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We have been working for some time now researching ways to improve the new user onboarding process while also addressing issues with question quality from new question askers. Based on our user research, planning, and testing, we have recently concluded an experiment on Stack Overflow testing a new wizard for asking questions and have introduced a new proposed area of the site called the Staging Ground which we plan on releasing as a limited test in a few months.

You can read more about how the Staging Ground will work in the following posts (if you have limited time and only want to read about the details of how it will work, you can get by with just the first two posts):

  1. Workflow 1: Question Details & Actions

  2. Workflow 2: Listings, Filters, Quality Control, and Notifications

  3. Staging Ground: Reviewer Motivation, Scaling, and Open Questions

  4. New User Experience: Deep Dive into our Research

  5. General introduction

A summary of the section (amended from the first workflow post):

  • The Staging Ground will be a new limited-access area on the site where first-time question Authors can interact with experienced users and receive guidance towards improving the quality of their questions before they go live.

  • The inspiration for the name is that of a staging environment, commonly used in developer parlance to denote a limited-access area where code can be reviewed and tested before it goes public.

  • The general goals of the Staging Ground will be to:

    • Address quality issues that exist with first questions by lowering the close/deletion rates and improve their overall quality

    • Take the pressure off of the First questions queue

    • Improve the question-asking experience for new users by creating a lower-pressure environment where users can get more guidance related to asking questions. Encouraging new users to iterate on their questions in a more collaborative way should improve their overall experience and increase the likelihood and quality of future contributions to the site.

  • Our initial plan is to build out an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and release it in a controlled A/B test on Stack Overflow, after which we will evaluate feedback and results, and make a determination for future iterations and whether it will graduate. Our exact test criteria will be discussed more in a post immediately before the test goes live.

  • We do not yet have a date for when this test will begin, though based on planning, it will probably be some time during Summer (June–August) 2022.

  • Qualifications:

    • For questions: same qualifications as the First questions review queue (the Author’s first question on the site, or their second/third question if their first question(s) didn’t do well).

    • For Reviewers (this is how we are referring now to the experienced users who will be able to review questions and provide guidance in the Staging Ground): same qualifications as review queues (at least 500 rep).

    • We haven't yet decided what percentage of eligible First question Authors and Reviewers will be included in the initial A/B test. We may start small and increase participation as the test proceeds, with the goal of trying to ensure a good experience for both new Authors and Reviewers.

  • Comments and questions will be "private" (only open to those who have access to the Staging Ground as Reviewers). There will not be any votes or answering. Search engine indexing will be blocked.

  • While closing (for off-topic and duplicates) and flagging will be offered, Reviewers will be encouraged to use the new structured review workflow to more efficiently assist users in improving their question when necessary.

  • Questions can be published on the site from the Staging Ground right away if they are approved by Reviewers. Questions that are not approved by Reviewers will be auto-published after a defined period of inactivity, except for questions that have received a close vote or flag, or where a Reviewer has asked for major changes that were not made.

  • While it will bear similarities to the First questions queue (and will of course overlap in purpose), the Staging Ground is not another review queue. It will function differently in a number of key ways (as detailed in the posts linked above).

The initial test of the new Ask Question Wizard was on Stack Overflow, as will be the initial test release for the Staging Ground. SO is the place that has the biggest volume (by far) of new askers – and along with it, a very large need for improvements in the new user onboarding experience as well as initiatives to help affect question quality from new users in a positive way.

That said, if the test is successful and these features graduate on Stack Overflow, we hope to also be able to release them on other sites around the Stack Exchange network that would like to take advantage of these new workflows for helping new question askers onboard more successfully. (It is not yet decided whether these would be enabled or disabled by default for sites on the network, though individual sites would be able to change from the default either way.)

That is where you come in. Please take a look at the posts above (especially the intro to the new Ask Question Wizard and the two workflow posts for the Staging Ground) and think about the needs of your site in this area. If what we are presenting here is relevant to your site, but there are some things or workflow modifications that are missing that would make it much more useful, please let us know in an answer below.

