Every day we still get lots of questions on PSE which are immediately put on hold because of one of the standard closing reasons (asking for career or education advice, asking for an off-site resource and so on...) The posters (which are almost always site newbies, making their first or second post) seem not to be aware of the part of the FAQ stating which questions are not welcome here. I suspect lots of them just don't know the FAQ (well some of them may have read the FAQ and ignored it either, but I assume that's only a small portion).

So how can we improve that situation and encourage people to read the FAQ first? For example, may it be feasible that whenever one makes a first posting here, he will get a polite information screen, showing him a link to the FAQ and asking him that (since he is making his first post) he should please double check wether his question fulfills those requirements? Or do you expect that such a site modification would be useless, because lots of people would still ignore the site rules, even when getting a pop-up screen telling them the rules right in from of them?

EDIT: I guess the link to the "about" page for new users mentioned here in the comments seems not provide the relevant information to new users quickly or clearly enough. For example, have a look at this post two days ago - the first comment from the OP under the accepted answer was "Where is this FAQ?". Looks like a "TL;DR" effect to me. Any ideas how to improve that situation?

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    Happy New Year @DocBrown! Some of the things you suggest already exist. For example, there's a big message at the top encouraging brand new users to take a tour of our about page. But, it isn't really working for most of our new users, is it? To see exactly what a new user sees, you could register a new account and try to post a question and answer. – yannis Jan 1 '14 at 17:44
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    @YannisRizos: happy new year, too! Thanks for that information, I will try that. I was considering this before, but I did not want to "pollute" the site by any "test questions". – Doc Brown Jan 1 '14 at 17:54
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    Flag your test posts for mod attention right after you post them, and I'll clean them up. – yannis Jan 1 '14 at 17:55
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    related feature request at MSO: Remove the faq popup - once upon a time, there was a pretty prominent popup shown to new users – gnat Jan 8 '14 at 18:34
  • @gnat: thanks for the link. The answers below the question seem to go in the same direction as my suggestion - we need some information for new users, but it should be streamlined to be more effective and not annoying. – Doc Brown Jan 8 '14 at 19:25
  • another MSO post that describes details of how new users post question and some related issues - New users should guess why they can't proceed to asking their first question… not the best experience - 'new users are redirected to "How to Ask" page...' FWIW here's our page they see prior to posting the question: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-ask – gnat Jan 9 '14 at 10:08

How about a prominent link titled FAQ or About on the landing page? I couldn't find either a few minutes ago, when trying to work out whether my question was OT or not. I wound up here instead :)

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    The first time you hit the site, you go to tour. Part way down is the 'Get answers to practical, detailed, questions' section. Note that in 10k flag tools, we do see things such as 'auto: low quality, about skipped' or something to that effect not infrequently. – user40980 Jan 7 '14 at 22:44
  • @MichaelT: maybe the first thing a new user should see when he asks his first question is the list of topics from the "Close" dialog and a polite reminder to double-check that his question does not fall under one of that categories. The "about" page has IMHO a "TL;DR" flavor. – Doc Brown Jan 8 '14 at 12:21
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    That "about" page is very well hidden. I was actively looking for it for quite a while and only found it through this comment... A more prominent link would be great! – michas Jan 9 '14 at 14:31
  • The specific wording (not that I just spotted such a auto flag on an answer): "Low answer quality score [77], /questions/how-to-answer shown and skipped" – user40980 Jan 9 '14 at 23:10
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    I've been on stackoverflow for a couple of years, I'm posting my first question on Programmers, and I can't see a link to a FAQ, that's why I'm here too. – Justicle Jan 13 '14 at 20:12

As a newbie I can suggest something. I have not read the FAQ before posting my first question. It is like reading all the terms and conditions before installing any software. I think 95% of the newbies coming here will not read the FAQ before posting their first question.

  • When I asked my first question I got negative votes and my question was kept on hold just because I didn't know the rules.

  • I have read the short note on the right side while posting new question. Most of the people will get their eye on it.

  • The note on the right side while adding a new post is as follows:

Is your question about software development? We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed. Provide details. Share your research.

  • I suggest adding some more details on the same page where user can see the basic rules. Or before a newbie is directed to the 'ask question page' . Let them go through a pop-up like:

  • What topics can I ask about here?

algorithm and data structure concepts
design patterns
developer testing
development methodologies
freelancing and business concerns
  • Your question will be deleted if it is related to:
general workplace issues, 
question helpfully for you alone.
what project you should do next,
what book you should read next,
career advice, and non-programming activities 

and a link Things you have to know before posting a question. If we can make them read this points before posting a question. We can limit the number of off-topic questions. A pop-up would be helpful.


I think there are two different questions for new people:

  • How does a SE site work in general?
  • What is the exact scope of PSE?

The about page tends to answer the first question while the on-topic page very nicely answers the second question.

If it would be more obvious to find the on-topic page, more people would read it and the number of off-topic questions should decrease considerably.


I would suggest that when registering, a brief information can be shown (Quoted from Help Center):

Programmers Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in
getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. 
If you have a question about...

algorithm and data structure concepts
design patterns
developer testing
development methodologies
freelancing and business concerns
quality assurance
software architecture
software engineering
software licensing
and it is not about...

general workplace issues, office politics, résumé help (check out The Workplace instead),
implementation issues or programming tools (ask on Stack Overflow instead),
what language/technology you should learn next, including which technology is better,
what project you should do next,
what book you should read next,
career advice, salary or compensation,
personal lifestyle, including relationships, and non-programming activities
...then you're in the right place to ask your question!
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    ... It is already shown. – user40980 Jan 6 '14 at 4:16
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    @MichaelT Oh! Then it's a shame that most people don't adhere to it . It's also a shame for me to have ignored it when registering. – Johnson Jan 8 '14 at 16:52
  • The specific page is the tour page. As I mentioned in another comment, seeing the auto low quality flag on content length it often reads "auto: low quality, about page skipped" – user40980 Jan 8 '14 at 16:56

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