First, this a long-term idea and I'm hoping we brainstorm (this isn't all-or-none). And please think about the overall idea, not a single implementation roadblock.

It seems that a lot of problems are because of newbies being newbies (I got this idea from here). They're like babies though and we should have mercy on them.

Would it be good to make a sandbox site (like in Wikipedia), which is totally optional, and where newbies learn how to ask good questions? This will use AI to score users. The website itself will figure it out (HTML5 and JavaScript can do it); we won't waste smart peoples' time. Anyway, when newbies graduate they get 250 or 500 (or reasonable rep) points and a badge on the mainstream SO site.

Possible Learning-Objectives:

  • How to write a good title
  • How format code properly
  • Understanding the close-process
  • Answering questions correctly

I think users should successfully take a quiz at the end too.

Of course this is just an idea, and it's not more long-term, but I hope it makes sense. Maybe it can be put on the back-burner?


Is there a sandbox to post test questions?

Stack Overflow training guide - a video maybe?

How to help hapless newbies become better SO users

The need to introduce beginners to the Stack Exchange Platform

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    I don't see how's that supposed to work. This is very similar to a Feature-Request by Pekka some time ago. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:33
  • @Asylum - Pekka's is talking about filtering really. Here what I'm suggesting is optional, and actually implemented aside from SO. It's motivating newbies to learn SO's rules/etiquette/etc before jumping in. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:36
  • @Asylum - Why do you think it's a bad idea though? Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:50
  • Isn't a lower bound of 1 on reputation effectively offering a sandbox for beginners?
    – Flexo
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:51
  • 1
    "Pekka's is talking about filtering", "This will use AI to score users" - this statement is what worries me about your proposal. Most AI basically is a bunch of filters, just you're detached by a few levels of training from knowing how the filters actually work.
    – Flexo
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:54
  • @awoodland - Granted, but the benefit should outweigh the risk. We won't give graduates 10,000 points so they can delete questions, just enough to function comfortably within SO. Because I recall being annoyed at having my upvote-ability disabled just because I put a bounty on a question. Etc. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:56
  • @awoodland - Since you're much more of an expert than I, how far are we from good AI online? Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 21:15
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    It slightly depends how you define AI to begin with, but "good AI online" sounds really odd - I can play chess against a webserver and get comprehensively beaten by it. You can train something to spot spam, or interesting news stories etc. but they're all very specific (not general purpose "good AI online") and basically for the last two just obfuscated filtering rules. So you'd end up training something to recognize grammatical issues and something else to recognize poor structure and something for spam, and for chatty non-answer but quality filters like those mostly already exist here.
    – Flexo
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 21:22
  • Good information/ points, Thank You Very Much Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 22:14
  • {{Unreferenced}} Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 0:21

4 Answers 4


We don't need a sandbox for the robots to help us improve. In fact, we already have many robots helping our new users all the time:

The following two entries I found in the changelog with an annotation that they require 10k+ reputation on meta to be able to read them. Rarefied air, that's for sure, but I presume they were posted by new users complaining about being blocked by the automated mechanisms -- no need to annoy the individuals publicly:

But automated tools can only go so far to help in the fight against help vampires. Note that I like helping people learn their way around tools, algorithms, datastructures, that are new to them -- the difference is a matter of attitude and no amount of robotic help can improve someone's attitude.

  • Thank You So Much - excellent answer and I see that most of what I was asking is already built-in Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 6:16

I don't think this will work. The only people playing in the "sandbox" will be newbies. Those who could help them graduate from the sandbox won't bother.

  • It's supposed to be automated though! I though I said it above. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:36

Where is a better place to learn then with the community? Baddies will always be baddies, but not all newbies will be baddies. If someone is causing trouble things will get fixed thanks to systems in place. If the person is just inexperienced then the community will be there to help with advice and support letting them know what newbie mistake they are making. If common mistakes are being made then maybe the mistake should be looked at in particular for the FAQ.

  • Well, it's supposed to reduce the burden on everyone else. Who reads FAQs though? Sure maybe 5-10%, but not most Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:43
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    @Adel There is enough places when getting questions closed that refers to the FAQ. Believe me, at some point at least 60% of the site users, specifically regulars, have read the FAQ. It's one reason SO and SE is so successful. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:48
  • @Diago - OK sure, but this would be supplemental and enforces learning rather than just reading it. Most people learn more by doing, rather than seeing Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:59

Either the newbies will learn, and improve their question-asking and answering quality over time, or they won't, in which case, their questions will keep on being closed, their answers deleted, and eventually they will stop contributing their unhelpful posts. We've already got a very well-functioning system that enforces this, we don't need a sandbox to try and help that, when it'll mean more overhead for other users to work on.

Also, consider this: if we can assume that new askers/answerers don't know a good question from a bad question, then they could be up/downvoting incorrectly in the sandbox, and one could possibly make it out of the sandbox without having improved sufficiently to be up to "community standards".

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    We do need to make sure we tell them why we are closing, or what the problem is with their titles. Just closing without comment teaches nothing. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:42
  • @JohnSaunders - Totally agree that We do need to make sure we tell them why we are closing -after all, how will they learn? Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 20:49

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