The Issue

There are many posts on CR that are off-topic for various reasons... Sometimes 10-20 per day! Apparently many users don't read/heed the text on the right side (i.e. "Your question must contain code that is already working correctly, and the relevant code sections must be embedded in the question. Please avoid stripping out key details that may be relevant to the review. If your code is incomplete or not working, you should ask for help on another site."). Perhaps the Ask Question Wizard would help with this issue, but who knows when that will be available?


The SE Meta post The new ask page is now live on the network! mentions the following:

The /questions/ask/advice page has been replaced by a new modal for first-time askers, and the flow is now broken down into two steps: drafting the question, and reviewing the question — so no more random warnings triggering when you switch from the tag to the title field, while others only show up if you actually try to post. And as the blog post notes, there's also an informational modal at the end, so new askers know what to expect once they've asked their question. Enough words, here's what it looks like... (click on the images to see the larger versions)

Welcome modal for new askers:

enter image description here


These can only be edited by staff, so the process to get them live is as described here:

  • Create a Meta post on the appropriate Meta site, and discuss it with your community.
  • Once a consensus is reached, a mod should escalate it to the CM team. Generally speaking, the "contact us" form is the best way to go, though a ping in chat can sometimes work too (the most that could happen is we ask you to use the form).
  • Unless there are any outstanding issues, the CMs should be able to get to it Soon™.

The text in the modal is very coupled to the SO notion of problems (and problematic code) - especially the latter parts:

Before you post, search the site to make sure your question hasn’t been answered

  1. Summarize the problem
  2. Provide details and any research
  3. When appropriate, describe what you’ve tried

On code review the code must be working and the title should describe what the code does instead of a user's goals for review.

My proposal:

  • replace the text

    Before you post, search the site to make sure your question hasn’t been answered

    With text like this:

    Before you post, please read What topics can I ask about here? and How do I ask a good question? the guide to posting

  • update the ordered list to something like:

    • Ensure that you are the author/maintainer of the code
    • Ensure the code works to the best of your knowledge
    • Make the title describe what the code does instead of CR goals
    • Ensure enough context is supplied so reviewers don't need to make assumptions

Update May 26

I like the suggested list provided by Peilonrayz on May 17th

  1. Code must produce the desired output
  2. Code must not error or contain known bugs
  3. Titles should describe what the code does
  4. The more code you provide the more we can help
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Currently question close stats for the past 30 days are:

$$ \begin{array}{l l l} \textbf{Close Reason} & \textbf{Closed} & \textbf{% of total}\\ \hline \text{Missing Context} & \text{51} & \text{20.08 %}\\ \text{Broken} & \text{147} & \text{57.87 %}\\ \text{Migrated} & \text{12} & \text{4.72 %}\\ \text{Authorship} & \text{12} & \text{4.72 %}\\ \text{Custom} & \text{4} & \text{1.57 %}\\ \text{Needs Details or Clarity} & \text{20} & \text{7.87 %}\\ \text{Duplicate} & \text{1} & \text{0.39 %}\\ \end{array} $$

One of the downsides to these stats is that we don't know which of the sub reasons that make up the current close reasons to target. For example how is Missing Context split? Is it 50/50 between context and best practice questions, or more a 75/25 split meaning we shouldn't focus on one of the reasons?

I'm not a fan of most of our current wording as, to me, they focus too much on words that have a specific meaning to us, but not to question askers. [1] [2] I think with nearly 2/3 questions being closed as broken I think it warrants two different explanations. I'm not sold on the wording for 4, it may be too indirect to actually help.

I think the following would be better:

  1. Code must produce the desired output
  2. Code must not error or contain known bugs
  3. Titles should describe what the code does
  4. The more code you provide the more we can help
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Re. the original modal dialog: I think most users will immediately close a box entitled "Asking a good question" followed by a bunch of waffley text. Ain't nobody got time for that.

That useless bold title and the text below it need to go away, and the important things (the bullet points) need to be in a larger font. Something more like:

Welcome to Code Review!

Please note that:

1. Your code **must** work correctly!
2. You **must** put all the code to be reviewed in the body of the post (not behind a link).
3. You **must** add a description of what the code does.

For code that does not yet work as intended, try [stackoverflow].

For questions about general best practice, try [softwareengineering].

For more details about how to ask a good question, see [our guidelines](...).

(Maybe the bold is overkill. We could add a smiley face afterwards to prove we're friendly. And a knife emoji to prove we mean it.)

Point 1 covers "desired output" (whatever that means), errors (is "to error" a real verb?) and bugs. I think it's better to be short than specific here.

