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We currently require that new users have 5+ reputation to participate in meta support discussions (bugs, feedback, governance, etc). This is primarily because the use case for meta is not intrinsically obvious, so we require a modicum of "experience" with the site before jumping into it.

But that blocks new users with legitimate questions about their own posts.

Setting aside any arguments about new-users-are-evil-and-suck-the-life-out-of-our-community, I would like to propose a very specific path for new users to ask about their own question provisionally.

Instead of blocking a new user with this message:

You must have at least 5 reputation on <site> to ask a question on meta.

We can change this to:

You must have at least 5 reputation on <site> to post on meta, but you may ask a question about your own post specifically.

Link to your post:                                                                                                     

ask about this post cancel

The system will check whether the linked question provided belongs to the author. It doesn't matter if the question is deleted or not.. The user can then proceed with the post provided they leave the template (below) intact:

Title                                                                                                                                                                                      

 
edit bar

<!--Do not remove-->
<!--Note: Questions not about your post will be deleted-->

I have a question about the post: How do I get full administrative privileges in Windows 7?

<!-- Your question below: -->
 

Not only is this a great and gentle introduction to the proper use of meta, but it stands to help new users just when they need it most (learning to use the community).

Of course this doesn't 100% guarantee that someone won't get it wrong on occasion. But this is an awful lot of in-your-face guidance without simply telling people "read our FAQ" (which they never do). And if a user manages to step over all that guidance and still manages to misuse meta, I have no compunction about summarily removing a question they should never have posted.

But this just-in-time learning is a very effective way of learning a new site in a gentle and thoughtful way. If this is abused more often than not, it is easy to disable. But it's better than assuming clueless newbie every time.

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    This sounds like a good idea, but a couple of problems, as a user who spends a lot of time on MSO: From a perspective of SO, a lot of users who come to MSO to ask about their own question get downvoted both on Meta and Main. Often, it's how they asked the question and that it's drawing attention to a very poor main question, but I've seen this occasionally where the Meta question was good and the user seemed to actually be trying to understand, but got a lot of Meta Effect anyway. Do you have any ideas for these scenarios? – Kendra Feb 11 '16 at 18:54
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    @Kendra Then this is the perfect opportunity to improve that guidance. Since we know what the user is likely asking about (for example, we know if the question was closed), we would be able to provide much more effective/directed guidance about "how to ask" in these scenarios — E.g. "If you would like to know why your question was closed, ask if/how your question can be improved rather than simply asking if it can be reopened." Nice! – Robert Cartaino Feb 11 '16 at 19:02
  • My concern was more at the few cases I've seen where the user has asked a good question on Meta, but the Meta community meets that good question with downvotes and not the help the user was looking for. While admittedly rare it does happen. I'll see if I can dig up some examples, but most of these I've seen get deleted rather quickly by the OP. But I do like the idea of more directed guidance, good idea there. – Kendra Feb 11 '16 at 19:06
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    @Kendra That's okay; I've seen that too. But if we help users ask better questions here... and ween communities off the knee-jerk down-vote by embracing this as an acceptable use case, I think it's a win for everyone. I'd hate to say "Stack Overflow doesn't get these goodies; it's just too damn big", but if that's what it takes... We do this all the time on new sites, and saying you can't ask for help because you are a new user sounds a bit ludicrous on the face it. I understand why it (currently) works this way, but that's why I'm wrapping extra layers of learning around this request. – Robert Cartaino Feb 11 '16 at 19:15
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    Glad you've seen it, because I'm not sure I'd be able to find any real, good examples. Sounds like you do already have this in mind, then, so my main concern is being taken into consideration. Here's hoping this can be implemented and works, at least on the smaller sites! – Kendra Feb 11 '16 at 19:17
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    I like this idea since it's better than what we have now, but if your account is not associated with spammers or has other blocks or restrictions on it, I don't understand why we can't just let everyone into Meta and/or Chat. Let's just reduce the barrier to getting help with a site to 0. – Thomas Owens Feb 11 '16 at 19:44
  • consider making this a per-site configurable option. And... just a friendly advice - set it off at Stack Overflow - at least until you ensure that it doesn't cause disruption at other sites – gnat Feb 11 '16 at 21:18
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    @gnat That's the way I would (suggest) doing it internally. It would be implemented as an internal, configurable rep-level privilege (i.e. RepToAskOwnQuestionOnMeta = 1 (or 5, if disabled)) – Robert Cartaino Feb 11 '16 at 21:20
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    I see, thanks. What kind of rate-limiting do you plan for these users at meta, default (50 questions a month)? Also, do you expect this feature to override account-suspension (I gues not but it doesn't hurt to ask)? – gnat Feb 12 '16 at 8:25
  • This sounds like a good proposal, but I'd imagine a majority of the interactions of new users in Meta would have the same answers you'd find in the close reason section of your post. – Quill Feb 12 '16 at 13:59
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    @Robert I see you've added status-completed, has this been done 100% same way as you described here, or are there any changes/differences in the implementation? – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Mar 31 '16 at 15:50
  • @ShadowWizard I didn't see any notations to suggest this wasn't implemented exactly as written. This should be live everywhere (except meta.SO ensure that it doesn't cause disruption on other sites, and the international sites due to waiting on translations). – Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '16 at 16:47
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    I like that idea. I however have a question: Couldn't we make questions on meta for <5 users go standby, waiting to be reviewed, similar to under 2000 rep edits? – TheBro21 Apr 7 '16 at 18:41
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    @TheBro21 We don't have the concept of an unpublished, invisible question that has to be approved. I'm sure it's doable, but considering how much code touches/searches/lists/displays those posts, that would likely take a lot of infrastructure changes throughout the code base. – Robert Cartaino Apr 7 '16 at 18:45
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This feature is now live on all meta sites except the international sites which are waiting on translations.

