We often see new users make offtopic, low quality posts, with broken English and cries for help. These questions look significantly different from most on SO.

When I worked in publishing, we would frequently receive documents that were incorrectly formatted. This was a major problem and we wasted a lot of time sending emails back and forth.

I made a small JavaScript quiz asking our authors about the formatting directions and the number of emails drastically dropped. I felt this was much nicer than simply rejecting them, additionally providing us a chance to make the directions more clear.

It is slightly unconventional but, would showing new users a quiz where they have to identify good and bad posts help to improve the quality of SO questions?

Edit (3/8/2017)

Recently a Norwegian website got some media attention for implementing this kind of test. enter image description here

  • 1
    I favour multiple choice, personally.
    – Oded
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:00
  • 6
    Would this be a test without consequences? Given how we already show new users several helpful pages when they start, I'm not sure if what you propose would not end up in a "click, click, click, let me ask the damn question already" kind of deal.
    – Bart
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:06
  • 4
    @Bart The idea here is that they cannot "click, click, click" without reading the directions. If they don't read they won't get the test questions right.
    – Mikhail
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:08
  • Could you then outline what such a test would look like? They would need to provide the correct answers then?
    – Bart
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:09
  • 5
    No. This will just create too much hassle for the "good" users. Personally I will stay away from a site requiring me to go through a quiz just so I can post my question there, and so we are going to lose too many good user from arriving and contributing. Jan 20, 2013 at 12:19
  • @ShaWizDowArd is a captcha a quiz?
    – Mikhail
    Jan 20, 2013 at 12:20
  • 5
    The types of questions you describe, while memorable, are in fact still a small minority of the questions that we receive every day. Do you feel that the problem has escalated enough to warrant putting up a wall?
    – user50049
    Jan 20, 2013 at 12:28
  • @Mikhail no, it's totally not related. Captcha is to prevent bots from performing actions that should be made by real people. Jan 20, 2013 at 12:29
  • Related meta.stackexchange.com/questions/158148/…
    – asheeshr
    Jan 20, 2013 at 15:05
  • 2
    @ShaWizDowArd I think we're already losing a bunch of potentially good future users, when their badly formed question voted down to oblivion and closed. And it is not only how easy it is to ask, it's also overall quality of the whole site, and a quiz like this would raise the question quality at the lower end quite a bit, reducing wasted time all around, perhaps even making a dent in the close review queue of SO...
    – hyde
    Mar 13, 2013 at 7:50
  • @hyde no, I don't think so. Those who ask bad questions or are oblivious to formatting will do the quiz and still post their badly asked and/or badly formatted questions. Mar 13, 2013 at 8:02
  • 1
    @ShaWizDowArd I have enough faith in humanity still to think, that it's just a matter of getting the message through. Current way of getting it through is to have them post bad questions, then have others spend time doing overlapping work: editing question, educating in comments, downvoting, closing, reviewing edits and closes... It is a waste, and something to reduce that should be sought. A quiz would be worth a try.
    – hyde
    Mar 13, 2013 at 8:13
  • I agree with 'some kind of test', though as others have said, I'm not sure that formatting is the most important thing to test.
    – Benjol
    Mar 13, 2013 at 8:17

6 Answers 6


My first reaction was downvoting this post since it probably would be alienating new users. I reverted it when I realized we may be alienating them even more by just closing their posts.

Having some sort of guide or test for new users may not be that bad after all. It is a fine balance though. The test must feel helpful to the user, not intrusive.

  • Maybe direct the user to a 'How do I improve my question?'-page when one of their posts has been closed? (not sure if that exists yet) It could contain some tips about checking duplicates or examples of how to format a question (be clear, provide an example, use paragraphs etc..)
    – Deruijter
    Mar 13, 2013 at 9:27

Even solving the "click click click" problem Bart mentioned in his comment, there is another issue.

Not sure how the test/quiz works, but I wouldn't be doing that on formatting. In that case we'd need to propose a common formatting and there are many "currents" for that.

For example some users highlight words like this, while I don't like it since I think it looks ugly and that it's good for code, while for text I use bold or italics. This is just to show that it's going to be problematic.

If the quiz has to be done I'd move the object onto other things, like content for example.

But again, it'd be good if you could explain the mechanism of this quiz and why it works, since for now I'm not strongly in favor/against it (I haven't voted either).

  • 8
    I didn't think there was any controversy in using code formatting to highlight non-code text. Some people do it, yes, but they are doing it wrong.
    – JJJ
    Jan 20, 2013 at 12:52

Yes I believe it is a good idea, as new user usually don't read long pages of FAQ so at run-time while they asking question suggesting them better ways to ask a question is a wonderful idea. It will not only improve quality of posts on SO but also relieve others to edit their question or ban them.


I just came to meta to ask this very question. I'd suggest a multiple choice check-box quiz, which shows a number of questions, and asks user to identify what is wrong with them, and also what is good. Something like, community and moderators identify max 10 most common problems in questions, then create like 3 example questions, exhibiting these problems (not all in one question), and show these to user to review and check correct check-boxes.

The point would be to force new user to go through the mental process of thinking what is a good question, not to actually test the user. Thefore the problems should be pretty obvious and non-subjective/non-controversial. A 100% correctness could be required, with unlimited retries of course.


I disagree. Stack Overflow is not a company. We do not require a specific format to our questions. We are a question and answer site. By forcing users to take a test, you're distracting them from the goal. Low quality posts can be edited and improved or closed. Consistent low quality users clearly don't want to learn anyway, and are banned. Forcing a quiz onto users will drive them away more than improve the quality of the site. (I'm sorry for the massive block of text, my mobile browser decided to be an ass).


I just proposed the option of having new users take a quiz on meta.unix, after which I was pointed to this post.

The new users already get pointed to each site's tour (IIRC), that is how they can earn the 'informed' badge. And initially we should assume that they have read and understood what is going on. Selection for a quiz should therefore not be immediate, but IMO based on some published and measurable criteria:

  • low average reputation per question asked so far
  • downvotes on X percent of questions asked
  • on hold/closed questions in the last Y days that the OP did not try to get reopened
  • low participation (acceptance of answers, votes cast)

(the exact values and combination tbd.)

Based on that new questions could be blocked and passing a quiz made mandatory. The initial threshold for a quick answer would not be raised.

Additionally those criteria could be used to select a user's question for additional (beyond the first post) reviewing in the First Posts queue (clearly marked there as a returning "customer") or a new queue for question by OPs with learning difficulties.

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