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When new users click in the answer text area for the first time they're greeted with the following message:

Thanks for contributing an answer to Mi Yodeya - Stack Exchange!

Please make sure you answer the question; this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum.

Provide details and share your research. Avoid statements based solely on opinion; only make statements you can back up with an appropriate reference, or personal experiences.

To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers.

After reading A life ban from Stackoverflow (and after deleting dozens of duplicates of What can I do when getting “Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account”? over the past year) I thought it might be a good idea to amend this message to explicitly warn users not to post clarifying follow-up questions in the answer text area.

Can we change the second sentence in the warning message to something like the following?

Please make sure you answer the question; this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Please do not ask for clarification of the question here. After you gain 50 reputation you'll unlock the ability to leave comments, which is where clarifying questions belong. For now, if the question is not clear enough to answer, please just answer a different question.

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4  
The latter half of it is a bit long, but generally I approve of this copy and definitely the spirit behind it. I've seen a few "I can't comment yet, but...." posts already... –  Ben Brocka May 17 '12 at 0:46
    
Perhaps, instead, have the second line link to /privileges instead? That page is pretty hard to find if you don't know to look on /about. –  Aarthi May 17 '12 at 2:00
    
@Aarthi I was thinkng of linking the /privs page for Comments as well –  Ben Brocka May 17 '12 at 2:11
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3 Answers

Load your guns because it's a well-massaged fact of people rewriting the same article about writing for the web that bullets and drippings of subheadings are the killer delivery method in this world so short of Ritalin that it cannot lie.

Thanks for contributing an answer to Nothing to Install!

  • Please be sure to answer the question. Provide details and share your research!

But avoid …

  • Asking for help, clarification, or responding to other answers.
  • Making statements based on opinion; back them up with references or personal experience.

To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers.

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7  
I initially didn't think I would like this, but maybe the bulleted form is more scannable and easier to read than something that's becoming a multi-paragraph all you can eat affair.. –  Jeff Atwood May 17 '12 at 4:47
    
I liked the explicit mention of the fact that this is not a discussion forum. Maybe I'm trying too hard to keep it, but I'd rephrase to: "But this is not a discussion forum, so please avoid..." –  Cody Gray May 18 '12 at 0:21
2  
@the I think the type of people who understand what the words "discussion forum" mean probably aren't the ones who will end up attempting to post discussion as an 'answer'. –  Jeff Atwood May 18 '12 at 0:30
    
This is pretty much exactly what bullets are for :P –  Ben Brocka May 18 '12 at 2:35
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I agree with strengthening the language there, but that's getting a bit long. How about:

Thanks for contributing an answer to Mi Yodeya - Stack Exchange!

Please make sure you answer the question; don't use this space to ask for help, clarification, or to respond to other answers. This is not a discussion forum - don't use answers in place of comments!

Provide details and share your research. Avoid statements based solely on opinion; only make statements you can back up with an appropriate reference, or personal experiences.

To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers.

(Blatantly stealing Aarthi & Ben's "link to the privilege page" idea, since they were too busy posting answers as comments)

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Yeah, mine was a little bit windy. This is a big improvement. –  Bill the Lizard May 17 '12 at 3:25
1  
@bill I am just not sure it will matter; you could write the message in black sharpie on these users' monitors before they post, and they still won't read it. They already have fallen afoul of "please make sure you answer the question", adding a bunch of "but don't do this, this, or this, or this, or this other thing we just thought of, and this thing that came up a bunch of times in 2009, and so on..." is just making it even more TL;DR. The message is supposed to be succinct, otherwise it'll get read even less than it already is. –  Jeff Atwood May 17 '12 at 4:46
1  
Explicitly mentioning comments will, IMHO, lead to even more whining about why new users can't leave comments. I actually can guarantee it in this case... I don't mind the amended text here (it's succinct-ish), minus the bit on comments. –  Jeff Atwood May 17 '12 at 4:50
1  
@JeffAtwood I'm sure at least part of the problem (maybe most of it) is that people just don't bother to read the message at all. I have noticed an increase lately in the number of people prefacing an answer with "I can't seem to comment, so I'll just post this as an answer," so I thought explicitly calling out that behavior might have some benefit. Also, if we explicitly tell them not to do something and they do it anyway, I'll feel less bad about people getting answer-banned. I agree though, the message does need to stay succinct or even fewer people will read it. –  Bill the Lizard May 17 '12 at 11:01
    
@bill it's tricky because accidentally saying "you should leave a comment, but you can't na-na-na-na" is very easy. I do support the revision, but I am iffy on the "try a comment" part. –  Jeff Atwood May 18 '12 at 0:05
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If you make it longer, or "busier" with mixed font weights, etc., even fewer people will read or understand the message.

For all users with less than 500 rep (or whatever), the entire message should be:

WARNING: If we feel this post does not answer this question, you will be penalized.

Optionally, you could put "(Fine print)" at the and of that with a link to the TLDR stuff.

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6  
I don't think the intent of the message is to scare users, but educate those willing to read a few sentences in a "just in time" manner. –  Jeff Atwood May 17 '12 at 7:26
    
Nothing focuses the mind better than a little fear. ;) I conjecture that those who actually read the current disclaimer are but a small subset of those that need it. You can tone down the language, if you really must, but short and simple is the way to go. –  Awesome Poodles May 17 '12 at 9:57
4  
Threat needs to be more visceral. Threaten to disembowel a bunny. –  Shog9 May 17 '12 at 14:37
1  
@shog actually Ars Technica does this a little.. "All posts subject to our community Posting Guidelines. Run afoul and your post may be moderated and your account penalized." arstechnica.com/apple/2012/05/… –  Jeff Atwood May 18 '12 at 0:14
1  
@Jeff yeah, I remember when they introduced that, after realizing that exposing the article forums to 100x the number of potential readers was producing some... unfortunate side-effects. One of those things that reminds me why having some barrier to commenting is a good idea. BTW: Ars also leaves "moderated" messages around, text replaced with a warning (and, IIRC, a link to the original content). An interesting head-on-a-pike strategy. –  Shog9 May 18 '12 at 0:33
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