Why do you implement so many nice features without showing them to all users? I have been visiting Stack Overflow for about 5 months. 2 days ago, I asked something here on meta and during it I found plenty of interesting information here. For example:

When I started writing this question I simply checked related questions and this one was like hit to the face. I know several people who regularly visit Stack Overflow and don't know about any of these features. I didn't even find a link to the search page (with option description)!


First of all, I am not asking where can I find list of features on Meta. I'm asking why do I need to visit meta and search them to know about them? Why FAQs simply do not include some link to for example mentioned wiki?

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    See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/59445/… for a (reasonably) complete list of new (and not so new) features.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jan 8, 2011 at 17:10
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    You hadn't noticed the box in the top right corner saying "search"?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Jan 8, 2011 at 17:11
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    That is search box but without explaining search options. Jan 8, 2011 at 17:14
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    "See our search tips" is on every search result page, though.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Jan 8, 2011 at 17:17
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    I agree that much of this stuff is not always obvious - it often takes me weeks or months to discover new features. But to be fair, it's all there if you look for it - the Tag wiki is visible in each tag; search tips are linked. Review is the only thing that isn't directly linked to I think, but you can find that by following the blog and meta
    – Pekka
    Jan 8, 2011 at 17:20
  • Ok, my fault I really didn't notice that link. Moreover that link is not showing on every result page but only on result which is not resolved as tag searching. Jan 8, 2011 at 17:23
  • Good questions. Finding new features sometimes feel like an Easter egg hunt.
    – Kobi
    Jan 9, 2011 at 5:33

5 Answers 5


Why FAQs simply do not include some link

They do. In fact, the FAQ links to all of the documentation, if you're bored/interested enough to read all the way to the end... At the end of the FAQ, there's a link to MORE FAQ! And also to the search options.

Honestly though, who bothers to read through that much documentation? You didn't. Your friends didn't. Little Timmy the dying invalid I just made up didn't, and he certainly had the time being bedridden and too poor for cable and such. It's more fun to actually use the site than it is to read about using it.

So yeah, you feel a bit cheated now because you didn't read the documentation and therefore weren't aware of some obscure features. Don't. You used the site, enjoyed using the site, and were perfectly happy using the site - and now you'll be even happier.

And next time you're stuck in bed with two broken legs and the flu, you'll know where to find plenty of reading material...

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    Even with sarcasm you are right. I'm still learning how to use these sites ... Jan 8, 2011 at 19:15
  • ...except the FAQ questions are often out of date, and it's difficult to find those relating to any one particular use or feature of the site, etc, etc, etc.
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 8, 2011 at 19:26
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    @Poll: I use the "advanced super ninja search options" to find faq topics. It works. Out of date information is a bigger problem, but not (at least in my experience) as big as users not reading the FAQ and providing misinformation to other users based on intuition or stuff their dog told them. As random notes, people don't read. It's a lot easier to justify keeping a FAQ up-to-date when folks are actually using it as a reference...
    – Shog9
    Jan 8, 2011 at 19:32
  • @Shog9 - Complaining that people don't read is a poor excuse to avoid good, up to date documentation.
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 9, 2011 at 0:42
  • @Poll: arguing that complaining that people don't read is a poor excuse to avoid good documentation is a great excuse for busywork... I've spent the most time on the FAQs I have a real interest in (and therefore often refer back to).
    – Shog9
    Jan 9, 2011 at 1:15
  • @shog9 - The OP is specifically requesting documentation they they will read. We know there is an audience for it. If the reasoning for less documentation is that there's too much documentation to read, then that's a symptom of poorly organized documentation. A new moderator should be able to go to a single document and get an overview of all their new abilities linked to more detailed information. Everyone should be able to do that. The single page FAQ is ok for beginners, but learning in detail requires knowledge they don't have (ie, you can find stuff because you understand the terminology)
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 9, 2011 at 18:37
  • @Poll: while I think a cohesive Book of SE is an appealing idea, I have trouble seeing the justification for it. Look at the bullet points in this question: search options are linked to directly from the main site FAQ; tag wikis are useless if not discoverable - ignorance of them is a design, not a documentation problem; the review page is new, its features and behavior still in flux - even if there was documentation for it, and even if a significant number of users actually read the documentation, they'd be unaware of it.
    – Shog9
    Jan 9, 2011 at 19:17
  • @Poll: the reason SE docs are organized the way they are is the same reason SE is organized the way it is. One of the charter philosophies - indeed, the "elevator pitch" - for SO was that Users Don't Read Books. If you can't find the answer by searching, then you ask. If the question has already been answered, then you link to it. Yes, it's less than ideal for those of us who would sit down and read through a book after signing up... But we're not the target audience anyway. Ultimately, the answer to the question "Why do the docs suck" is in your answer here: extensive docs == UI fail.
    – Shog9
    Jan 9, 2011 at 19:21

Why do you implement so many nice features without showing them to all users?

At the moment, SOIS prefers to follow two concepts regarding documentation:

  • Features should feel natural and require no explanation - good UI design should eliminate, or at least reduce the need for explanation and huge manuals
  • The community is capable of, and has the tools to document the system
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    I wish they would accept the fact that this is a large and complex application, though, and own up to good documentation efforts, or even simply supply a stream of reliable change information so the community can do so with better information.
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 8, 2011 at 18:49
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    Clearly @RebeccaChernoff should get on that!
    – Tim Stone
    Jan 8, 2011 at 18:55
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    Then UI design fails in my case. Some links or features are on place where I don't look for them or don't expect them. Jan 8, 2011 at 18:59

Tag wikis and the review page are still somewhat new / experimental and in flux; we typically deploy experiments and let those who want to find them, find them.

Over time these experimental features become more baked into the site, e.g.

alt text

... but you have to be patient.


You may want to look at this community maintained list of recent feature changes to the sites.

Recent feature changes to Stack Exchange

Also, check out the Stack Overflow blog as a fair amount of new features are announced there.


People don't read. And if they know how to, they don't care for it.

Secondly, a whole swag of the site works fine for those who don't know or even care about any of these extra features.

And C, if you wanted to take your involvement with the site a little step further, get a little more engrossed and up your interaction level, it all becomes magically clear.

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