After seeing Yet Another "how do I configure ssh?" question on Stack Overflow I thought to myself, "how do these people miss the fact that this site is not for this sort of question?".

Then I realized that there is no guidance as to the preferred topics for Stack Overflow on either the main page or on the ask a question page. If someone happens to visit the tour page, they see:

Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

...but that's not a very strong statement, and besides, people will only see it if they go looking for it. Is there any chance we could add some of the text from this page as a preamble to the question form? Maybe just the first paragraph:

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it. We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers…

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to software development

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

It seems that might help reduce the amount of dreck that crops up and gets closed because it's been posted in the wrong place.

  • I don't have a low rep account to look at this, but I thought there was a lot of guidance for low-rep users when asking questions (and by low rep, I mean <10) Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 13:49
  • I don't have a low rep account, either...I guess I can go create one and see what it looks like. I'll do that then.
    – larsks
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 13:58
  • I had one, but it has 15 rep now so I can't see what it looks like before the initial "new user" restrictions are remvoed.. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:01
  • On Stack Overflow (and maybe some other sites?) new users also have to accept the How to Ask, which includes: Our community is defined by a specific set of topics in the help center; please stick to those topics and avoid asking for opinions or open-ended discussion.
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


I agree. I'm kind of surprised that no one noticed this before, given how the large number of off-topic questions. I only knew to read https://stackoverflow.com/help/on-topic because me is smart. No really, I can prove it! One plus two equals... uh... uhhh gets calculator lets see... presses wrong button Four! AHAAHAHAHAHAAHHHAHAHA See?! Haha! I told you I was smart! Muahahahaha— dies from sheer stupidity.

I think that a few excerpts from the Help Center should be shown prominently on the Ask Question page, at least up until a user has somewhere around 50–500 reputation and has asked a question that is not closed and has a positive score. It could look somewhat like this:

enter image description here

  • I thought something like this existed for very new users (<10 rep), but I could be mistaken. And if it doesn't then it should exist. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:07
  • @psubsee2003: we already have this Wall Of Text™ in place, though I'm not aware of anything else. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:21
  • 3
    Your screenshot is missing something. In the title input box there's a text: What's your programming question? Be specific. That doesn't prevent people from asking about candies, credit card, car engines... :/
    – brasofilo
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:30

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