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When new users ask a question for the first time, they are presented with the following interstitial page, which contains a check box that (more or less) certifies that they have read and understand the information:

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask

There is, however, a newer "How to Ask" page in the help center, with more detailed, up-to-date information. On Stack Overflow, this page is editable by moderators:

https://stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask

Among other things, it gives guidance on how to write meaningful titles, which is a persistent problem on Stack Overflow.

Should the interstitial page (for all sites) be the new, editable one from the Help Center?

  • I think there should be a checkbox that What have you tried was read. – Kermit Feb 13 '14 at 19:22
  • Why don't we leave those kinds of details for another time, or another meta question? This question isn't asking for a critique of the material in either of those pages. For what it's worth, "What have you tried" has never been a requirement for asking a question on Stack Overflow. – Robert Harvey Feb 13 '14 at 19:26
  • Looks like this is "status: completed"? questions/how-to-ask redirects to help/how-to-ask currently. – Josh Caswell Jul 21 '14 at 22:56
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I like both those pages, and I was initially inclined to suggest merging them into one interstitial. There's good stuff on each of them that the other lacks (the search field on the one; "Pretend you're seeing it for the first time: does it make sense?" on the second).

On reflection, though, I think that the length is an important factor. We want this page to be read, and maybe even paid attention to. https://stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask is almost two pages of blah-blah-blah. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask is less than a page, and the stuff under every heading is much more concise.

I think the shorter one is much more likely to be actually taken in by someone whose goal is just to ask a question. The longer page, I fear, would just produce glazed eyes and a where-do-I-click-to-make-this-go-away reflex if it were the interstitial.

My vote is that this not be changed. Linking to the expanded page at the end of the shorter one would make a lot of sense, though.

Curious? Conscientious? Masochistic? More site-specific guidance on all these topics at "how do I ask a good question".

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I tried to evaluate old How to Ask section as a new user with the knowledge of my stackoverflow experiance that spans a few years...

What we have in the old page?

Search, and research: Everybody told me to search before ask. My teacher in the school, my project leader in the company etc. But I am new to here, I do not know much about tag system and I am not avare of that here is moderated by the community and each post can be edited by the users. I think here is just like other forums and boards and that thing tell me to seach I googled it and can not find it and there is no tips about how to search in here, It just told me to search and I do search and can not find (aka the reason of many many duplicate questions.)

Be on-topic: Well now it tell to be on topic. But what is on-topic. There is a link that leads me to a page which is full of links to other pages!? How can I read all that stuff? Ah, found it , it tells me that I can ask about a specific programming problem and I will gonna ask about the error I receive. Yeah, it is specific... Lets go on with the next one...

Be specific: Ok now... It wants me to be specific... I got an error while looping in my list... It asks for details... Ok I will paste the error ... List index out of range. (I may think about pasting my 5 page long code block as a context [and some users do as most of us had witnessed]).

Make it relevant to others: Make it relevant? I have a specific problem, I write my error as the details. Well , if somebody else got List index out of range then he can see my question. But I could not find it in google so it might not be asked before (giving a good title is important and its the reason why I can not find what I am looking for while there are a bunch of similar duplicate questions in here, some with not-so-fitting titles. but I am new and probably I do not know that If I make some effort on search keywords, I will find what I am looknig for).

Keep an open mind: Well after I asked my question and receive comments stating that my question is not clear and I must read the how-to section (damn, I read it) I will get a bit angry or confused. Add those down-vote counter near my question. I probably do not remrmber what this last section had told me Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re just trying to help

Long in short

Old help section is short, but do not offer a good guidance to a new user. What topics can I ask about here? section is theoric and full of links but there is no example. Instead of listing reasons and more reasons, examples of good and bad questions might be better to demosntrate how a good questions should be.

The new help page is better. But an example question might fit good too. Showing that it is generally better to share some code that cause the problem (not the whole program you wrote) with the error stack is useful.

Of course, these are my thoughts on the subject.

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