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Background to This Request

This is a generalization of one of my MSO posts.

I recently answered a question for a new user, who then replied to my answer with another "answer" instead of using the comments. I was a bit surprised by this because he/she has the "Informed" badge, indicating that he/she has at least skimmed the Tour. The poster responded politely to my suggestion that the non-answer be deleted, so I get the impression that he/she is legitimately trying to learn and follow the rules.

I decided to look over the Stack Overflow Tour (it's been a while since I looked at it) and see if there was anything unclear about what the Answers section is for, and noticed that there isn't a section in the tour that describes how to answer questions or use the Answers box.

I like the Stack Exchange tours overall. I've only taken them at a few sites, but they seem to cover almost all relevant aspects of each site: the overall nature of the site, asking good questions, how reputation works, comments, edits, tags, and badges. But how to answer questions and the proper use of the Answer box seems conspicuously absent. Since answers are half of the value of the network, I think it would be worth adding a small section about them.

Request

I propose that a section with the heading similar to the following be added to the tour after the "Get answers to practical, detailed questions" section:

Or help provide useful answers to other users' questions

This block would be modelled after the "...practical, detailed questions" section, with green checkmarks by each item in a list of "Good Answer Guidelines" such as:

  • Make sure you've read the question thoroughly and are addressing it specifically
  • Be concise
  • Partial answers are acceptable, but make sure you describe limitations of your answer
  • Write to the best of your ability - grammar, punctuation and spelling count
  • Provide context to your links and summarize important linked content
  • See How Do I Write a Good Answer? for more information.

Red X's would appear by items in a list of things to "Avoid in Your Answers":

  • Link-only answers - include a summary of important content
  • Comments - use the comment boxes instead (once you have earned the required Reputation)
  • Follow-up questions - open a new question instead (you can provide a link to the other questions if it helps provide context
  • Unnecessary commentary like "Hope this helps", "good luck", etc.
  • Anything else that isn't part of an answer to the question

Notes:

  1. I've used StackOverflow links for this example, but they would be replaced by links to the appropriate site's help center.

  2. I know I've mentioned summarizing linked content twice - it's still frequently neglected, so I think it's worth mentioning twice.

Justification

It seems to me that the tours are supposed to be a quick and easy-to-read overview of how each site works. If that's an accurate statement, then I feel the tours are incomplete without guidance on how to properly use the answers section. I think this kind of addition could help new users who take the tour make better use of all sites in the network without requiring them to explicitly visit the help centers to get some introduction to how answers work.

  • 3
    I like this idea - though I think the items in the "don't" (red "X" list) might be better with links that explain why these are a bad thing. – ChrisF Oct 14 '14 at 16:05
  • 2
    @ChrisF I agree wholeheartedly. Having links to more information is an excellent idea. In fact, the same could be done for some of the good answer guidelines as well. Deeper explanations of "be concise" and when partial answers are okay could be helpful. – skrrgwasme Oct 14 '14 at 16:13

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