Here's the first one, on Ask Different.

We've been working hard on ways to help improve the experience of new users, and one of the best ways to do that is to help teach them the basics about how our sites work before they run afoul of them.

This will improve their odds of having a good first experience, speed up how quickly they can become contributing members of community, and head off the frustrations they sometimes have as a result of crashing into one of the many things that make us... different.

So We've just rolled out the first version of our new "quick start" guide. It's designed to help teach new users the absolute minimum they need to know to get started and have a good experience. How we're different from discussion boards, the basics of rep, what you can do right off the bat, why some questions aren't allowed, etc.

We spent a LOT of time on trying to get to the absolute minimum length that will still cover the key things new users need to know to be successful, but if you have feedback, please share it.

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    For those wondering where the list of moderators went: apple.stackexchange.com/users?tab=moderators Yay! We have a tab under users now :) – NullUserException อ_อ Jan 10 '13 at 16:47
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    Question on my mind: Why start on Ask Different and not on SO? – Naftali aka Neal Jan 10 '13 at 16:47
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    What is the rationale behind sliding in the images? I don't see how it improves the user guide besides looking either cool or annoying (depending on the person looking at it). – Mad Scientist Jan 10 '13 at 16:47
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    Yeah the sliding images are definitely over the top for me. – NullUserException อ_อ Jan 10 '13 at 16:48
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    @MadScientist - Brings attention. You may have missed it, but there are arrow animations from text to parts of the images. Actually, good UI for help. – Oded Jan 10 '13 at 16:49
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    @amanaPlanaCAnalPAnaMA, Ask Different was the site we used to test the design, as it included more visual elements (multiple background patterns, etc.) – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 16:49
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    The sample question you chose is a bit strange. Hope you don't choose that type of poll/list/subjective question for SO... Otherwise very nice. – Mat Jan 10 '13 at 16:51
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    Fantastic writing and explanation. Good work team! – Rahul Jan 10 '13 at 16:51
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    Looks great to me (apart from the question choice already highlighted by jeurgen d). That includes the sliding images, actually. – Martijn Pieters Jan 10 '13 at 17:01
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    it's live on Super User too. Not a great question to pick, btw. /cc @Mat – Sathyajith Bhat Jan 10 '13 at 17:21
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    @amanaPlanaCAnalPAnaMA aside from what Jaydles said, if you want to test something, it's better to test it out where there are fewer users (but not so few that nobody notices). Thus Ask Different and Super User instead of Stack Overflow. They generally do this to MSO first, though in this case there aren't that many "new SE users" coming to MSO, so main sites make more sense.. – Manishearth Jan 10 '13 at 17:36
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    Really? Does the marvelous example question have to be a list question? – sbi Jan 10 '13 at 17:54
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    Ask questions, get answers, no distractions. But SO is a distraction! – Rocket Hazmat Jan 10 '13 at 19:09
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    Just a note, I know I've posted a lot of answers here with suggestions/criticisms, but overall I think this is a great idea and it looks awesome! Nice job with it :) – Rachel Jan 10 '13 at 20:40
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    The slide in animations make me want to murder someone – CodesInChaos Jan 15 '13 at 11:33

30 Answers 30


Make this sucker interactive and let the user on the page see how the examples would react when you:

  • Vote up and down (the vote count should change respectively)
  • Click on the favorite (the favorite count should change)
  • Accept an answer
  • Tags on questions should be live links
  • Edit and comment the post at the bottom

This gives the user a lot more of the experience up front in a non-invasive way and will probably help get the user a lot more interested as well as oriented (more than not just surmising as to what will happen) to the site off the bat.

  • That, sir, is a brilliant idea! – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 10 '13 at 17:56
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    Great suggestion - I already tried clicking, and I know how the site works. – RivieraKid Jan 10 '13 at 20:59
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    @RivieraKid It's like you want to play with it without any repercussions, am I right? – casperOne Jan 10 '13 at 21:00
  • Precisely - and as you say, what better way to get people hooked than to show them what they can get if they put in a little effort? – RivieraKid Jan 10 '13 at 21:03
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    I think that'd be confusing. The interactive version of this quick start is to simply start using the actual site. Anything else puts you in a weird "am I on the real site, or some Twilight Zone parody of it" state and seems outside the scope of a quick start guide. – Jeff Atwood Jan 11 '13 at 6:06
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    I disagree @Jeff. The first thing I did when I saw the up/down vote arrows was try to click on them. That may be because you've brainwashed me to click on arrows but if a potential new user comes in and tries the same thing isn't it better that they see something happen? – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 11 '13 at 9:17
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    @benisuǝqbackwards Yikes. That's a lot of info and learning-curve crammed in up front. A new user isn't as "conditioned" as to what to click on... and why. So, to make it a functional part of the first-time user experience, we'd have to add a lot of prompts and explanation to describe everything that can happen in that interface. That's not the purpose of that page, and faking some sort of actual functionality would be confusing. Just-in-time learning is about learning about this stuff when they really need it on the site itself... when it counts — not cramming it all into one page. – Robert Cartaino Jan 11 '13 at 18:19
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    @RobertCartaino You should enable click heatmaps for that page then analyse the data, looking at people not logged into the site, or very new, or don't match the ips of non-new users to see if there are people who are clicking on it. – casperOne Jan 11 '13 at 20:09
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    I understand your concern @Robert. But :-), the buttons appear like they can be clicked (which I like); when you do so nothing happens, which might be a slightly confusing UX. I don't think you need to add anything else to explain what is happening as right at the top is the explanation: "Good answers are voted up and rise to the top.". A new user sees a up arrow, which it looks clickable and an explanation saying that they can "vote up" yet when they do so nothing happens. I understand that it's not the purpose but I think it completes it. P.S. I really like the page! – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 12 '13 at 11:58
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    @benisuǝqbackwards I'm actually all for helpful tool tips or popups to avoid UI confusion, but the crux of this suggestion is to turn this simplified getting-started guide into an interactive simulation that would <quote> "show how the examples would react when you ... vote, favorite, accept, tag, edit posts, etc." You'd be surprise how many people stumble into these things and try and answer example questions ... and become absolutely indignant when the system doesn't, ahem... work. – Robert Cartaino Jan 12 '13 at 18:02
  • @RobertCartaino, but, what ben said, if it's not supposed to be interactive, it shouldn't interact at all (animations on mouseover, etc). Just make it an image (I know, more work, but...) – Benjol Jan 15 '13 at 11:22

