It seems that the Updated Terms of Service message linking to the MSE post discussing it had a undesired side effect: there is a huge increase in off-topic (mostly programming) questions. (Not to speak about the hundreds of drive-by upvotes on that posts and its answers...)

While I think the message itself is useful, wouldn't it be better to link to a blog post or something next time?

Also, can we warn users coming here now this is not the place to ask programming questions? Maybe using a custom notice for a few days?

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    Already proposed in chat: chat.meta.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/4829949#4829949
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:08
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    Oh, yes, a flashing banner. You have my vote for that :) Apr 20, 2016 at 8:08
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    I would say: do nothing. It is a great way to boost my close vote review stats and spend some delete votes here ...
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:09
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    Another option is to temporarily 'protect' the entire site, i.e. you would need to have 10 reputation earned on this site in order to post a question.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:31
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    Nice suggestion @Glorfindel Apr 20, 2016 at 8:33
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    You're assuming people actually read such alert / instructional messages. If that were true then there wouldn't be any off-topic posts here anyway - the 'Ask a question' page already prompts "What's your bug, feature request, or meta-discussion topic? Be specific." and has bold text asking "Is your question about the Stack Exchange engine that powers the Stack Exchange. Those already get ignored. Would more alerts make a difference?
    – JonW
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:40
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  • @gnat Thanks for that other post. This is not just about that, also about the decision to use a meta post as the message link, which was quite confusing to me too. (Also, I am asking for a more temporary fix to the current intake) Apr 20, 2016 at 10:18
  • @rene: same here, but I'm almost running out of flags ...
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:17
  • @Glorfindel same here, which is, for MSE, a new experience for me ...
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:18
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    @Pat in case you missed it, see Tim Post answer below - we just got a boost, you have more close votes now. :) Apr 20, 2016 at 13:29
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    Just gave everyone more votes until this ramps down.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:29
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    Am I receiving this warning due to this?
    – Arulkumar
    Apr 20, 2016 at 15:58
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    @Arulkumar Yes, that message is there because folks are going to stack overflow, noticing the TOS update message in their inbox, coming here and reading the discussion then forgetting they're on another site when they go to do what they originally wanted to do, which was ask a question. It's just reminding them to go back to Stack Overflow, and it's shown to everyone for the next two days.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 16:29
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    @PatrickHofman retracted dupe vote only because I got curious how they will handle similar issue when it bites them where it hurts. :) Programmers experience this pain (and complains about it at meta) for about two years now, since burn down of SO close queue in Spring 2014. 20% questions over there are asked by users blocked at Stack Overflow, go figure
    – gnat
    Apr 20, 2016 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


Update (April 21, 2016)

Note - we raised the minimum reputation here on MSE to ask to 2 from 1 (which should be just enough friction to slow this down) for the next few days.

Update (April 20, 2016)

Y'all now have 50 close votes a day while this persists, I plan to put it back to 24 before the end of the week. It's picking up even more.

I have also added a system message that will last for two days, since I saw two more come in back-to-back in the time it took me to write my last update. It's a bad experience for them, and us.

Still stand behind my original answer - this needs more fixing after we take the band-aid off on Friday.

It's a question of audience. If you really want to make sure most people that have an investment (and, likely, an opinion) about changes like this have an opportunity to see discussions and opine if they choose - this is the best place to make that happen. While some of you do read the blog, the audience there has shifted more to folks that are more passively keeping tabs on what we're doing.

Since all of the details of what we did and why we did it were explained (some a few times over) here, it just made the most sense to set the link here, rather than duplicating everything we wrote, in addition to conveying the sentiments of folks that took part in the conversation.

While the problem did spike when we shipped the inbox notification, it's been steadily on the rise for the last few months independently. About half of the people that ask programming questions here are genuinely lost, the other half are blocked on Stack Overflow. It's not a huge problem, it's certainly dealt with easily, but I've also been finding it more than marginally annoying as MSE/MSO are my morning newspapers that I read with coffee.

I think treating this temporary situation would mean not putting a little more thought into how we could be more specific, but not off-putting about what we do on meta sites as part of the new user experience on meta sites. Actually, I've been thinking about ways meta could be better for meta stuff in general lately.

I'm going to put some more thought into it and make it an actual initiative I track on my calendar, I'd rather fix (or really diminish) the problem at the more fundamental level.

