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I think that when a user goes to ask his first question, that they should see something like this popup.

We are here to help solve problems. If your question is asking someone to write your code, please revise it. This will allow your question to be properly handled.

This would hopefully severely cut the amount of new users who are bombarded with down votes, on their first question, as well as the amount of bad questions where people ask others to write code for them.

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I understand the frustration, but text like this assumes that the person on the other end actually cares. They're going to give it a try anyway. They can only do it a few number of times before the system rejects their questions altogether, and this was one of the biggest reasons that system is now in place. – Tim Post Jan 5 '13 at 7:42
@TimPost That is true... – user206193 Jan 5 '13 at 7:43
Nice edits BTW! :) +1 That actually matches the tone of the How to Ask page. – jmort253 Jan 5 '13 at 7:44
Blasphemy! The only reason I come to SO for other people to write my code! – Andy Dwyer Jan 6 '13 at 5:52
up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is in fact already a page that every new user sees when he/she posts a question, as mentioned by Austin Henley. It's the How to Ask page.

This page contains the following information:

  • A search bar to encourage the user to search first, including showing research effort.
  • Tips on being specific.
  • Making the post relevant to others.
  • Being on-topic.

Any material that's part of the engine is generally written in a more positive manner, as we don't want to appear unwelcoming. If you rewrote your proposal to be more positive, it could be a helpful addition.

However, I wouldn't expect a significant reduction in the number of giv me deh codez questions, as some people just don't read, and some people don't think the rules are going to be enforced, sort of like speed limits in some areas.

If someone posts something that doesn't fit the site, downvote it, vote to close, but be a good teacher. Show them how to use the site by offering guidance and encouragement.

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I understand that this is a problem but if they already ignore all the other information when asking a question along with disregarding the FAQ, do you really think this will be of any benefit?

There is only so much information someone can take in at a given time, especially when all they care about is getting their question answered. I don't think this will change anything, unfortunately.

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The sad thing is though is the fact that almost all new users ignore the FAQ until they start to get down voted... – user206193 Jan 5 '13 at 7:38
And really the bottom line is it just takes people leaving constructive comments reminding people what the rules are. I've seen some users start out on the wrong foot and then seen them turn into good contributors. – jmort253 Jan 5 '13 at 7:40
@mark I still haven't read SO's FAQ. I learnt far more about SE by playing around on meta than I did from actually using SO. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 5 '13 at 10:24

People coming to SO for the first time fit neatly into two categories.


These people diligently research their problem, read FAQ's explaining how to ask a question, and follow these instructions. They then ponder their question, and after long consideration, pose the question in a succinct and clear way.

The rest...

Think that SO is a place where they can get their problems solved with minimal effort, poorly wording the question, disregarding (actually remaining blissfully ignorant of) the FAQs. Then phrasing their problem in the most offhanded way, and then wonder why it's not answered.

Here's the thing...

This is completely natural, of course I'm skewing the percentages for effect, but you simply can't expect people to ask questions properly here for the first few times they try it.

This isn't a situation that can be changed, unless you propose an entrance exam...

(oops, what have I just said!)

Just try and be civil and put people in the right direction, people seem to be closing questions very aggressively now and there's a lot of unpleasant / curt comments that feel more like a knee-jerk response, from many community members. Give people an opportunity to mend a bad question, and point them at the FAQ and other similar "how to ask a good question" pages.

People simply aren't pre-equipped with the knowledge they need to ask good questions, you have to help them out, instead of slamming the door in their face.

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fair points, however note that Stack Overflow gets 6,000 new questions every day, and the community can't wait for every bad one to be fixed. Closing a question is giving the author the opportunity to mend it. – Pëkka Jan 6 '13 at 11:28
@Pekka thanks for the response, but I disagree that closing a question gives the author an opportunity to fix the question. certainly to an inexperienced new user. It is the veritable "door slam" ... My point is, it's very easy to vote to close, but without someone bothering to post a friendly comment pointing the author in the right direction, (ie. please read the FAQ, you'll get a better response, as it is your question is likely to be closed.) - then the closure is just sending them away, (probably?) with no idea why their question was "no good". – Slomojo Jan 6 '13 at 13:03
I agree what you suggest would be ideal, but it's not always a realistic course of action. Waiting nicely before casting a vote and coming back an hour later isn't an option with 6k daily questions. The result would be a vast sea of garbage impossible to recognize as such because the questions have no votes on them. The general rule is to vote on a post as it is this moment. – Pëkka Jan 6 '13 at 13:05
@Pekka - this isn't the action of a single individual, it's a group thing, you or anyone else has no need to wait, you can fire a decent/polite note and forget about it. – Slomojo Jan 6 '13 at 13:06
@Pekka - also you can cast a downvote at the first view, and perhaps resist the urge to close a question which has no comments. 6000 or 60 there's thousands of members looking at these questions too, it's not you vs 6000 morons. (well, perhaps, but we only improve this situation by posting help.) – Slomojo Jan 6 '13 at 13:08
So who would closevote then and after what time? An hour without a response from the OP? 6 hours? A week? But most views occur right after a question is posted. I don't think this would work. The close messages provide ample starting points for finding out what's wrong. Improving those is the way to go. You will never get useful custom comments for every bad question out there - there are simply not enough people to provide them. And all attempts to provide a system of "canned" comments so far didn't work out (see eg. Why "WSOIN" was deleted) – Pëkka Jan 6 '13 at 13:11
@Pekka - The point is adding the advice. there's no real problem in clicking a close, but why not pipe up to point the author in a positive direction? I'm not talking about this as some systematic thing, I'm simply saying if you are taking the time to read and then vote to close, you can write the 10 words or less it takes to give a nudge to a green user. – Slomojo Jan 6 '13 at 13:21
@Pekka - there's really no need to argue a point which is entirely at individual discretion. If you want to just vote to close and think that solves something, go ahead, personally I think it solves very little. – Slomojo Jan 6 '13 at 13:23
I think there is a point to discussing it, as those discussions help shape the culture on the site, and help people change their minds - mine was changed fundamentally over the 3 years I've been here in many ways. I totally agree with the idea of posting helpful comments, and act by it as well - I've posted over 25,000 comments on SO so far. It's just the not voting to close that I think is counter-productive. But of course, it's up to every community member how to do this. – Pëkka Jan 6 '13 at 13:27
@Pekka I don't disagree with that, what I mean is this isn't something that goes away due to arbitration or legislation, it's a fact of life that people will come here and ask stupid / ignorant / unwanted (i.e. please be my code factory) questions. Closing them is something we can do, and for many I suggest we should, but I feel that we've, as a community, already exceeded that stage, and closure is much more aggressive, what I've noticed is in many cases, closures are done by people who are otherwise silent, to me this is as bad as coming here asking 'wrong' questions. – Slomojo Jan 7 '13 at 0:05
... Unless I'm mistaken, going through the close vote procedure at no time sugests that the closer attempt to communicate with the author, via a comment, we should be encouraging less faceless activity on the part of existing community members. – Slomojo Jan 7 '13 at 0:08

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