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I'm seeing a lot of new users on StackOverflow who are replying to me in comments after a question, either without mentioning my @handle, or by using my handle without the at-symbol, or who put a space after the at-symbol. (I tend to review my own activity history every now and again, which is why I notice it).

So, I propose that the commenting help (the 'help' link adjacent to 'Add comment') be open automatically for new users. Once they pass a trivial threshold of reputation (say 250) then it no longer opens automatically (hopefully they will have internalised it by then).

So, is this a problem that others have noticed? If so, what is the best way in which new users can be helped to understand the system during their learning period, when they are most likely to give up with it?

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  • 1
    you can lead a horse to water...
    – Shog9
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:33
  • @Shog9: I think the water is a bit too muddy right now. ;) Mar 20 '13 at 22:36
  • @Shog9 - I appreciate the immediate question is a duplicate, but can we keep this open to discuss whether the current help for new users can be improved upon? I too wonder whether some new users might feel ignored, as per the other question.
    – halfer
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:41
  • If you have specific suggestions (those here are already implemented), post 'em on the other question, @halfer
    – Shog9
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:46
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That already occurs. This is what a low-reputation user sees by default:

From my sock account designed to allow me to experiment with such things.

Perhaps the note about pinging another user should be moved up or the formatting hint be removed. I'd rather see new users be able to notify properly before they start embedding links and using formatting.

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  • Indeed the blurb is there, but I think there's a category of new users who are not opening the help box at all, and thus they don't see any of it.
    – halfer
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:16
  • @halfer: Actually, the box is open by default already; it just doesn't help. I have seen evidence that new users see at least the italic and bold hints, however. Mar 20 '13 at 22:21
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    So, if this is happening already, I would be inclined to agree with your suggestion: move the addressing stuff up to the top. Or perhaps showing a help item at random would statistically have a better effect - maybe four lines of help is swamping some folks :-).
    – halfer
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:33
  • @halfer: I had to test it myself to be sure. The threshold is 100 reputation. But I think the problem stems from too much text that isn't really relevant to a new commenter or from people who get 100 rep before commenting (it's possible!). Mar 20 '13 at 22:34
  • Yes, that's another good point: perhaps the threshold should be higher. I've seen some dreadful help-vampire accounts where substantial rep has been acquired just by asking a lot of questions - these are the sort of users I have in mind.
    – halfer
    Mar 20 '13 at 22:38

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