I see probably an average of a half dozen questions a day on meta (fewer on weekends obviously) that the OP clearly meant to ask on the main site.

For users with a low rep here, when they start asking a question, can we provide a more obvious hint than the box to the right of the question that we all see? A popup that they have to dismiss that asks them if they're sure their question is about the network, and not about a coding question they have. The popup would go away potentially after they've had one or two questions with x upvotes or after their rep has exceeded y.

Of course some folks won't read a big sign you smash them over the head with, but I think it will help others.

I think this could potentially reduce some of the noise here, as well as reduce the amount of work the mods have to do, without hurting the rest of us who have been here long enough to know the difference.

I will confess that I don't know what we're showing for new users today - you can't ask a question in an incognito window and I don't have a sock puppet account to test with. I'm assuming there isn't special treatment for new users, or if there is, that it isn't very effective. (Then again, what do I know, maybe 200 off-topic questions never end up getting asked here in the first place, so the problem is a lot smaller than I think.)

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    It won't help. These folks are posting on Meta deliberately, knowing full well that their question is off-topic here. The small number of those that are simply getting lost, well... You can't fix stupid.
    – user102937
    Jul 15, 2012 at 20:10
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    @RobertHarvey how do you know this?
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Jul 15, 2012 at 20:10
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    Because I've seen all of the suspensions that Random is handing out like candy.
    – user102937
    Jul 15, 2012 at 20:11
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    But I think you can fix stupid. It's called education. And a popup preventing a question from being asked in the wrong place (and maybe indicating the consequences of doing so when it is obviously deliberate) is better, and less work for everyone, than dealing with off-topic questions, down-voting the user into oblivion, etc. IMHO. This guy, for example, is just lost.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Jul 15, 2012 at 20:14
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    I sigh a lot too, Robert, but I don't find it very constructive. Why are you so opposed to putting features in place that will help even a small number of people not make asses of themselves in front of the entire site's audience? Is a popup that much work to implement that if it saved one off-topic question a day it wouldn't be worth it? I think you're painting all off-topic questions unfairly. They're not all doing it on purpose.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Jul 15, 2012 at 20:16
  • @AaronBertrand See also this Meta question and its linked questions. I applaud your efforts, but I think I land in the same camp as Robert and many of the others.
    – jonsca
    Jul 15, 2012 at 22:39
  • I wouldn't worry too much about this issue overworking the Mods. I usually see such question closed by five conscientious community members within minutes of it being posted.
    – ale
    Jul 15, 2012 at 23:34

1 Answer 1


I am with Robert on this one and will elaborate a bit more with my personal opinion.

For long time I also wanted to believe most off topic questions here on Meta (aka programming questions belonging to the main site) are innocent mistakes. But time and some quick investigations revealed the less pleasant truth: most of those questions come from users who get question ban on the main site and look for another way to ask their low quality questions. I kept asking "why you posted here" or "how did you get here" and never got a single response. Legitimate user who innocently posted here would have answered.

That said, having the system show huge warning for questions asked by 1 rep members will bring more harm than benefit in my opinion, as those who come for on topic questions will be scared off or post bug report "what is this big warning".

All in all, there are more than enough high rep members and moderators roaming around to keep the place clean - we are in a good position here.

  • If that is really true, shouldn't there a automatic ban on users which never leaved the 1 rep state and are question banned on meta ? If someone had already some points and lose it due to evil (TM) moderation/serial downvoting he would still be allowed ? Jul 15, 2012 at 21:58
  • @ThorstenS no, I'm not for automatic bans like that. There are still cases like users who use shared IP having other user question banned thus affecting them. Jul 15, 2012 at 22:06
  • Uh, no, I do not mean an IP block, the users need to register to ask new questions so their account is blocked. If they create a new one, they are still stuck on 1 point and cannot ask here. Jul 15, 2012 at 22:12
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    @ThorstenS. - We've also had legitimate cases where users were question-banned on the main site because they deleted a bunch of their own questions and didn't realize that would trip the ban. If they hadn't been able to ask a question here, they would never have known how to work themselves out of this ban. Jul 15, 2012 at 22:36
  • @Brad: Ok, the algorithm: If a) a user has a new SO account with 1 OR b) has an account which never leaved 1 point reputation do not allow a meta post. Would that trigger this cases of deleting own questions ? And the block would not be permanent, but released when more than 1 point is reached. Jul 15, 2012 at 22:38
  • @ThorstenS. But what if that user just asked a very poor question on SO which garnered a lot of downvotes and so deleted their questions and tripped the ban? Then the rep might not leave 1, and they still need to know what to do about the ban. (Many people don't read the link they're provided, and need that pointed out to them)
    – simchona
    Jul 16, 2012 at 0:28
  • @sim Frankly speaking, we don't care much about those who don't read the link so neatly provided to them... Jul 16, 2012 at 1:06

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