I am tired of flagging and down-voting these nonsense questions (I mean it). No one seems to read the Help Center or show any effort. Off-topic questions like this one: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/28517610/finding-the-shortest-path-in-a-graph-with-given-max-weight
shows that the Help Center isn't being read or being used that often. New users sometimes just play around, ignoring the rules, due to their lack of knowledge of the rules. The Help Center is mentioned in similar questions all over the SE network. It has helped many and probably many more future users. So my question is, can we enforce that users read carefully the Help Center before asking? I get that newbies do have to go through the intro, but they seem to ignore the advice given.

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    They are already forced to read through such content and to acknowledge having done so. No amount of text is going to produce good content. – Bart Feb 14 '15 at 16:40
  • I guess so but why? – Anthony Pham Feb 14 '15 at 16:41
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    Because people. People have questions they want to ask. Blabla text blabla. Now let me ask it. How many users don't we get on Meta who simply go "You're right, this will produce opinionated content, but ... but, you are the guys are the smart ones who can answer it" ... – Bart Feb 14 '15 at 16:42

Sure, let's get right on that:

Practically-speaking though, the only way we can "force" anyone to learn is to make learning a prerequisite to getting what they want: answers. That's why we're continuing to build out Triage, with questions being triaged now getting fewer... eyeballs. The next steps are just as important:

  • Get poor-quality questions that can't be machine-identified into the system by redirecting Very Low Quality flags
  • Construct specific guidance for askers when their questions have been found wanting... Something that explicitly notes they'll need to do better to attract answers.
  • Build a new editing system that walks editors through the process of fixing up problematic questions - because the best way to teach what needs to be done is to demonstrate it.
  • Start automatically deleting poor questions where this guidance is ignored.

You can help in several ways:

  • Downvote questions that lack research. This is an extremely strong signal to the asker, other readers, and the system itself.
  • Flag egregiously-bad questions as Very Low Quality. This isn't a super-downvote; don't abuse it for every lackluster question - those just clog the review queues. But in truly embarrassing instances, it again provides a strong signal to the system that something is very wrong.
  • Leave feedback for new users. Welcome! Please see: [How to Ask](/help/how-to-ask) You never know; someone might click that link...
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    That last part looks pretty mechanical. You could just as well generate an inbox notification for them right as they submit their first question: "Your question has been posted... Are you sure it matches the site's scope and standards? Please read How to Ask if you haven't yet and edit your question if needed." Of course nobody's got time for FAQs when they are running to ask a question, but after it's been posted, they have time to read something. – user259867 Feb 14 '15 at 18:10
  • @Shog9 are you saying that this is a SE staff meeting? – user273376 Feb 14 '15 at 19:42
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There is no way to force someone to comply with the rules, if they don't wish to.

If you put a timed delay, they will just wait it out.

Add some logic where they have to stop for each paragraphs, they will figure that out and do so.

Or some eye tracking via their webcam to ensure they are actually reading the rules.

And after they do jump through the hoops, they will still ask their off-topic, outside of the rules questions.

Because they are looking for help with their question and don't care about our rules.

Which is why we have downvotes, close votes and delete votes - using these is how we clear out the trash. And perhaps teach some of these people that we have rules and we stick to them.


I'm currently working on what we call a 'help and improvement' queue. Shog alluded to this, it's a place where people who want to help questions that could be great with a bit of help become great.

The focus is on editing, as the body, title, tags and even the edit summary gain focus, additional help is displayed on the side bar to tell folks not how to edit, but what their edit should ultimately accomplish. It's a guided interface that gives less-experienced editors more support, while taking care to not get in the way of experienced editors.

It's not a 'wizard', it's not cumbersome, it's just the sum of everything we as a community have concluded makes a great edit in concentrated form, right where you need it when you need it.

Depending on how that goes, we might be introducing and testing a guided ask interface that very new accounts can optionally use. It'll be suggested if:

  • You try a few times to submit a question, yet the system rejects it and asks you to fix something (length, tags, code ratio, formatting, etc)

  • You have only 1 or 2 questions, and they didn't go over so well

  • You originate from a network that has a history of users that contribute questions that don't go very well.

Note, I said suggested, not forced. Don't think clippy 'it looks like you're trying to write a question' sort of thing. Think of your mouse hitting the title field and the side bar automatically showing you condensed advice on what makes a great title using the same English writing style that newspapers do (6th grade or better English reading comprehension).

People do read if you put it noticeably, conveniently and unobtrusively in front of them while showing it as the path of least resistance. The last part is the key, and that's remarkably hard to get right.

I'm not making any promises, but it's something I am going to develop and at least A/B test. Triage is still there to make sure the worst gets sorted away quickly without much visibility. My hope is, an (optional) guided interface to ask questions for very new users ends up reducing the amount of work the remaining 'diamonds in the rough' need for polishing.

I'll have more on MSE about this as we get closer to pushing the new queue. It's not about forcing people to read, it's about making them actually want to by making them realize that things will go much faster if they do.


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