It would be a good idea to put the exact text from this modal dialog somewhere else on the posting page ("what was that third thing I was supposed to do again?").

The title requirements are specified inside the title text box, so they don't need to go in the modal dialog. That text could perhaps be worded better; English isn't many users first language. "State what your code does.", "What does your code do?", or "What problem does your code solve?" would be better.

The part about making the title distinct should probably be removed (it's just an unfortunate technical limitation (AFAIK?), and should be dealt with when it happens with an informative error message).

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is on the right track, but lacking in some ways. Whilst we should probably remove the second paragraph replacing both the top paragraphs with what you suggest gives off a cold appearance. The section below the bullet points is also covered in the top right of the nav making it somewhat redundant. Additionally it makes the pop up look more and more like a wall of text, which will just be clicked through. Your second bullet point is rarely a problem and rather long. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz Jul 8 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Everything up to the numbered list is good, but the recommendations towards especially Stack Overflow is out of place. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jul 8 at 19:20

I don't think linking directly to the guide to posting is a good idea.

  1. It's fairly verbose, it's quite literally a wall of text. Whilst this is undoubtebly good for people that want to get the most out of their post it's just going to make the average Joe run.
  2. It doesn't actually tell the user anything that is off-topic. The link only contains site policy and suggestions for posting a good question.

    These are undoubtbly good things. But scope is much more important to the vast majority of people.

  3. The answers aren't ordered, making the post more challenging to read for users new to Stack Exchange.

I think linking to both the on-topic page and the how to ask pages are much more likely to help the average Joe.

  1. Whilst they are still fairly long, they're much smaller.
  2. Together they highlight a lot of the site-policy and suggestions, whilst also covering site scope.
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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The whole idea of this wizard thing is to allow users to get a gist of what's required without having to read the help center or meta, because it's been observed quite often that people don't read... As such using the modal to link to the help center seems... unhelpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Vogel612 May 15 at 10:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612 I never said liking is going to help most, just that the help center is more digestible if users do click on the link. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz May 15 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I originally grabbed that link from the right side of the ask page under heading Step 1: Draft your question I agree those two help center pages would be better. 👌 \$\endgroup\$ – Sᴀᴍ Onᴇᴌᴀ May 17 at 5:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, I think our FAQ on asking questions is a lot more helpful than our canned help center and how-to-ask. Those are a good start, but it's perfectly possible to post an awful question even after reading those two. The FAQ may be a bit of a read, but at least it's thorough. And if it isn't thorough enough, we add a new answer fixing the missing bits. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast May 19 at 0:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mast I agree, the FAQ is a lot more thorough. And if a user reads both then the FAQs would be far more helpful. However, I think we should measure helpfulness from the total rather than at a per user level. If the help center gets more people to a basic level of understanding then that can outweigh the helpfulness of getting a few people to be subject matter experts. I am focusing on the many so that moderators (diamond and not) have less work to do, rather than having some gems that we'd have anyway. Because if the user will read the FAQ they'll probably find it on their own. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz May 19 at 1:14

Counter idea: Run a meta contest for a 30 word or less mini-requirement statement.
The "Welcome modal for new askers" s too wordy IMO.

We all have ideas of what new users need to read.

It can't be long (few read it) nor too short (uninformative).

My comments per your short list

Ensure that you are the author/maintainer of the code

Authorship is only a 4-5% problem. Leave that for detailed requirements.

Ensure the code works to the best of your knowledge

Yes, and post with example input/output data. This directly addresses the 2 big issues: Missing, ContextBroken.

Make the title describe what the code does instead of CR goals

A less than 10% issue. Leave that for detailed requirements.

Ensure enough context is supplied so reviewers don't need to make assumptions

Too vague - hard to objectively measure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you mean to say "MissingContext, Broken"? Where did you get the "A less than 10% issue" statistic from? AFAIK there is no way to find this information from SE normally. Did you scrape comments? If so I'd be interested as targeting help to the majority is a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz May 23 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whilst I can appreciate not liking the suggested comments. I think saying no without suggesting an alternate is harmful. If your answer is upvoted to the same amount as the question it causes a situation where we want to improve a problem with the site, but we can't because the change isn't perfect and the suggestions have been declined. This leaves the site in the same position that I hope none of us want; with the default reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz May 23 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peilonrayz "I think saying no without suggesting an alternate is harmful." --> this answer started with an alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – chux - Reinstate Monica May 23 at 15:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a fan of a meta contest. I'm sure we can figure out a consensus that'll have to be "good enough, at least a whole lot better than it was" without one. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jun 3 at 17:54

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