Shortcuts and guestures you can't live without

is the example question. I am not a user of "Ask Different" but I think it is not a good example of a question with a definitive answer. It is a chit-chat question in my opinion.

Especially because little later it says

Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced ...
Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based

which is not at all the case for the example question.

Official response: We're going to let moderators choose the question from a list of eligible ones. We also updated the automatic criteria to filter out CW posts.

  • Good copy of a comment :-P – Naftali aka Neal Jan 10 '13 at 16:57
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    Probably correct - we're still considering question selection (considered generic vs. actual, etc.) Final versions will either be obvious examples or better exemplar questions from the site. – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 16:57
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    @Jaydles: well it hurts credibility when you read the "Get answers to practical, detailed questions" section and find out you shouldn't ask questions, "that are primarily opinion-based." – user7116 Jan 10 '13 at 17:05
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    I agree that the example question is a subjective list. Consider using one of these instead: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/47626/…, apple.stackexchange.com/questions/23194/…, apple.stackexchange.com/questions/69467/…. – KatieK Jan 10 '13 at 17:14
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    Perhaps if it doesn't belong on the site it should be closed? If it's closed, the page will choose a new example Q&A (pending caching and all that). – David Fullerton Jan 10 '13 at 17:17
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    It's a CW question; probably CW questions should be excluded from example candidates. – KatieK Jan 10 '13 at 17:23
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    @DavidFullerton there are plenty of questions hanging around sites that are poor examples of Q&A, but aren't actively harming the site. They shouldn't have to be deleted just to avoid getting sucked into this metric. The face we show our newest viewers should not be left to chance or even some kind of metric. Let the communities choose their face. – wax eagle Jan 10 '13 at 19:02
  • Seems like a real problem. Those damn unicorns are eating all the daisies lol. Although maybe something we could do is say what we tried: I tried putting up a fence around my daisy patch, but the unicorns just use their horns to open the gate... – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:33
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    We don't know what you're talking about. (Look again.) – Jaydles Jan 11 '13 at 12:59
  • @Jaydles: much better. – user7116 Jan 11 '13 at 19:01

Please disable all of the links in the example posts.

They can accidentally clicked on and can be quite confusing to a new user.

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    Good point. The buttons also appear active (when you hover) even though they're not. We're looking into it. – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 16:55
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    This... is a sensible suggestion! :O Are you feeling alright today? – Lorem Ipsum Jan 10 '13 at 17:31
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    @AnonE.Mouse I am always feeling alright :-) I just get misunderstood easily. – Naftali aka Neal Jan 10 '13 at 17:32
  • This seems at odds with casperOne's suggestion of making the examples interactive. – David Z Jan 10 '13 at 18:54
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    @DavidZaslavsky I think it should be either-or: Either the examples ARE interactive and fully functional, or they're static displays and NOTHING can be clicked on. (Personally I have no strong feeling on which it should be, but I do feel strongly that it should be consistent :-) – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:28

Since it seems the example question is persistent but generated by some process, the example questions I see so far are pretty bad on both SU and Apple. They're the sort of popular but not actually high-quality content that it's very easy to find but they're not really a good example of the core of the site.

IMO these questions should really probably be selected manually, maybe by Moderators a-la the first section of the FAQ. That way each community could decide "yeah that auto-selection is good enough" or alternately have a vote/just pick a better question as an example. It's the sort of thing that really needs a manual look-over, and it only needs to be done once per site. That's a lot of work if the devs do it, but if it's something the community/moderators can do it's a considerably easier task.

The reason I suggest moderators is there's less room for abuse and there's no need for a special voting/editing/etc mechanism. Moderators can just choose a question to feature, and we can use Meta/Chat to gather the community consensus for what question to pick.

