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We get quite a few questions every day from users who somehow get lost and ask questions that are completely off-topic here, mainly users who seem to think they are on Stack Overflow.

I have been thinking about this a bit lately, and think I might have some sort of a solution: what if users needed to have maybe 10 reputation on another Stack Exchange site to participate in Main Meta?

I think this seems like a good solution. It would make it impossible for lost users to have their first posts be here. From what I've seen, the vast majority of users who post blatantly off-topic questions have no other accounts or no reputation on their other accounts.

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    Alternatively, we could just require that they have to have posted a question or answer on another site if we want a lower threshold. – Stormblessed May 7 at 13:36
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    Also, may I ask why I got a downvote (I know I do this every time I get a downvote, just what's bad about the question)? – Stormblessed May 7 at 13:37
  • I'd prefer we figure out the path people are using, and fix that. There's obviously some confusion inherent in people asking questions here, and almost every time, they just joined this site, and another one, that day. So somewhere along the line, there's a link to here that's causing this. – fbueckert May 7 at 13:40
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    FWIW I've seen lost souls on Software Recommendations and Hardware Recommendations too. – Glorfindel May 7 at 14:00
  • For what it's worth, I think part of the problem may be that on every question page, there's a "Featured on Meta" box which shows a current 'hot' item here. Right under it, however, there's "Hot Meta Posts", which shows some current 'hot' postings on the stack's own meta. To someone who isn't familiar with the organization of StackExchange, this is going to be confusing. Perhaps this needs to be looked at, and perhaps the boxes retitled? – Jeff Zeitlin May 7 at 15:11
  • Why is it a problem that needs a solution? – rene May 7 at 15:51
  • I edited this site anonymously without an account for a couple of years. So I'm opposed to any request that restricts the abilities of new users to contribute. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog May 7 at 16:39
  • Slightly related: Meta SE had a period where it needed 2 reputation on MSE to post. – Meta Andrew T. May 7 at 17:31
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The glut of misplaced questions appearing here is a somewhat recent spike (self-inflicted, I believe). If passers-by are easily confused about where they are, that is on us — we should fix that… but not by blocking well-meaning users needing help.

The problem is that the support channels and service channels look virtually identical; navigation between them is largely obscured. If there is merit in preserving this simplified mono-design, there should at least be an interstitial pop-up to verify what they would like to do.

Ask a programming question      I need help with Stack Exchange

But meta is essentially the "customer support" channel for the Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange network, so all sorts of inquiries, customer service matters, and technical support issues come through here. It would be untenable for any service to say that someone needs to be an active customer before having a question or talking to us at all — so that is a non-starter… in my opinion.

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    Tim says there's supposed to be an interstitial. But there's been no response as to what that looks like, when I asked in January. Can you confirm there is one, and if so, let us see what it looks like? – fbueckert May 7 at 14:38
  • @fbueckert I don't see anything like that in private/incognito mode. Doesn't mean it's not there somewhere, but last time I suggested it, I was told we wouldn't be doing that (maybe that's changed; don't know). – Robert Cartaino May 7 at 14:43
  • Okay, that's new. Then Tim's idea needs an update as to how we're supposed to solve this. Throwing something in the way would be very appreciated to help stem what seems like an awful lot of confused askers here. – fbueckert May 7 at 14:48
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    I saw this recently, when proposing the Ask Question wizard for Meta @fbueckert. will look and make a screenshot. (Edit: i.stack.imgur.com/s1Tsx.png) – MEE - Reinstate Monica May 7 at 15:00
  • @MEEthesetupwizard That's the interstitial? It just looks like the How to Ask page. At least the proceed button is tiny, so askers have to hunt for it. – fbueckert May 7 at 15:08
  • Yeah, I would have expected separate buttons asking what they would like to do — ask a programming question or I need help with Stack Exchange... for example – Robert Cartaino May 7 at 15:23
  • @RobertCartaino There is a discussion regarding potentially enabling the wizard here and it does put forth the idea of a separate button for "programming" questions. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog May 7 at 16:41
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This would prevent a handful of cases where a Meta post might be warranted. Some examples:

  • If a user is suspended on Example Stack Exchange, they can't ask a question about it on Example Meta since they're suspended there as well. Instead, they can post on Meta Stack Exchange.
  • If a user wants to post something 'anonymously' (i.e. start a potentially controversial discussion, or post an answer they don't want to be associated with their main account), they'd have to gain reputation on another site first.

On the other hand, it just takes two clicks to deal with blatantly off-topic questions. (Disclaimer: I wrote that script.)

  • Questions regarding the first bullet point will probably be closed as off-topic/applicable to one site only (or duplicate if applicable). – MEE - Reinstate Monica May 7 at 14:37
  • They're often duplicates, but off-topic would be ... confusing. It's not even possible to migrate the question in that case, not even by moderators. – Glorfindel May 7 at 14:41
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    nah, from what I have seen, posts about suspensions on one site are almost always closed as "applicable only to one site" and the users are redirected to the mod message/contact SE team link. There are certainly exceptions, but this is my recent experience. – MEE - Reinstate Monica May 7 at 14:43
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Nope nope nope.

There are many reasons not to, I'm sure I'm missing some, but here are the first two that come to mind:

  • having the ability to post at 1 rep allows you to post anonymously if needed. Sure, you could make a dummy account elsewhere, but that's not optimal and against the point
  • you could very well ask a at 1 rep, even if you have no activity elsewhere (yet). That sounds a bit daydreaming, given that (indeed) a lot of new users are lost souls, but still - you do not want to prevent someone from getting useful direction especially if it helps de-cluttering other sites.

Note that, as a side point, there's a 5-rep limit for per-site metas; and even then you're allowed to ask questions there but only about your own posts.

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