One of the best ways to learn is by doing. The introductory messages for the review queues are nice (especially now that I have dismissed them all for every site I participate on), but text isn't the ideal way to teach someone how to do a task properly. This is not a proposal targeted at brand new users to bring them up to speed. I think that there is a large group of engaged users that are experienced enough that they aren't making new user type mistakes, but that are learning how to swim by getting dropped in the deep end of the pool as they unlock more privileges and encounter less common situations on the site.

I think it would be helpful to have a library of short interactive training sessions or tutorials where users can perform tasks designed to highlight certain SE features and illustrate underlying principles and then get feedback on how well they performed those tasks. The feedback should include explicitly what was done correctly and what could have been done better. I don't think it should be a test that is scored. It should be an optional activity that lets people try out features and trains them in best practices. I think there should be some sort of badge for completing tutorials that takes into account that the number of tutorials will grow over time. This is different from review audits, because I think the content should be designed to have a clearly correct answer that highlights some aspect or feature of SE that is important to know, and not a post that has a certain disposition based on how it was previously reviewed.

For example, a tutorial for the suggested edit queue might simulate reviewing an edit that requires looking at the markdown to detect that a link has been changed to a spam link. If the user successfully detects it, they get some "good job!" type feedback and more detail about the way suggested edits can be abused. If the user misses it, they get feedback about the markdown tab, and still get the details they would have gotten if they had detected it.

Other examples: the tutorial for the close vote queue might have task to review a question where the suggested duplicate is obviously not a correct choice when you look at the answers or the flagging tutorial could illustrate situations where "low quality" should be chosen over "not an answer". The feedback could include where in the interface to look for the information to make the right decision, content guidelines, or even a little SE history or trivia to help connect users with the community (like the http:://(site)/reputation hidden feature).

I understand creating interactive training represents a lot of work, but I think it would have a lot more impact than trying to get people to read and understand text-based documentation. An investment in the infrastructure for interactive Stack Exchange training could pay off not just for training people to use their public site privileges more effectively, but also for on-boarding newly elected moderators or helping Teams users get started. This infrastructure could also provide a way to gather data in a repeatable way on how users view certain features or judge certain content, which could be used to measure the effectiveness of various education efforts.

If you wanted to go really crazy, you might make it so that SE users could design and share tutorials about using Stack Exchange sites (and chat rooms), similar to the way we can create and share SEDE queries.

I did look for similar suggestions and found Please provide some quick how to and training videos for the sites and The need to introduce beginners to the Stack Exchange Platform. What I'm suggesting is different. I don't think we need more documentation for newbs, whether it is in video, text, or interpretive dance form. I think we need interactive training for community members as a way not only to teach them how to use features, newly earned privileges, etc., but to get the community as a whole to correlate better with itself when making judgements about certain types of content.

  • 5
    Related (at least reminds me of): Stack Overflow needs an entrance exam. Commented May 5, 2021 at 20:41
  • 2
    @SebastianSimon It is sort of related, but I’m thinking more of training for already engaged community members rather than obstacles new users must overcome before they can participate.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 9:44

1 Answer 1


I instinctively like the idea, but my pessimist brain sees a few caveats:

  • Sites often have their own, specific cultures. This means there are probably things that are important to know for your participation on that site, but which aren't able to be captured in a 'one-size-fits-all' interactive tutorial. Just like there's sometimes some confusion because moderators aren't able to edit certain pages of the help center to accurately reflect site standards, a one-size-fits-all standard tutorial might do more harm than good.
  • Interactive tutorials take a lot of time. Often, I find they slow me down more than just reading the text. This is a problem I have with a lot of mandatory company trainings, for example. If I personally were to start participation on a new site today, I wouldn't like to sit through an interactive tutorial that's mostly a repeat of what I already know, just on the off chance that there's something different as well. I think there are more users like me, who may not be as invested in going through these tutorials on each site, just to find out what is different.
  • RTFM, but for tutorials. Right now, if people ask for clarifications they're sometimes referred to a massive FAQ post, and left to their own devices to find the relevant information from it. I definitely prefer just providing quotes of relevant parts, but not everyone thinks that way. It can be even more annoying if you can't do a ctrl+f on a page, but have to sit through an entire tutorial because only the last two 'slides' are relevant to you, but 'go do the tutorial' is all the help you got. I know the FAQs and help center won't disappear when tutorials happen, but still, it's a worry and mostly a people problem, perhaps.

