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I suggest that the "ask a question" title box be added to nearly every page of Stackoverflow. When a user enters the question title, it goes to the normal ask a question page with the expanded list of related questions so it acts as both a search box, and a quick way to get started with a new question.

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Above the fold screen realestate is 'expensive', and I understand this is a rather significant change for SO. It doesn't fix a 'problem' so much as enhances the user experience of the site. The "Ask Question" button is hidden off to the side, and to new users the presentation downplays the role of asking questions, and instead suggests to them that they should answer questions - the "add a new answer" box is on every single question page.

While the 'old timers' may well bristle at the thought of helping newbies create new questions, many of which are truly sub-par, the whole point of the site is to become a universal programming resource. Having more users with more questions, and capturing more of the worldwide programming audience is more important than maintaining the status quo. Keeping the bar high for new users to almost intentionally limit their interaction with the site is counterproductive given StackOverflow's ambitious goals.

Keep in mind that a lot of people are coming from Google, and they are used to the interface paradigm where the search box is everpresent at the top of the page. If they don't get the results they are after, they merely tweak the search box and press enter.

Rather than forcing users to go back to the google search they came from - and possibly to a different website - it would be nice to capture them in Stackoverflow, and give them what they need here. Present a 'search/new question' title box at the top of every page and let them find the better results here while also suggesting that they can fill out more details in the body of the questions and get nearly instant feedback from the userbase with either answers, or links to duplicate questions.

In order to help them understand that they are best served by staying here, we might also include a small type line right below the question box - "New questions typically receive their first response within 5 minutes. Ask now!"

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A reluctant +1.. The idea is ok, but I'm only 90% convinced. Anyways if it will be done I hope the design will be much better than your SS =p –  Andreas Bonini Jan 29 '10 at 16:35
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Reminds me of UserVoice... BTW, anyone else notice that all the old UserVoice links are broken? Wretched site. I hate this suggestion now, purely because it reminded me of UV. –  Shog9 Jan 29 '10 at 16:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted
+550

Making it too easy to ask would be a mistake.

Answering should be easy (and it is -- there's an input form at the bottom of every question), but asking should be less so.

The idea that you should have no barrier to participation on the open internet isn’t just a myth, it’s a dangerous and destructive myth. We believe you need a barrier to keep those people who aren’t serious out. For example, wikipedia intentionally does this. We aren’t talking about a concrete wall lined with razor wire, but a toddler sized barrier to keep the most bored and uninteresting users (or, if you prefer, “the majority of the internet”) away.

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/01/podcast-79/

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"Making it too easy to ask would be a mistake." - Please consider expanding on that statement... –  Adam Davis Jan 29 '10 at 17:04
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@polly I've talked about this at least a half dozen times on the podcast. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 29 '10 at 17:15
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@Pollydavis: too is the predominant word. We've all seen the amount of bad questions being made already. If non-english speaking people can figure the site out, you have to be braindead to not figure it out when knowing english. We want lots of high quality questions. A question quality has nothing to do with its complexity. I'd argue that if you are not smart enough to ask a question, you won't be smart enough to understand the answers. –  perbert Jan 29 '10 at 17:17
    
@jeff - I'll go review the podcasts. Thanks. –  Adam Davis Jan 29 '10 at 17:24
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@Pollyanna We don't want to have hundreds of duplicates of each question; that will just lower the average quality of answers, make the best answer harder to find, and waste the time of people answering questions who could instead be answering something new. By emphasizing search over asking, we indicate that the first step should be to search to see if an answer already exists. I think the current design strikes a pretty good balance here. –  Brian Campbell Jan 29 '10 at 21:05
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Wow - how pompous - "I've talked about this at least a half dozen times on the podcast".. pschaw Meta.. I'm too good for you.. go listen to some unknown, non-referenced podcast you mere mortals. –  staticx Jan 29 '10 at 21:10
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@roboto sorry, I just get a little fatigued with all the repetition of the same things. Latest podcast cited above. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 30 '10 at 0:51

While I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not in favor of lowering the bar any more than it already is. If a new user can't figure out how to ask a question with the current arrangement, they don't qualify.

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-1 I don't agree at all. It doesn't matter how inexperienced or stupid the user is, I believe SO should be for everyone, not only for the smart/experienced. –  Andreas Bonini Jan 29 '10 at 16:34
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@Koper: yes, it does matter how stupid the user is. If you are stupid enough as to not figure out how to ask a question (really a rock could do it), then you shouldn't be programming. –  perbert Jan 29 '10 at 16:36
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@Koper, many truly atrocious questions that are asked on SO you never see, because they are quickly closed and deleted by high-rep users. Lowering the bar would only increase the number and burden of these types of questions. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '10 at 16:39
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Yeah! -1! Stupid people need love too! That's why Y! Answers exists! –  Shog9 Jan 29 '10 at 16:39
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@The Big Cheese: you are making the wrong assumption that only stackoverflow exists. What about superuser? Or stack exchange websites? –  Andreas Bonini Jan 29 '10 at 16:40
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@Robert: well, if you don't want to close/delete them then don't, no one is forcing you. But as long as people do (by their own will) then the problem doesn't exist. Saying that there is a problem, but "people don't see it" makes no sense. –  Andreas Bonini Jan 29 '10 at 16:41
    
@Koper: is it really that hard to click on "Ask Question"? Where would you out the body of the question? –  perbert Jan 29 '10 at 16:42
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@Koper: Finding and deleting bad questions is not a free operation; it costs time and effort. It is akin to spending 20 minutes in the morning deleting spam out of your inbox, and it's the reason we have spam filters (in your inbox and on SO): to raise the bar for spammers. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '10 at 16:46

This reminds me of something, and I don't like it.

alt text

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ooh, bug -- your browser menus and toolbar seems to be in crazy moon language.. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 29 '10 at 17:16
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@Jef: Go and learn a language! And I do not mean a programming one... –  Ladybug Killer Jan 29 '10 at 17:46
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MOON. PEOPLE. –  Adam Davis Jan 29 '10 at 17:51
    
Is it me, or is a page that has two search boxes an automatic fail? I actually had to search the Ask Textbox. –  Michael Stum Jan 30 '10 at 1:12

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