When making posts on Stack Overflow or Stack Exchange, you can see on the right side "Draft Your Question" and "Helpful Links." While the latter contains links for asking good questions and the help center, neither shows the rules for questions.

It would be more helpful if it showed all the rules on the sidebar with collapsible sections. Reddit is a good example of this. When making posts, you can see site-wide guidelines to the right, and if you post to a specific subreddit, it will show you the subreddit rules as well, each rule has a section and is collapsible.

Reddit question drafting page, showing posting rules on the right side of the page

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    The only addition that I'd make is that they should be expandable. It would be nice to have ~500 characters (effectively a comment) to elaborate on each one. Following the model of the tour would be nice, too, where elected moderators have some control over the content. Some would be fixed and on all sites, but moderators could edit site-specific guidance or perhaps even add a guideline or two. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 21:42
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  • Do you have a particular site in mind that you would like to discuss their specifics ask question rules / ask question page?
    – user1359324
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 22:09
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    @Wicket No not one in particular. I know how to view the rules for whichever sites.
    – Oneechan69
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 6:02
  • Please report your most recent experience asking a question on a specific site. It will probably be best to post it first in the respective per-site-meta; some already had related discussions, i.e., on Web Applications, there was a feature-request that got feedback from CM, and some discussions are in progress. By the way, SO has an initiative called Staging Ground that offers a special user experience for users not having experience asking questions on such a site.
    – user1359324
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 19:46
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    I just want to emphasize how much I'd appreciate this. I'm a semi-active user and I read on meta (I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the exact comment) "SO isn't a 'help me debug' site, it is a site where the Q should be applicable and generalizable to many". I did not realize (and could not have articulated) that until I read that comment. I had multiple well received questions and 2 poorly received ones, and genuinely did not realize what the difference was until that comment. I think making that difference more explicit would be very useful to multiple people, including my past self.
    – Michaela
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


I agree. Seems like this would save many newcomers from asking questions which get closed for being off-topic or belong on a different site, if they could easily see the rules about questions on the site on the sidebar, at least as a link. It is non-obvious where to look on sites if you wish to look for the rules of the site, and it would only take up a little bit of space from a UI perspective. If it matters from a clutter perspective, it could go away after some amount of reputation on the site.

For example, let's say I want to know what's on topic for philosophy. I go to the homepage for the site and find no links telling me general information about the site. OK fine, so, I go to ask a question, and I see "Find more information about how to ask a good question here." It does not say what is on topic. And it is a rather vague page which contains 6 links. (This isn't about the philosophy site at all, they are universally like this, verbatim, in my experience.) Two of the six links contain the rules on what is on topic, but they're longwinded, and I doubt many newcomers will care that much to navigate to multiple pages by this point. They'll probably give up and risk asking the question anyway. This is bad for experienced users, who don't like off-topic questions, and is bad for the newcomer who may have their question closed and had a genuine desire to find the rule before asking.

Shouldn't the rules for what can be asked be linked somewhere on the homepage, before someone already commits and clicks on "ask" (where they are linked on the sidebar)? Even better, we could just have a quick summary on the sidebar. For philosophy, maybe it would look like:

You can ask about philosophical topics such as epistemology, logic, history of philosophy, applied philosophy, etc.

However, you should avoid:

  • questions that are very common and likely to be answered in many other places.
  • questions that just express your own beliefs.
  • asking a question if your goal is discussion, rather than an explanation.
  • asking questions where the answer would be entirely subjective, even though it is okay to ask some subjective questions.

Adding at least a link (or better, an expandable dropdown) seems like a no-brainer to me, and this exists on many other Q/A sites.

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