Important disclaimer: There may be some requests that we will have to decline, even if they are relevant for many sites – and it is unlikely that we will be able to make substantial modifications to the tools to accommodate the particulars of individual sites.

If there are feature needs or areas of extra flexibility that are shared by a number of sites, it will make it much more likely that we will be able to address these. And right now, we are at a relatively early stage in developing this section of code, so this is an opportune time to talk about the ways in which these new features can help you out.

We’d appreciate it if you could share your ideas on how these features could be applied to the Stack Exchange network in an answer below. If you have questions about the plans shared in the linked MSO posts, please post an answer on the relevant post instead. If there are general questions that are more relevant to how these will work across the network, or if you want to have a discussion about this on your own meta site and reference it here, that is also fine.

There is no absolute deadline for feedback here. That said, the sooner we get feedback, the better (especially if there are areas of consensus).

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    I feel like threaded comments probably should be its 'own' feature, on its own merits
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Apr 6 at 19:01
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    @JourneymanGeek it will get its own feature once it gets to a point that we can consider releasing it beyond the staging ground.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 6 at 19:06
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    Yeah lets not release that feature into the wild immediately. Lets test that in a controlled environment first please, unlike the recent changes with the topbar etc.
    – Luuklag
    Apr 6 at 19:30
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    This seems inspired by the English Wikipedia "draft" or "article for creation" process, which was an utter failure and reduced the quality of articles created. In short, bad actors circumvent the systems while good faith contributors get trapped into inefficient processes. meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Wikipedia_article_creation
    – Nemo
    Apr 8 at 14:39
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    @Nemo I'm more inclined to think it's inspired by Sandbox posts which can be done by posting a meta question and staging questions as answers to it, which is already something that's being done in SE itself with extremely good results. Apr 9 at 5:49
  • @hyper-neutrino how do you measure good results?
    – Nemo
    Apr 9 at 6:46
  • Are the Community bot's comments on some ("mostly code") questions a part of this project, or is it just coincidental that those comments have increased a lot lately?
    – Teemu
    Apr 14 at 9:54
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    @Teemu any increased community bot activity is a coincidence. Or if it is related (ie: wizard questions are getting "Share feedback" on the First questions queue more often than the norm) than that is something that we will be investigating as part of our examination of the experiment that just concluded.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 14 at 13:39
  • With the duplicate thread highlighting, it could also highlight if a potential duplicate thread is older then x number of days (would be a useful thing to have in general) as depending on what stack, the question or answer may not be correct anymore where new info has come to light, for example the sci fi and movie stacks, where more gets revealed in a series as each episode of a series comes out Apr 29 at 7:27

12 Answers 12

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For the sake of completeness I'll add this question, that was often posed before on Stack Overflow, here as well.

How will all of this scale?

There are a lot of concerns on the scalability of the staging ground. If we take a look at how the review queue's scaled on SO, my hopes are quite low for this project to scale well too. For smaller sites I think this project will be very valuable, especially for sites that have a relatively low(er) volume of questions on a daily basis. At the same time on those sites the need for a project like the staging ground is less, as site members have more time to spend on guiding users in the comment section.

For those smaller sites I see this being valuable especially for the new users, as they're less likely to encounter downvotes on their first question when it is well written and a clear question that meets the sites guidelines. And less valuable for more advanced users, as it doesn't add any value for them (seeing that they are perfectly capable of guiding new users in the comment section).

On bigger sites the impact for new users would be far greater, but at the same time due to the sheer volume of new users I fear that the new users vastly outnumber the amount of volunteering members. As was perfectly discussed before in several answers on the announcements on MSO, but explained perfectly clear by Zoe, whose answer unfortunately didn't get any formal response.

