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tl;dr

Due to the special nature of Meta and the high rate of "lost souls", should we try out the Ask a Question Wizard here on Meta Stack Exchange too?

General idea

In case anyone doesn't know yet, there is finally an Ask Question Wizard. It guides new users towards writing better questions.

I think that such a question wizard would be useful on Meta Stack Exchange too, for three main reasons:

  1. Meta is different from other network sites. There are four types of questions on Meta, each represented by the different required tags: , , and . Especially bug reports can often be split into a certain structure (what's wrong, how to reproduce, why I think it's wrong, examples). The same holds true for feature requests. Such a structure is ideal for a question wizard.
  2. Quite a few users get lost on Meta and ask off-topic questions here. While the Meta community is well prepared to deal with these posts quickly, they lead to an less-than-ideal first impression by the new users and they distract the community from more important issues.
  3. Site-specific questions are often off-topic. This might not be always clear for new users since nowhere is it hinted at in the help pages (and there are a lot of old, not-yet-closed SO-specific questions from a prior era of this site) and can lead to unnecessary drama. If we add an honeypot into the wizard to catch this case (and ideally redirect them to the proper meta site), we could prevent this.

As Sonic said, there's an advice page new users need to read and confirm. However this doesn't really prove effective right now and we might need to try stronger tools (e.g. question wizard).

Therefore I think that we should test the Ask Question Wizard here on Meta too.

Implementation details (help welcome)

I think the wizard should have six main entry points:

  1. I want to discuss a specific post or action from any Stack Exchange site. (-> honeypot, redirects to the appropriate per-site meta)
  2. I have a question regarding the use of Stack Exchange sites (-> support mode)
  3. I think I found a bug while using the Stack Exchange sites (-> bug mode)
  4. I have an idea for improving the Stack Exchange sites (-> feature request mode)
  5. I have a discussion I want to start about Stack Exchange communities or their rules (-> discussion mode)
  6. I have some other (e.g. programming) question (-> honeypot, redirects to https://stackexchange.com/sites)

Coming from these choices, the user would either be redirected to a landing page explaining, why this is not the right community and offering some alternative choices or they would follow the guided assistant.

For 1. the user might be asked on which site the post/action is. Maybe the system could show the three sites where the user was recently active/has the highest reputation on.

support mode would ask the user for these details:

  • what do you want to achieve?
  • what have you tried?
  • what is your current problem?

bug mode would ask the user for these details:

  • bug description
  • how to reproduce the problem
  • why do you think that this is wrong?
  • (possibly) examples

feature request mode would ask the user for these details:

  • what is your goal?
  • how do you think could this be achieved?
  • why will the community benefit from this change?
  • (possibly) details

discussion mode would ask the user for these details:

  • which rule do you want to propose/clarify
  • (optionally) examples/why is this rule required?

Note: the above implementation details probably require some revision. Feel free to edit/suggest improvements for both wording and details.

  • The interstitial page was supposedly enabled, and it was even edited, but I don't think it actually is. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 24 at 10:34
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog I see the page when clicking the "Ask a question" button (with my 1 rep sockpuppet). My request is not only about "lost souls" though but also as a general guidance to ask better bug reports/support questions/feature requests. I think also more experienced users (for example me) could benefit from such a guided mode. – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 24 at 10:38
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    "Is this a programming question?" – Journeyman Geek Apr 24 at 10:38
  • @JourneymanGeek I think this is covered in the last <s>bullet</s> point, because I didn't want to provide the users with too many choices, but it is probably worth to be considered as a standalone choice. – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 24 at 10:39
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    How about "I have some other (e.g. programming) question"? (@JourneymanGeek) – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 24 at 10:41
  • @Sonic I like that and have incorporated it. – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 24 at 10:43
  • This "should" question is not a concrete feature request; "please enable the Ask Question Wizard here, with this exact specification" would be a feature request. As this is currently phrased, this is just a discussion. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 24 at 10:44
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog okay, you're right. I'll remove the tag for now and convert this into a feature-request later (with some rephrasing). – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 24 at 10:45
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    This is something I've been thinking about for a few weeks. Note, the honeypot for per-site metas (1) needs to have some sort of check/explanation for what to do if a user is suspended on that account. They can't ask questions if they're suspended, so sending them there will only annoy them. And the honeypot for main sites (6) probably deserves some cool way to help users find the right sites rather than pointing them at a list of nearly 200... a site decision tree or something. It'd be cool but a future goal. – Catija Apr 24 at 17:44
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    I was linking said "lost souls" to a survey I was running to determine why they're posting off-topic questions, and I got a few responses during the time it was up, but unfortunately an SE employee made me shut it down just a few days later. They said they're working on an officially-run version, but it seems to have stalled. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Apr 24 at 18:36
  • @Catija maybe when a user is suspended on the site they select, they are shown (additional) information explaining to them how to appeal the suspension (respond to mod message, contact Stack Exchange). Also the Stack Overflow wizard has some (six?) main sites for the other selection. This could be implemented (maybe with the largest sites?) for Meta too. – MEE was the missing bracket Apr 24 at 19:55
  • lost indeed! a SO user took a wrong turn today and posted a programming question here, they already had six in the right place (and none downvoted) so perhaps there's a leak somewhere – ocæon May 2 at 3:33
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I think it's a great idea to enable the wizard here, as we do get quite a few blatantly off-topic questions every day, for various reasons I've chronicled in a post you linked. The interstitial page was enabled on this site recently, and it clearly states this site's purpose, but it did very little to stem the flow of such questions, enough that I thought it wasn't enabled for some reason.

I'd recommend a couple minor changes, though. First, per Robert Cartaino's comment, I'd recommend splitting off the sixth option in your current selection of options into a new top-level option, so that at the top level, you have the following two options:

  • I have a question about the Stack Exchange software or a Stack Exchange site
  • I have another question (e.g. programming, math, etc.)

The first option would then lead to the first five of the six options you enumerated.

Second, rather than simply redirecting users of the second option to the list of sites, I think we should make it clear that site recommendation questions are on-topic (we don't get very many of these). I'd make that option display the following page (adapted from the existing interstitial page):

I have another question (e.g. programming, math, etc.)

Welcome to Meta Stack Exchange! Unfortunately, your question probably isn't suitable for this site, but we likely do have another site on which you may be able to ask your question.

If your question is about...


Having trouble finding the right site?

If you've looked through our list of sites but you can't find the right site to ask your question, you can ask which site is a suitable site here on this site.

Ask a site recommendation question >>>

The part shown below the horizontal line would be hidden initially, and only be shown if the user clicks on one of the links in the top part and navigates back to this page.

I think that with these changes, we should enable the wizard here on this site.

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