  • Ooooh, nice. Quick question: does this work with deleted questions as well? – Billy Mailman Mar 31 '16 at 17:23
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    @BillyMailman Yes, I believe it should. I don't recall if it was spec'd that way specifically, but let me know if you find otherwise. – Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '16 at 17:25
  • The association bonus means I can't really test it. I just wanted to make sure that someone whose first question is deleted would have a chance to take things up on Meta, since the question's deletion will likely send them back to 1 rep. – Billy Mailman Mar 31 '16 at 17:27
  • @Billy that's why we're allowed to create test/sock accounts, to test such features. :-) – Shadow of the Shadow's Shadow Mar 31 '16 at 17:52
  • @BillyMailman That is indeed the intention of this feature. – Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '16 at 19:01
  • (didn't take long for askers to discover it) one of the first examples of using this feature: this question at TWP meta. Reference to main site question inserted by the system can be seen in its markdown source – gnat Apr 1 '16 at 13:12
  • April Fools was a horrible day to try this for Workplace :( – enderland Apr 2 '16 at 18:17
  • @Robert has this been applied on the international sites and MSO as well by now? – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Nov 1 '16 at 10:55
  • @ShadowWizard It should be but I don't use those sites. You might want to ask on their meta. – Robert Cartaino Nov 1 '16 at 12:52
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    Just wanted to make sure this answer is up to date, not intending to use this feature myself as I have the association bonus. Well, doesn't really matter I guess, not going to post meta questions elsewhere just to know if I should edit this answer. (That's your answer, after all. :)) – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Nov 1 '16 at 12:56
  • Does this also apply if a user's first question is migrated to Meta? See What happens to new users with less than 5 rep when their questions are migrated to meta? – JAL Feb 16 '17 at 20:38
  • Was this ever enabled on Stack Overflow? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 21 '18 at 21:16
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First of all, it seems like a great idea - especially on smaller sites where there is likely to be less risk of a flood of Meta posts from low-quality-first-question askers that SO seems prone to scale-wise.

A couple of suggestions, if you go ahead with it and implement:

  • Offer a wizard-like interface, with first asking a radio-button "what is your question about?"; and then offering a pre-built template of a good example question on the topic.

    "What" choices can be things like "closed question"? "downvotes"? ...

