Whilst trawling through the new review feature a common theme I see in posts are:

I know this was suggested some time back and was downvoted (Please provide some quick how to and training videos for the sites) but it was never ever status-declined.

To its credit Stack Overflow et al makes it totally frictionless and simple to ask a question, but a recurring theme I see so often is where people just don't seem to grok code formatting. They don't seem to understand that when they paste in a block of code that's legitimately tab indented in their IDE it'll most likely end up in the wrong place in the SO editor.

I think a short five minute video tour emphasising key features such as this would perhaps be useful. So when new users ask a question for the first time we push a link to said video(s) on the "How to ask" intro and after they asked their first two or three questions.

I and many others spend a lot of time reformatting code just so we can begin to understand a question. A short slick education video might grease the wheels of understanding because clearly people aren't reading the editor formatting help.

Maybe a video isn't the answer, maybe some way to do a "Clippy" type "It looks like you've pasted some code..." popup to draw attention to the formatting tools and editing help. Or maybe implement an automatic tab stripper?

  • 4
    If they make a video, they should absolutely make it like one of those old-school grainy public service announcement type of videos: "Uh oh, little Jimmy seems to be having trouble parsing his HTML with a regular expression. Where might he be able to go for help with such a problem? Ah yes, Stack Overflow. But he must be careful in using this resource, lest he come across looking like a "square" to his fellow programmers." Jan 11, 2011 at 17:21
  • @gnostradamus - Mr Cholmondley-Warner :) youtube.com/watch?v=tQWPR9TM0Gk
    – Kev
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:23
  • I'm all about the Clippy idea. Could even be expanded to cover common programming mistakes... "It looks like you're trying to parse HTML with regex - you should totally drop that and use jQuery!"
    – Shog9
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:25
  • Or it looks like you're writing C++, have you tried boost::clippy?!
    – user142852
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:31
  • overkill by Men at work.
    – abel
    Jan 11, 2011 at 19:12
  • It got much worse. In the 2020s, they now post code as images, for whatever reason. It probably became slightly easier to submit a screenshot than copying and formatting text, so that is what they did. Nov 11, 2022 at 20:24

2 Answers 2


This is a fine suggestion in good spirit, but I'm fairly sure 95% of the people who screw up formatting and don't manage to ask a proper question, will never ever take the time to view a instructional video.

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    You misspelled "100%."
    – Pops
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:18
  • 1
    @popular - LOL @pekka - perhaps do the bad website thing and start playing it as they write their answer at full volume :)
    – Kev
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:20

I don't really think this is going to help. I would guess that as a new user you are asking question because you want the answer as soon as possible. Are they really going to wait 5 minutes and watch a video? I doubt it.

There is already a rather large pink banner on the right hand side entitled "How to Format" with links to the full guide on formatting. It even says indent code by 4 spaces and when you actually do this in the editor immediately changes the preview of the text.

If they can't read the formatting rules that are pretty much put in front of them, I doubt they will watch the video and if they did they will probably give up after 30 seconds.

  • The problem with that banner is that it's on the periphery of your vision when your eye's are busy looking at the editor. Maybe it's just the wrong colour. Perhaps for first timers it needs to be a bit more invasive and float over the editor ($.blockUI style maybe) with a close link that is embedded in the text to force people to read the text.
    – Kev
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:30
  • @Kev - That would be highly annoying having something float over the screen whilst trying to type. How would you know when to float the help over anyway? There are plenty of badly formatted questions from users with a couple of hundred rep (and higher). If a user wants to format something but doesn't know how to then surely they would look around the screen for some pointers? If they can't see that banner then they certainly won't see a link to a video :) Jan 11, 2011 at 17:35
  • Float or block the UI if it's the OP's first or second ever question. Force them to read all the way through the help to find a tiny link that will let them carry on. :)
    – Kev
    Jan 11, 2011 at 18:26

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