Stack Overflow now has a question wizard called "guided mode" to help newer users asking questions. I clicked through it and it does an excellent job of putting caution tape around the typical question pitfalls. One thing I noticed is very little of what it does is incompatible with software engineering.

We asked for an interstitial page a long time ago and never got it. But this seems like it could fix a lot of the same problems. I was wondering what the community thinks of bringing the idea here and if so what about it would need to change.

It's live so you can experience it by attempting to ask a question on stack overflow. If your rep there is high enough you'll need to click on "guided mode".

I clicked through it and was pleased to see that not only does it help with many of the problems new users have but it also points them to Software Engineering if their issue doesn't quiet work on Stack Overflow.

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Sadly clicking our link just dumps them on the home page. I'd like to do better than that. Thoughts?

  • 2
    To be honest, I'm not a fan of the new "Ask Question Wizard." Adding more moderators to Stack Overflow has made a more favorable impact on question quality than the Ask Wizard has. Apr 26 '19 at 16:20
  • -1 only because it's meta and I don't think we need a wizard.
    – user53019
    Apr 27 '19 at 15:42

I do not think we really need the “Ask Question Wizard”. While over on Stack Overflow the majority of questions will have the form “why doesn't this code work like I think it should?” or “how to do X in programming language Y?”, here on Software Engineering good questions tend to be more diverse and free-form. A wizard that prescribes a specific structure won't help new users create great questions. We also don't get so many questions that a wizard would significantly ease the moderation burden.

That said, I see three potential benefits of the wizard:

  1. The first page that asks about the type of question is absolutely fantastic. It would help communicate the site scope early, rather than delayed via a close reason. It could point users to alternative sites where specific types of questions would be more well-received (in particular, code-level questions).

  2. This early feedback would be more friendly to new users, whereas moderation actions are often perceived as unfriendly.

  3. While questions on this site aren't that formulaic, good questions still tend to have a clear structure: statement of the software engineering problem, background and constraints, attempted/partial solution. The question wizard could encourage users to provide sufficient background and get them to explain their own solution attempts, but such a structure must not be mandatory.

So while we don't need the wizard it might still be helpful. It's just not particularly important.

I recommend waiting to see if and when other sites also get the wizard and what experiences they make. Based on that experience we can then discuss what the wizard should tell users.

I'm not keen on that discussion because it touches on the question what precisely our scope is supposed to be. As a community we have broad agreement on the subject matter of this site but deep disagreement on where exactly to draw the line, especially around more opinion-based questions. But the copy in the wizard needs to be clear and unambiguous. The discussions about this are likely to be time-consuming and draining, so I'd rather defer them until it is clear that (a) we can get the wizard and that (b) we want to get the wizard.

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