight and away from the search results. Questions that don't make it out of the sandbox could - I'm just throwing around ideas here - even be deleted after some time.

As a way to "rescue" misunderstood questions, there could be two ways to get a question out of the sandbox regardless of its net score:

  • A user is willing to put a 50 bounty on a question
  • An edit from a high-rep user (2k+?)

Once a question has left the sandbox, it can't be put back any more. This allows for upvoting a question to get it out of the sandbox, answering it, and removing the upvote if you feel the question deserves an answer, but no upvote.

Questions can be downvoted and closevoted as usual even when they have graduated from the sandbox.

It's an interesting idea for sure!

share|improve this answer
Thanx for understanding my inclinations – barmaley Oct 7 '11 at 14:17
+1 I like this spin on it. It is an interesting concept. – squillman Oct 7 '11 at 14:22
That leaves 0-score question unanswerable, do I see that right? – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 7 '11 at 14:31
@Padded yes, that would be the idea. At least one upvote from somebody who can vote. (I added a paragraph with two more possible ways to get a question out of the sandbox.) It would be a harsh new regime but I'm very intrigued by this – Pëkka Oct 7 '11 at 14:33
It would leave 0-score questions unanswerable, until it was removed from the sandbox at which point it becomes a standard question. This could also encourage question voting. – squillman Oct 7 '11 at 14:35
I'm not a big fan of this. While the idea is good, there are 0-score answers which do not deserve a up/downvote but do deserve an answer. It might also trigger "I want to answer it so I upvote it"-like behavior. – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 7 '11 at 14:38
@Padded how about allowing upvoting a 0-score answer, answering, and then downvoting? ie. if a question got out of the sandbox once, it can't go in anymore? I'll add that to the suggestion. – Pëkka Oct 7 '11 at 14:43
That voting-thing smells odd...but I think you know that yourself. I'm not 100% sure if such a stage is needed at all...everything what could be done in sandbox mode, can already been done to the live question without that special mode. As to the "can not be searched", comes to mind that we could apply that to closed questions by default (at least not dupe closed ones). – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 7 '11 at 14:51
I like the concept, but I can't see it work with up/down votes, or with the questions coming in sandboxed by default (stackoverflow-moderated?). I'd been thinking about this with a sort of 2 or 3 "needs clarification/editing" votes (from high rep (and/or high tag points users?)) => sandbox, 1 (or 2?) "good to go" votes => live system. But can't really find a balance or good "sandbox review" workflow that wouldn't be too expensive in reviewer time. Definitely bit-bucket unattended sandbox posts (relatively fast). – Mat Oct 7 '11 at 15:06
Go to and it is almost entirely 1 rep users with terrible questions that never return. Literally my last 17 answers there, no votes, no accepts, 1 or 2 comment replies. So yes ignoring them is very tempting but I haven't yet. – bkaid Oct 7 '11 at 15:10
@Pekka I wouldn't agree with point that all questions should go through sandbox - that's not my idea. There has to be a threshold 100 or 1000 rep below which question goes to sandbox, otherwise you'll punish midclass - who're the heart of SO. May be it make a sense to put unanswered or 0-scored question originated from midlcass users put back to sandbox? – barmaley Oct 7 '11 at 15:30
I remain baffled as to the purpose of the sandbox. This whole idea seems reducible to "don't show 0-score questions in search results or let people answer them". The former is possibly good; the latter seems silly (and you even built in a workaround in your answer) – Michael Mrozek Oct 7 '11 at 15:46
@Michael that is essentially everything there is to sandboxing, yeah - I guess it doesn't necessarily need that label. But the purpose is different, it's "don't let people answer -1 questions and worse - force the OP to fix the question first". – Pëkka Oct 7 '11 at 15:53
I turned this into a feature request of its own. – Pëkka Oct 9 '11 at 11:26

On one hand, we see that experienced users frequently ignore newcomers by looking at reputation and accept rate

I'm fairly certain this doesn't happen; users don't care about the rep of the asker, they care about if they can understand the question and come up with an answer

On another hand, experienced users are afraid of poorly formatted or poorly formulated questions — which are typical among newbies — and rightfully so, because those questions interfere with users' ability to readily find and understand answers among tons of questions.

This is absolutely true, but has nothing to do with the user being new other than (as you said) that new users are more likely to have poor questions. I don't see why we should try and sort posts based on if the user is new or not, when we already have a mechanism for sorting them based on if they're good or not

The general idea is to have a sandbox for newbie questions, so that gurus can't downvote them — encouraging newbies to ask more

This is my main problem with the idea. You're not encouraging newbies to ask more, you're encouraging people that post sucky questions to ask more, which I don't want to do. If somebody is posting terrible questions, I want them to be painfully aware of it so they don't keep posting terrible questions; I care more about overall site quality than I do about the asker's feelings

Ultimately, I'm having trouble seeing the benefit of this. You've essentially reinvented how main pages on sites like Reddit work -- new posts start in a special category, in which they don't appear on the main page. Then users need to manually go through that list and nominate good posts to end up on the "real" site. It seems like you could basically reproduce this list by sorting by votes on the main page, other than the "don't allow downvotes" part that I completely disagree with

share|improve this answer
+1, I don't look at the user's rep when reading a question anymore. Downvotes or vote to close if they don't follow the rules, upvotes and maybe an answer if they do follow the rules. I guess I feel they should put on their big boy/girl britches; this is StackOverflow. – user7116 Oct 7 '11 at 15:15
@MichaelMrozek misunderstanding of my goal: goal was to keep SO as a source for good questions/answers - rather than collection of stupid blah-blah and among them some brilliants. If we're not going to filter questions - it will be (and partially is) tons of spam – barmaley Oct 7 '11 at 15:34

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