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Many questions by new users end up closed as duplicates or for another reason related to the lack of familiarity with the site. I won't go into details; they are much discussed.

I propose to enable an interstitial how-to-ask page: it is automatically shown to new users after they click "Ask Question" button. The page gives a few bits of advice:

  • search before asking (it conveniently includes a large search box)
  • make sure you are stating a clear question with some context of where it came from.

This page is already enabled on some other high-traffic sites (Stack Overflow and Server Fault among them), but not yet here.

To make it more effective, the page should have some custom text. The part

We’d love to help you, but the reality is that not every question gets answered. To improve your chances, here are some tips:

can be replaced by Math-specific advice. For example, on Server Fault it reads

To improve the chances of your question staying open and getting an answer, make sure that it is about managing information technology systems in a business environment. If your question concerns personal equipment, try asking on Super User instead. Here are some additional tips:

I'll add my suggestion for custom text below; other suggestions are welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes. Yes. Yes. Also, yes! $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 25 '15 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, Server Fault added the interstitial page and the results were underwhelming. It's been nearly two years and I'm not sure there has been a noticeable change in question quality or volume. As much as we wish this page helps, it mostly seems to help existing users feel like we are doing something about problem questions. Which is nice, I guess. (We should probably run the numbers again, however.) $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Sep 25 '15 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JonEricson SF's issues are quite a bit different, and have to do with some hazy "professional" scope of the site. The top closing reason on the chart there is about relevance to professional administration. On Math, we mostly agree on what's within the scope: it's math, and it doesn't have to be "professional" in any way. It's things like "you didn't even ask a question after copying your homework" that irritate some folks. It'd be great if the page was site-specific (mentioning things like MathJax), but I guess that isn't as easy to implement. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 25 '15 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ I admit that I have paid next to zero attention to the question triage experiment (not running in Math.SE, so easy to ignore). IIRC that had a similar goal. Any news about its relative success? $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 25 '15 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ Doing great at keeping a lot of crap off the homepage, not so great at feeding middling questions to helpers, @Jyrki. Still working on that last bit. Kinda different goals from this though; this is more... "What misconceptions can we fix right off the bat" than "what lost souls can we save" $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Sep 25 '15 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ I don't want to sound pessimistic, but this is akin to requiring users to scroll to the bottom of the T&Cs before they can click on the "I agree" button; all it achieves is making the users scroll to the bottom of the T&Cs. It could help in the case the user is well-intentioned (and willing to learn how to use the site) but clueless, but otherwise I fear most people will simply scroll to the bottom, check the box and go on with their question. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Sep 25 '15 at 11:21
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This is live; I went with a variation on Normal Human's proposed guidance:

To improve the chances of your question getting an answer, make sure that it:

Here are some additional tips:

You can view it live here: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/ask/advice

I also modified the sidebar guidance on /questions/ask for consistency:

(MathJax guidance is already linked to on the Formatting sidebar)

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I firmly believe that repetition is the key to successful education... $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Oct 15 '15 at 21:50
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Proposed replacement for the beginning of "how to ask" page:


To improve the chances of your question staying open and getting an answer, make sure that it

Here are some additional tips:


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