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    I think the question of scale for me is less about volume of posts on any one site and more about how do we scale customization of these features so that they reflect the needs and focuses of the individual sites.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Apr 6 at 19:09
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    For me the question of scale mostly lies with the large sites in the network. I'm sure we can make this work on small(er) sites, there will be enough people spending their time in guiding those few newcomers that arrive every week. On large sites the amount of newcomer in 15 minutes could easily equal the amount of newcomers for a whole month on a small site. At the same time I think the largest obstacle for small sites would be to distribute the amount of newcomers over enough veteran users.
    – Luuklag
    Apr 6 at 19:12
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    I guess my feeling is - if we are releasing this network-wide, we already have scaling up figured out since it's already on SO... unless we decide it can't be scaled and then only release it on smaller sites. So... yeah, I understand it as a general issue but I think that it'll be generally "solved" by the time we get to this point.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Apr 6 at 20:04
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    Maybe it would be easier to change the guidance on when to downvote inexperienced askers, and perhaps to be able to flag bad questions to a group of people who are willing to take the time to try to walk them through improving their questions. I completely understand how it could be very frustrating to new users to see their questions downvoted while they also don't get the answers they were looking for because they don't have the coding experience to be able to ask well. Apr 8 at 17:56
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    @Cajita I think the "scaling" mentioned is not in the technical backend, but rather in the people, time and energy needed to implement this on a large site like SO, ie the lack of sufficient volunteers, rather than the lack of computing resources.
    – Esther
    Apr 25 at 19:11
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Here are the changes this feature would need to replace the Sandbox which we already have on Code Golf, and which seems to have a somewhat similar goal:

  • Allow feedback gathered in the Staging Ground to be preserved for users to read it after the question gets qualified
  • Require the poster to explicitly choose to move their question out of the Staging Area, and not do it automatically
  • Also allow experienced users to opt in to using the Staging Ground, because we encourage even experienced users to use the Sandbox
  • Allow voting. One of the things we use the Sandbox for is not merely ensuring questions follow the rules, but trying to generally maintain quality and ensure the challenges posted stay actually interesting. "This is boring" is not a valid close reason, but it is a good downvote reason.

These are some fairly major changes to ask for, which are unlikely to be worked on, so I suspect the Sandbox won't end up being replaced for us.

However, if we look at this feature from the point of view of adding another layer of protection beyond the Sandbox, then it would still be pretty helpful, and would only need one extra feature: a big unmissable message telling users to go and use the Sandbox before posting their question. So really all we need is a site-customisable text box which lets us write in

Big Unmissable Text

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    I like the idea of allowing experienced users to opt in to the Staging Ground. I also think it would be neat if a poster could choose if they want their question auto-moved out of the Staging Ground.
    – izzy
    Apr 11 at 14:43
  • Lets us write in what?
    – Michael
    Apr 11 at 18:10
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    @Michael: I assume the text formatted as a header in the last line of the answer is the end of the paragraph above it: "However, if we look at this feature from the point of view of adding another layer of protection beyond the Sandbox, then it [...] would only need one extra feature: a big unmissable message telling users to go and use the Sandbox before posting their question. So really all we need is a site-customisable text box which lets us write in Big Unmissable Text".
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Apr 11 at 18:53
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    @V2Blast Poe's Law
    – Michael
    Apr 12 at 1:17
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    Allowing feedback to be public and allow for all users to opt in should be doable on non-SO sites (and potentially SO in the future, though it has its own specific use case).
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 20:16
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    Giving the user control of when to move their post out of the SG is something that we are thinking about doing in general. If we do, then the option would be available on all sites. But if we don't put it in for SO, it probably won't make it in for individual sites. So this is still TBD.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 20:17
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    As far as voting, as things look now, we are probably not going to be allowing more than the current plan: provisional upvotes for when things go live, but no voting in the SG itself.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 20:17
  • I like the second item. This would filter out a lot of posts from minimum effort users. And also homework dumps, incl. for paid homework assignments—posted on behalf of somebody else (and make the life more difficult for such paid homework assignments posted by bots). Apr 13 at 11:54
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Make the "defined period of inactivity" a per-site customizable feature

Questions can be published on the site from the Staging Ground right away if they are approved by Reviewers. Questions that are not approved by Reviewers will be auto-published after a defined period of inactivity, except for questions that have received a close vote or flag, or where a Reviewer has asked for major changes that were not made.

Some of the smaller sites have lots of eager reviewers -- others don't. As a new user, if my new questions kept getting stuck in limbo, this would be very annoying.

