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Recently Stack Exchange is developing a new area of the website called the Staging Ground, and the announcement is now a featured post on Meta.SE. Having searched the meta and a couple of chatrooms and not found any discussions, I would like to bring Math.SE's attention to these new features, and hopefully generate suggestions and feedback to SE staff that could improve our experience on this site.

The general introduction post on SO meta explains their motivations,

Stack Exchange sites are some of the best knowledge resources available. The Stack Exchange network is built on the premise that good questions (asked with a good process behind them) can get good answers. However, it can be pretty daunting for newcomers to get that process right, and current new user onboarding is less than ideal for getting them to a place where they can start asking quality questions and knowing how to write them.

...

Recently, we have been actively thinking if we can create a sandbox-like built-in solution that would allow more experienced users to interact with new users in a space away from the active questions on the main site, get some advice and avoid common question closures. The initial research on an approach of this nature has confirmed our belief that this would be a valuable way to approach the problem of new users being able to ask good questions. We want to ensure that new users ask quality questions when they are introduced to the format of Stack Exchange sites and that they are provided with actionable and concrete guidance in case of an issue.

From what I can gather by skimming the announcements, when the feature is live, questions that currently qualify for the First questions review queue will be sent to the Staging Ground, where the questions cannot be voted on or answered (!), but can be commented on, closed, flagged, or improved using new tools specifically designed for the area by qualified reviewers. The specific workflows are described in detail in these two SO meta posts.

The Staging Ground seems to be currently in development, and a minimum viable product will be released in a controlled A/B test on SO, probably some time this summer. After gathering feedback and evaluating the test results, they will decide on a timeline for future iterations and whether this will ultimately released.

The above are only my summary of things, which may be inaccurate, so corrections are definitely welcome. Please refer to the announcement post and the linked posts therein for more details.


Now I am personally very interested in this new feature, because it seems to address some of the problems on Math.SE exactly. Currently, interactions with low quality first time questions (typically PSQs) are very varied and have varied results. It has been a year since EoSQ was announced to address some of these issues. The effects are perhaps a little difficult to assess, and I think it's fair to say that it has generated some controversy, while the problem of what to do with such questions is not yet settled.

The Staging Ground provides a new solution. First and foremost, it removes the issue of low quality questions being answered quickly. While this might be the opposite of the problem that SO has, which seems to be that new users asking low quality questions don't get an answer at all, the new workflow is certainly in line with what EoQS is trying to encourage. At the very least, reviewers and moderators will have to flag and deal with fewer posts violating policy. Second, it gathers all new questions and new users that need help in one place, where more experience users can get to them more effectively. Third, this pushes new users to take more time to understand what makes a good question and actually improve their posts.

Now I understand that the Staging Ground is probably not going to be a panacea and some may even disagree with its purpose or concept. However, since it is still in early development, now seems the right time to discuss and debate.

In any case, I would like to call for Math.SE users to go read about the Staging Ground and participate in the Meta post, to send in feedback, explain our needs, suggest features, and hopefully make the tool useful for us.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, what is an "A/B test"? $\endgroup$ Apr 27 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson I think it's basically web developer's way of saying controlled tests. They might tweak a feature a little bit, release the tweaked version to some users while some other users are still using the untweaked version, then measure metrics like how much they click on a certain element or how long users spend on a certain screen. By comparing the reaction between the two groups they can figure out what the tweak does to the user experience, and decide if they want to keep it. $\endgroup$
    – Elliot Yu
    Apr 27 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Wikipedia: A/B testing - from what I read there, I would say that the description given in the above comment is spot on. $\endgroup$ Apr 28 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ It remains to see how this is actually executed, but I think this is a great concept and is sorely needed. There have been a lot of undergraduate problem-set type questions lately, where the student is putting in the effort but seems to be struggling in getting the concepts. The group here is too nice to turn such students away. But I don't know how much so many of these badly-written "easy" question,corrected and rewritten and then answered in the ensuing comments , is in keeping with having a repository of high-quality questions-and-answers. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    May 5 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Let us know, or rather, I hope SE lets us know, when such a "staging ground" is available to math.se. This sounds an awful lot like what "triage" was intended to mean, way back when. In any case, I'm open to learning more, only if it actually materializes as an option for our site. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 7 at 21:18

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