SE places expectations on users to ask high-quality questions, in the absence of which closure, deletion, etc. can drive away new users from the site. Further, it drains the effort of experienced users to request the same information again and again.

So why not ask before?

I propose customising the question interface for users below a certain reputation threshold to create a site-specific (fill-in-the-blank type) template that aids new users to ask high-quality questions.

As an example, I present a rough sketch of what the new user interface may look like on math.SE:

Make your title your question; use it to convey as much information as possible. Don't be afraid to make it long.
[Space to add title]

Question Statement
Write the statement of the question, including all assumptions and conditions. This may be the same as the title.
[Space to add question statement]

Mention where you came across the question and/or what prompted you to ask about it.
[Space to add source/motivation]

Background (optional)
Indicate your level of familiarity with the question topic.
[Space to add background]

Definitions (optional)
Define any important terms relating to the question.
[Space to add definitions]

Your Work
Include your thoughts, observations, research and/or attempts to solve the problem.
[Space to add the OP's work]

Other (optional)
Add any additional details relevant to the question.
[Space to add other details]

References (optional)
Link any references appropriate to the question.
[Space to add references]

Add up to 5 tags to describe what your question is about.
[Space to add tags]

The question can then render as follows:


[Question Statement]






After the question has been posted, the OP (and other users) can edit the question using the standard interface, thus being able to reformat and restructure the question if necessary.

The technology is here!

Although a customised user interface such as the Ask Question Wizard may be ideal, SE has already implemented a similar structure before (see below).

enter image description here

(Credit: Calvin Khor)

On related questions

Similar features have been proposed before on meta.SE (see 1, 2), and have received considerable support, but (as far as I'm aware) haven’t been implemented (across the network). Further, the discussions I find are relatively old, which suggests to me that this request should be revisited.

This was initially proposed on math.SE (see here), and is now proposed here on the advice of a few users.

  • 3
    @RobertLongson I would say no: I'm not proposing a staging ground, nor a question wizard, rather a much simpler fill-in-the-blank type template.
    – user1205410
    Jul 18 at 6:27
  • 3
    Those are what you're going to get though because that's what the developers are working on. If you want to influence that you need to do so in that question's answers. Jul 18 at 6:28
  • 3
    I like it! It's clean and simple. Users will at the very least see what the recommendations are before ignoring one, two or all of them (sadly). Jul 18 at 6:33
  • 3
    @RobertLongson I respectfully disagree. The devs building something that may satisfy the OP’s goal doesn’t make it a dupe IMO. It may mean the OP gets a status-declined, but given that the OP is asking for a different proposed solution (maybe the same goal, but still a different request), I don’t think that is an appropriate dupe target here
    – cocomac
    Jul 18 at 6:36
  • 4
    @cocomac this is asking to implement a GitHub style template with a number of preset headers. I don't think this would work (but I'm sure there's an exact duplicate somewhere) because it fits bug reports the best that follow a predetermined and scoped context. Most of the SO questions would benefit very little from it because a lot are just one paragraph and all the meta info in the headers is covered by the tags. E.g. "background: I'm a programmer" and "motivation: I can't solve this/throws error." doesn't add much. On a language site: "motivation: want to understand grammar."
    – bad_coder
    Jul 18 at 6:52
  • 2
    @bad_coder The proposed template is supposed to be site-specific (the example is only for math.SE), so the headers can be customised. As for SO, doesn’t it already have a question wizard? Further, with all due respect, I don’t think "but I'm sure there's an exact duplicate somewhere" is an acceptable close reason.
    – user1205410
    Jul 18 at 6:57
  • @BeKind how much time did you spend trying to find a duplicate for this?
    – bad_coder
    Jul 18 at 7:00
  • 2
    @bad_coder I'm not saying a duplicate certainly doesn’t exist (if it does, then I don’t mind the question being closed); I'm just saying that "I'm sure there's an exact duplicate somewhere" isn't an acceptable reason. I have mentioned related questions in the section "on related questions" in my post.
    – user1205410
    Jul 18 at 7:01
  • @BeKind I think Robert Longson's duplicate target is good enough and the reasons invoked satisfactory since the upcoming staging ground should address this - as far as I've understood it.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 18 at 7:02
  • @bad_coder Okay, I disagree for the same reasons as cocomac, but I'll leave it to the community to decide.
    – user1205410
    Jul 18 at 7:04
  • 1
    @cocomac I forgot to add one thing: copy-editors and reviewers upstream would not be happy having to remove all those additional boilerplate headers in order to form paragraphs out of them.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 18 at 7:11
  • 1
    In theory you can hide the boilerplate in HTML comments. I've abused it in a few places
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 18 at 7:37
  • 4
    "As for SO, doesn’t it already have a question wizard?" last time we know, it was abandoned and replaced with the current more general network-wide ask question page. That's why SE now wants to recreate a new question wizard along with the Staging Ground. Jul 18 at 11:46


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