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TL;DR The updated /faq is now deployed network-wide, and can be experienced as the main /faq on all sites. Answer this question with any proposed updates or changes.

The Stack Exchange network /faq has some problems:

  • it does not contain enough detail in some areas, but has far too much detail in other areas
  • it's too much like a "wall of text"
  • it should probably have a few relevant (generalized) screenshots
  • it is not easy enough to link to specific sections in the /faq

We are experimenting with a /newfaq using an Expand/Collapse technique. That is, you start with a list of 20+ topics on a page, with a table of contents on the right hand sidebar for navigation.

Topic ▶

Short twitter-length message explaining this topic in very broad terms.

Clicking a given topic will expand it into sub-topics, like so:

Topic ▼

Sub-Topic One ▶

Short twitter-length message explaining sub-topic ONE in very broad terms.

Sub-Topic Two ▶

Short twitter-length message explaining sub-topic TWO in very broad terms.

Sub-Topic Three ▶

Short twitter-length message explaining sub-topic THREE in very broad terms.

And then clicking a sub-topic will expand it to final depth:

Topic ▼

Sub-Topic One ▼

Extremely long, insanely obsessively detailed information about sub-topic ONE. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

This way we can present both the TL;DR version and the super-anal obsessively detailed version of the FAQ information together.

The current version is live on all sites now as the /faq link, for example

http://travel.stackexchange.com/faq

Now that we can expand and collapse (to two levels!), I'd also like to fold in the existing community FAQs, so there is one place to look for most of this information rather than two.

We need your help to

  1. Organize and restructure the existing /faq into /newfaq

  2. Fold in any additional relevant and useful community FAQ information.

With an absolute maximum of two levels of nesting deep; beyond that it gets crazy.

If you have provisional suggestions for new /faq content or updates to existing /faq content, I encourage you to answer this question with your proposed changes.

share|improve this question
    
If you're folding faq into the site FAQs, is there any plan to make parts community-editable (similar to /privileges)? –  Michael Mrozek Jun 15 '11 at 4:28
    
eventually, but for now the diamond mods can only edit the top part, as before –  Jeff Atwood Jun 15 '11 at 4:33
    
NO! I hate nesting. –  kinokijuf Dec 13 '11 at 19:49

8 Answers 8

As you know, on Skeptics, we're very adamant about references and answers that do not cite references will get downvoted. Sadly, the only place we can edit in our FAQ is titled "What kind of questions can I ask here?" - we cannot insert any mention of what we expect of our answers.

Since you're already redesigning the FAQ page, is there any way you could add an extra zone for each site to add any site-specific information that does not fit in the current editable zone?

share|improve this answer
1  
you get to edit the most important section of the faq -- the top. As you can see on security.stackexchange.com/faq quite a lot can be placed there. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '11 at 23:59
6  
@JefAtwood: Jeff, I never argued that you cannot add stuff at the top. You can, and some sites do, but it looks tacky. As I pointed out above, the section is titled "What kind of questions can I ask here?" Discussing another topic under that section looks bad. Plus, it has a footer, which prevents us from just creating a new section. Security's FAQ would look much better if you added a second editable area, like I suggested. –  Borror0 Aug 2 '11 at 3:56
    
@Jeff At least moderators should be able to add things in “What kind of questions should I not ask here?” For example SO has custom “where else to ask” text there. –  Gilles Aug 4 '11 at 13:09

First of all, I love the re-design of the FAQ. I'm really hoping it will help new users get a feel for the site before participating. I especially like the screenshots under "How do I ask questions here?"

I only have one proposed change. Could we make the How do I ask questions here item appear directly beneath the Which questions should I not ask? item? The following three sections seem to go together:

Which questions can I ask?

Which questions should I not ask?

How do I ask questions here?

And I'd argue that the third item is more important than Etiquette. My line of reasoning is that I see more poor questions than I do rude/inappropriate content.

share|improve this answer
1  
agreed, I will make this so –  Jeff Atwood Aug 2 '11 at 3:42

On Stack Exchange the biggest problem you get is book-length questions. For example:

In the dark on how to get started -- person needs an entire book

Resources for planning a western United States road trip - person needs an entire book

Etc. This seems to be common behavior from new users.

