We probably all agree that when a new user gets into trouble - seeing their question downvoted or closed - it's great if someone experienced leaves a verbose comment explaining what went wrong, especially when the person in trouble is acting in good faith, trying to be a good citizen but not yet quite grokking SO's culture.

It can't be expected that every person in need be helped that way. It's impossible to provide custom-tailored help for everyone at 7k+ questions a day. Still, it's nice when it happens.

How about designing a review queue specifically to point at cases like these? Obviously as a pointer for experienced users who don't mind providing helpful comments.

The queue would try to find questions from users that may need such help. Possible specific criteria include: Questions....

  • ... that are the first, second or third question from a new user

  • ... that are getting downvotes (net -1 or lower )

    • ... and/or closevotes (2 or more)

    • ... and have no upvoted comments (a polite, verbose comment usually gets upvotes)

  • ... or have had comments with at least one offensive flag (pointing to a possible "user is getting flamed" scenario where a calm voice may make sense)

  • that have no spam flags (spam just needs to be destroyed)

An additional metric that might be possible to use is the maximum length of comments present in the question. Helpful comments usually tend to be a bit longer - although I have no idea how reliable this would be statistically.

Would this make sense in general?

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    Certainly would be a welcome change from the occasional sarcastic and belittling comments that can occur. But, would people actually use it enough to make it worthwhile?
    – user222137
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:05
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    It would be amusing to see how many of those users take offense to these polite, verbose comments. Not to discourage them, but just to see how some users simply can't be helped no matter what you do. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:14
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    I think it's important to ask how would this be audited? (Here's an example upvoted comment...)
    – hayd
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:19
  • On "no upvoted comments (a polite, verbose comment usually gets upvotes)": Often the sarcastic comments get at least some upvotes Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:33
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    I think this is a decent idea, but I emphasize the that this should be something for experienced users. I don't think we want new users reviewing these.
    – hammar
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:37
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    @hammar: All our review queues are meant for experienced users and, well, people who can actually review. Yet we have some of the least qualified ones doing it just for the badges anyway. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:41
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn: That's what I'm concerned about: Badge hunters jumping on new users and just making things worse. This can easily end up drawing a lot of negative attention to these posts as well.
    – hammar
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:42
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    What you've described is what I've always thought the first post queue should be. The guidance for the FP queue reads Be sure to leave a comment if you can help the user out. People just don't do that; related The "First Posts" review queue is ineffective and toothless
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:43
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    Sounds like this could be an evolution of the "most down-voted" / "most commented" 10K tools.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:00
  • The robo-reviewer plague has shown that rep is a terrible measure for reviewing ability. Instead of giving people access after a certain rep threshold, maybe we could instead make this queue invitation-only. You'd get an invite from a mod or CM if you've succesfully helped a few new users recently. Problem is, that doesn't scale very well. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 12:41

3 Answers 3


I would prefer that users get sent a system-generated message. It doesn't have to say much, just that they're not in a forum, and that yes, they really do need to read the instructional pages they are given.

Since they have already seen the polite instructional pages once, we can be more pointed with this message, and offer "save your ass" tips. It will also keep it out of the community's hands; they need to stay focused on answering and closing questions anyway.

  • Or maybe even let the downvoter choose to (anonymously) leave one of a few pre-canned responses as a comment. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:55
  • I believe that that sort of situation, especially when the user has already received a few angry/unhelpful comments, would better be addressed by a human than by some automated system...
    – assylias
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 21:48

I think this kind of queue would be helpful in a couple ways:

First off it would help to get "new users in trouble" the guidance they often times need.

Secondly and possibly more importantly, it would help to shape the culture of SO for the better. Hopefully, when people see that these kind of "troubled posts" are going through a review with the expressed purpose of adding helpful comments (rather than sarcastic and belittling jabs) it would encourage people to be nice and add helpful comments to begin with.

Believe me, I know it gets old seeing the same duplicate question a thousand times or seeing the never ending onslaught of "send meh te codez", but does leaving disemboweling criticism help anything or is it just ego stroking? (Woo Hoo! I'm better than an anonymous noob)

Along with encouraging helpful comments shouldn't we also be responding to some of the unnecessarily harsh comments? Adding something like:

@elitist Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

Perhaps this queue could be used along with https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/141343/a-swat-team-of-nice to clean up the site a bit.

  • 3
    I could also see this going in the other direction. I've noticed an unfortunate trend where certain users seem to actively seek out those asking poor questions in order to attempt to insult and otherwise drive these people away from the site. We see some of this hostility here on Meta, where genuine support questions by new users are often downvoted and jumped on by certain users. I worry that a queue of posts by new users like this will potentially allow for more targeted efforts by people to drive away new users. People could be using this queue for the opposite of its intended purpose. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 15:49
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    @BradLarson In that case wouldn't it be up to the community to flag these problem users in the same way we flag other negative behaviors? It would be like a honey pot trap for trolls, It would make them easy to identify and deal with.
    – apaul
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 15:56
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    The rudeness seen here isn't at the level of trolling or even strong enough to message people about. It's the kind of attitude that led to whathaveyoutried.com and "What Stack Overflow is not" links being abused and ultimately banned. More a subtle intolerance towards new users who don't completely grasp the site on day one. Frustration with the volume of incoming low-quality posts is turning into hostility. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:11
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    @BradLarson I think I see your point, but the more people see the higher rep "seasoned veterans" being polite with new users and admonishing others for being harsh, the more the attitude will shift.
    – apaul
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:29

How about defining "in trouble" not by first/second/third post but by heading for a post ban?

Show all posts, whether deleted or not, by folks who are close to a ban. This could be a queue for 10K with something edit-related as far as badges. The wording across the top could encourage editing and helpful commenting. Maybe even don't have a flag link or voting links - we can always follow the question link back to the original if we had to flag or vote.

Some commenting, editing, and possibly even undeleting could steer these folks right sooner rather than later. And if all you want to do is pile on and drive them away, this wouldn't be the queue for you.

  • 1
    I'm not sure individual hand holding for these people is what's needed. A generic system message which says "You are close to being banned, read the How to Ask, FAQ and formatting help pages before asking new questions, and please fix your existing posts" will be sufficient.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:24
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    I'm a huge fan of editing, but... Editing deleted posts on Stack Overflow is somewhat akin to dumpster-diving for dinner while there's a garden full of food waiting to be harvested right next to it. We do need some sort of deletion review, but by and large these are the posts I would exclude from it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:27
  • I would mostly edit things that hadn't been deleted yet ... to try to prevent it. Or comment telling them what they need to edit in. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 16:29

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