Guidelines for reviewing First Posts
Keep in mind that the user is new to Stack Overflow, so they don't know all of the ins and outs of posting a question/answer.
Questions earn votes according to their value to future users as well as the asker, and according to their answerability. A question that just asks "How do I ..." without clarifying the circumstances, showing what the asker has tried, or explaining the errors they are seeing with their current effort is not a useful question. You may improve it or vote to close it. Answers earn votes according to their usefulness, accuracy, and completeness. For example, a link only answer is not useful at all, and you can flag it as Not An Answer.
Common reasons to Flag/Close/Delete
- Check for code, provided that it is a question that can have code. Code hosted offsite (jsfiddle, the asker's broken production site) is inappropriate. Askers must follow a link to even see it, and it is likely to change over the lifetime of the question, invalidating answers given earlier.
- Does the question seem like a question you have seen before?
- Check the comments; they sometimes post duplicates
- Go to the duplicate area in the flagging UI. See if there are any questions that are similar
- Does the question show any sort of research value?
- If they provide links, evaluate whether you think the question is spam. Wording like "I found one solution at
link but am looking for others" may be an attempt to promote
- Is the post a link only answer?
- Check for the instance of code if they provide a link.
- Is the person asking a new question?
- Is the poster answering the question?
- Link only answers
- Not relating to the question
- Someone sending a "thanks" to another user
- The original user posting the answer as the exact copy of someone else's answer (similar to a thanks)
Don't focus on the actual answer itself. Focus on the formatting and the etiquette of the author.
Common reasons to Edit
After determining that the post is one that will be useful to the community, take care of:
- Remove spurious greetings, declarations of urgency, assurances of having searched and tried stuff (especially if that stuff is nowhere to be seen in the question), promises to appreciate help, requests for links to tutorials for one who is just getting started and the like.
- Not enough paragraph breaks, or too many
- Identify an actual question, usually at the beginning or the end of the question. If it must be in the middle, consider highlighting it in some fashion.
- Code not formatted as code, whether inline or in blocks
- Attempts at bulleted or numbered lists that don't use markdown
- Raw links or "click here" or "this" links - the display text should be descriptive, like The MSDN Documentation or A Tutorial on Exceptions. Hover or follow the links to rule out spam.
- Pictures or code hosted offsite - open them in a new tab. If they're appropriate, bring them into the question. For code, you may need to know the language or technology to know what to bring in. If you don't know it, you can leave a comment instructing the author to make that edit.
- Spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as spacing oddities like space before comma
- Organization: many first timers have 3-4 paragraphs of talk, then all the code. Organize things correctly to increase readability and understanding of the question
- A title which actually describes the question
- Remove any sort of rudeness; make the post courteous and helpful.
After fixing all of that, if there is still more missing (for example what operating system is being used), then add a comment requesting the details be edited into the question. A comment to a new user that only asks a question will typically be answered in comments. Explain our normal procedures to them.
Common reasons to Upvote
Some reviewers upvote first posts in the review queue that have nothing wrong with them, even if they would not upvote that same post if they just came across it while using the site. The usual explanation is that they want to encourage the newcomers and make them feel welcome. This is a valid reason for an upvote; if you feel that way, upvote the post before clicking I'm Done.
Common reasons to Downvote
The best thing to do with bad posts in the First Posts review queue is to improve them. The next best thing to do is to close them so they won't accumulate answers until they are improved. Downvoting may give a signal to a new user that they're aren't welcome here. Since their rep is generally 1, downvoting won't reduce their rep; its impact is entirely emotional. If you want to downvote a first post, ask yourself if it wouldn't be better to close it or to fix it instead.