When a user tries to post a new question on Stack Overflow for the first time, he's redirected to this page.

For a new user who is usually not very patient, it's just a wall of text. He goes over the words quickly, ticks the obvious "thanks, I will keep these tips in mind when asking " checkbox and then he might easily miss the "proceed" link which is both aligned to the right, far far away from the checkbox and has a light gray color.

In such a case the user will scan the page again looking how to get past that obstacle, then to the right of the big search box he'll see this:

Now he thinks "great, let's discuss my question on meta (whatever meta is)" and click the link happily and full with hope. He gets to a site with a very similar design to Stack Overflow. Remember that he's under the impression that's the place to discuss his question.

The "Ask Question" button is 100% the same as the one on Stack Overflow, so our dear user clicks it. Jackpot! There's no irritating wall of text asking him to confirm things he'll never really remember. He posts the question there and quickly forgets the bumpy way he went through... until his question is downvoted and deleted on that mysterious "meta" site he never really meant to reach in the first place.

What can we do? I'm open for suggestions or objections, if you don't think that's the source for many of the programming questions we see here on daily basis.

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    Heh, I'm feeling you're a bit too hopeful there. I'm not sure that's the primary cause, or if it's even a significant one. But improving "Proceed"'s visibility wouldn't do any harm. – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 13:12
  • @Bart maybe it can be analyzed by scanning the raw visit logs, see if there are many hits on Meta with referrer being this page then followed by hitting the meta "Ask Question" page. Any dev with spare time around? ;) – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 13:14
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    Cue Shog9 barging in with a graph of some sort showing how both of us are entirely wrong and stupid for even bringing it up. :p – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 13:15
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    Well, it would be better than staying in the dark, @Bart :-) – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 13:16
  • Doesn't even need analyzing log files, as Google Analytics will (or will not) show it as an important exit page then. – Arjan Dec 1 '13 at 13:35
  • Come to think of it, do we need a Meta link at all on that particular page? – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 14:13
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    @Bart excellent question, feel free to suggest removing it altogether as new answer here. :) – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 14:15
  • @random the issue might be the same, but the entry is different than the one discussed in the duplicate I'd say. That one essentially states "what causes this?", while this one says "this might cause it, how do we adress it?". Does this on really need to be closed? – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 15:13
  • "how do we stop this from happening" is the same as "what are some ideas on helping this from happening" @bar – random Dec 1 '13 at 15:17
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    @random to some extent, yes. But do we really all need to go there and propose our individual ideas on how to update/modify the "how to ask" page, which is the single focus here? – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 15:21
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    @random but we got here simple suggestions that might help to prevent it from happening, maybe it's better to merge those into the other question? – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 15:21
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    meta.stackexchange.com/questions/177485/… @Bart – Shog9 Dec 1 '13 at 17:40
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    Wow, so you answered this even before it was asked ... and people call me weird when I show them my @Shog9 shrine ... – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 17:54
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    If you don't spend all day on Meta you'll see that there aren't that many in the scheme of things – random Dec 1 '13 at 18:48
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    I think the title of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/209586/meta-discussion (10K, very soon) say it all... this poor guy saw "meta-discussion" and decided he'd rather have a discussion rather than ask a question – psubsee2003 Dec 2 '13 at 9:39

One possible improvement I can think of is to make the "proceed" link much more visible on the page, by making it an actual button:

Then a user won't have to scan the page again to find it.


In addition to the somewhat hidden "proceed" button, I think the choice of phrasing in the link to meta is inaccurate.

Rarely is anyone who is reading this page actually going to want to initiate an appropriate discussion for meta, but instead is looking for help about the site, or how to craft a question. So rather than "Discuss on meta", maybe the link should reflect the desire usage?

Some ideas:

  • "Need help asking a question, get support on meta >>"
  • "Get support for this site on meta >>"
  • "Have more questions on writing your question, check out meta >>"

Hopefully someone can find something shorter, but I couldn't think of one that would be on par with the length of "discuss on meta".