Official response: See https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/163257/146719

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    These can be overridden manually right now, but that's not directly exposed to moderators. We should at least try to get the automatic selection working first (new sites in particular need that), but making this easy to change for moderators would be a good idea IMHO. – Shog9 Jan 10 '13 at 17:36
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    @Shog9 how are they currently picked? Looks like mostly by length of posts, multiple answers, at least one comment? Maybe ignoring posts with too many answers, community wiki posts are posts with downvotes might yield more questions that are good rather than popular? – Ben Brocka Jan 10 '13 at 17:48
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    @Shog9 The one on Stack Overflow absolutely SUCKS, and it's currently deleted (as it should be). – casperOne Jan 10 '13 at 17:48
  • On SU right now it's something about spraying corn syrup on daisies, so I'm guessing they decided to put some generic placeholder or something? Or did somebody mistype superuser.com as gardening.stackexchange.com? – nhinkle Jan 11 '13 at 19:57
  • @nhinkle UX and Cogsci have that too. I think it does that if it can't find a suitable question. – Ben Brocka Jan 11 '13 at 19:59

Is there any way you can work the fact that SE sites are largely community run and maintained into the page?

I don't see any reference to the fact we are a community-run site, largely moderated and run by the users of the site themselves. In fact, a search of the word "community" on the page returns no results at all.

I think that is one of the biggest features that differentiates SE from other Q&A sites or message boards. It's not a place that relies on some overlords moderating content, but is instead run and moderated by the community itself. By actively participating in the site, you can end up having a voice that matters in the governance of the site.

There are plenty of places you could work this in. The Voting, Reputation, and Editing sections are the first that come to mind.

Official response: We're adding a sentence at the very topthat reads: "It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites."

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    Interesting observation. That wasn't deliberate. We'll consider whether we can find a natural place for it in the next pass. – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 20:55
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    Yes, there should be some mention that Stack Exchange is a tyranny. – yannis Jan 10 '13 at 22:32
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    @Jaydles, this is loosely mentioned in the privileges section, when mentioning that 10,000 rep users can "work alongside our elected moderators". BTW, we could change this to "elected community moderators". Rachel makes a great point though, as users can start helping out with very little rep, as long as they understand how the sites work. If you can leave helpful comments and flag, there is a lot you can do as a regular user. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:43

I don't think that the Fanatic badge is one you should be concentrating on. I imagine that generally the gold badges might be slightly scary to newer users.

I like that you've used Famous Question as opposed to Great Question as it appears achievable and the fact that both a question and answer badge have been used but I would change Fanatic to a third bronze or a second silver.

My votes would be for one of the following as they emphasise site functionality that hasn't otherwise been explored in the badges.:

  • Favorite Question
  • Editor
  • Booster

Official response: We now show Editor and Civic Duty instead of Autobiographer and Fanatic

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    Agree on not showing Fanatic, and on not showing two gold badges (the higher the badge level, the fewer there should be: 3/1/1 or 2/2/1). How about a bronze tag badge? And I'd replace Autobiographer (which is kinda pointless) by Editor. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 19:26
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    I agree with Gilles - let's make the badge set representative of the kind of activity we want to encourage (fanatic is great and all, but you can get it by just browsing around as a wallflower and never contributing to the community) – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:26

The example Reputation section could use some minor tweaks

enter image description here

  • "Answer Accepted" is ambiguous and could easily be taken as "I get 15 reputation when I mark a question as answered". (That's actually what I first thought when I saw that, and I'm a regular SE user!) Consider changing it to "answer is accepted"

  • The "+2 Edit Approved" seems out of place, as users should probably know what's going on before they start editing. In addition, at this stage you haven't even touched on the fact content can be edited by anyone. Perhaps change that to "+2 accept an answer"

  • The quote on the left isn't accurate:

    Your reputation score goes up when others vote up your questions, answers and edits.

    Unless something has changed, I don't think you get rep from someone voting up your edit.

Official response: partially. Changed "answer accepted" to "answer is accepted", but left in the edit stuff.

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    If you take "vote up" the same as "blindly approve" – random Jan 10 '13 at 21:20
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    Technically edit approvals and rejections are votes, the system treats them as such, and you get 2 rep when high rep users "upvote" (approve) your edits. Edit "votes" even show up in a user's vote history - the mod only feature that shows voting patterns. In any case, I think that line is good enough and any attempt to differentiate edits from regular voting would only end up in adding more jargon in the page and I'm not so sure that would be a good thing, given the intent of the page. – yannis Jan 10 '13 at 22:12
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    I's very good to mention the rep gain for edits here. Edits from casual visitors who aren't interested in writing answers and don't have questions to ask, but want to correct a mistake in an answer they've just tried out, are to be encouraged. By mentioning that there is some reputation to be gained (however small), this page is saying that this is a valuable contribution. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 22:16
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    John Doe sure has a lot of badges for so little rep. – LarsTech Jan 11 '13 at 18:12

Overall I think this is great, really well done, kudos all around.

One caveat though, the call to action at the end is

Getting started is easy: just ask or answer a question, and start building your reputation today!

Which is ... not really what you want new users to be doing.

Ideally they should spend some time browsing the site, reading the list of questions and the sorts of answers that do well.

I realize that "hey, go browse around a while, then think about what questions or answers you can contribute which might fit well here" is not as strong a call to action as "Go ask right now!" or "Go answer right now!" -- but it's much more likely to result in a user who doesn't get a question closed or downvoted, or an answer ignored or downvoted.

(Immediately jumping from "hey cool site let me view the quick start" to asking a question is particularly inadvisable. If nothing else, reverse the order and suggest they try their hand at answering first to get a feel for what questions and answers work well.)

