There seems to be a bit of a learning curve when users first start using the site as we've seen with the OP adding an answer rather than editing their question or responding with a comment. I've seen a few different sites that offer some video tutorials offering quick intros along with some dos and donts.

I've seen the videos be a part of FAQ pages, part of a training page, and also included at the end of the registration process before the user would try to begin asking some questions, etc.

Why not create these videos for the trilogy sites?

It's quite obvious that folks feel pretty strongly against this. The comments and answers on this thread are all self reflecting and don't seem to place much thought about how others may or may not interact with the site. In fact, I agree with much of what people have said here, but this really is not about me or you, it is about the noob who may not know how the site works and never reads anything (like FAQ)...

I'd apply the following metaphor that really sums up my thoughts...

If you buy Madden 2010 for the XBox, you can simply pop the game in the XBox and grab the controller and start playing. You can open up the box and read the 42 page booklet on how-to play the game, or you can watch some of the game demos and go through the training modules embedded into the game. You can do 3 different things in this scenario, choosing the one that fits YOU best.

I'm simply saying that if you apply this metaphor to the SO sites, we only allow you to simply pop the game in and start playing and provide the booklet. Why not the 3rd offering?

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    Do I hear the sound of a volunteer to create these videos? – Greg Hewgill Feb 22 '10 at 19:11
  • @Greg: I'd consider it... But I think there are probably some other folks who would be better at it. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 19:31
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    Isn't reading an essential programming skill? – nb69307 Feb 22 '10 at 20:16
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    @Neil: Apparently folks are not doing it! So what do you propose... – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 20:20
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    In answer to your second edit, I have never in my life learned anything technical from a video. Almost everything I know, I have learned by reading. – nb69307 Feb 22 '10 at 20:30
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    My first only and last reaction. WTF? With all due respect, even with my newbie hat on, the whole idea behind gaining reputation is taking the time to learn how it works, through doing and being a part of. If you never cross the 200 reputation barrier, you're just not interested. – BinaryMisfit Feb 22 '10 at 20:35
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    @Diago But everything must be easy, and nothing must hurt. – nb69307 Feb 22 '10 at 20:59
  • @Diago: WTF is totally right... Why don't we make things a bit easier for folks. Not everyone out there cares about reputation and just wants to get some questions answered, etc. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 21:42
  • Let me ask you this: if a training company made a "using StackOverflow effectively" course, do you think anyone would pay to take it? – Kate Gregory Feb 15 '14 at 19:24

Perhaps a < 20 secs overview video would be interesting.

I can't tell if SO it's hard or easy to use right now, because I started to use it very early when it got out of the beta, so it is completely natural to me.

Today, it has more features, and although the basic structure remains, perhaps a new users would benefit from this.

I think an usability test is in order to identify weak points.

If you ask any of the user who are in the first page of the users tabs, all of them without exception ( I think ) would say NO because they master the system anyway.

If you ask any of the users who are in the last pages ( well let's say that have more than 100 rep ) most of them ( I think ) would say YES PLEASE

... So, go ahead, :) Don't let us stop you from doing so :) :) :)

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  • @Oscar: I totally agree with you... Except for that last sentence ;) – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 20:29
  • Regardless of where this question goes, I'd go along with "I think an usability test is in order". Its not a bad idea to revisit some objective data from time to time. Plus, I'd love to see the videos. :) – AnonJr Feb 23 '10 at 15:05

If we have to create these videos to explain how to use the site, then we're doing it wrong.

Usability should never have to be explained by a video. When it is, it's a good bet that the topic is too complex. And that's a bad thing.

The stated reason for a video is because a user doesn't realize that they probably shouldn't respond to their question with an answer when they mean to leave a comment for someone, or expound upon their question.


If a user doesn't follow this:

Dialog box

What makes you think they're going to take the time to watch a video?