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    Can you please take a look here with your CM powers? If this is true, well, it's really bad for us. Apr 20, 2016 at 12:53
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    FYI: we did see this comment but weren't able so far to confirm if that is a bug. And desperate as I was I tried to get hold of this user without success.
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:54
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    @rene I'm going to chase that down now, and see if there's anything to it.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:15
  • I feel it could blink more.
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:44
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    It will blink, precisely once. It's actually mid-blink now and the single blink cycle will complete on Friday at around this time.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:47
  • Nice message, can't it be displayed only to 1 rep users? Apr 20, 2016 at 13:48
  • @ShadowWizard Nope, it's all or nothing. But it's way better than badly written programming questions, and you don't have to close system messages. Still leaving the extra votes on just in case.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:51
  • Thanks, fair enough. More than I expected. :) Apr 20, 2016 at 13:52
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    hope this incident will help you better understand how it feels like at Programmers when users blocked / warned at Stack Overflow dump their off-topic garbage over there (Programmers hot-questions at sidebar serve as a permanent announcement - "hey here's yet another site to try your luck at")
    – gnat
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:18
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    I have to agree with @gnat. We don't have a diamond with enough moxy on Programmers to do this, unfortunately, and SE doesn't have much interest in our off-topic woes.
    – user102937
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:54
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    Can you raise the number of flags a day as well? I don't have any left for today ...
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Apr 20, 2016 at 15:14
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    @Glorfindel The banner along with doubling the close votes seems to have really dulled it down. I don't want to go changing too many things temporarily, especially allocated flags, because that's a whole system where your flags increase over time based on your history of flagging and rep (there could be some unintended consequences in bumping it up for a couple of days)
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 16:26
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    typical look of Programmers front page... oh wait that's MSE today!
    – gnat
    Apr 21, 2016 at 5:59
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    How long is this restriction going to last? I referred a user on SO to here in the hopes they could ask their question on what SE site to ask their question. Since the user is new they only have 1 rep here and cannot just ask a question. I get you want to keep the site clean but placing a barrier to ask IMHO is a little heavy handed. Apr 27, 2016 at 1:34
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    Tim, over two weeks have passed since the rep limit to post here was raised to 2 - wouldn't it be interesting to see what happens if we recover it back to normal value?
    – gnat
    May 6, 2016 at 9:12

To remedy these mishaps for now I went ahead and implemented the suggested banner that can be used as a user script:

(function play() {
    "use strict";
    var banner = $('#banner'),
        ms = 600, // time in ms
        m = 'This is META. Go away with your programming questions!',
        states = ['#ff0000', '#00ff00', '#0000ff'],
        option = {"background-color":"", "color":"" };

    // fc = forecolor state
    // bc = backcolor state
    function loop(fc, bc) {
        option.color = states[fc];
        option["background-color"] = states[bc];
            loop.bind(undefined, (fc + 1) % 3, (bc + 1) % 3)

    // init banner on first call
    if (banner.length === 0) {
        banner = $('<div id="banner"></div>');
        banner.append($('<h1 style="text-align:center"></h1>').text(m));

    // loop the animation
    loop(0, 1);

When implemented the user will get a friendly banner that will guide them to better places:

meta banner

Feel free to suggest better wording.

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    As much as we all love a good flashing banner (although it should probably marquee just for extra impact) I think this would just annoy far more people than it would benefit, to be honest. Don't penalise everyone just because some people don't pay enough attention.
    – JonW
    Apr 20, 2016 at 9:23
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    @JonW you don't know how disappointed I was when I found out that <blink> and <marquee> are no longer supported. I used them a lot...
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 9:26
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    A "friendly" banner? I don't think that word means what you think it means.
    – TRiG
    Apr 20, 2016 at 9:59
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    @TRiGisTimothyRichardGreen pretty sure this was a joke.
    – enderland
    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:50
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    @gnat if that back button would actually send users to Yahoo Answers! it would be perfect ;)
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:29
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    I feel like it could blink more.
    – user50049
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:31
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    @TimPost In 6 to 8 weeks I'll make blink rate user configurable
    – rene
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:37
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    +1. It should show that banner here in MSE to all users with only one rep. May 8, 2016 at 20:48

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