Official response: We tweaked the wording to:

Interested? Take a look at some new questions and see if there's one you can answer, or ask your own!

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    I don't disagree that jumping in usually results badly. It all depends on why people are on the about page in the first place. If they have a question, then they should be encouraged to ask it (and perhaps we can find a way of getting that message across without dumping them into a huge meta post, or worse, meta posts). If they're here because they've already found the answer to their question, then I'm not sure what we should be encouraging them to do. Also, telling them to browser SO is probably not a good idea, telling them to browse most of the 2.0 sites probably is. – casperOne Jan 11 '13 at 20:14
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    First off, thanks. As to the call to action, we don't want to make it too "now go do nothing", but your point's a good one. We're going to tweak it to reframe what you should do next to better ease new users in. – Jaydles Jan 11 '13 at 21:38
  • FWIW, I don't think that the revised phrasing calls out the search functionality and how useful it can be to just start looking for answers. – user194162 Jan 12 '13 at 14:41

enter image description here

(On Super User)

The "click on any tag" and the arrow next to it make me want to click...but nothing happens.

On the other hand, the badges and all work fine when mouseovered/clicked.

Could we add the mouseover/click actions to the tags? (At least in the section explaining what tags are for)

Official response:


At the bottom is a hint

Getting started is easy: just ask a question, answer a question or, sign up and start building your reputation today.

The Link to answer a question links to Unanswered Questions (ordered by votes). I would say these are hard questions (since no answer exists at the moment). A new user might be frightened off by these questions thinking he/she can't answer any of them.

Why not link to the Newest Questions instead?

Official response: Now links to newest unanswered questions

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    How about a compromise -- Newest Unanswered Questions -- I agree that top-voted unanswered questions tend to be the tougher ones, but dropping someone into a bunch of new questions that may already have some answers on them seems a bit odd to me. – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:42
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    @voretaq7 I like this solution. We'll link to newest unanswered – David Fullerton Jan 11 '13 at 17:00

I'm not sure if pointing out the "edit" link with no explanation about what and when you should edit is a good idea (section "Improve posts by editing or commenting")

You'll likely get users editing an answer to post their own answer, particularly since you highlight "best answers" in the quote next to it

Our goal is to have the best answers to every question, so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them.

I don't really have any good suggestions about what it should say instead, but I was thinking something generic that points out that any community member can edit a post to maintain the quality of the posts (meaning spelling, grammar, and formatting as that's probably all we'll want new users editing), and link to some meta guidelines that go more in depth about when and how to edit.

Official response: Added some extra text about editing

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    Agreed. The getting started guide should say "There are a lot of rules to editing, which will take some time to learn, so the best way to get started is to dive in and focus on making the spelling, grammar, and formatting look outstanding until you learn more about what it means to be an editor." I will say this: The suggested edit system already does help teach new users how to edit, and hopefully by the time they hit 2000 rep, we don't need to hold their hand as much. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:50

The "Get answers to practical, detailed questions" is the second most important section for new users, and should be under "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions" in the document.

Also, the section on badges is extraneous in a bare-minimum how-to-start type of guide. Badges don't affect a user's ability to ask or answer questions, and they highly discoverable if the user is interested.

Official response: See comments.

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    Regarding your second point, badges are one of the most accessible elements of positive reinforcement part of the system. Before you've spent enough enough time to answer a question confidently, or to ask a good, non-dupe one, you can easily get "Autobiographer", etc. Also, a subsequent version of this just might integrate the idea of badge-earning right into the act of reading this... – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 19:51
  • UPDATE: The badges system now includes the awarding of the new "Informed" badge. This was always planned, but was deferred until we deployed the page to all non-meta sites. – Jaydles Jan 17 '13 at 16:12

As I understand it, a lot of new users seem to think that closing a question means the question is flat-out rejected, whereas in reality it's just the first step in the close-edit-reopen cycle. Right now there's a mere half sentence (in small font, too) explaining that closed questions can and should be edited. I think that could stand to be emphasized more, especially considering that new users are more likely to ask questions that will be closed because they don't yet know the standards of the community.

Official response: See comments

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    Perhaps instead of explaining closed questions in detail, explain that we have question standards, and outline what makes a good question? Like the section "Get answers to practical, detailed questions" – Rachel Jan 10 '13 at 19:07
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    “Questions that need improvement may be closed until someone fixes them.” The wording already implies that closing is temporary, but this may benefit from being explicit. “… (after which they can be reopened)”? I don't think that closing should be given more importance, but maybe this whole section could be moved up, just under “Ask questions, get answers, no distraction”. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 19:12
  • @Gilles perhaps, but what I'm suggesting is not just a change in the wording. It's also the fact that the text about closed questions being editable and reopenable is small, in italics, and thus easily skipped over. I'd like to see it more strongly emphasized so that it really sticks with a new user who is reading the page. – David Z Jan 10 '13 at 19:15
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    We're working on some things that will make this clearer in everyday use - a lot of work is going on to review close reasons and language, and one of the big foci is to make a closing include explicit feedback on how to edit to have a good chance of re-opening. We're also making some edits trigger addition to the re-open queue. Until then, we wanted people to understand closing as an idea, and to introduce edits as a way out, but didn't want to put too much in here about the close-re-open process, as it's a bit dense for a brand new user. – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 19:25
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    Hi @Jaydles, as David mentions, the text is small, but "your question is CLOSED, muahahahaha!" is right there in all large font staring you in the face. Check out what I propose in this Meta post: Put the close reason in small font, and highlight how to fix the problem. Right now, we have it backwards; fixing the problem is an afterthought, represented only in the fine print. :) – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:46
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    @jmort253, there are still a lot of moving parts, but the spirit of your proposal is very much a part of where we're headed. – Jaydles Jan 11 '13 at 3:15

Since there are two answers and comments with quite a few upvotes criticising the animations, let me add a counter-point:

The animations are helpful, keep them.

