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The "Ask a Question" button can be confusing if a person ends up on a person's profile page by clicking an SO badge on a person's blog. To avoid the situation where a person might think that they are asking a question of the person in the profile instead of posting a question to SO (they may not even know about SO), the "Ask a Question" button should not be displayed in the profile. I doubt if there are many legitimate questions arising out of profile views, except possibly here on meta, so removing it wouldn't degrade the user experience from that perspective.

See these questions:

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I had never thought of this! – perbert Jan 17 '10 at 15:33
I hadn't either - but it's blindly obvious when someone points it out. – ChrisF Jan 17 '10 at 18:41
it doesn't matter how many of US thought of it, what matters is how much data there is to support it happening to OTHERS. One example in ~2 years is not nearly enough. – Jeff Atwood Jan 18 '10 at 3:45
You and I have very different opinions of interface design, I think. In the context of a profile, if you know nothing of SO -- and most people don't despite the number of hits per month -- "Ask a Question" naturally associates to the user, rather than the site. Interfaces ought to be simple, easy to use, and obvious. In this context, "Ask a Question" is non-obvious -- you have to already know what it does to use it properly. – tvanfosson Jan 18 '10 at 14:21
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I was going to argue that the static header menu should remain constant throughout the site, but this may actually be a special case that needs consideration.

The user flair is a feature specifically designed to bring people into the site, making the user's profile a primary landing page. In that scenario, the 'Ask Question' button is way out of context. Maybe it should be removed or, even better, replaced with something more inviting like a "Welcome to Stack Overflow" or "Visit Stack Overflow" button.

Technical note: Maybe something like the HTTP referrer can be used to determine if the user is coming in from outside the site... if it's worth the effort.

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As this has only happened once (to my knowledge) in the entire history of SO, I'd like to wait and see how common it is before making a sweeping change based on a single example..

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+1. I don't expect it to be a common problem. Specially since the SO logo is also there in the profile page. – xmm0 Jan 17 '10 at 20:13
Agreed if it is a sweeping change. I don't expect many real-world examples where visitors misinterpret the meaning of the button long enough to follow through with a post. I was thinking in terms of of a quick "let's make Stack Overflow 1/4636th % better today" ... if that. – Robert Cartaino Jan 17 '10 at 22:18
It's a sweeping change? I would have assumed that you simply have a different partial view to render for the profile action that doesn't include the ask a question button. <% Html.RenderPartial( "TopProfileMenu" ); %> – tvanfosson Jan 17 '10 at 23:13

Who knows, maybe this happens all the time? Maybe all those crappy

please send code for how make web app like google maps thank you

were actually directed at one single person?

More seriously, though: Even if it happens—if it's a programming question, so be it. Directed at one, answered by many. Even the question in question here was actually a programming question [deleted now, though].

As long as rockhardawesome's teachers don't start asking Jeff why he missed the PTA meeting through the "Ask a question" button on his profile, there's no problem. And that's going to be a few years.

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It's unlikely that a question directed to a particular person is going to be acceptably phrased for SO -- it will likely assume some significant context that's clearly unavailable within SO. – tvanfosson Jan 17 '10 at 23:44

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