To help the FAQ address this issue, I propose editing "What kind of questions should I not ask here?" by replacing:

"Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page."

with:

"Don't ask open-ended, survey questions. If you can imagine a whole book that answers your question, you're asking too much."

share|improve this answer
1  
I wouldn't say it is the biggest problem, but I think we can add a sentence to deal with that. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 2 '11 at 3:43

I've seen the issue of cleaning up comment noise come up more and more on SE child metas:

Of course, I just got lazy and these are only just the questions on child metas for launched, non-Trilogy sites.

It would really be helpful to have something in the FAQ mention the purpose of comments and how people should use them. On Programmers.SE, we added this to our editable FAQ:

Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?

Comments are useful for getting clarifications, but extended discussions detract from the question and its answers. If you'd like to discuss anything related to programming with other expert programmers, please use our chat room.

But that doesn't seem to be enough guidance, and there's still a lot of confusion. I proposed the following improvement for Programmers:

Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?

Comments are useful for getting clarifications, but extended discussions detract from the question and its answers.

  • If you'd like to discuss anything related to programming with other expert programmers, please use our chat room.
  • This site is collaborative: if a question or answer can be improved without changing the author's intent, please edit it or suggest an edit.
  • If you like a post, show your appreciation by voting it up.
  • If you disagree with an answer or a question remains unclear, feel free to down-vote it.
  • If you have a better answer to a question, please leave your own answer instead of writing a comment.

But it'd be nice if something like it was added to the global FAQ instead so everyone benefits.

share|improve this answer
2  
strongly related: meta.gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/201/… –  Jeff Atwood Aug 3 '11 at 22:02
    
I'm not sure I like how verbose this list is (and this is coming from, well, me). Nonetheless I'd like to strengthen the line on voting to “If you like a post, show your appreciation by voting it up; do not leave a comment just to say ‘thank you’”. –  Gilles Aug 5 '11 at 22:02

I think the FAQs on every site should lead with a paragraph or so (not nested under any headers) about what the Stack Exchange network is ("a set of Q&A sites"), and state things such as "they're different from forums". I find that a lot of the time on Gaming, a lot of new users who have never used a Stack Exchange site before don't quite understand how the sites work (which is understandable, but it would be nice to cut down on how often it happens). There are a lot of comments as answers, questions as answers, etc.

It feels appropriate since there aren't many sites out there like Stack Exchange.

share|improve this answer
1  
have you tried typing in the answer box as a new user? Go into google chrome incognito mode and try this, I think you might be surprised what you find. (protip: users don't read anything.) –  Jeff Atwood Aug 2 '11 at 3:37
    
Well that's funny (in a not so humorous way). I think an expanded version of that little help box would serve as a great introduction for the FAQ, seeing as the content is FAQ material. –  Kevin Y Aug 2 '11 at 3:52

For consistency sake with the rest of the site, the "link" link should probably have a tooltip with text along the lines of "permalink to this question."

share|improve this answer
    
ah, disregard my original comment, you meant just the tooltip-- adding! –  Jeff Atwood Aug 2 '11 at 4:02

I think there's too many FAQ questions to fold them in easy to the FAQ, or to even link to them. My idea would be to have a special FAQ search box on the FAQ page (which would be as simple as automatically inserting [FAQ] with the terms.

Here's a mockup:

FAQ Search

For the site-specific stuff, I'd just have a paragraph right under the introductory stuff at the top with the site-specific details (emphasized in some way).

share|improve this answer

Please provide a way to expand all sections with a single click. This would be useful both for those rare times when someone actually wants to read the FAQ (gasp!) uninterrupted, and to search in the whole FAQ.

Links to sections in the moderator-editable part are currently broken, e.g. unix.stackexchange.com/faq#cross-posting doesn't position the viewing area on the section header.

share|improve this answer
    
#1 is possible with two clicks, this is by design at the moment.. expand one section then click "expand all". I don't want a noisy "expand all" link (or mouseover) on a zillion page elements.. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 5 '11 at 22:14

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