The animations used here are exactly the kind that is useful, rather than gratuitous: they draw attention to the relevant example and visually link it to the explanation text. Well done! This is the kind of animation I’d like to see more often in presentations (rather than the irksome, over the top slide transitions).

| improve this answer | |
  • Absolutely - they are pleasing and kept my attention well. – AndrewC Jan 15 '13 at 0:27


On beta sites (and sites which have had appointed mods like SO/etc), the link to the moderators page has an inaccurate link text:

enter image description here

(example about page on beta)

We're not elected on these sites. So maybe "community moderators" would be a better text for sites with a mix, and "appointed moderators" for betas?

Official response:

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    I think "community moderators" works generally (though as someone who is familiar with Stack Exchange it conjures more the notion of the Community Team than the site's moderators). Maybe this is something that should be made explicit on the moderators page rather than here though? – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:38
  • @voretaq7 - Considering many sites stay in beta for years, this might be important to distinguish. When SE wrote the Theory of Moderation, only a few sites had gone through the Area 51 process, and they graduated fairly quickly. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:56
  • Good idea, we'll make this change – David Fullerton Jan 11 '13 at 16:58

Very nice and essential step, huge kudos!

Found couple of minor issues with the very last part of the guide.

First, it says:

Like this site? Stack Exchange is a network of 107 Q&A sites just like it. Check out the full list of sites.

Counting the sites that appear in the linked list, there are 96 sites and in the Stack Exchange home page it says "94 Q&A sites". So the 107 is wrong.

Update: Fixed now. Cheers!

Second issue is that the whole area below the last paragraph is a link to Stack Exchange home page while only the logo should be clickable, at least from my point of view as ordinary visitor.

  • Did you really count, or use jQuery and the Javascript console in your browser? =) – casperOne Jan 11 '13 at 20:10
  • @casper even more lazy than that... i.stack.imgur.com/06a1k.png – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Jan 11 '13 at 21:34
  • Maybe there are 11 private betas? – Troyen Jan 11 '13 at 21:48
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    @Troyen private Beta is a short phase, 11 is huge number but anyhow according to the list here I believe there isn't even one site in such phase. (Area51 and the whole idea of new sites is going to be changed, so guess that's the reason for the delay) – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Jan 11 '13 at 21:54

Perhaps add a small section that links to Meta for further help/support about the site?

I still recall my first interaction with meta was clicking the link at the top of the page to see where it went, and judging the entire meta site and its purpose based on the top few questions on the main page.

A link to meta explaining that its purpose is to discuss the site itself, and that's where you should go if you have further questions about the site would be great.

Official response: See comments

  • 2
    We considered this, and are still not totally ruling it out, but the truth is that for most new users, going to Meta may be more daunting than not knowing it exists. We looked at linking to the faq too, but our current take is that the best learning curve is to read the new "Quick Start", then try the things in it, THEN move on to the FAQ or Meta. But we'll keep an open mind - we were on the fence on this one. – Jaydles Jan 10 '13 at 17:52
  • @Jaydles I was under the impression that this would replace the FAQ. If not then I think a link to the FAQ for more information would definitely be needed as well. Personally I don't associate "Frequently Asked Questions" with "Manual on how the site works", and I'm sure I'm not the only one :) – Rachel Jan 10 '13 at 17:56
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    @Jaydles and Rachel: I think you are forgetting there's a 5 rep requirement to participate in per site Metas, brand new users (who the page is primarily for) have little use for Meta. – yannis Jan 10 '13 at 22:27
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    @Rachel I think this is intended to replace /about -- I also agree that a link to /faq (somewhere) or blending the two so no content is lost is definitely a good idea. – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:40
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    @Rachel, I was 3 weeks into having my SO account when I hit meta, and the first thing I saw was a few questions massively downvoted to like -20 or something. It might even be a good idea to make it clear what voting means on the metas, because looking back on it, that was pretty scary. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:52

As you earn reputation, you'll unlock new privileges like the ability to vote, comment, and even edit other people's posts.

This seems to imply that you need reputation to suggest edits, which isn't true.

| improve this answer | |
  • I would drop edit from this list since it's already covered in ** Improve posts by editing or commenting** – bmike Jan 12 '13 at 0:38
  • correct wording would be like "even freely (arbitrarily? voluntarily?) edit other people's posts" – gnat Jan 12 '13 at 10:51
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    Just came to point this out... It's directly contradicted later with "Our goal is to have the best answers to every question, so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them.". I would suggest changing the editing to another privilege maybe "As you earn reputation, you'll unlock new privileges like the ability to vote, comment, and even help moderate the site." as it seems fairly impressive and emphasises the community aspect again. I tried to find another privilege that might be understandable to a new user but I don't think that there's a better one really. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 12 '13 at 12:13


I think it would be great if the section talking about what tags are for, mentioned that because we have tags to categorize questions, the categories do not belong in the title.

