Please note that I am not referring to explaining what Stack Exchange is. New users are figuring that out pretty well. This question is about using the site's features.
People who are new to this whole system of Stack Exchange sites often require several of the less obvious features to be explained to them.
This isn't a "problem" per se; they ask about something in a comment or on the meta and quickly get a polite answer. Happens on Stack Overflow all the time. But SE users may be less technically-inclined, they don't explore features like we do, and therefore need more help to reach the same level.
Invariably these users ask for a FAQ or a list where all these features are explained. Of course there are hundreds of features, all constantly being improved, so it doesn't make sense to put them in the official FAQ, but pointing this out them just feels like a ham-fisted excuse.
The other option is to point them to the MSO FAQ, but that seems totally inappropriate for an SE site catering to a non-technical audience. Try to imagine yourself in their position, being pointed to a monolithic list of a hundred links on a site run by programmers and other nerds. It's confusing at best.
Even if we hand-wave away the gap in technical level between the MSO community and that of other SE sites, it's still awkward linking to an obviously separate site, and once the SE sites have their own domains and themes, it's going to be bad for branding as well.
So this brings up the question, what can we do about it? Many of these people really do want to learn, we just need to make the information more accessible. Should we:
- Continue linking to MSO indefinitely? (I actively dislike this for the reasons explained above);
- Copy the FAQ content over to the new metas? (how do we keep them up to date?)
- Synchronize the FAQ content with other metas? (sounds complicated, I don't want to be the one to put in a
- Host the FAQ content on a standalone wiki that can be re-branded (themed according to the site that referred you)? [Again, sounds kind of complicated, might be easier or harder than the one above.]
- Use meta.stackexchange.com? (that site seems virtually dead, and most of the content is technobabble)
- Something totally different?
I'm open to ideas, and I realize that this won't be solved overnight. But now that we've started to reach out to more "conventional" audiences, we need to start thinking about things like this. These people need significantly more hand-holding than Stack Overflow users, and in the long term, we're going to need something slightly more seamless and slicker than the bare-bones official FAQ and the MSO "Community FAQ."
I'm not going to drop the D-bomb, but let's put it this way: We're trying to be sort of a highly-specialized Wikipedia, so maybe we should look at what Wikipedia has as a starting point.
Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?