I've seen time and time again newcomers coming to this exchange who've clearly not read the rules on how to post a good question to this exchange. I'm unsure how feasible this would be to implement on any stack exchange, but requiring newcomers to complete a short tutorial on how to ask questions could be a good idea. Or, adding a reputation bonus to users who complete such a tutorial could also be useful. The basic idea is, have the users

  1. Enter inline math mode, as well as the regular equation environment (double dollar signs) and type out an equation. I think almost every new user either isn't aware of these environments at all, or at least isn't aware that there are two available.
  2. Review a few sample questions and simply state if they follow community guidelines. These questions would, for example, lack detail, or would ask for help solving a problem without indicating that the asker has tried anything. After the user enters, supply them with a "correct, the asker doesn't state what they've tried, and is thus asking for a solution as opposed to requesting help." Obviously, also have questions where the math is posted as an image, to drive home that no, you have to type out the equations you can't just insert an image.

These two steps alone, I think at least, would help a lot of new users ask proper questions, would save editing time, and would get answers for questions that, without reading through the rules, would normally be closed for being off-topic.

I'm unsure if the code would be easily implemented for this, but do you think this is a good idea? My thought is that we'd want any new user to read through "How to ask a good question" before posting at all, which would likely take longer than a few minutes to do anyways. So theoretically, this is actually an interactive way of meeting our current expectations.

After typing up this entire idea, this was listed as a related link. One objection is

But the cost is a loss of a certain % of questions, which we are hesitant to pay on smaller sites.

But the math stack exchange is not small (at least from what I've seen). They also point out that

One possible problem is that "when a user asks the first question" would be something that pertains to the underlying SE engine, and would not be something that community moderators can effect.

This relates to what I have to say because my idea is to have this implemented when a user tries to ask their first question, or joins this exchange (either one would be fine). Regardless, I wanted to at least suggest this feature. What are your thoughts?


1 Answer 1


If you read a lot of the questions I think you're referring to, it's obvious they can barely understand what their own question is, and are just taking a shot in the dark to see if someone will tell them the answer or point them in the right direction. For such a person, you're never going to get them to work through a tutorial and learn to write expressions in latex. They'll just wander off to some other site that might serve up an answer for them. The kind of users that will do your tutorial are also the kind that would be correctly socialized in the long run anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ If they wander off to some other site, then mission effing accomplished. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2020 at 19:37

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