A nice animation would be to show the removal of a "C# - " from the title and placing it in the tags.

| improve this answer | |

What is the main goal of Stack Overflow and the biggest problem we are facing here?

We want Stack Overflow not just being a help forum but being useful to future visitors!

Maybe that statement could be in any form part of the Quick Start Guide.

People should always keep in mind to ask in a way that makes the question useful to others starting from a meaningful and searchable title, to self-containing content, proper code sample, ...

| improve this answer | |

The animation in the first example (the list of questions) which emulates an answer being accepted is very confusing and disorientating; I had no idea what'd changed the first time round and had to reload the page to see what I was missing (as it turned out, not a lot).

The rest of the animations are a nice (albeit useless) effect though.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    I'm hesitant to call them useless. They help draw your eye to what's important. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:53

Please don't trigger the animation on scroll into view

Its very confusing, particularily if you scroll through the page quickly, as it draws the users attention constantly to the right side and the left side containing the actual information you should be reading gets forgotten.

Perhaps instead trigger the animation on mouse hover or on scroll stop instead to draw their attention whatever it is you're highlighting

In addition, it would be nice if you could make the animation repeat without reloading the page, so if you missed what was being pointed out the first time the animation ran, you can trigger the animation to run again.

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    I found the first animation confusing, but by the time I was at the 3rd and later section, I was used to it. – KatieK Jan 10 '13 at 17:18
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    <Shrug> I liked it! My attention would have been much lower without the scroll-into-view animation. – Nicole Jan 10 '13 at 17:26
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    @KatieK This page is designed for first-time users though, so we don't want someone to wait until they've worked their way through to the 3rd section or so to "get" it. If the initial impression is some confusing page, users will leave right away :) – Rachel Jan 10 '13 at 17:49
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    I liked slidy. It made me read stuff! – Manishearth Jan 10 '13 at 17:49
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    THAT. The animations really confused me. They made me think I was supposed to gather some information about it — but after a few reloads it's clear that they are purely gratuitous. They also trigger at weird times, depending on your page height: it seems that I must scroll down to a section plus a bit of white space for the animation to trigger. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 18:56
  • Ah, no, there is some information in the animations after all! The second answer becomes accepted and scrolls to the top. That is useful information. But the way it's done is easy to miss, both because of the silly right-to-left scrolling, and because you have to have a very precise window size to see it — with my default window size, the answer became accepted when I could only see the bottom 10% of the picture (so I saw something happening but couldn't tell why). With a maximized window, the acceptance happens as soon as I press PgDn and is confusingly mixed with the right-to-left scrolling. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 19:02
  • Maybe the animations should just repeat in an endless loop. – jmort253 Jan 11 '13 at 2:57

Not a major problem maybe (and maybe intentional?), but in the You earn reputation when people vote on your posts section you forgot the +2 given to the OP when an answer is accepted:

enter image description here

Great page though! I already love it! :) Great job!

| improve this answer | |
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    I think that's too much information at this point. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 18:48
  • @Gilles How is that too much information? It's not like adding a whole new paragraph and it deserves as much attention as the other points. – Alenanno Jan 10 '13 at 18:53
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    Most reputation comes from votes. Accepted answers are also worth mentioning because it's a big amount (and it's still fairly common, like bounties), and it's also something to strive for (not just give a good answer, but give the best answer). The approved edit bonus is small, but it's good to mention it because it draws attention to editing (yes, you will be rewarded for improving someone else's post, so go and do it). The bonus for accepting an answer is small for something that is largely procedural. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '13 at 19:08
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    @Gilles Sorry but I think you're just trying to prove a point that doesn't exist. Accepting answers is as important as suggesting edits and voting. You can't discount it just because you disagree with my answer. – Alenanno Jan 10 '13 at 19:35
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    As a side note, the actions listed in this example are all things other people do that give you reputation. Accepting an answer is conceptually different in that sense as well. It'd probably also be difficult to explain how it's different from "+15 answer accepted" in the limited space we have. – Adam Lear Jan 10 '13 at 22:29
  • @AnnaLear That's a good point. :) – Alenanno Jan 10 '13 at 22:32
  • I don't think we need to strive to be comprehensive either - When someone discovers their rep went up by 2 points for accepting an answer it can be a pleasant surprise. – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 22:33
  • @voretaq7 That almost sounds like a positive "troll" thing. :D – Alenanno Jan 10 '13 at 22:40
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    @Alenanno actually one thing we discovered in The Great Server Fault FAQ Rewrite is that as specificity increases, so does the number of rules-lawyering trolls :-) – voretaq7 Jan 10 '13 at 23:43

Could something be added near the top mentioning that each site has a specific scope or focus that defines what kinds of questions are allowed, and linking to the exact site scope in the FAQ?

I was looking at the Programmers page and realized the site scope is very easy to miss for new users.

  • I didn't see any mention of the fact each site has a scope, and that only questions which fall within that site's scope are allowed

  • The actual site definition is listed in the section titled Get answers to practical, detailed questions, which is pretty far down the page. (Also, I don't think is titled appropriately.)

