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I saw a discussion here awhile back about basic questions cluttering Stack Overflow. Over at the Graphic Design beta, one type of question that we get that are perceived as clutter is [font-identification], where people post up an image and people try to figure out what font it is. There are a bunch of ways to try and achieve this before you should be posting to SE or a forum, and we have them listed in the tag wiki. However, a lot of people who ask this question are newcomers who probably aren't going to find that page.

We've been discussing solutions, but I have another one that would be a new feature.

Would it be possible to do something along the lines of the "Similar Questions" feature to direct the OP to resources before asking the question? This could be pulled out of title/body context, or pulled up by what is tagged. So if I tag [font-identification] (and perhaps I'm under a certain rep), a box would pop up that directs to resources where typical answers to [font-identification] questions could be had. If they get their answer, great! No need to ask the question. If not, then it can save us the "what have you tried" step.

If sufficiently advanced, this could be valuable for people who are inexperienced with coding. If SE can sense that I'm posting Python code and I'm asking about string manipulation, it could suggest a few sites (vetted by the community, maybe tied to tag wikis?) that address Python string manipulation.

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Doesn't the section Questions that may already have your answer do the same thing or did I misunderstand something here? –  user213400 Mar 1 '13 at 18:59
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No, @Siva, from my reading this is more like auto-General Reference: "You maybe shouldn't ask this here (or yet); try these off-SE resources first." –  Josh Caswell Mar 1 '13 at 19:03
    
@JoshCaswell - Yeah, what you said. Getting out in front of the "what have you tried" question by giving people some things to try. –  Brendan Mar 1 '13 at 20:40
    
@Brendan: I like that aspect! –  Josh Caswell Mar 1 '13 at 21:09

1 Answer 1

I think the problem is inherent and may not be solved by something like this. Mainly because of simple vocabulary, or lack thereof. Please bear with me, I promise this is going somewhere.

I think that most people do try to use other resources but a lot of the time people don't know what to search, especially from a major search engine (namely Google) and they don't know which sites to visit which are dedicated to their area. I am a relatively new user to these sites (just a few months now, in fact I just signed up for Meta today) and my skill set is very broad but not necessarily deep (yet). As a result many of my questions are very general and the answers tend to be obvious to most people. That does not, however, make them obvious to me. I always preach to my colleagues (mostly students) to use Youtube, to use Google, to search forums, etc. but many times they (nor I) have no idea what terminology to use, much less how to distill an answer from existing posts because all the posts are directed at an expected expert audience. The whole point of these forums is to help people and I feel the very essence of that is represented when a "noob" asks "how do I change the size of a chart title?" or something similar.

I did not learn how to code at school, or from a book, or from any other teacher. I learned by coming to these sites and asking dumb questions. My first question (which I deleted because of comments berating my "noob-ness" was how to create a button in C# at runtime. Kid's play right? Well, not to everyone. In fact it set back my confidence just reading some of the responses. The funny thing is now if I start a question with the same title, the 'related questions' section actually shows the exact solution to the problem but the title uses terminology I never would have guessed would be for what I was looking.

And this is the real problem. Using simple, plain text that a very, very inexperienced user will recognize and be able to follow is really the solution in my mind. What may be a better starting point is having a 'what to include in your question' right next to the 'Ask a question' page, not buried in the FAQ. I think this is similar to what you are suggesting.

I feel like I rambled a lot here but I think this discussion is trying to deal with the symptoms of a disease and not the disease itself and until that happens we'll just be spinning our tires.

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This really doesn't address the actual proposal, which is actually to point askers to very specific resources, not just tell them "Google it". The point of SE not so much to "help" as it is to give people answers to their well-formed, thoroughly-thought-out questions in a way that will be useful to others with similar questions. Also, questions like "what font is this?" aren't useful for anyone else, because they're not findable. In a way, directing askers to other resources is doing their work for them, but it is at least better to ensure that the work is done. –  Josh Caswell Mar 2 '13 at 8:47
    
(1) First, notice that introducing such a thingy doesn't make simple questions not possible to ask. (2) If you asked me, I consider the heavy downvoting and bad treatment of newcomers wrong. (3) This answer is a typical example of a meaningless downvote; yes on meta you can disagree by simple downvote; yes you should explain what you disagree with. –  tohecz Mar 2 '13 at 8:48
    
@tohecz: you beat me to the punch. When I saw this downvoted without a comment I chuckled. –  tmwoods Mar 2 '13 at 8:51
    
@Caswell: I am saying people don't have the skill set to put together a well-formed question. I am still at about a 3/10 in that department but only practice is helping. I do agree that certain questions aren't 'findable'. What about encouraging people to delete their own questions that fit that description? I know the mods do it already, but trying to encourage users to chip in may help? –  tmwoods Mar 2 '13 at 8:52

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