EDIT NEW! - taking into account the feedback from Robert and Jeff, here is a new, simpler, shorter 2-minute intro to Stack Exchange.

Stack Exchange 2-minute intro (choose full-screen option for better visibility)

Important - please note that this is not a video yet, but it could fairly easily become one. So please don't get hung up on the 'user experience'.

If you have any uninitiated acquaintances, see if you can try it on them.

Question title was: RFC - Stack Exchange introductory "tour"

Following up from this question: Getting started with Stack Overflow video?, and because I just discovered Prezi, I thought I'd try my hand at a Stack Exchange introduction.

I'm about a third of the way through the first iteration. Given that it's quite a lot of work, I'd quite like some feedback before carrying on.


  • Do you think that it could be any use, or of interest?
  • Is it pitched at the right level?
  • Any ideas about what could be improved (gently)

Stack Exchange, the tour

EDIT By the way, if anyone wants to 'clone' the presentation and try their own, you're welcome.

  • A few thoughts. 1) No sound? I was missing a voiceover. 2) Could you get it to autoplay? 3) It's comprehensive for good and bad. 3a) The good: if you watch it all you will have a very good grasp of what SO is. 3b) The bad I think it's to information dense and people will give up after about 10-15 "slides" 4) People might be confused by the new way prezi displays it's "slides" +1 For a job well done
    – Nifle
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 12:53
  • @Nifle, thanks for the feedback! I guess 1), 2) and 4) could be solved by recording a video of the presentation with voice over. Who provides the sexy voice though? :) As for 3), yeah, I figured it was easier to start long and then cut bits out (the short story, the long story).
    – Benjol
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 13:53
  • I recommend finding a simpler sample question to answer (probably from SU)
    – SLaks
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:20
  • For what it's worth, a similar project has been attempted before. It was a YouTube video aimed at Gaming SE newbies. youtube.com/watch?v=m6Gh8yUPlo0
    – Pops
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:53
  • 1
    @Benjol +1 for trying to undertake something so ambitious.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:56

3 Answers 3


Let me preface this by saying that what you are trying to do is tremendously difficult to do well — so much so that I usually advise people to spend their resources elsewhere. That's not to discourage you from continuing your work — you've already put a lot of time into it — but to see if I can point out some of the common pitfalls so you get the most out of your efforts.

The #1 problem very common to these videos is that you most likely already know TOO MUCH about Stack Exchange to tell the "first time user experience." It's really difficult to turn that off, but it will always show in your videos. People tend to forget that these systems are designed to be self-learning, so they skip over that really obvious first-time-user stuff because it is so self-evident… once you use the site. But then they proceed to skip ahead haphazardly through issues that are completely out of context of actual "first-time user experiences."

Try watching your video like you are seeing it for the first time. Don't study the text; Don't "know" the screens you are looking at… Sit back and nonchalantly glance through your video and try to "see" it as you would for the first time. It is VERY difficult to re-acquire this critical eye, but it is crucial if you want to make an introductory video.

As I saw it, the story was laid out something like this:

  • The first half ("before Stack Exchange") shows what a mess the Internet Q&A space is by whirling around a jumble of screen text intermixed with a some captions that explain what we are looking at.
  • The second half ("after Stack Exchange") shows how great Stack Exchange is by whirling around a jumble of screen text intermixed with a some captions that explain what we are looking at.

Unless you are already familiar with the look of a Stack Exchange site, using text captions (no audio?) over a predominantly text website makes it difficult to follow the story.

Second, you have to pick an audience and speak to what they know. The What? How? and Why? parts don't really say much if you've never seen the site. And if you've already used the site, the video doesn't provide any depth of information they need. You have to pick your audience, and that's very hard.

That's why these "introductory videos" tend to fall into this weird no-mans land. It's a difficult problem: You want to tell people all the cool stuff you know before they even know what you are talking about.

So this is what they remember … Something about a Stack Exchange answer screen with 26 answers with a blue arrow pointing to a 219 and people can comment and request feedback which are differentiated from answers so they get notified and if they comment you get notified. And notifications follow you if you so you don't have 15 tabs and curators can correct the formatting. And the big red box shows you can flag answers because ethos is being nice and "there's lots of other stuff."

Step back for a second and think about what that soon-to-be, first-time user wants. All that stuff about Experts Exchange and flagging and curators and formatting and notifications… blah, forget it. Nobody cares.

