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I would like to suggest a UX improvement for new users, so they're less likely to encounter edits / pushback from mods.

1. Summarize the problem

Code Review posters are typically new users. Submissions tend to be titled "How can I improve X?" rather than "Code that does Y." The site's help guidelines ask for the latter.

2. Provide details and any research

Go through the steps of posting a new question. You will see a modal popup that says

Asking a good question ...

Please read [link] What topics can I ask about here? and [link] How do I ask a good question?

  1. The code must produce the desired output
  2. The code must not error or contain known bugs
  3. The title should describe what the code does
  4. The more code you provide the more we can help ...

Those are all good, and this meta question focuses on item 3. Thing is, when you look at the UX, it's modal, the new user has dismissed it by the time they're composing their title.


Ok, we're still with that new user. What are they staring at? It's phrased like this:

Ask a public question

Title

Be specific and imagine you’re asking a question to another person

There is also helpful advice displayed in the right-hand gutter. The advice doesn't mention the Title field, but I'm not suggesting to change that advice, I feel it's fine as-is.

As a new user, thinking up a new Title, right there in my face I am being prompted with "imagine you’re asking a question to another person".

Greyed out there is low-contrast de-emphasized text encouraging me to

State the task that your code accomplishes. Make your title distinctive.

First sentence is helpful. It disappears immediately upon initial keystroke of the title being drafted.

3. Feature Request

Please change the persistent "... imagine you're asking ..." prompt to read "State the task that your code accomplishes." It is my belief that this would improve the quality of submissions and lead to fewer interventions from the mods.

I suspect there is some SE-wide aspect to the code which makes such a feature request "hard" to implement, but I'll just surface the need anyway, with fingers crossed.


Minor feature request:

Consider deleting that second sentence about "Make your title distinctive." It's a little helpful, it makes sense to me, since I read the FAQ / help pages. But it's a reference that asks you to recall the content of those pages. A new user maybe read the page, and maybe remembers its content. For a new user the 2nd sentence doesn't really seem to visibly improve submission quality.


This seems A/B testable. Call it a "question" if the title mentions why / how / what or ends with ? question mark. Declare victory if a new persistent prompt (B) yields fewer "question" titles than current (A).


For reference, this is what the modal currently looks like:

New user modal

The Title section above the question Body:

Title

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll ask a CM about the customization possibilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 5:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ A closer parallel to "Imagine you're asking..." would be something like "Imagine you're explaining your code to another person" (as that's exactly what's happening). \$\endgroup\$ Aug 13, 2023 at 8:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I spend a lot of time fixing titles (or asking the poster to do so when I can't divine the purpose myself), so anything improvements we're able to get in our new-user behaviours will be very, very welcome. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 13, 2023 at 8:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a known problem that keeping titles distinctive and meaningful is an increasingly harder task. Especially simple challenges like linked-list questions simply have so many posts that finding a unique title is tough. In the past we'd edit titles to remove language names and such, but that's simply no longer feasible since all the good names are taken already. Which may leave users to pick bad titles, since those are still available. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The alternative is allowing duplicate titles, which has been suggested here and here, but has its own issues (hasn't been done anywhere on the network, makes it impossible to remember which question was which, further increases the risk of bad titles because all the easy ones are available again, risks people copying clickbait titles that did well in the past purely to game the system, etc.). \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, @Mast. It sounds like the pair of issues being discussed ATM are (1) effectively advising newbies to write a Statement as the help guidelines solicit, rather than write a Question for the title, and (2) creating a good title which is informative, distinctive, searchable, unique. I feel (2) is a hard problem that I don't have easy answers for, and was hoping we could initially focus on (1). I believe that's relatively straightforward to implement, test, and either roll back or permanently adopt. \$\endgroup\$
    – J_H
    Aug 13, 2023 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J_H (2) is an issue I raised with Mast. We both know your question is focused on (1). We just think fixing (1) and (2) at the same time could be a simplish feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peilonrayz Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 16:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ We're looking at a technical solution for your proposal, at the moment it's simply not clear whether it can be done yet. I probably have an answer on that later. (2) is context, an important part of why there are so many title edits, a problem we may not be able to solve but since we're working on it we may as well take a stab at it. Little bits can help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 17:50

