Is there any way to create a mandatory "Read This First"?

Serious question – I don’t know the ins and outs of Discourse in detail – but it feels to me like a brief article that is in peoples’ faces when they start out here would be enormously valuable. There are a few conversational problems that seem to show up with enormous frequency, which might well be helped by making these points upfront:

  • We’re happy to help you solve problems in your code and answer your questions, but please don’t just post your homework questions here – you have to do most of the work yourself.
  • If you’re getting errors, please include those errors verbatim – exactly what they say, and which line they are pointing to.
  • A precise description of how to quote code.

Maybe some others, but these are the issues that seem to be most common. The point is mainly that, if we can get these out of the way in advance, we can have more focused and helpful conversations with folks who need help.

I’d be happy to collaborate with others on actual wordsmithing – the question is, is it possible to do this within Discourse in the first place?


Just sharing my two cents.

While I certainly like the idea, I will play devils’ advocate.
StackOverflow, probably the de facto on programming communities, does have this.
They have a bunch of official links explaining how to ask a good question, they even put them on the Ask a Question page.
I believe (not sure since its been ages since the time I asked my first question) that they made mandatory to at least click those links when you ask your very first question.

However, the number of low quality questions made every day is amusing.
Without doing the maths, I would say that 3 out of every 5 questions I see are unclear, bad formatted, incomplete, or lack any attempt at solving the problem, etc.

Reality is that people will simply skip those (actually very long) pages explaining to you how to ask a good question. People just want help, and ASAP!

But, I would like to think that most people actually just are having their first experience asking for help online. Most of those mistakes are probably done in good faith.

So, even if I am skeptical that a mandatory “read this first” page will solve the identified problems. I nevertheless believe it would be a good idea to have it.
In the worst case, it would help to link to it when someone asks a low quality question so we do not have to repeat ourselves over and over again.

As an additional quick note, the shorter and more precise that page can be, the better.
(not like me, that has to write 6 paragraphs to express a simple idea)

The most annoying thing is probably badly formatted code, but that could be automatically detected with rather high probability, I think. A bot could respond with a request for reformatting the code after detecting the problem.

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Oh, agreed. I doubt that many people are coming at this in bad faith. But we really don’t do much to set folks’ expectations when they come into this site cold, so they don’t know what is and isn’t okay, with the result that we wind up spending a lot of effort making the same corrections over and over again.

And more than agreed about length. Most sites are terrible about this – I’ve spent many long months arguing with people about “FAQs” that were actually book-length laundry lists of stuff they were trying to force into peoples’ faces, rather than actually, y’know, frequently asked questions. IMO, this has to fit into a screenful at most in order to be useful, which means fierce editing. But I think we could accomplish a lot of good in a screenful – if there is a way to do it in the first place.

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