The first-time user storyboard

True first-time users want to find the answer to their question. Cool, it's already on the top. Maybe they want to ask a question. See the button over there? You don't even need an account. What are all those numbers? Don't worry about it. If you write some good answers, people will vote on your stuff. If you get enough votes, you'll be able to vote on stuff, too. That's how the whole system works and how people know which is the best stuff. For now, just know that we have the best answers. Want to know more? Create an account. You don't ever HAVE to create an account, but us experts like to show off little bit once in awhile. That's how we get better at what we do. If people keep liking what you write, pretty soon you'll be running the site. And that's where the real fun begins. But for now, get on over there and find what you are looking for… or ask the question yourself. It's fun!

  • 4
    That's really insightful stuff @Robert. Thanks for sharing!
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:56
  • 3
    Totally agree with every word @Robert says. @Benjol: That said, I think your initial effort is awesome, and I hope you continue pursuing it.
    – user102937
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:58
  • Thanks Robert, your answer also drew more attention to my question :) There's no audio because Prezi doesn't have audio. As I said in a comment on my question, one idea would be to record the prezi with a voice over, but I don't have a very sexy voice (AFAIK). I'll probably keep the current presentation and start a new 'getting started one'...
    – Benjol
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 4:44
  • The big question here is who is the target audience, and where are they coming from? A bit like the comment thread here, it's not clear to me whether we expect people to arrive at Stack Exchange via one of the sites, or to arrive at the sites via Stack Exchange. I guess both, but I also guess that far more arrive at a site and don't even realise Stack Exchange exists. Do you have any numbers?
    – Benjol
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 6:23
  • This was an awesome demonstration of your experience in community building. +1 and good show.
    – user50049
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 8:57

I don't have a ton to add other than what Robert provided. It's very cool and a nice start.

However, it seems a little bit too focused on minutiae at the beginning, when the site is introduced. The defects of existing forums are clear, and our solutions to them are fairly simple. So focus on those and start gently with concepts like voting and reputation; why bring up advanced stuff like notifications and flagging almost immediately?

I would re-tune the beginning, which I thought was quite strong in illustrating the problems with existing forums, and focus the subsequent part to

And here's Stack Exchange which fixes this problem like so, and this problem like so, and this..

That way even if they just watch the start of it (and I think this would work better as a plain old YouTube video so there's no clicking, perhaps like those "dynamic text" animations) they'll get the gist of why this is better, without being immersed in tons of detail.

  • 1
    Sneaking an answer in just under the wire, eh?
    – Pollyanna
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 0:10
  • @adam mostly I felt it would be rude not to provide feedback on the significant amount of work that Benjol put into this. Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:28
  • Thanks Jeff. I've stalled a bit at the moment, but it's not because I'm discouraged by the feedback, but as I commented on Robert's answer, I'm trying to work out how to present a generic "Stack Exchange" when I imagine that most people will arrive via a specific site and (at least initially) probably don't care about anything else... I think Prezi is the right format for creating the presentation - making a video of it with a voice-over should be fairly trivial. Do you know anyone with a suitably sexy voice? :)
    – Benjol
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 4:47
  • 1
    @Benjol I have no sexy voice, but I'm more than happy to do the screencap and voiceover if you give me a script. youtube.com/watch?v=LH4_fhbNTBw to hear a sample.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 11:40
  • @adam that's my favorite YouTube video! Right after youtube.com/watch?v=08xQLGWTSag of course. Commented May 26, 2011 at 22:11
  • @Jeff I'll have to up my game to claim spot number one, then. ;P
    – Pollyanna
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 22:43
  • @Adam, keep practising your sexy voice :)
    – Benjol
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 8:43

The most important first impression for a new user should be:
#I really want to find out more about what this is!


Since StackExchange is very much self learning in the process, and the FAQ is the place to look for a new user that wants to find out more about how this works, I would suggest that this tutorial is more like an promotion video that focuses more on why the user should want to use StackExchange and not so much how to use it.

  1. Start off with something that has the words "DON'T PANIC" in large, friendly letters DON'T PANIC

  2. Then say something about SE wanting to "Make the Internet a better place to get expert answers to your questions." (which is a central vision for the SE team).

  3. At last say something about why SE makes the internet a better place to get expert answers to your questions.

I am just a programmer, so I leave to others to formulate and design the actual contents for this, but you get the idea ... (hopefully)

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