It seems that the more new users ask questions on SO, the more "bad quality" questions are asked as well. While I welcome new users, I think their questions should have a minimum quality standard as well, and this involves:

  • Showing the problem they are facing
  • Explaining what they have tried so far to solve it (research effort)
  • Asking the question

Unfortunately, many questions seem not to meet these criteria. So I thought what can be done to improve the situation, and I came up with a separate "Ask question" page for new users, like this:

Separate "Ask Question" page

Showing research effort should be part of a good question, and this way new users will see that they have to show their research effort. This field maybe could also be made mandatory.

Once the user has gained a certain amount of reputation (e.g. 100), we can assume that he/she knows how to ask and show the normal "Ask question" page again.

What do you think about this? Would this be a good solution?

  • 2
    Yes, and I upvoted. However, I predict that the rest of the reactions here will consist of "how to define a new user". Apr 22, 2013 at 11:58
  • 11
    New users have to go through this page when asking a question already: stackoverflow.com/questions/ask/advice If they didn't read it there, I'm not sure they'll read it here either... Apr 22, 2013 at 11:58
  • @MrLister well their very first question is a sure enough start. And I'd wager the majority of users (not just active users) ask only a single question, so if you get the first one right...
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 22, 2013 at 11:59
  • 2
    @NickCraver Not sure if all users read this, otherwise the questions would be of better quality. Two seperate input fields maybe make them to think about it.
    – Uooo
    Apr 22, 2013 at 12:01
  • @MrLister yeah thanks I added an example definition, but this can be adapted on what is really needed.
    – Uooo
    Apr 22, 2013 at 12:02
  • Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! And certain tags can't be used on this screen either, like [sql] (please specify the RDBMS, sorry language-agnostic guys), [tutorials], or any other tags that give us ulcers. Apr 22, 2013 at 14:43
  • 2
    I'm not opposed to this idea, but how exactly do we define new users? Currently, there are a lot of people who post anonymously, and I think they would be up in arms if we force them to use the new user version.
    – Jeremy T
    Apr 22, 2013 at 15:13
  • @JeremyTunnell A general new user is easily defined as "their first question". As for the anonymous posters ... I know that that's a thing, but if you don't log in you just have to deal with the fact that the system considers you "unknown". That said, couldn't there just be a link at the end of the edit fields to a "normal" input page? Still a slight inconvenience, but the old option remains and real new users get encouraged to write good questions.
    – user98085
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:07
  • @JeremyTunnell I would say keep showing it to them until they have at least 5 total upvotes.
    – user206222
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:15
  • 1
    People don't read text. I learned that in making the tutorial for my iPhone game. What's worse is they won't read text, then they blame you when they don't understand. Like somehow they should understand without having read anything.
    – Almo
    Aug 15, 2014 at 17:09
  • related: Add a “Magic 8-Ball” feature to the Ask a Question page :)
    – gnat
    Aug 21, 2014 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


I would go a step further, and remove even more of the "freedom" that new users have. (New users defined by the milestone privileges where appropriate for the sites)

We have three basic questions that we need answered on GD.SE before we can provide truly useful help to new users.

When a user hasn't addressed one of these questions we have to ask them in the comments. That or allow the answers to then carry their own individual discussions. I imagine that some SE sites have similar troubles. (Other sites may have different questions. This would Ideally - like close reasons - this would be editable by the moderators based on meta consensus)

I propose presenting new users with a just a single text area where they can answer each question individually, and then have the system concatenate the answers to those questions. Yes it is a bit of an inconvenience. Yet, with topics popping up all over the place about being nicer to new users, I think this system would serve everyone a lot better while smoothing the new users transition into upstanding community members.

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How about adding some default text to the question textbox instead.

It's more like a reminder. So new users think twice about how to phrase a question?

Coursera started doing this in their forums and it has considerable (IMHO) improved the way people participate.

For StackExchange questions something in the like of this could work:

I need help to:
What I want to accomplish is:
I already tried this:
but I'm getting this unsuccessful results: 
*(you are free to edit this text accordingly to your needs)*

The text can be obviously deleted so you don't force anything on the user, but expectations are informally risen, most people respond well to this, I know I did.

I hope this answer was helpful :-)

Addendum: Here's an image showing how text is automagically filled in textbox if the new thread is checkmarked as a BUG.

Here is the link to the imgur-hosted image


No. Not all questions need research effort, and it's not always a good idea to format it in two parts in that way.

I also see no need for having different pages for new and old members. That is more than condescending to new users.

New users already go through a short introduction before asking the question and you have a text box to the right of the form saying what questions are relevant. This should be enough. If not we should improve those texts we already show.

  • 1
    Pfff, there are so many differences between pages for new users and more experienced ones, one more difference couldn't hurt. Apr 22, 2013 at 12:00
  • 17
    Which questions do not need to show research effort? Even the "upvote"-arrow has as tooltip: "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear"
    – Uooo
    Apr 22, 2013 at 12:04
  • Some examples I think are fine (some of the most upvoted questions ever): stackoverflow.com/questions/927358/… stackoverflow.com/questions/79923/… stackoverflow.com/questions/8898925/… Apr 22, 2013 at 12:15
  • 8
    @EmilVikström The first two you linked are more than 4 years old, I am not sure if such a question would be tolerated today. The third indeed shows research effort, explaining everything what the user has done so far.
    – Uooo
    Apr 22, 2013 at 12:40
  • w4rumy, does the third one fit the proposed format with separated question and research? Apr 22, 2013 at 13:33
  • 3
    @EmilVikström This isn't about the format. It's about the content. It doesn't have to be separate, it has to be included. Separate input fields with a description of that make it easier to ensure those parts are both indeed included.
    – user98085
    Apr 22, 2013 at 15:57
  • All questions worth answering require research effort. In the best of all scenarios, the answerer brings to bear a lot of effort previously used in learning and applying the subject at hand to the immediate question at hand. But the question then arises whether the asker's first attempt at research should be asking a question somewhere on SE. The consensus in SE is that the answer is NO, and I agree. A question on SE that is without prior effort to solve is usually a badly phrased question. Jul 13, 2013 at 12:38
  • @Uooo And also separate for "Post your answer". :)
    – user267513
    Aug 15, 2014 at 21:27

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