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  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink... Overall, most don't experience an issue. But we do see new users especially not understand what to use a comment for or an answer. So rather than trying to encourage them to read the FAQs, or let them get slapped on the wrist by angry users, we could as an alternative provide some videos that make everyone's life a bit easier. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 17:21
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    I find "explanatory videos" (especially the ones google has) extremely boring and un-necessary. I usually get bored after a few seconds, skip minutes in, then get bored again right after and close it. Maybe it's just me, though. – Thomas Bonini Feb 22 '10 at 17:28
  • Yeah... I have a hard time believing that the folks who don't bother reading the tiny site FAQ or on-screen messages are going to spend any time watching a video. – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 18:44
  • @Shog9 - I can tell you that I'd be very likely to do it. In addition to them being informative, it also sold the product... Granted, "sold" as in I bought, but SO needs to be bought as well... – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 18:46
  • @George... I'm not saying that I disagree with you... But your argument would then suggest that the UI on SO is broken and that it has been done wrong, so what would you change? – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 18:56
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    @Chester: are you saying you didn't read the FAQ or on-screen text? Because I've no doubt there are folks who, having devoured the entire canon of SO rules and lore, would eat up videos should they be available... But that doesn't do anything for the folks who don't understand how the site works because they don't care! – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 18:59
  • @Shog9 I didn't read the FAQ, on screen text was looked at as it looked important enough to read... Again, I'm not saying that every person would benefit, but there are certainly some. Very low cost to provide and the value would be there for many. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 19:01
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    @Chester: "Very low cost"? I have never created a screencast, but a good (read: helpful) one would probably need some work. – balpha Feb 22 '10 at 19:04
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    @Chester: ok, so explain this to me... You haven't bothered spending the minute or so that it takes to read the FAQ, but you'd watch some sort of video? Where's the logic in that? – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 19:12
  • @Shog9... Do you read books or watch movies? Seems like a trend from moving away from reading. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 19:20
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    @Chester: yes. Sometimes both, simultaneously. Movies are great for background noise when you're reading. I guess that's not really "watching" though... And I don't tend to learn much from movies even when I do keep my eyes on the screen. As for a trend... SO is mostly useless to folks who don't read - it's almost all text! – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 19:22
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    @Shog9: I'm just saying that there are people who approach things differently, the status-quo is not working for everyone and this idea may help with some of that. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 19:30
  • @Balpha - some hundred dollar software and a few hours to get it edited and thrown on youtube or some other provider seems rather cheap to me. – RSolberg Feb 22 '10 at 19:30
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    @Chester only if your time doesn't cost anything. And if your time doesn't cost anything, you have other problems. – George Stocker Feb 22 '10 at 19:32
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    @Chester: I think that's where your assumption is off... It probably is working for most of the people posting, say, comments as answers, the exception being those who expect responses... In which case, the current behavior (no response / negative response) should serve to reinforce the correct behavior. Anyone who's willing to watch a video should be capable of reading the on-screen text, and as George notes if it isn't obvious what the correct behavior should be then it's better to invest time in improving the UI than in increasingly elaborate methods of explaining an obtuse UI... – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 19:51

I voted it up. I started SO in beta, and I'm only now seeing the user friction as I introduce others to it.

Although they've tried to keep the interface simple, clean, and understandable, there's still a reasonable learning curve to really using the site well.

Beginners have no problem performing the simple tasks - asking, answering, and voting.

But get too far beyond that and you flail in the land of x reputation for action y, except when the post is z, but if it changes to z after your post then it may not affect your reputation earned before, but may affect your reputation earned after.

And that's just the surface.

Further, as much as programmers love reading manuals (they don't!) many people learn better by viewing/listening than by reading text.

So there is a market for this type of presentation of the FAQ, and it will only help people use the site better. Those speaking and voting against it aren't contending that it will harm the site, they are merely contending that it might not add value. (unless, of course, it gets in the way of normal use - I'd simply want it linked from the FAQ page, and perhaps in the sidebar along with the existing user hints.)

That being said, this is not something the SO team will likely allocate time and resources for. If someone put together a very high quality video or set of tutorial videos, then might be the appropriate time to ask the powers that be to adopt them as additional new user resources.

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  • Remember, every time you downvote on MSO, a kitten dies. – Pollyanna Feb 22 '10 at 20:54
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    And Remember, every time you up-vote on MSO, a pony gets a magical horn-weapon. Don't doom us all to gory, weaponized-pony-related deaths! – Shog9 Feb 22 '10 at 21:03
  • But if we kill all the kittens won't the ponies, deprived of their natural prey, starve to death? – nb69307 Feb 22 '10 at 21:13
  • What a temperamental conundrum! I shall have to ponder this. – Pollyanna Feb 22 '10 at 21:19
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    Noooo! Not the kittens! – Ether Feb 23 '10 at 1:04

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