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tl;dr: find a way to let new visitors participate without cluttering the site with non-answer answers


So, we've long struggled with people new to Stack Exchange answering questions with "me too!" kind of messages. They leave an answer because their reputation score is too low to vote or leave comments, but not too low to leave an answer. Desperate to participate, and not knowing how Stack Exchange works, they leave an answer. And we all know what that leads to.

My idea:

How about a big, bright exclamation point next to the question, similar to the vote buttons, that lights up when clicked? It'll be labeled something like "I have this problem too!", will not require any rep points to use and, when clicked, also increments a counter which is displayed with the question. ("123 other people also have this problem")

After clicking, perhaps the user could also be guided to following the question, either by favoriting it and/or subscribing to its RSS feed. Registering too, if they haven't already.

The flag wouldn't do anything else. No reputation points or badges. It might prompt the more magnanimous among us to answer those questions that have high "me too" counts. ("If I can answer this question, I'll help over ten thousand other people!") Which might not be such a bad idea. Haven't you ever spent time and energy on an answer and felt like you were probably just dropping that work into a black hole?

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Well, I don't know about "exact" duplicate, but the question does contain a nugget which is more or less what I've proposed. –  Al E. Feb 3 '11 at 15:27
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"I have this problem too!" would not be of particular use on, say, philosophy.stackexchange.com .. or many other SE 2.0 sites. There was extensive discussion around allowing phantom anonymous user voting on podcast #8 which I think is what you ought to consider. blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/06/se-podcast-08 –  Jeff Atwood Jun 22 '11 at 8:34
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Anonymous user feedback is pretty much what I was asking for. –  Al E. Aug 10 '12 at 14:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

This is covered in

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-answer

Have the same problem?

Still no answer to the question, and you have the same problem? Help us find a solution by researching the problem, then contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer. That way, even if we can’t figure it out, the next person has more to go on. It’s also possible to gain a bit of reputation with your answers and vote up the question so it gets more attention, or you could set a bounty on the question.

So in summary:

  • edit the question to improve it (possible even as anon)
  • research the hell out of the question and provide a partial answer that moves things forward. Ideally this will get an upvote or three so you are now empowered with rep.
  • as you learn more about the problem, edit your answer to improve it
  • if you earn a mere 15 reputation you can now upvote the question
  • if you earn enough reputation (75) you can start a 50 rep bounty on the question

Additionally there is anonymous user feedback, if they truly have no rep: mark the question helpful.

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Very valid point, but there seems to be no visible link to How to answer, right before you start answering. And if there is, then its poorly highlighted, as I still cant seem to find it (even if I'm logged-out) –  Kalle H. Väravas Sep 14 '11 at 5:19
    
Won't suggested edits like this (assuming new/anon user) be rejected as being too different from the original post (an option available to reviewers)? How should this be circumvented to allow for real improvement by another party? –  Gaffi Aug 10 '12 at 14:50

But, we already have two such mechanisms!

Upvote FTW!

If you see a question someone else asked which you have had also, upvote it!!!

If it's a question you still want answered, mark it as a favorite!!! This will give you an update every time the question is modified.

There's even a badge for asking a question which gets favored by a lot of users. These features exist for a reason ;-)

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Upvotes require 15 reputation. Our drive-by viewers aren't going to have that. –  Al E. Feb 3 '11 at 15:34
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Then they should stick around. 15 rep shouldn't be hard to gather! –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 3 '11 at 15:34
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The behaviors you describe are correct, but I think you're missing the point of the question. It's not about what to do in this situation, but how to modify the behavior of drive-by users. –  Pops Feb 3 '11 at 15:51
    
@Popular that's a separate question in my opinion: "How can we convert drive-by users into long term users?" And I have thoughts on that too, because when I found StackOverflow by googling for questions I was having, after finding it two or three times and seeing the quality of the answers, it was very clear to me that it was a place I needed to join... –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 3 '11 at 15:57
    
+1 for being both correct and obliterating my logic from another question –  Aiden Bell Feb 4 '11 at 4:17

" Anonymous user feedback now in testing " is pretty much all I wanted.

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How does this help here? The user can't really say "I have this problem too and there still is no answer" (would this be "helpful" or "not helpful"?) –  Paŭlo Ebermann Jul 15 '11 at 20:43
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My phraseology isn't important. I was merely wishing for people who couldn't vote or leave comments (that 90% Jeff mentioned) to be able to do something so that they wouldn't litter the site with non-answer answers. –  Al E. Jul 16 '11 at 15:42
    
Hmm, okay. But I (as potential answerer) would be more interested in real feedback, to see which of the old unanswered (or badly answered) questions are worth revisiting. –  Paŭlo Ebermann Jul 16 '11 at 16:01

This button already exists:

enter image description here


On a serious note, how is this any different from the favorites functionality?

Maybe a message suggesting adding as a favorite and/or subscribing to the RSS feed, but I don't see the need for a button that will likely just be ignored anyway.

I think the real issue is that people are accustomed to forums and instant gratification.

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People being "accustomed to forums and instant gratification"; that's a problem. How to handle those people when they visit Stack Exchange sites is our problem. –  Pops Feb 3 '11 at 15:52
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@popular Absolutely. My point being that the suggested solution would not deal with the crux of the problem. When I first joined SO, I read the FAQ, hung out on the site to see its level of activity and then chafed against the 50 rep commenting requirement for several days until I managed to get some upvotes. If people are ignoring the meaning of Add Another Answer, I doubt they'd hover over an exclamation point to see if there's a tooltip associated with it explaining what it does. –  George Marian Feb 3 '11 at 16:05
    
@George, okay, I didn't make the connection there. –  Pops Feb 3 '11 at 16:29
    
Yes, @George, and you're the kind of user SE wants. These other folks (probably aren't). They're coming in, looking to participate, and taking the path of least resistance. My idea was just to offer an even less-resistant path that would have no actual functional bearing on the site. –  Al E. Feb 3 '11 at 19:30
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@AlE It's not necessarily a given that all of these people are coming to participate. many of them are simply bellying-up to the bar and demanding free booze. Personally, I believe that the 50-rep requirement for commenting is a bad idea. I know that comments are supposed to be second class citizens to answers. However, I don't think we gain anything by requiring 50 rep for them. A counter point to that is the fact that some people don't even use the comment feature when it's available on the questions they ask. There's no guarantee that the cruft would move to the comments. –  George Marian Feb 3 '11 at 20:19
    
I don't disagree. Yet, these non-participants are cluttering the site with non-answers. It'd be nice to be able to channel them to something harmless without telling them to go away or beating them about the head and shoulders with a clue bat. –  Al E. Feb 3 '11 at 20:27
    
@AlE Yup. That means we have to hash it out here. I don't expect it to be an easy thing. It will probably require many suggestions and a good bit of discussion. As an example, my idea of a message isn't very workable. It's one thing to detect a short message and look for words like "thanks" and "thank you" in order to suggest that the user leave a comment instead of an answer. It's another to detect more free form text such as the "I have this problem too" type of answer. Maybe the message doesn't have to be fancy like that, but where should it be squeezed-in to be visible yet not add noise? –  George Marian Feb 3 '11 at 20:47
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Is the hand-drawn circle around the "close" button intentionally? –  Andrew Grimm May 9 '11 at 13:44

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