Over at Ask Ubuntu meta, I posted a question regarding new users.

My experience is that there are many new users coming in that don't understand the difference between SE sites and a forum.

There are some really good points made in the above thread, but one suggestion was a timeout period (similar to what exists on Ubuntu Discourse), where a user can't post anything until after they have visited the site for a period of time (let's say 1-3 days).

In my opinion, this solution could handle several issues in one:

  • New users are "forced" to take some more time browsing the site, seeing examples and learning the site rules.
  • Many new questions are duplicates. A timeout period forces new users to search existing questions, and see if their problem is already answered.
  • New users can't use this site for "HELP, I have an exam tomorrow, and I need my computer fixed now, PLZ" kind of questions, which we unfortunately see on Ask Ubuntu.
  • Users can't create multiple users and post their questions several times with different users, which is something we unfortunately also see from time to time.

IMO, the issues you ask about at SE sites aren't the type where you should be in a rush. If you're in a hurry, call a professional. Instead, SE sites are more suited to well-thought out questions, and well-considered answers.

In this light, I think a timeout period of a couple of days wouldn't hinder the usefulness of the site - on the contrary.

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    If you want to kill SE and cut the users base by 90% at least, go ahead, and block new users from asking. You will have a site with super quality questions, but with about one question every month. :) Oct 19, 2022 at 11:21
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    You seriously think people are so impatient that they can't wait 2-3 days to ask their question (maybe a week is a bit much)? That's interesting.. πŸ‘ How about 1 day? But I think you're right that there is a direct relation between the number of questions and a timeout period. Oct 19, 2022 at 11:23
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    I don't think, I'm 100% certain of it. Not all people. Just 90% of them. We can do it as an experiment in some smaller SE site that is dying anyway, see how the new users and new questions rate is dropping. Oct 19, 2022 at 11:25
  • I've added a point about duplicates. If a fair comparison should be done, you should also take into account how many questions are NOT closed as duplicates, because new users actually took some time to search for an existing answer to their problem (this would at least be true for a fair number of sites). Oct 19, 2022 at 11:30
  • Isn't this something that the Staging Ground feature being discussed on MSO might be able to address? Seems that part of the goals of that is to have questions from new askers go through some sort of a vetting process to ensure quality, while helping with new user education.
    – Simona
    Oct 19, 2022 at 11:31
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    @Simona Looks like it - thanks for the tip! Oct 19, 2022 at 11:33
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    I'm just curious - are the downvotes because the question is unclear or have problems, or simply because people disagree with the suggestion? Oct 19, 2022 at 11:42
  • meta.askubuntu.com/posts/comments/45261 @ArturMeinild Oct 19, 2022 at 12:31
  • Regarding "If you're in a hurry, call a professional.": Not everyone can afford to pay someone to fix their problems :( Oct 19, 2022 at 12:33
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    @RandomPerson I get it - it appears I wasn't paying enough attention. 😬 Re the other aspect - neither can I, but I can afford to wait a few days for sure, especially if I rely on the help of volunteers.. πŸ˜‰ Oct 19, 2022 at 12:33
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    Regarding the downvotes: According to my experience, downvotes in MSE are much more common compared to AU meta. I feel people have downvoted because they disagree with the suggestion. Oct 19, 2022 at 12:40
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    I agree. Also, I think this suggestion also basically reflects my general opinion that people should just stop being in such a hurry all the time (or maybe just be better at planning ahead, and not fix everything in the last minute)... But I know I probably can't change that. 😎 Oct 19, 2022 at 12:45
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    meta.stackexchange.com/a/285903 A related answer perhaps... Oct 19, 2022 at 12:46
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    Very relevant! πŸ‘ Oct 19, 2022 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


The SE philosophy has always been about low friction for posting. It’s the same reason we have the option of anonymous posting, and posting being a 1 rep privilege. I'll add references from our powers that be (emeritus) that I swear exist, but I am failing to find.

That said, I can't imagine people will generally have the patience to wait that long. They'll go somewhere else and a timeout because you're new is invariably a sign you ought to ask somewhere else. We do have tools like rate limits on sites where you're low reputation, but teaching new users the ways of SE is a process.

In addition - things like general gamification, encouraging (not forcing) new users to read the help and other tools in use are positive reinforcement of good behaviour. Timing out new users is negative reinforcement of...being new. It’s a little like smacking a puppy on the nose with a rolled up newspaper the first time you meet to establish dominance. You'll end up with confusion rather than teaching.

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    Good points - I'm also personally leaning towards the "staging ground" feature referenced, now that I've become aware of that. Here, new users are taken a step further, because questions can be asked, but have to go through a QA before they are published. I think this could be useful on some other SE site (Ask Ubuntu being one of them). Oct 19, 2022 at 11:46

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