  • "discuss about [sitename] on [meta-sitename]" – John Dvorak Dec 1 '13 at 14:16
  • @JanDvorak That's better than the current, but in my suggestions I was trying to avoid the word "discuss" as it is vague to someone unfamiliar with what is on topic on the respective meta sites. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 14:19
  • "read or ask more about how this site works on [meta-sitename]" but it's pretty long. – John Dvorak Dec 1 '13 at 14:36

How about removing the Meta link altogether?

You get to that page when asking your first question. There is a lot of information on how to ask a question, and links to even more information. Do you at that point, as a new user, need to be informed about Meta? I don't see why you'd need to be at that particular moment.

Just have users focus on the thing they have to focus on. And that is asking good questions. Don't distract them with Meta. They will be informed about it if, despite all help provided, their question is poor enough to get closed. That's a much better opportunity to point out the additional community support.

So why not get rid of that link?

  • Coming to this of this, it's the best suggestion so far - and the most simple. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 14:20
  • If the choices are leave it alone or remove it, then I think removing it is appropriate. But I think trying to offer new users help for their question is on-topic for meta, so as long as the link reflects what they will get when the click it, I think it is ok. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 14:21
  • @psubsee2003 but look at the information that is already there and that is already linked to. What would we realistically add to that on Meta for a user's first question? (Heck, I guess we'd end up linking to most of the same material). – Bart Dec 1 '13 at 14:25

I think it's quite clear for everyone, what is discussion...

From what I've seen, a typical pattern is someone asking on SO, being downvoted and closed, asking once again, being blocked, and finding out that he can't ask more on SO, but he can still ask on Meta.

The problem is that users doing so are resistant to reading any FAQs or hints, so adding additional won't help much.

  • That's a problem indeed, but you didn't really come with any advice here. What do you suggest? – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 13:54
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    I disagree with the permise that banned users just ask on meta. That is a myth that I see perpetuated, but I don't see in practice much (anymore?). Yes it does happen, but it is infrequent. Off all of the programming questions I see on meta, a significant majority are first time users with zero activity on SO except an account. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 13:57
  • @psubsee2003 zero activity on SO ... maybe because downvoted and subsequently deleted questions are not be visible on their profiles? – asheeshr Dec 1 '13 at 14:31
  • @AsheeshR normally there is some indication (badges, etc), but frequently it is a brand new account that is only minutes older than the meta account. I'm trying to find an earlier post on meta in which one of the mods (I think it was Bill the Lizard) confirmed my observation, but I'm having trouble finding it. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 16:19
  • @psubsee2003 Hmm. Well, my experience has been mixed. I would say 50-50 for blocked users vs lost users posting on meta. – asheeshr Dec 1 '13 at 16:30
  • @AsheeshR maybe it is time of day - hard to say - I rarely see users that have SO activity. Problem is we need a mod to confirm since the posts get deleted, it is impossible to go back and verify. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 16:35
  • Don't forget the users that were banned and are posting on Meta as new account. Not sure if SO is blocked by IP, or they just want to try another site, instead of learning on their mistakes... @ShaWizDowArd OP asks for explanations, so I bring one – Danubian Sailor Dec 1 '13 at 16:36
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    @ŁukaszL. IP blocks are done rarely, only in the case of spam and are network wide, to the best of my knowledge. – asheeshr Dec 1 '13 at 16:45
  • @AsheeshR Shog9's stats he references above seem to support the 50/50 split. I must not be on the site when they come in as I tend to not see users who have telltale signs of being q-banned. – psubsee2003 Dec 1 '13 at 18:28

I think the main problem is that there's barely any difference between the "Ask a Question" page on SO and MSO. The only big difference the average Joe, who can't be bothered to read small print, notices is the big red "meta" in the logo/header and probably the slightly more grey feel. Now, there are a lot of people, who don't know what meta means.

I think there should be a notice for low reputation users on the "Ask a Question" page, here on meta, clearly notifying the user that this site is for discussing the main site or SE network, reporting bugs, posting feature requests, etc.

  • ...and the placeholders, and the tags. Really, I cannot understand how people would be mistaken, but true: it happens... – Arjan Dec 1 '13 at 14:02
  • There is "Is your question about Stack Overflow or the Stack Exchange engine that powers the Stack Exchange network?" in bold text to the right of the screen, apart of having totally different design for Meta don't think there's much we can do. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Dec 1 '13 at 14:08

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