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Some time back Doc asked How can we encourage people to read the FAQ before asking their first question? which is a really good question and a fairly consistent challenge to get people to ask questions on the site they should be (we get a significant number of debugging questions for example).

So, here's the suggestion (that Robert Harvey inspired) put into a post.

That "Welcome (back) to the site" banner that shows up when you join a new site? That one that you can dismiss with a click.

Have a link to help/on-topic if the user visits the site and has all of the following:

  • less than two up voted questions
  • less than 100 reputation on site (akin to how protection does it with 10 rep)
  • lacks the "informed" badge (the one you get by reading the tour)

So, a link at the top of the page. Point them clearly and succinctly to the help center.

I have no illusions that this will prevent all the off topic questions. However, even a slight reduction in the "this is the completely wrong site for this question" influx of new questions that we get can help reduce the initial perception of going into a new question of "this question is probably off topic."

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    That wasn't my suggestion. My suggestion was to put it in the "site notice" functionality. It has the virtue of not requiring any involvement from SE. – Robert Harvey Mar 8 '16 at 16:25
  • Just change the name of the site to: Read the FAQs. – JeffO Mar 17 '16 at 18:25
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How about when a users posts a question and gets a list of Questions that may already have your answer and a high percentage of those are closed, post a notice with the common reason(s).

I entered the question, "recommend a book on python" and 4 of the top 6 matches were closed. I wouldn't expect a new user to know why. More information should be given on why they were closed.

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I dunno - I think we've shown on SE time and time again that showing this sort of information to people who didn't see fit to look it up in the first place is completely ineffectual. Meanwhile, I can imagine it being fairly annoying for the rest of us. I wish I had data, but anecdotal evidence suggest that this kind of approach never has any effect and that, in general, we've site-wide given up on it.

I expect Shog can help me out here as (again purely anecdotally) IIRC he's said the same thing.

  • Meh. You'll develop banner blindness for it in 30 seconds. – Robert Harvey Mar 8 '16 at 16:24
  • @RobertHarvey: The off-topic-ers will have banner blindless already. Meanwhile, it shuffles the GUI down ruining my OCD (the "read-only mode" banner is really annoying! :P) – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 8 '16 at 16:25
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    As you have more than 100 rep on site, and got the informed badge a year ago, this wouldn't show to you at all. It is intended to help the 1 rep users who are asking debugging questions on the wrong site (rough estimate: 1/4 of all the off topic questions are debugging). Even a small dent in that is several fewer questions asked on the wrong site each day. – user40980 Mar 8 '16 at 16:26
  • @RobertHarvey or just add it to ad-block. – enderland Mar 8 '16 at 16:27
  • @MichaelT: ...... that's a good point. Okay, so scrub that part of the argument. But I still don't see it being effective whatsoever. Could try it I guess. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 8 '16 at 16:27

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