We now have dynamic answer help that pops up for new users (< 100 rep) when they focus the answer box.

Screenshot of "Your answer" help text

Thanks for contributing an answer to $SiteName!

This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, so please make sure you answer the question.

Provide details and share your research. Avoid statements based solely on opinion; only make statements you can back up with an appropriate reference, or personal experiences.

It's kind of related to this post by Robert ... but I feel we have plenty of help for question askers already, whereas for people answering questions we were telling them nothing. This seemed really, really dumb to me when I thought of it 2 days ago. Why weren't we helping random internet users who began to type in the "Your Answer" box? I wish I could go back in time and implement this a year ago.

Anyway, now that we have dynamic answer help for new users -- do you have any suggestions on copyedits? Remember we want just the absolute minimum you can expect a person to read so no giant list of do's and don'ts -- just the bare essentials that new users typing in an answer for the first time should know.

And yes this can be customized per Q&A site.

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    Can we also have that for users with 101 reputation? I think this would be valuable for SE 2.0 sites to highlight important points that are different from other SE sites. E.g. on Skeptics we would like to point out that we expect references for significant claims, not only anecdotes. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 10:18
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    @Fabian: I'd require 100 reputation earned on the site instead. If that's not possible, then apply it to everyone under 200 reputation. Whenever a question reaches the MultiCollider, it's a mess to clean up.
    – Borror0
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 18:03
  • @fabian maybe 120, 200 seems excessive -- remember on almost all sites, this message will be the same. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 19:17
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    Revisiting this question, I wonder whether the second sentence wouldn't be better inverted, with the injunction before the justification: "Please make sure your answer the question; this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum".
    – Benjol
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 20:50
  • @benjol good idea, checking that in now Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 21:25

4 Answers 4


I like @Belinda's suggestion of showing help texts specifically targeted at newbies. Maybe what needs to be displayed in that case is a FAQ link pointing to a resource about what to do if you don't have an answer.

The resource would provide answers to the following questions (or links to Meta questions that answer it):

  • I have the same problem, but it isn't answered well here yet. I would like to get in touch with the OP to see whether they managed to solve their problem. What options do I have?

  • I have spotted an error in an existing answer. What do I do?

  • I would like to comment on the question. What do I do?

  • I like this. It goes with "This is [] not a forum", but give the user a chance to learn what we think the differences are. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 16:48

Suggest adding the question to their favourites, if they can, and if they have enough rep to upvote suggest upvoting, same with bounties. Something like

If you are having the same problem and want to see answers you can add the question
to your favourites by clicking the star to the left of the question.

if(userHasEnoughRepToUpvote) {

    You may also consider upvoting the question by clicking the up arrow

    if(userHasEnoughRepToAddBounty) {

        or adding a bounty to it


That should prevent people from answering to get an easy link to the question, and encourage actions to get an answer.

  • If conditional thingies are implemented, then maybe it could also include a few words on commenting. Though I guess that (and the above) are already handled by the emphasized "make sure you answer the question"?
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 10:05
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    I don't think we should try to do too many different things with this, it should be focused on preventing bad answers out of ignorance of the way SE sites work. I don't think we should use this to solve other problems like people not voting enough. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 10:33
  • @Arjan I think that if a user has enough rep to comment that make sure you are answering the question is enough.
    – Belinda
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 10:39
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    @Fabian I see it more as showing the user what they should be doing than encouraging voting but if it can be done without overcomplicating things why not get it in there?
    – Belinda
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 10:40

I think we need to modify the text so that it warns new users about not leaving comments for answers. Since they don't have a comment link, and they see other's comments, they don't really know what to do. See this question here for the latest incident.

  • I don't think additional text beyond "this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum so, please make sure you answer the question" -- which is already there -- is going to help users that clueless. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 20:56
  • @Jeff, a lot of people come in with the forum mindset and have to learn the SE/SO paradigm. It's not really intuitive for them when they can't figure out how to comment, so they do the "forum" thing and make an answer. We need to plug that hole in their training somehow. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 20:58

I don't know what kind of problems we have with errant edits, but I would suggest something like:

This is only for correcting errors or omissions. For anything else, create a question, answer, or comment.

I'm not sure about the last sentence, but maybe it makes sense to include it.

  • oddball "I'll insert a comment as an edit to an answer" isn't that common in my experience. It does happen, but it's rare. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 19:10

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