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I was going through Stack Overflow, and I have noticed that many times the questions that are not good, are questions made by new Users. In Addition many times those questions, are too short. And poorly written. It seems that somehow many times the new users are not reading the FAQ or the "How to Ask"

I was thinking that maybe when someone is a new User, just Before posting they should be encouraged once more to read the FAQ?

The site shows tips on the side, but maybe those tips can be shown in the main part of the screen just before posting? At least when the user is new, or the question is too short. Like:

  • Are you sure you have searched thoroughly before asking here?

  • Are you sure your question is clear?

  • Are you sure your question has all the information needed to be
    understood and answered?

What do you think?

PS: Some examples of the type of questions I am referring. Sometimes are not a real questions, sometimes they are not written properly and such.

how to share data of one class with other classes using one common class?

How do I parse in C# using WPF?

Sticky notes with WPF

FlipView sliding event

Editable ComboBox for Windows 8 (C#)

Comparing value of a viewbag in the view - solved

Object reference not set to an instance of an object c# :)

Toggle Button on Datagrid row in WPF

i need to be on the line to create data using sql that stores articles

remove extra unwanted content (var, style) from html page

Translate python to C#

How to display a value as a percentage?

How does "top" calculate CPU usage?

javascript passing html in parameter

How to export Datetimepicker info to the datetime?

Convert python cryptography to C#

How can I add a default to my CSS slide show banner?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you visit the site in private / incognito mode, you'll see that new users are required to read and acknowledge the how-to-ask text before they can ask a question. The trouble is that most people are working under a rather heightened sense of urgency, and lack the experience necessary to know that acclimating to the conventions of a new and strange community will almost always produce better, faster results.

There's also frequently a language barrier with varying severity at play.

Just in time help, such as what you describe is something that we're definitely looking at. But for questions that aren't quantifiably short, lacking code or formatting (we look for both), it's very hard to trigger. And, once triggered, it's easily dismissed unless it's blocking. We might be able to help some, but a lot of these would still be posted pretty much like they were. We can help people find and use features of the site much better than we currently do, but it's extremely difficult to nudge people into writing better, clearer paragraphs.

That said, as I answered here, there are things you can do to help them if you feel that you have the time, patience and inclination to do so. If you can understand the intent of the question, edit it to make it clear - that's the single most helpful thing you can do. After that, leave a comment explaining your changes, and encourage the OP to keep them in mind going forward. If the question is now clear, you're done.

Otherwise, a short succession of actionable suggestions that would be hugely effective in clarifying the question if acted upon would be in order. Write them in a comment as plainly, succinctly and calmly as possible. Try to help them alleviate their sense of urgency so they can think a little more optimally by letting them know that you're going to help. You can do this by predicating your advice with a friendly introduction:

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, I'd like to help you get this answered. I've edited your post for formatting, but it is still a little unclear. First, please {short actionable advice}, then {more short actionable advice}

Try to avoid ultimatums like ".. or this will be closed", closing is a finite state that's easily changed once a post is improved (and undergoing renovation). Remember, by asking them to write more clearly, you're really asking them to think more clearly.

Comments like Your question isn't clear aren't really actionable, all they do is encourage someone on the other side of the world to type even louder while trying to figure out what isn't clear:

You just gestured to all of it!

Finally, as I noted in the link above, watch out for quicksand. Showing ownership in the community and the content we curate is one thing, letting someone else make their problem your responsibility is another. If the person can be helped, they'll generally respond and improve the question rather quickly. Helping another user learn to help themselves should be a uniquely rewarding experience for you, the minute that it isn't - stop.

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Yes I know you are encouraged to read it, but what I mean if just before posting maybe the site would prompt them with tips right to the point, it would stop them to post such questions. In many of the post i posted here as example I actually suggested something to the User. And by going thourgh them I notice, they don't seem to have read the FAQ or such, and that is why then other users downvotes them a lot. So I was thinking if there was a way to improve that. –  Dzyann Apr 14 '13 at 0:24
    
@Dzyann My apologies, I had a paragraph that I accidentally cut. I just edited. Note, this is just my opinion on it, followed with some advice that works right now. –  Tim Post Apr 14 '13 at 0:31
    
What I find sad is all the people that writes such poor questions, and then the other people that doesn't behave like you mention. Even when you can see that the OP is actually trying, even if the question winds up being bad, people doesn't answer good to it and downvote them a lot, without even a hint on why. As you said how busy people is, plays into it, so that is why i was thinking maybe suggestions that popup right in their face may be useful, something really hard to ignore. And is obvious the person didn't look twice at their question. Maybe a timer? With a count down? –  Dzyann Apr 14 '13 at 1:30
    
@Dzyann Changes to how these types of questions are ultimately handled (note the renovation I mentioned later in my answer) will help some, and we are working on ways to encourage people to help new users more. I don't think we've categorically ruled out more comprehensive analysis of questions, in fact we've even had contests for new ideas. I'm not saying the idea is a bad one, it's just really hard. –  Tim Post Apr 14 '13 at 1:53
    
I agree with what you say (i can image how hard it is). And I am glad to see it is being worked on. My main point was though, referring to very short questions, or that just have one paragraph. And the statistics of the site are not always good, I have answered questions that were not "good" questions, but I understood. I am sure it happens with many other users. –  Dzyann Apr 17 '13 at 12:27
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Then you have some like me, who have varying degrees of difficulties in writing skills - getting a downvote 'swarm' is very disheartening, and can result in the user losing all confidence in posting a question - I have many questions that I would like to post, but no confidence anymore. (To the point where I don't see any point in keeping my account open at all). –  user222137 May 23 '13 at 10:30
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How about forcing low-rep users to read (or at least look at) the full text of one of the best "Questions that may already have your answer"? We are already recommending they review those questions to avoid posting a duplicate, and even if the asker is operating under a sense of urgency, they may actually read the other question because it might give them the answer they are looking for. (Some companies already use this sort of screening for customer/tech support questions, requiring you to affirmatively state that none of these answers addresses your question before they will let you submit the support request.)

Additionally, by presenting them with a question that is related to theirs and which has a significant number of upvotes, we are giving them a relevant example of how to ask a good question. That can only help to encourage them to write a better question. We just have to make sure the flow encourages people to edit their question after reading the other one.

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