2 Answers 2

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Since all titles have to be unique[a] [b] users can run into problems titling questions. The example in [b] shows users are being forced to turn simple question titles into bloated titles; "I made a Guess the number game in Python". Given the latest question on whether we should allow duplicate titles doesn't clearly point in a direction. I think adding a small line to indicate to users you may have to fight the unique name system should be pointed out when making the above changes. Assuming our stance as a community truly has changed:

In the past we'd edit titles to remove language names and such, but that's simply no longer feasible since all the good names are taken already. Which may leave users to pick bad titles, since those are still available.
comment by Mast ♦ © CC BY-SA 4.0.


Please upvote if you'd like to see the text changed to the final example below:

Original:

Title:
Be specific and imagine you're asking a question to another person
[State the task that your code accomplishes. Make your title distinctive.]

Feature Request 1: (OP)

Title:
State the task that your code accomplishes.
[State the task that your code accomplishes. Make your title distinctive.]

Feature Request 2: (OP)

Title:
State the task that your code accomplishes.
[State the task that your code accomplishes.]

Peilonrayz' Request:

Title:
State the task that your code accomplishes. To make the title unique try something like "I made x in {language}.".
[State the task that your code accomplishes.]

Please note I'm not sold on the language used so if you can think of a better way to express the same intent in a low character count I'm all ears.

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    \$\begingroup\$ No opinion. I'm a little torn on this. My hunch is that [hint] makes little difference. I am just fine with having persistent "State the task..." and hint [State the task...] be identical, I feel it does no harm. The current "distinctive" advice has the virtue of being a reference to pair of How to Ask lines. To make the user initially worry about unique, IDK, it seems premature, it should wait until the "similar questions" feedback. Besides, we can trivially append today's ISO date to uniquify most questions, automatically if needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – J_H
    Aug 13, 2023 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J_H Please can you validate the "Feature Request 1" and "Feature Request 2" are as you describe in your question \$\endgroup\$
    – Peilonrayz Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok. I neither support nor oppose Peilonrayz' Request; I feel it is orthogonal and something I lack expertise in. I support both Feature Request 1 & 2. Request 1 is a smaller change from current practice and I prefer it. Happy to ✓ accept if that's helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – J_H
    Aug 13, 2023 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW, if I could offer constructive input on "Peilonrayz' Request": I feel that automated tags comparison could accomplish some of what you want. Suppose "Euler 1" already has three tags, and we're autosuggesting some tags for newbie's proposal of "Euler 1", and we know about other similar potential dup titles. Start jamming in tags, or switching tag order, or (gasp!) get GPT to throw in prepositions for a natural flow. Now we have a candidate title we know is unique. Either auto-correct for the user, or propose it to the user as help text. There, that's my tuppence. I know, it's more code! \$\endgroup\$
    – J_H
    Aug 13, 2023 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J_H I totally agree, and think your suggestion is good. However, I believe SE won't ever implement your suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peilonrayz Mod
    Aug 13, 2023 at 18:37
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This guidance for the the "Title" field on the Ask Question page (which currently reads "Be specific and imagine you’re asking a question to another person") is set on a network-wide level, and is identical on all sites. Unfortunately, editing this guidance for the "Title" field on a per-site level is not currently possible (and it's unlikely we'll change that).

That said, we can make additional changes to certain other parts of the Ask Question page. As you've noted, the prompt/placeholder that appears in the empty text field for the post title has already been customized to read:

State the task that your code accomplishes. Make your title distinctive.

Some other parts of the guidance on the Ask page can be customized as well (and already have been): the "Asking a good question" modal/popover shown to first-time askers, and the contents of the "Step 1: Draft your question" sidebar. See Catija's Q&A on Meta Stack Exchange for more info: What site-specific changes can be made to the Ask Question page to help askers on that site write better questions?

We can make additional changes to any of these existing customizations if needed, as long as there is community consensus to do so.

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