Sites should be able to define the timeout period to strike a balance between reviewing questions and getting questions published.

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    This is definitely doable. It will go on the system with a network-wide default and then would be customizable per site.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 6 at 20:15
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The Wizard could be especially useful on sites that have non-obvious rules. Skeptics for example requires questions to be about notable claims, which is a really unusual rule and which tends to trip up new users. The by far most common way to meet this requirement is to add a quote from a notable source, this part could be a step in a question wizard.

The by far biggest issues I can see with the staging ground and non-SO sites is that the scale can be very different. It's probably easier to get this to work on low-traffic sites, but you might run into different problems there. Putting all this into a big feature with a separate UI is something I don't like, and I suspect could be problematic at lower volumes. Having a completely separate area can make sense if there is always something to do there like on SO. If the staging area is empty a lot of the time, as you would expect on low-traffic sites, users might not look there as often. Integrating the staged questions into the regular lists like proposed is even more important in this case, and I think should actually happen without restrictions. So those questions would appear everywhere they usually would, and nobody would actually have to intentionally visit the staging area for this to work.

One big concern in general I have with this is that it adds a lot of complexity. It's already hard to understand for casual users how SE sites work, this adds a whole layer on top of the existing complexity.

For Skeptics in particular I could imagine a use case for the staging area. One problem we have is that if a question is not specific enough about the claim, we tend to get problematic answers. The answers are not necessarily bad, but they might answer very different versions of the question depending on the assumptions the answerer made. And fixing the question after those answers exist is very messy, if not impossible. So fixing the question before answers come in is even more important on Skeptics than on most sites.

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    What about having a "staging" protection mechanism instead of a separate area? The staging area questions are public, but they are protected so that only people involved in the staging review can have limited interactions with them. Staged questions don't come up in on-site searches/google indexing, and they don't show on the home page but they aren't completely hidden either. I'm a little nervous about the question staging area being similar to code staging. I don't know how much there is to be gained from hiding those questions and the review comments if interactions with them are limited.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 7 at 15:31
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    I know that it would be immensely useful on Worldbuilding.SE.
    – The Daleks
    Apr 8 at 23:29
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    Making the Staging Ground open to all users on the site (with only qualified users being able to comment or perform actions) is definitely something worth discussing more.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 20:21
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Comments and questions will be "private" (only open to those who have access to the Staging Ground as Reviewers)

I'm not sure about this. I think it's useful for new users to see what other new users are doing, for examples of what not to do. Also, in principle, I also want to keep as much of the site as open and transparent as possible.

If you really want to limit full access to reviewing to experienced users, then at least allow all users to see posts if they're given a direct link (which is already the case for review queues).

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    For the initial testing the plan is to keep the section listing closed to users who dont have Review privileges. Allowing direct links though is something that we will consider. And we are talking about ways of expanding access in the future more along the lines of what you have suggested (and with commenting/actions only available for users with the privilege to do so).
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 7 at 9:57
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first-time question Authors

Does that mean that every user can only ever experience the staging ground exactly once?

Maybe make it depend on how many well-received questions a user has under the belt?

Maybe make it possible for a site to force all questions through the staging ground? Useful for e.g. Code Golf.

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    In the initial test run, only users who would end up in First questions would go to SG (so first question, or 2nd/3rd if prev questions didnt do well). In theory we are interested in opening it up for users to be able to elect to put their posts in SG whenever they want and/or have harder threshold for user to "leave" SG for their new questions. But that can only be done if we have enough Reviewer support to cover that. Which will have to wait for testing.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 7 at 10:05
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    We could definitely have a way for a site to force all questions through SG or have different criteria for graduating a user.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 7 at 10:05
  • I don't think forcing all users to use it will have any benefit. Experienced users will be aware of the feature and can choose to use if they want. And I don't think there is any value in making people go through a process they are not interested in. Apr 14 at 2:44
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One word comes to mind: "Collaboration". And then the question: How can we make sure there is going to be collaboration on a significant enough amount of posts, so that both new users and existing community members experience the staging ground as a good place to collaborate?

