In an aid to reduce the amount of rubbish that gets posted from brand new users (or long time listeners, first time posters), it could be useful to make them sit a short test (or an "interactive tutorial" might sound better).

This "interactive tutorial" might consist of an initial page presenting a cut-down version of the FAQ, highlighting what makes a good question, and what kind of things they should avoid asking.

The user would then proceed to a number of bad question examples, the user would then be required to select from a list of choices, what is wrong with the example question.

Of course, we wouldn't want to deny membership should anybody "not pass", so instead, whenever a user selects a wrong answer, they are presented with an explanation as to why their selection is wrong, and why the correct answer is a more suitable reason. The user should be forced to read this by using a short 30 second timer (or however long), before they can move on to the next question.

This could be extended to work on a per-action basis. For example, before a user can have privileges for an action (e.g. post question, answer, comment, vote up/down, etc.) they have to sit the "interactive tutorial" related to that action.

This could also be enforce on existing users. I would have no problem sitting a few short tutorials in order to earn my privileges back if it means we improve the content from new users.

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    Your suggestion ensures we never get new users. – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:20
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    OK - we may get users that never post and never return. Much better. – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:22
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    People do read that page. And they also say they read the how to ask. Doesn't mean making them hop through more hoops will help. – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:23
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    I think you're seriously overestimating the patience of users there @musefan. – Bart Sep 20 '13 at 13:24
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    I disagree. They will sign up, see they have to go through a tutorial and leave. And new users are important - just because they are new doesn't mean they are unable to contribute well. – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:25
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    @musefan I don't agree with that at all. Show me the data. You can't simply just include the poor examples in your set of data. What about those who post content that's just fine as a result of that page? You can at most argue it's not perfect. But then again, nothing is going to be perfect. – Bart Sep 20 '13 at 13:27
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    And making them hop through a tutorial will change that how? I mean, except deterring the most tenacious of them? – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:32
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    If it puts off users that don't care, then so what? And if it puts off users that do care about quality? Still not a problem? What if a subject matter expert comes in as a new user - we demand they go through a test? – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:38
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    You seem to be missing my point. Having the tutorial will drive lots of people away. – Oded Sep 20 '13 at 13:43
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    @musefan If I had to take a test like that, I probably would never have joined - but I think I'm generally a good user. – Mansfield Sep 20 '13 at 13:51
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    You're thinking about this from the wrong perspective. We already know stack overflow is great, we'd happily accept a test. On the other hand a new user doesn't know that and will be quickly exasperated with any hindrance, especially if they are an expert in their field. – Richard Tingle Sep 20 '13 at 13:52
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    @RichardTingle Exactly what I was trying to get at. We (existing users) have an emotional investment. New users do not. – Mansfield Sep 20 '13 at 13:56
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    This is an idea with a good intent, but I think there is a lot of potential for users who don't care to turn into users that do care. But they don't really have a chance if they face the test. – gitsitgo Sep 20 '13 at 14:11
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    @gitsitgo: That's probably the best point I have heard so far.. and on that note, I think I need to accept it is what it is – musefan Sep 20 '13 at 14:12
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    As an example of this I was just looking up websites for things to do in the cotswolds. I opened a page and before it had even fully loaded I decided it didn't look professional and closed it; I got this impression in about 250ms. That is how long you have to convince me to stay on a website – Richard Tingle Sep 21 '13 at 12:33

This isn't a bad idea, but making it mandatory simply won't work.

We really don't need yet another barrier for new users, we already make them register (on SO), gain some rep before they can do silly things like post comments or talk in chat, etc. How about we make it optional? Those who care can benefit from it, those who don't will get caught by the automatic question bans soon enough.

Also, much of the functionality needed already exists, in the review queues. The guide could be as simple as showing a small series of review audits to low rep users.

  • Yes, I forget about the rep requirements for most actions. I feel this probably does eliminate the need to test on everything except asking questions. Making the test optional would certainly be a good comprimise, assuming badge incentives would offer. However, it doesn't really solve my concerns about "waste of time" (in my opinion) users, but it seems I might be the only person that is willing to sacrifice total number of users in order to try and eliminate unwanted ones – musefan Sep 20 '13 at 13:52
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    @musefan But even the "unwanted" users can improve. They may be terrible when they first join, but if they learn from their mistakes they can become valuable community members. – Mansfield Sep 20 '13 at 14:15

As pointed out in the comments, new users already have to read the How to Ask article which explains how to ask a good question.

I don't disagree with your thought that the majority of poor questions come from new users, but I see this as the system working just as it's designed. When a user is new, they aren't familiar with the community, and reading articles or jumping through "validation hoops" isn't going to give them the same education on question asking as actually asking a question.

I think that although your proposal is well-meaning, the vast majority of new users do not have enough invested emotionally in the site to actually sit there are go through an extensive and arduous education process just to post a question they could easily post somewhere else.

And to top it off, someone who is determined to ask a bad question will do so no matter how many hoops we make them jump through. The only real motivation for asking a good question is to get a good answer.

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