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Is it only me, or has there been a large influx of new users this year, who seemingly haven't understood what differentiates a SE Q&A site from a forum?

This leads me to think if the mandatory introduction given to new users is good enough, since a number of new users doesn't really seem to understand it.

I don't know what could be done - if anything could be done. But I think that any good suggestions to highlight the features of this site, as compared to a discussion forum to new users, would be a good thing.

Maybe someone who has been on the site longer than me can provide some insight as to whether it has always been like this, or if it has in fact gotten worse.

FYI, I've created a question on Meta SE about the possibility of a timeout period for new users, since I think this actually might be a good idea (although the period should probably be rather short, like 24 hours).

I have become aware of a staging ground feature discussed at Stack Overflow meta that have many of the same aims as this post.

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  • I feel that reading the tour page should be made mandatory for users who create their account for the first time in SE. Oct 6 at 14:59
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    Agreed - this would help. I also wonder if there is a language barrier - maybe if the tour page could be available in more languages (if it isn't already). 🤔 Oct 6 at 15:48
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    I don't think tour page is available in multiple languages... but unfortunately, English is a pre-requisite to use Ask Ubuntu... so we expect fellow users to have basic English communication skills. Oct 6 at 16:08
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    To be honest, I don't read documentation until I am interested in in a specific part of the background of something. Even in programming, I didn't get where I am reading documentation, but mostly doing and thinking logically, - then - read the docs. Average user gets here to fix a problem, not to read a tour. If they stick around, they will find out how and what about the site by experience and communication with others, - then - maybe read the tour. Oct 7 at 6:41
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    In short: life isn't perfect :) Oct 7 at 6:48
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    @JacobVlijm I would be concerned not only about the site content getting undisciplined, but rather, that all these newcomers may expericence our semi-patient corrections (that we have to repeat ad nauseam) as a slap in the face, and draw the conclusion that this is an unfriendly, "quirky" community... Honestly, I feel that getting traction on any of the SE network sites without running away sulking is akin to some personality / maturity test / challenge. But it comes with the risk of leaving an unpleasant impression, for some.
    – Levente
    Oct 7 at 17:43
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    New users on the Ubuntu Community Hub Discourse have something of a "time out" period where they are required to engage with the site before they can actually post anything. It would be interesting to have a discussion about doing something similar here, except we don't have that kind of control over the site and I have doubts that this is anything that SE at large or all the other SE communities would be interested in doing.
    – Nmath
    Oct 8 at 4:18
  • @Nmath There's something called Staging Ground which SO is testing meta.stackoverflow.com/q/416428 Oct 9 at 5:08
  • Maybe we can look into this: meta.stackexchange.com/q/377058 Oct 9 at 5:09
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    Perhaps some here will remember Usenet's Eternal September, I see some parallels...
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Oct 18 at 21:15
  • I was 15 years old in september 1993, so I don't remember that part about it. 😉 I like the idea that you have a timeout period of 1 week - this would also sort out the: "HELP, I have an exam tomorrow, and I need my computer fixed now, PLZ" type of questions... But yeah I wonder if it would be possible under the current SE infrastructure. Oct 19 at 11:00

2 Answers 2

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Are new users properly introduced to the site when signing up?

IMHO, Yes. (Bear with me).

has there been a large influx of new users this year, who seemingly haven't understood what differentiates a SE Q&A site from a forum?

Yes, although I don't know if the number is any more or less than in past years.


But that's always going to be a problem. We do have a lot of rules/guidelines/nitpicks in general here and across the Stack Exchange sites. That's not a complaint - It's these community guidelines that make us what we are. But it's a lot for a new user to get used to.

But we should start with what a new user does see. Whether or not they read it or pay attention to it is a different issue.

First, they must register to ask a question -- That's not the case on all Stack Exchange sites. For instance, on Super User and Unix & Linux, it's still possible to post a question as a guest.

Before registering, they'll see:

Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It only takes a minute to sign up.

When they start to ask a question, they'll see the same help text that we all do:

  1. Title: Be specific and imagine you’re asking a question to another person

  2. Body: Include all the information someone would need to answer your question

  3. Information on off-topic releases

  4. Helpful Links to the On-topic help, How to ask a good question, the general Help Center, and Meta.

  5. Formatting tips (multi-level expansion for each topic)

  6. If they insert an image, a helpful warning to also include any relevant text (new users, less than 20 rep).

Wow! Honestly, I'm amazed at how much the design team has packed in there.

So I'm not quite sure what we'd change there -- Would we force them to read the On-topic and Good-question help? Honestly, would you read it your first time here? Do most users read the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, etc. for a website, even if "forced" to? Or would they just skip to the bottom and click "Agree"?

It's based on that viewpoint that I say, "Yes", new users are properly introduced to the site and our guidelines. Adding extra gates probably wouldn't make one bit of difference, and would be off-putting as well.

So how do we handle this instead? (not necessarily addressed at you, but to readers-in-general, and addressing some of the comments on your question)

  • Be patient. I know that we tire of seeing the same issues over-and-over, but realize that each new-user is, well, new. We may have seen a dozen users make this mistake, but this user has (hopefully) only made it once.

  • Be welcoming, especially if "correction" is going to come next. I always try to start out with something like "Hello and Welcome to Ask Ubuntu" (something I've seen adopted by a few others), then, "Just a heads-up that ..." (note on what needs work and potentially how to fix it).

  • Be nice when correcting users. I know that some people hate "boilerplate" comments, and I'm not suggesting that we all use exactly the same comment. But for those of us who often comment, it can be handy to have some "stock nice comments" that can be tweaked for the particular situation.

    For the types of "Discussion" questions that you seem to be asking about, perhaps something like:

    Hello and Welcome to Ask Ubuntu. While that's a good question in general, it's unfortunately not a good fit for Ask Ubuntu's Q&A style. We're just not set up for discussion-style questions where every answer could be equally valid. Can you potentially reword this to focus on a single, objective question if at all possible? Thanks!

  • Hopefully the new user sees this as helpful, but some will unfortunately become upset or belligerent at what they may see as "confrontation", even when done nicely. If they don't like the response, point them here for discussion/escalation. E.g.:

    I understand your frustration. If you'd like to discuss it further, or with other members of the community, you can post a question on Meta. I don't guarantee you'll get a different answer, but it does provide a place for additional feedback.

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    All good points - thanks for the insight. 👍😎 Oct 9 at 19:55
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I would like to add that I recently spent some more time in the First Questions queue, and this is an easy way to help new users get a proper introduction to the site.

So if you have the time and review access, please help new users feel welcome, and provide constructive feedback in the First Questions queue (it's currently at 350-400 questions, so all reviews are extremely welcome).

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