A basic requirement for a sandbox to work is collaboration between existing community members and the user seeking guidance. If you want the staging ground to work anything like a sandbox on meta (which usually requires 5 reputation points to unlock meta participation) and not just another first posts queue, I think there should be a mechanism that enables (almost forces) that collaboration to actually take place, and limit or exclude unregistered users.

IPS is a site that sometimes feels plagued by "unregistered users". These can't ask questions on Stack Overflow, but on most other sites they can. They drop their post, and then vanish into the sunset or lose their cookie, never to be seen again. I think the staging ground may help the site a lot, as IPS is one of those weird 'subjective sites' where everyone also seems to misunderstand the site's actual topic. But it will only work if the current users on IPS can end up actually collaborating with new users on that staging ground. And a collaboration requires two parties, which from experience doesn't usually include unregistered users.

Regular users have little to no way to check if their efforts at collaboration can be reasonably expected to bear fruit. Whether a user is registered or not hidden on their profile page. As is the 'Last seen' field, but that now doesn't have enough granularity to even guess if someone is still checking in on their post. Regular users can only see 'last seen this week' or 'more than a week ago'. All of this isn't really helpful when dealing with things like a staging ground: As a regular user, if I were to spend my time collaborating on writing good quality posts on a staging ground, I want to at least have some confirmation that the OP of a post is still likely to be around to do their part of the collaboration, and make the changes that I will spend time on to carefully formulate in comments. If the user is long gone or will (with an 80% likelihood) never return, I can probably spend my time in more fruitful ways.

Unregistered users have a habit of losing their cookies, or just dropping a post and disappearing. I know IPS gets a lot of questions by unregistered users, maybe part of that is due to the subject matter. Usually, if you don't comment on posts from unregistered users within a few hours, you might as well just close it without commenting: You won't ever see them again to clarify their question or improve their post.

If we are going to expect posts from unregistered users to sit for a certain amount of time on a staging ground, how is the system going to make sure the users helping to shape up posts in the staging ground aren't wasting their time? Is there going to be some more granular indicator of latest activity/last seen? Will comments get 'read receipts'? Can we somehow make the system work in such a way that it enables (or almost forces) users that use it to participate? Can there be a hard limit on the amount of posts from unregistered users in the staging ground at any given moment?

PS: I know right now we are also already 'wasting time' with having these unregistered users post directly onto the site. And that a front page with closed questions doesn't look very "welcoming", so sweeping some of this under a rug will at least 'feel' better. But a staging ground full of languishing posts, abandoned by unregistered users, with no way of knowing if your effort is going to have an effect, is also not going to "welcome" other community members to even attempt to collaborate there. Especially if one of the goals of the staging ground is to further lower the threshold for participation, if you succeed in reaching that goal, I see the staging ground becoming too noisy to hold any value over a first posts queue, fast. So while I don't have any answers, I at least wanted to put these questions out there for consideration.

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    Why not block unregistered users from asking questions entirely (with the existing site setting)?
    – Laurel
    Apr 11 at 12:21
  • @Laurel That may be an option IPS has to explore, though I think a request is likely to fail. At this point it isn't necessarily "getting out of hand", like this post suggests as the main reason for turning it off. We can keep up with closing the off-topic/low-quality posts from unregistered users. It's more that turning unregistered asking off just to create circumstances in which a staging ground can work and flourish... Let's just say I'd rather see the staging ground somehow fix this problem, instead of just banning all unregistered accounts. 1/2
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Apr 11 at 12:36
  • IPS will probably not meet the criteria for having unregistered users turned off, see e.g. this post which suggests it won't be done for small sites. Thinking on it a bit further: It may even turn out that blocking unregistered users just moves the problem: users now create an account with a disposable 10minutemail, drop their post, and go. The unregistered users are an example, but they're certainly not the only way a lack of collaboration can exist and make a staging ground a failure, I guess. 2/2
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Apr 11 at 12:39
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I don't know if it has already been addressed, but I want to highlight a thought that worries me.

How can we prevent this feature from becoming a rep-mining weapon?