    This list can probably be easily distilled as first draft by browsing through 100 new user questions on MSO/MSE/M*)

  • Strongly stress the need to ask about the content and be constructive. Nothing to sour everyone on every side like a user coming to MSO to complain about evil close-voters in terms more apropos to a bar fight, and getting an avalanche of votes and nasty comments in response.

    Conversely, while Kendra's concern may be valid, there's very few things that can pre-dispose a Meta regular to helping a new user in a good mood, than a polite "How can I improve this to better fit the site" approach.

    Ideally, this should be subject to the same text analysis filters as elsewhere on the site, e.g. the "your question may be subjective" one.

  • Not sure if good idea, but perhaps also offer a checklist/wizard of what the user can do to self-help before asking. "Did you add examples of what you have tried to your post?". "Did you provide code examples?" (especially useful on Parenting.SE)

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    You know, I've been thinking about a wizard-ish interface for new users in general. I need to revisit that idea. Asking a short series of prompts and then combining the sum of it into the question could conceivably help folks produce better questions initially, not just on meta. Training wheels, if you will. – Tim Post Feb 12 '16 at 13:27
  • @TimPost or just force them into the Tour – Quill Feb 12 '16 at 14:01
  • @TimPost - somewhat related to your comment: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/254386/… – DVK Feb 12 '16 at 14:35
  • @TimPost And for an example of how not to do that: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/316681/… – Jeffrey Bosboom Feb 13 '16 at 23:15
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    @Quill Have you ever read the directions on how to do something, felt sure that you knew exactly what you needed to do, sat down to do it and then found yourself saying "wait, which one of these is supposed to go first?" For a brand new user, the tour gives a takeaway that we have higher standards than most might anticipate - and that's good, but helping them out the first few times with a series of prompts might be worth testing. I think we've gone as far as we can go with static (and ML) analysis of what they're about to post. Just thinking about it at this point, though. – Tim Post Feb 15 '16 at 7:13
  • @TimPost directions? Who reads the instructions? – Yvette Colomb Mar 2 '16 at 13:36
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    +1 for your last bullet point. I keep bringing up how important it is to provide code examples on parenting.SE, but nobody seems to agree with me. – DJMcMayhem Mar 2 '16 at 18:07
  • @Quill If a website won't give me a "I got it" button for their tour i'll just rush through the whole thing. If people don't wanna read they won't. – Mathieu VIALES Dec 11 '18 at 10:02
  • @Quill I GOT AN IDEA ! Let's quiz newcomers about "how to ask a question" right before they ask one, and if they answer incorrectly we force them to go take the tour again before posting their question ! #We'reWelcoming – Mathieu VIALES Dec 11 '18 at 10:04
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This is a step in the right direction, but I don't think it's sufficient.

First of all, let's look at the user experience (at least as it is depicted here - I don't have a no rep account at this point in time to test). A user makes a post. It gets closed, down voted, or deleted. They realize there's a place to go to ask. When they go there, they then realize they need a link to their post. Now they need to go back, find their post, grab a link to it (depending on how they navigate, a direct link to an answer may not be obvious to a new user), and paste it in the box. This is awkward. I agree with the earlier suggestion of a wizard - the user should choose their post from a list of their posts on the main site.

Second, this requires that a user make a post on the main site first. It doesn't let people be proactive and engage with the community to make sure their question is a good fit or to understand things discussed in the Help Center or previous Meta posts (if they have read those). On Software Engineering, a low quality post will get many down votes and close votes in very short order. Off-topic posts get deleted very quickly. We've decided that it's the best for the community in the long run to get rid of these questions and answers quickly, but it may also discourage people from participating if their post is the one down voted, closed, or deleted. They may not stick around to ask about their posts on Meta and may just give up on the community.

I still prefer my original solution - remove reputation limits from Meta (at least on a per-site basis). Allow communities to choose between this feature or a Meta that is open to all registered accounts. Let new users curious about a site be able to ask questions about that site and its community quickly, before they make low quality posts that are received in a way that drives them away from the community. I don't understand the reluctance to open Meta early rather than forcing people to make mistakes first.

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