  • The site's scope is displayed in the "image" area along the right side, which for the rest of the page contains example images, not actual paragraphs you should read. It's easy to skip reading the scope thinking its just some examples as well.

  • The area right below the logo can be modified by moderators to include the site's scope, but I consider that to be the "header" area and not "content" area, and would have missed it completely if it wasn't for the fact I was looking for it.

It would be nice if it was pointed out early on that the site has a specific scope that defines what kind of questions are allowed, and that linked to the full site scope in the FAQ.

Or as a quick and easy alternative, just add the scope to the first paragraph in the first section:

Programmers is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.


Programmers is all about getting answers to questions about conceptual software development. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

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    "Programmers is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. With your help, we're building a library of detailed answers to every question about software development." <-- Right under the logo, at the top of the page. – yannis Jan 14 '13 at 16:34
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    @Yannis I saw that, but that line is part of the "header" area, not the "content" area, and is easy to overlook. In addition, it doesn't actually define the site scope, or point to where the site's definition is. – Rachel Jan 14 '13 at 16:36
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    Hm, I disagree that the text that's right under the somewhat big logo is easy to overlook, if we're lucky that will be the one sentence everyone reads, at least before they get their first question closed and decide to read the FAQ. Also, the FAQ is where the site's scope is defined, not the quick intro / about page... – yannis Jan 14 '13 at 16:39
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    Note that moderators can edit that top section (and the bullet lists later on), so if you have suggestions specific to programmers throw them up on meta.progse for discussion. That said, I tend to think /about is the wrong place for detailed coverage of the site's scope - give a high-level overview of what it's about, and leave the minutia to meta or /faq. – Shog9 Jan 14 '13 at 16:43
  • @Shog9 That's fine, but I think the fact each site does have a scope or focus should be pointed out somewhere in the content area of the site, preferably at the top somewhere. – Rachel Jan 14 '13 at 16:44
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    It is literally the first thing on the page after the title and logo. If it isn't clear, it can be changed (for that page, or everywhere else the site topic appears as well). – Shog9 Jan 14 '13 at 16:46
  • @Shog9 Hrrm perhaps it's because because it's center-aligned. I look through so many webpages throughout a day, and typically consider short center-aligned text after a logo to be some slogan/quote/phrase/etc that is just part of the site branding, and tend to ignore it. Honestly the first time I saw the new about page, I thought the entire first section was just some big logo/header area, and was wondering why it was so big. :) – Rachel Jan 14 '13 at 16:55
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    I had the same problem with it when I first saw it. I guess we'll see how it works in practice. – Shog9 Jan 14 '13 at 16:57
  • @Shog9 would it make sense to animate the "top part" the same way as it is done to other parts of the FAQ? that way it would attract attention same way as it is intended to be for the rest of the page – gnat Jan 14 '13 at 17:10
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    I agree, it's the centre-align which makes it "don't bother to read this" – Benjol Jan 17 '13 at 14:36
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    ... and the horizontal line below, which to me mean "start reading here". – Benjol Jan 24 '13 at 5:55

I think there should just be a "Play Animation" button (and "Replay" once played) instead of auto-activating when scrolling down. This could cause some problems for people who:

  • Scroll down all the way and suddenly "Wait, what just happened"
  • Want to re-view an animation
  • Accidentally continue when they didn't mean to
  • Get confused as to when the animations go, and try to see all of them fast enough and scroll fast and miss everything
  • etc.
  • I agree with many of the points you make (wanting to re-view an animation, link to specific sections, etc), however I wouldn't like to have separate pages with an OK/Back button to navigate between them. – Rachel Jan 15 '13 at 13:49
  • Ugh, no, this really shouldn't be broken into separate pages. Yes, the animations suck, and are incomprehensible if you don't have exactly the right window height. The solution to that is not to split the information into micro-pages, but to scrap the animations. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 15 '13 at 13:50
  • @Rachel Ok, that makes sense. Updated post. – Doorknob Jan 15 '13 at 14:02
  • @Gilles I think there could just be a "Play Animation" button. (see updated post) – Doorknob Jan 15 '13 at 14:03

This has already been mentioned in several comments, but let me shout out.

The sliding animations suck. They need to go.

They do not carry any information.

They do not attract attention to anything important.

On the contrary, they divert attention. You see something move, but it's not clear what's changed — so you try waiting, moving around, clicking, but nothing else happens. So you reload the page, try to pay attention, try various rates of scrolling… only to be disappointed: they are just silders.

There is one animation that carries information, and that I think is worth keeping. The other animations make it very hard to notice, let alone figure out! That's the animation where the second answer becomes accepted and floats up. Unfortunately, depending on your window size, it either triggers when you scroll past that section (so your attention is now on the next section, and you may or may not notice something happen near the top of the screen) — or it may happen as soon as that part scrolls into view, so it's mixed up with the slider.

They look completely ridiculous if your page is wider than 1000 pixels: then the images aren't sliding out of the right margin, they're sliding out of nowhere.

The sliding animations look like a developer discovered how to do it and decided to show off their newfound trick regardless of whether it was a good idea or not. Très Geocities. Would you like <blink> with that?

Get rid of the sliding animations — in one go, you can make the page better at conveying information and nicer to look at.

