Add a checkbox that must be checked before a question can be submitted. The checkbox could be displayed conditionally based on whether the user has low rep or only a few questions previously asked.

This would force (newer) users to at least think about reading the FAQ. If they actually do it may very well help them write a better question. If they don't then they shouldn't be as surprised if their question is closed or mocked.

The check box wording could be something like:

I have read the FAQ and understand what is and what is not appropriate to ask on SO.

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    It's already there, sort of? – Arjan Sep 15 '12 at 12:32
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    "Yeah yeah, blah blah, click. Now post my %ç€$/"*%!! question and we'll worry about the rest later" – Bart Sep 15 '12 at 12:38
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    Also, please: "I have read the formatting help, and understand that code formatting is for code fragments" ;-) – Arjan Sep 15 '12 at 12:41
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    That makes it sound like a legal thing. Which it isn't – Anish Gupta Sep 15 '12 at 12:48
  • I came across several checkboxes like that but never read the content... Like Bart said, Let's worry about it later ;) – Bhuvan Rikka 웃 Sep 15 '12 at 13:02
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    And another little note: Question closure might be appropriate. Question mocking never is. Though I guess/hope you meant "constructive criticism" instead. – Bart Sep 15 '12 at 13:06
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    Right and the number of people who read the FAQ before checking the box will be about the same as the percentage of people who read a EULA before installing software. – No Grabbing Sep 15 '12 at 13:20
  • Wow, all these people who gripe about folks not reading the FAQ and then they down vote an idea that might make folks realize that there is a FAQ. I'll have to take the anti-noob grandstanding a little less seriously from now on. – Chris Gerken Sep 15 '12 at 16:05

We already award the Analytical badge to people who visited every section of the FAQ. We could require it in order to ask questions... but I think that'd be a bad idea.

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    If all new users were required to have have the Analytical badge before they could ask questions, I can almost guarantee you that the site traffic will drop by at least 80%. – Mysticial Sep 15 '12 at 13:17
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    Sarcasm or not, it sure would improve question quality. – chown Sep 15 '12 at 13:18
  • @Myst I believe the majority of traffic comes from users searching for answers via google, not from question askers. – chown Sep 15 '12 at 13:21
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    @chown I meant like actual posting traffic. If you put such a large barrier to entry, you're effectively barring 90+% of all new users. Even I don't have the Analytical badge. And if I was required to have it before I asked a question, I wouldn't have asked at all. – Mysticial Sep 15 '12 at 13:22
  • @JeffAtwood isn't in favor of any measure that requires a user to read substantial amounts of text before asking a question or otherwise participating, seeing such measures as "barriers to entry." He's not going to like this... – bwDraco Sep 15 '12 at 13:25
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    If the Analytical badge was about reading the FAQ, it would be a good idea. But it isn't: it's about clicking in several places (“expand all” doesn't grant it), not about reading. Also the FAQ is the same on every site, I don't need to re-read it on 80+ sites. And the badge isn't awarded on some browsers. The Analytic badge isn't useful as an indication that the user has done anything useful. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 15 '12 at 13:27
  • I just got the meta analytic badge to test this, it took me about 12 seconds (like I read any of it). However, it then took at least another 10 minutes for it to be awarded. So, even if I agreed with the answer, I don't think it would work at the moment. – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 15 '12 at 14:05
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    @Ben: Don't worry, I have faith you read it all in 12 seconds. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 15 '12 at 14:15
  • But I want my dishonestly gained bronze badge! You can't take that away from me :-). – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 15 '12 at 14:21
  • You might have hit an interesting point there, @Mysticial! "If all new users were required to have have the Analytical badge before they could ask questions, I can almost guarantee you that the site traffic will drop by at least 80%". I wonder what the ratio of low quality questions to high quality questions is, and how many of the high quality questions consist of people who read the faq. If the low quality people never read the faq but the high quality people already do, then the only thing we would lose is the 80% crap. It'd be interesting to see the numbers, if anyone is so inclined!:) – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 15:36
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    @jmort253 "If the low quality people never read the faq but the high quality people already do" - I think that assumption is flawed. I can bet that almost nobody reads the FAQ before they join the site. I sure as hell didn't... (and I still haven't) – Mysticial Sep 15 '12 at 17:25
  • Sure, @Mysticial. I wouldn't advocate making decisions on that assumption alone. However, Stack Exchange can measure who visited the FAQ via analytics, and it would be interesting to see some data on that. If you're in the minority, and most people who post great content do read the FAQ, then maybe it might be worth using that data to make a decision. Just a thought... – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 17:37
  • @jmort253: That's why my original idea is better than this answer. There's enough of a user action required to make some people realize that there is a difference between good and bad questions, but it's not going to keep them from asking questions. Hopefully they'll go back and fix their questions before posting and at worst they're not taken aback, much like I was, by an overwhelmingly negative response. I accept the premise that this answer would drop traffic by 80% so I'll not accept it. – Chris Gerken Sep 15 '12 at 20:35
  • Again, not saying it's a good idea or a bad idea, just wondering what the actual stats look like. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 20:46
  • Maybe you should be allowed to ask 4 (random number) questions without reading the FAQ. (Not totally serious suggestion) – ChrisF Sep 17 '12 at 14:20

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