I mean, reviewers (the experienced users) could probably understand the questions even when those questions are still not well written and suitable for publishing. They could help the user to fix their question or not, but in the meantime they can prepare an answer and be ready to post it at the same moment the question goes live.

Of course, when you are the first to answer with a well written post, you get an advantage in terms of visibility and you can collect upvotes even if yours is not the best answer. As bad as we can think of it, it is part of the game and it is an important part of the success of this site.

So, this seems something that can be leveraged by the "bad guys" if there is nothing to prevent it.

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    This is something to monitor and see if it becomes an issue. If it does, we can put in place something like "Good to go reviewers from the Staging Ground have an X minute period after the question goes public where they cannot answer the question". But I dont think that we are going to do anything preemptive to prevent this.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Apr 10 at 7:58
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    Why is this a problem? An experienced user spends their time helping a new user ask a good enough question and as a "reward" they get to post the first answer. If this leads to rep farmers pushing bad questions out of SG, that's a different problem that should be solved, but I disagree that what you are saying is a problem in general.
    – MegaIng
    Apr 10 at 8:00
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    As someone who burns a lot of time on the First Questions queue trying to help new users get their first questions right and sometimes also offers an answer, in my experience it would be a very inefficient rep-mining tool. Helping someone formulate a question well takes a lot of time and effort.
    – glenatron
    Apr 11 at 9:17
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This isn't meant to be negative and as such I request people refrain from attacking me, but my initial thought is why would someone spend their time in what must surely be a very tedious activity, an unending stream of very poor questions. There's altruism, but surely not many people are that altruistic to do something which is really rather dull. Is there some tangible on-site reward for doing this, beyond being a nice person?

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    "why would someone spend their time": You don't know the motives of other users. Some have said publicly on these sites, incl. Jon Skeet, that their primary motivation is to help other people, incl. beginners. Another motivation may be to protect the resource from being ruined by lots of extremely low-quality posts (e.g., for future use by themselves)—for example, making search engine hits way too noisy (and thus useless). Apr 26 at 17:22
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    eh, well, the thing is, this isn't an endless stream of very poor questions. It's an endless stream of questions, some of which are poor. There is quite a bit of satisfaction gained by some people when they turn a low quality question into a good question.
    – Kevin B
    Apr 26 at 19:08
  • "Is there some tangible on-site reward for doing this, beyond being a nice person?" I guess you know the answer to this question already (and it's no unless you count rep or badges as something tangible, which I wouldn't).
    – Trilarion
    May 2 at 6:21
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the needs of your site in this area

It would be nice (e.g. for Code Golf) to have a customisable "must include [at least] one of…" for the tags field.

Background: Code Golf uses certain tags to indicate post type, and every question must have exactly one of a mutually exclusive set of tags.

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How will this suggestion change the key problem with SE from a new user's perspective, namely that everything about SE screams 'You're not worthy' at new users? Your suggestion seems to imply that the problem for new users is that SE is too complex. Your solution - tack on an extra layer for good measure with extra rules!?

