I have been relistening to a few old podcasts and there was and continues to be a lot of discussion about how the site can be made more welcoming to new users, while still getting them to understand the rules that we have to ensure quality Q&A.

Rather than trying to force people to read an FAQ or an About page etc, which lets face it is pretty difficult to make everyone read, perhaps someone could create a StackOverflow new user introduction Video.

I'm not a video production person, but I've seen plenty of pretty simple videos online using animation and clever graphics to get across lots of concepts.

In about 2 minutes you could explain writing a decent question, getting good answers & comments because of it, upvoting and editing and even earning a badge or two. Its not the sort of video I could produce, but since Stackoverflow has access to pretty much all the computing talent on the planet there must be someone in the community that could put this together!

If it was kept short enough and a helpful reminder was shown to new users, perhaps it would reduce the friction with new users a bit.

As requested some example I can find very quickly

Intro to GoogleTV

Intro to GoogleDocs

  • 3
    I think that this would be very effective (what with the youngins these days and their short attention spans), but I can sense the downvotes coming...
    – user159834
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:05
  • Maybe you could give me an upvote as a buffer?
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:06
  • 9
    Do a video, explaining your idea?
    – J. Steen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:09
  • 4
    Some of us old guys just don't understand why listening to someone reading a text is better than reading it yourself, but if it improves the site - why not. (Enough enthusiasm from me? :-)
    – Bo Persson
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:10
  • @WesleyMurch In reality there is about 4 or 5 things we really want people to understand. 1. Its not a discussion site. 2. Please put a bit of effort into writing your question so we have a chance of being able to answer it. 3. If you do this stuff you get cool points and badges. 4. You'll get amazing answers if you put in the effor. 5. We're really not jerks we're just trying to build a better Q&A. -- It must be possible to put thes accross in a bit of animation.
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:12
  • @J.Steen I'm afraid if I did a video no-one would watch it, or if they did they definitely wouldn't want to use the site.
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:13
  • 3
    @BoPersson We could always provide a 78rpm record for the "more mature" users.
    – Bart
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:15
  • @JoshCaswell updated question with some links
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:16
  • 3
    On a recent podcast where the new /about page was discussed, they talked about that. IIRC, they decided they don't like the idea of forcing users to watch the video for duration, and preferred the current interactive/animated format for /about instead. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/01/…
    – bfavaretto
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:17
  • @TobyAllen Guess I was wrong about the downvotes, folks round here seem to get cranky when you bring up anything about making it easier for the noobs. usually the response is something like "If you can't read then GTFO". By the way, did you happen to see the new "About" page? Maybe something like that would be a good idea.
    – user159834
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:29
  • I wonder if there is a way to evaluate how successful/useful the new About page is for new users. Whether or not it truly leads to an increased number of users reading the content and improving their behaviour.
    – Bart
    Feb 26, 2013 at 20:55
  • 2
    @Bart There's a badge for reading the About page - that's one way to see if people are reading it. :)
    – Laura
    Feb 26, 2013 at 21:23
  • @Bart, Laura's right that it's easy to track if folks read it. As to how much it helps... we believe it will, but it's very hard to test, as the people who choose to read it may already be the kind of people more likely to excel here, and it's not easy to A/B test a perpetual education page.
    – Jaydles
    Feb 26, 2013 at 22:07
  • @wesley the new about page is great but I still think its worth considering a video
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 26, 2013 at 22:25
  • 1
    The video you show here, and maybe more like them, are promotional videos, with targeting arguments by the one side - I am not sure if similar videos can help to learn how to start on SO. For me - what is closer to the computer and to the programmers are the interactive learn how to ask, or with other words, a simple but cool wizard step by step helper to ask questions. EG, step 1, what is your problem, step 2 where is your code, step 3 did you google it? step 4, do you get any exceptions, step 5 how can we help --- and all that with some cool graphics, some cool page !
    – Aristos
    Feb 27, 2013 at 1:16

1 Answer 1


First off, doing more to help users learn how to ask good questions in an accessible, engaging format is right in line with our current goals.

As to format, we considered video when we designed the new quickstart (about) page.

You're right that it's increasingly easy to produce short, animated videos using tools such as powtoon. Due in part to that lower bar to entry, they're becoming a little generic-feeling, as more sites use them (and the same character and art sets), plus a lot of them have a similar vibe of:

You know how you really need to do [THING PROSPECTS NEED TO DO]?

But you know how you can't, because of [PROBLEM THAT PREVENTS YOU FROM DOING THAT THING].



Fear not! Try [PRODUCT LOGO!].

Now, we could have made ours different, etc. But our main reason was this:

Video requires a different setting for some people than the one where they would use our sites, and it dictates the time it consumes.

  • Some people can't watch it at work
  • Some can't watch it at home (reading while watching TV is fine, but sound annoys my wife)
  • I do a lot of internet reading on a treadmill while I listen to music; I don't want to plug my headphones into something new
  • You can't skim a video, so it feels like a commitment (yes, a 60-second one, but still)

At the end of the day, we wanted to make it engaging (sort of like a video), but without the potential barriers above.

Don't get me wrong - some messages work much better in a clever video - Dropbox probably couldn't have grown so quickly without it.

But especially for a target audience that needs to like to read and write in decent length online, we felt it wasn't quite the right fit. Additionally, it's a lot more work to edit the videos when things change, and to customize them to each site, and generic language "what's special about this Stack Exchange site..." sounds kind of weak.

Down the line, as we look to expand our "quick start" type guides to things like "how to ask a great question", etc., I think we'll probably stick with light animation in a written-word format, but we're keeping an open mind.

  • 3
    This is a good justification for not using a video instead of the existing "about" page, but not a justification for not doing both. Is the effort involved in doing both the only issue?
    – Servy
    Feb 26, 2013 at 21:34
  • @servy, fair point. Having a video as well would be additive, but as an additional intro to some topic, it's a lot lower-priority than the first one.
    – Jaydles
    Feb 26, 2013 at 21:43
  • I mention this specifically because I read the question as asking for the community to create those additive videos on your behalf, since it's a lower priority for you. Were that to happen (and the result be of sufficient quality) it would nullify the arguments here. It still leaves questions though; would you guys support such a community endeavor and (consider) endorsing the result, or would you be opposed to the community creating such content and putting links in the FAQ posts?
    – Servy
    Feb 26, 2013 at 21:46

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