  • 1
    They attract attention the back button. – CodesInChaos Jan 15 '13 at 14:01
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    Agreed, they're annoying. Reminiscent of the animated GIFs from the 90s. – Polynomial Jan 15 '13 at 14:02
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    @Polynomial: Dont' give them any ideas! Next they'll add midi background music and a gif of a guy digging a hole! – Scott Pack Jan 15 '13 at 14:35
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    Ha, your 'one animation that carries information' was totally lost on me, I didn't even notice it and had to go and check after reading your answer.. – Benjol Jan 17 '13 at 14:31

Was there any thought on explaining voting for new users - how they should give feedback for the useful posts and once they get reputation, those votes will help others with reputation and the site with ordering the questions and answers found most to least useful.

Perhaps expanding the section on Improve posts by editing or commenting should be Improve posts by voting, editing or commenting since a new user (perhaps all users?) can and should probably vote and edit more than they comment.


The logo at the top of the about page always seem to load first, then disappear before fading in again (after the DOM is ready and the JavaScript starts executing). This makes the entire sequence a little weird and inelegant - why are you showing me the logo again if I've already seen it?

Since this animation is purely decorative, perhaps a better approach (other than to remove it altogether) would be to use CSS animations (Supported in IE10 as well as the latest stable versions of Firefox and Chrome). Something like this will do:

.about-page .new-about-content-page .site-icon {
    -webkit-animation: logo-fade-in .75s 0s both;
            animation: logo-fade-in .75s 0s both;

@-webkit-keyframes logo-fade-in {
    from { opacity: 0; }
    to   { opacity: 1; }

@keyframes logo-fade-in {
    from { opacity: 0; }
    to   { opacity: 1; }

Relatively simple, falls back gracefully on older browsers. Alternatives using JavaScript would probably also be possible, but then this is a relatively simple animation, and I think a perfectly good use-case for CSS animations.

| improve this answer | |

Change the header from "Get answers to practical, detailed questions" to something more descriptive and informative about that section, such as "How to ask a Good Question"

The first sounds like an advertising slogan to get people to use the site, and is the sort of thing I easily pass by.

The information contained in that section is some of the most valuable for any new user to know, and if someone was going to ask their first question and was looking at this page to find out how to ask a question, they would probably skip over this section entirely with its current heading.

enter image description here

  • 3
    The about page is supposed to serve that purpose, to get people to use the site. Dumping them into "how to ask a good question" comes after they decide that they want to ask the question. – casperOne Jan 10 '13 at 18:21
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    @casperOne That doesn't make sense... if this site was meant to drive users to StackExchange then why does it have all the details about how SE works in it, such as reputation? I had assumed it was a site meant to help new users understand the basics of SE sites so there is a lower chance of them having a bad first experience, not a site meant to bring new users to SE. – Rachel Jan 10 '13 at 18:59
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    The about page as it's designed now is obviously about conversions. The "how to ask a good question" while important, doesn't come into play until a user commits to being on the site. That about page has to be as warm and fuzzy as possible. We can only slam them with "how to ask a good question" after they come in. Pointing out reputation is to get users acquainted with things that are ubiquitous throughout the entire site which people might not understand immediately (even though the semantics of the design are pretty good, simple language never hurts). – casperOne Jan 10 '13 at 19:06

It's pretty, but I don't see much added value. It explores SO features without adding to the content of the FAQ.

To my mind the real problems we face daily are:

  1. New users not reading the FAQ or caring about what SO is supposed to be;

  2. Users misusing SO as a crowdsourced debugging platform, because the concept of "too localised" vs "specific" properties of questions are misrepresented or not optimally explained in the FAQ

    …whereas in actuality they are two distinct scales:

    There is the scale of "specific topic / broad range of topics", and there is the scale of "localised problem / problem that has wide likely interest".. and the two are orthogonal. A user may be having a really specific problem with an error message on line 26, column 1, where a semicolon was written out of place, but this is also far too localised as it's just some personal frak-up, rather than to do with a language itself. Conversely, "how do I open a bank account for my new pet guinea pig called Horatio" is too broad and too localised (and of course OT!)

  3. Users not doing any research prior to writing their question, due to #2:

    It's the primary cause for question spam on SO. If only people still actually thought through problems instead of just loading up SO and using our free time as their first recourse to do achieve anything at all in the programming world.

  4. Users mistagging questions, writing lame titles or not bothering to do any formatting;

  5. Users upvoting rubbish fix-my-code-plz questions (which is wrong).

Does the new guide address these problems?

  1. No, because if users don't take notice of the FAQ, they won't take notice of a quick start guide;
  2. No;
  3. No;
  4. No, because if users don't take notice of the FAQ, they won't take notice of a quick start guide;
  5. No.

So, ultimately, what are we looking to gain here?

By all means go for it, but I don't see firm added value other than the prettiness.

  • 5
    Your main concern seems to be, "why would anyone will read this when they won't read the FAQ?" It's a valid question, but I'd submit, "What makes you think Grandpa will read the Post? There's a 6-Volume history set that covers all time -not just yesterday- right here, and he's never bothered to read that." To be fair, we have some work to do to push new users to the guide, and we're on it, but making it more accessible was a key first step. As to pretty, sure it's fluff, but that's because most people don't think typing on a website should require a lesson, so we're trying to suck them in. – Jaydles Jan 17 '13 at 13:27
  • @Jaydles: Makes sense – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 17 '13 at 17:29

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