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    I don't think the Ask Wizard and Staging ground create new rules at all and if you do, it'd be helpful if you could expand on your answer to explain that because we're clearly missing it. The goal of the two features is to surface the rules to users sooner and to hopefully give them a better chance to be successful from the outset. If you don't know how to ask a question well, the Question Wizard should help give you an outline of what to expect on the site you're on. The Staging ground gives you an out-of-the way place to sandbox your question before it's live.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 13:36
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    Both of these feature designs have gone through several rounds of feedback from new users to better understand how they could be of assistance and help them understand the body of rules you rightly cite as being large. That doesn't mean they'll help everyone or that they'll be useful to everyone - it only means that we're trying to find a solution to the very problem you've recognized and this is what we've come up with. If you disagree, help us understand why these solutions wouldn't address your concerns - that way, we can actually make use of your answer in improving the features.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 13:38
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    @Reviewers, this answer is Feedback on an Announcement. Don't use the Low quality Review Queue to flag this for deletion (only used because you claim it doesn't address the question) when you actually simply want to downvote and possibly vote to delete directly; it's a misuse of the purpose of the queue (to avoid losing one reputation) by reviewing negatively answers you disagree with.
    – Rob
    Apr 12 at 14:09
  • Some immediate points. First "to surface the rules to users sooner". Is this really a key consideration for on-boarding new users? Most users come to the SE sites because they are trying to get the answer to a question, and nothing will be more off-putting than an excessive amount of rules. If it were up to me I would be looking for ways to simplify and reduce rules for new users.
    – psmythirl
    Apr 12 at 14:31
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    Then we should better set users' expectations. We are not a help desk, we a knowledge platform. The mission statement of every site on the network is "build a library of detailed answers to every question about <insert the site's topic>". Every question is a contribution to that library, not a task for answerers (like in traditional forums). We have rules to ensure everything does not devolve into Reddit and co. Apr 12 at 14:56
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    The rules in the staging area (SA) will be different from the norm on SE. For example, "There will not be any votes or answering", but this amounts to an extra layer of complexity since as soon as a new user has a question accepted they will be confronted with the rest of the usual SE experience. I don't feel this will be much different from the current new user experience since the SA experience won't have prepared them for it.
    – psmythirl
    Apr 12 at 15:17
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    Please edit these comments into the answer rather than leaving them in comments.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Apr 12 at 18:07
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    Can you elaborate in your answer on "everything about SE screams 'You're not worthy' at new users"? E.g., what are some examples of that? I presume you mean Stack Overflow, not other Stack Exchange sites(?). Apr 13 at 11:29
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tl;dr: a sandbox will only alienate new users, and closing questions is toxic; instead, make a "needs improvements" banner.

I never really understood the point of a question sandbox (except maybe perhaps on Code Golf since the "questions" are challenges that must conform to a certain spec). Really, it just delays questions that need to be asked from being asked and could theoretically lower the number of questions that actually get moved out of the sandbox and asked as "real" questions if people provide answers as comments in the sandbox. Also, what new users would even want to use the sandbox. New users want their questions live so that they can be answered.

Although Stack Exchange sites stand out among Q&A sites and forums (vs. Quora and Yahoo Answers) because of the quality of information (heck, Stack Overflow is the go-to for 99.99% of programmers unverified statistic), it feels like Stack Exchange is becoming more and more concerned about being a wiki of sorts, which is making it feel less and less like an inviting Q&A site and more of a cliquey forum. Because of this, I could see fewer users going to Stack Exchange sites out of fear of being told their question is stupid (or they themselves are stupid).

Communities should focus first on answering questions first, and then revising them to be high quality. The constant focus on "asking high-quality questions" is driving away new users. Without questions being asked and answered, Stack Exchange has no traffic and thus, no relevance on the Internet. I feel like if moderators and community regulars feel that it is important to uphold a high standard of questions (which they should; that keeps pros and sophisticated users interested), they should take initiative to specifically help users edit their questions (or edit them for them), and answerers should be the ones to ask for askers to edit their questions to clarify/narrow scope.

As psmythirl puts it, telling users to "go ask it in the sandbox first, then come back" (my words) creates a "you're not worthy" (their words) atmosphere and alienates and ostracizes new/inexperienced users.

If I may add, closing or "putting on hold" questions deemed as subpar because they aren't clear doesn't help with attracting/retaining new users either. It does them a disservice because they came to a Stack Exchange site needing help/advice/etc. They tried to write a question the best they could, and now their question is locked from receiving answers because a few moderators felt that it was unclear or low-quality. (It very well could've made sense to another user who could've answered it.) Closing questions should only be reserved for very low quality questions, spam, and duplicates (after verifying that the specific question has already been asked and answered).

Perhaps instead relegating new users to a sandbox and closing "bad" questions, a "needs workshopping" tag/designation should be created that says something like "This question might need some improvements to make it better" without disabling interaction (i.e., posting new answers), and make a Needs Workshopping tab (or something) on the homepage next to Active, Hot, etc.

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    Re "they should take initiative to specifically help users edit their questions (or edit them for them), and answerers should be the ones to ask for askers to edit their questions to clarify/narrow scope": That would be great. The current design of the gamification system sadly does not encourage it. May 6 at 8:40

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