Over the years, I have joined a number of Stack Exchange communities to varying degrees of participation. Unfortunately, it has often been at least six months between joining communities - just long enough for me to forget the details - and so I keep making the same mistake.
Regrettably, my first foray into a new community is often ... painful. It usually goes like this:
- I have a question in a general category, say math or networking
- I find the community with an appropriate sounding name, say "mathematics" or "network engineering"
- I join that community
- I immediately click on "Tour" (often the top link of those at the bottom) to find out what the site is about and usually get a fairly generic description of the site, and perhaps even an "Informed" badge or some such. Unfortunately, this section usually only contains a very broad description of the community.
- I proceed to ask my question, because it still seems to generally fit the category. Note: At this point I think I'm still on topic, so I don't use the helpful sidebar to the right of asking the question.
- The community informs me that my question is off-topic.
- The community is not benefited and at a personal level, inner rage ensues. (Perhaps inner rage ensues for the community member informing of said off-topicness)
- I once again try to remember where the detailed description of on/off topics are, and eventually stumble through this on a link under help. Note: I'm not sure the guidelines are linked on the "edit" page of the question, but sometimes only on a new question.
- I then repeatedly edit my somewhat on-topic question until it meets community standards and perhaps get an answer - albeit with much inward grumbling. The question was originally only partially on-topic, so it often benefits the community less despite repeated reformulation.
I know the site design tries to help with this, but despite being part of Stack Exchange sites for years I sadly still find myself gravitating towards this anti-pattern by complete accident. I think I've done this at least three times so I wonder if this is common user behavior.
The key thing here is that I expect the top link - "Tour" - to actually equip me with the secret decoder ring to ask the right type of question. Is there some easy way to pull the community guidelines and on/off topic list into the "Tour" page generically?
Alternatively, I would take the much more blunt approach too when I hit the "Join" button: "Hey - welcome to the community! Here is the awful modal popup you will ignore, but tells you what you should know to ask a good question!" to help avoid these types of situations. Even a summary of the on/off topic list directly when asking the question could work too.