The background

Being a member of many SE sites, the first place I go is the Tour. E.g. I recently joined Lifehacks, so I read the Lifehacks Tour.

However, once you know one SE site, you'll find that the relevant information is just in one section called "Get answers to practical, detailed questions". This section differs between sites and defines the scope.

Ok, I read that part carefully, and scrolled on to get the "Informed" badge, not for badge hunting reasons but to remind myself that I have read the Tour.

Next, I asked my first question, which seemed on-topic for me, but it was put on hold by a moderator later. That's frustrating. I put a question on Mate.Lifehacks why it is not on-topic for the reason I thought.

Perhaps (since my question is not answered yet) it turns out that there is also something called the Lifehacks Manifesto which defines the scope. And probably a lot more discussed in tags.

Why Meta.SE?

I put this on Meta.SE because I had similar issues on one or two other sites, so this is a Meta problem and not a Lifehacks problem.

The problem

The Tour IMHO performs really bad when it comes to defining the scope. There are only 4 statements (more or less) on defining the on-topic stuff and usually not even specific reasons for what is off-topic (Lifehacks is pretty unique in that case BTW).

There is no link to anything else that could help someone learn more about the scope.

What can be improved?

  1. For first time users, leave the page as is. They need to learn how to upvote, downvote and accept answers. That's ok.

  2. For multi-site users *), remove the fluffy upvote/downvote stuff and boil it down to relevant things, i.e. only the "Ask about... / Don't ask about ..." section

  3. For multi-site users *), add 4 to 7 links to the most important Meta questions defining the scope of the site. This could be some highly upvoted scope questions or something the moderators define as useful.

*) We probably want to make sure they have at least one "Informed" badge or other indicators that they know how to use the voting system, e.g. we might want to change the Tour appearance only for those who have received the site-association bonus.

  • 7
    As a member of many sites, when joining a new one (or rather, before starting to contribute to one), I'd first go to the help center of the site, in particular to the "What topics can I ask about here?" and "What types of questions should I avoid asking?" articles. The tour is designed for users who have never used a Stack Exchange site. – Oded Jun 21 '15 at 19:47
  • @Oded: nice. I was never directed there in 4 years of SE usage. Maybe we should link exactly those two pages in "Ask about / don't ask about" – Thomas Weller Jun 21 '15 at 19:57
  • 6
    In 4 years of using SE you have never gone through the help center? Ever? – Oded Jun 21 '15 at 20:05
  • 3
    Having said that, point taken. It might make sense to add links to those pages from the tour. – Oded Jun 21 '15 at 20:11
  • @Oded: actually I read all help content for Stack Overflow. But for any other site: yes, that's true. Like millions of other users probably. – Thomas Weller Jun 21 '15 at 20:11
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    I just took a look at the tour - we do link to the help center from it (though not directly to those two posts). I don't have a reason to believe that adding those two links would mean people will actually follow them. – Oded Jun 21 '15 at 20:13
  • @Oded: also agreed. It only makes sense if the noise is removed. – Thomas Weller Jun 21 '15 at 20:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted

There's one problem with this: The Tour is designed for completely new users. Yes, users from other sites can also read it, but it's mainly to tell completely new users how the Stack Exchange model works. It tells them:

  • how to vote
  • what tags are
  • what badges are
  • how answers are shown
  • a brief section on what should be asked/what shouldn't

I say brief, because what you want is on the /help/on-topic part of every site. You can access that with the url http://site.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic, or just go to the help center (eg. MSE) with the URL http://site.stackexchange.com/help.

Examples:

Super User:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware,
  • computer software, or
  • personal and home computer networking

and it is not about …

  • programming and software development,
  • video games or consoles,
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress,
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer,
  • issues specific to corporate IT support and networks,
  • asking for a product, service or learning material recommendation,

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

Stack Overflow:

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, or
  • a software algorithm, or
  • software tools commonly used by programmers; and is
  • a practical, answerable problem that is unique to software development … then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

Those are examples of the beginning of the page - there's more in-depth detail and guidance on those pages.

So, basically before you post a new question on a site, go to the help/on-topic part of the site! And not Tour :)

  • Did you note how the Super User /help/on-topic is nearly a copy of the Tour? The same for LifeHacks. – Thomas Weller Jun 21 '15 at 19:52
  • @ThomasWeller The mods at Super User must have edited them because the community agreed - moderators of a site can change that section of the tour. But on most sites, the help/on-topic section is much more detailed than the tour. – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jun 21 '15 at 19:54
  • Btw, maybe you consider using example.com or something like I used, because all those links are reserved by traffic-farmers :) – nicael Jun 21 '15 at 19:56
  • @nicael will do in the future :) – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jun 21 '15 at 19:57
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    Yep. Take a look at the /help/on-topic for programmers - it is much more detailed than the tour, @ThomasWeller – Oded Jun 21 '15 at 19:57
  • @Thomas then example.com. Or site.stackexchange.com. Edited. – nicael Jun 21 '15 at 20:02

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