Quite often there are posts that have some sort of HTML / XML-like markup that is relevant code to the question:

<asp:Label runat="server" id="WebFormsAreSo2005" />

New users will often post it like this:

Don't see the code example? That's because I didn't indent it by 4 spaces so it's hidden. This is a quite frequent problem for new people. Hopefully, someone will recognize the problem and fix it with an edit - but that's hard sometimes. Since in some cases it is completely hidden, it just looks like a question with no code sample. I've gotten in the habit of just click "Edit" on questions that deal with XML / HTML anyway to see if there is any hidden code because of this.

This often leads to "Show us your code", "What have you tried?" etc. comments. With other languages it's fairly easy to notice there is a formatting problem, but with this particular case it just disappears.

Someone might be precognitive and will make the correct edit, and point the OP to the markdown editing help, but that isn't always the case. Yes, we all know you are suppose to select your code and click the Code Sample format button. You can even click the question mark for some great help that illustrates exactly how to fix it, but that just isn't happening for new people. Right out of the gate these new users are probably starting off with a question that has several down votes and a barrage of comments.

Can we improve the code formatting experience for new users somehow?

Alternatively, can we change the way HTML/XML is interpreted such that it is at least visible so it is clear that something needs to be fixed?

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    Honestly, this just comes across as laziness / lack of effort to me most of the time (sorry for being cynical). If they don't notice the big preview area (that's constantly updating below where they type the question) is missing the most important part of their question, I'm not confident that their contribution is going to be worthwhile </rant> Aug 16, 2012 at 16:50
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    @jadarnel27 Perhaps, but I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I've seen 5+ edit histories of the OP trying their damnedest to make the code visible/formatted. I think it's mostly uncertainty, perhaps with the occasional bit of laziness.
    – vcsjones
    Aug 16, 2012 at 16:57
  • Not sure how viable this is. Since you can use (some) HTML in your posts, how will you build a viable system to detect the difference between markup the user wanted to use and markup the user intended to be displayed?
    – ale
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:26
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    @jadarnel27 Agree. BTW, where is your opening <rant> tag? Did you forget to escape it? :)
    – bfavaretto
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:33
  • @TartLevee I would assume that people with little reputation aren't trying to use HTML to format their post. I use HTML so rarely (if at all) to format my posts that I hardly even see a point of having the editor interpret it as HTML. The MD functionality itself provides everything I need.
    – vcsjones
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:36
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    @vcsjones: sup and sub are things that markdown has yet to support. And br tag is sometimes useful. Agree that HTML tags are not used most of the time, though.
    – nhahtdh
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:43
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    I actually find quite frequently that new users us html to format their posts rather than markdown. The amount of times I have to remove <br/> tags is surprising at least.
    – Bart
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:44
  • @nhahtdh and quite honestly I don't think I have ever used them. Even if I did, I would trade that for fixing this problem; and possibly suggest that it could just be an extension to mark-down.
    – vcsjones
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:45
  • @bfavaretto Ha! You caught me. Well played =) Aug 16, 2012 at 17:48
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    I also often "edit" questions to check for missing code blocks. I'm not sure what the actual answer is, though. Perhaps a diff between source/render and a warning if it "seems" like something important went missing? (For an undetermined value of "seems" still.) Aug 16, 2012 at 18:13


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