The last two points makes me wonder if such tutorials would really be worth the time and effort, of if they would just make these tutorials 'fancy schmuck'. Again, I instinctively like the idea, but at the same time I really, really don't want it to just be wasted effort, or become an annoyance with which new users are confronted.

You're already naming a few great examples of stuff that's probably the same across sites in your post, which could make for awesome tutorials. I'm just worried that, even if it becomes possible to make site-specific tutorials, the fact that they take time might mean no-one ever looks for/at one, after they've already taken the 'standard' tutorial on another site.

So, I guess my addition to this request can be summed up as:

  • Make sure there's a way to handle site-specific exceptions to the standard rules. Your request files that under 'if you wanted to go really crazy', I'm going to say it's a basic necessity. It doesn't have to be an entire custum tutorial though, just a text-based pop-up might work as well!
  • Provide a way to notify users when there's a site-specific thing that's different from the general practice. I agree we should keep the tutorials optional (like you said), but in case there is something site-specific, give us a way to notify people something is different on our site, and put the link to the tutorial in front of their noses.
  • Find some way to prevent people from having to watch irrelevant parts of a bigger tutorial just to find what they're looking for. A few ideas could be having many different, shorter tutorials (different ones for different close reasons, different ones for each auto-comment you can leave while reviewing, etc.) or have bigger tutorials (like one big one for close voting) but with chapters and ways to skip/link to specific parts, so I can quote the relevant information and tell a user that they might want to take a specific part of a tutorial if they want to practice.
  • 2
    You are imagining these tutorials as much bigger bites than I am. I think that they shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes. They aren’t a replacement for the help center or other documentation. They are opportunities to, for example, try out a new moderation privilege using the same interface as the live review queues, but with feedback on how well you used it. I don’t think that they should be so in depth that variations across site communities would come into play.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 2:31
  • 1
    @ColleenV I'm not sure if I'm imagining much bigger bites, or if our definitions on 'big' just differ. A tutorial of 5 minutes to me is excruciatingly long. A short tutorial would be 1 or 2 clicks, no more than 30 seconds. The examples you were giving in your posts didn't seem to be that short, and some topics bordered on site-specific stuff (closure, not an answer)...
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 6:34
  • 1
    If they truly can be as generic as to make them a one-size-fits-all, I'm left wondering if they add any value at all over the already existing guidance, which is also short and generic. Especially if it's optional and up to 5 minutes long: Reading a help center page can be done much faster than following a slow tutorial, and if both are optional, my bet is people will do neither and not suddenly flock to the tutorial.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 6:35
  • 1
    What I’m imagining is “hands on”. You don’t hand someone a text book on how to drive, then give them a license. Not everything can be learned most effectively by reading about it. Right now that’s how we send people into the review queues. I’m suggesting that we let people try simulated review tasks where they get to experience the interface, do the task, then get feedback. Or a new moderator gets to handle some simulated flags. Looking at screenshots isn’t as effective as actually doing. They’d be optional, so if someone learns better by reading documentation, they can skip it.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 9:41
  • @CollleenV for the review tasks, isn't that called 'review audits'? Might not be as hard to develop then: Just give users the option to do some audits deliberately!
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 12:12
  • Again though, I think that once you stray into 'have a moderator handle some simulated flags', you can only either use the most generic/clear-cut examples without going in depth, but each moderator already has their own preferences on where and how to handle them. I just don't see much benefit in 'just explain the buttons', without also teaching someone the thoughts behind them. The kind of tutorials that 'just explain the buttons' by telling me which one to click next are the ones I personally find most annoying because of how slow they are and how little they teach.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 12:13
  • Finally, like I said in my post, I still like the idea of tutorials. It's just that a good tutorial to me actually teaches something, so that I'm not left with a tutorial that teaches me to draw a circle, and then to participate fully on a site I still have to figure out how to draw the rest of the owl myself. To me, 'generic' sounds like 'draw a few circles'. So that naturally leads me to think a useful tutorial would be bigger than just 'press this button, then press this button, oooh you messed up, now press this one!'.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 12:18
  • 1
    I mentioned the difference (in an edit to the question) between review audits, which are essentially a test of how well a user correlates with historical decisions by other users, and what I’m proposing, which is training users to a standard the company wants us to follow for some particular content I am a little frustrated that I can’t communicate this better. I simply don’t have time to mock up a prototype. Maybe “tutorial” was a poor choice of words.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 18:33
  • Regarding site specific issues, might it be worth targeting the tutorials at the trilogy or even just SO at least initially? That is after all where stackexchange seems to have the most issues with scaling guidance. Commented May 9, 2021 at 22:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .