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What would you like to do?

All stats given here are correct at the time of writing. I can't promise that they'll stay exactly correct for a significant amount of time (and they most likely won't), but I'd be surprised if the pattern challenges significantly

Of the last 50 questions that were posted to main (and that are still undeleted):

  • 33 were posted by an inexperienced challenge author ($\le3$ open, positively scored questions)
  • Of those, 18 are negatively scored
  • And, 20 are closed (7 as duplicates)

Looking at the deletion stats (10k+ only) for the same period, we can change those numbers to

  • 41 posted by inexperienced challenge authors
  • 25 have a negative score
  • 28 are closed (10 as duplicate)
  • 8 are deleted (6 deleted by Roomba)

How can we improve these stats?

We have the Sandbox specifically to avoid this - somewhere that newer users, less experienced with challenge writing, can go in order to learn how to post high quality posts. Clearly, however, it isn't working, and in fact, some users aren't even aware of it before posting their first question.

In order to see exactly what it's like to post a question as a new user, I logged into one of my sockpuppets and went through the motions of posting a question. My observations:

  • Our info box is obviously visible, but doesn't stand out in a page full of links and more. In fact, visiting my latest question, more space was given to ads than the info box

  • When I click the "Ask Question" button, I was greeted by our custom modal, which, as I've said before, isn't bad, it's just not great.

  • I then drafted a question, and hit "Review your question". Something that immediately caught my eye:

    Our automated system checked for ways to improve your question and found none.

    Granted, we shouldn't expect an automated system to be our absolute filter for low quality questions, but I can think of a few automated checks that could be helpful, such as checking for winning criteria tags, or looking for patterns that may indicate the post is off-topic or low quality.

  • During this process, there was only ever a single time where I was directed to our Tour page and our how to ask pages, both of which are supposed to be there to help newer users ask high quality questions, and that was in the Step 1 while asking my question, along with a lot of information in a fairly small box. Even if I had visited the Tour/asking pages, though, I'm not sure it would've helped:

    You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

    What types of questions should I avoid asking?

    Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

    How do I ask a good question?

    Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.

    The Tour page

    We've asked hundreds of times about our misleading Tour/help pages, so consider this one the latest in a long series of similar questions. That doesn't change the fact that the pages are misleading at best, and downright wrong at worst.

    Furthermore, despite it being the go-to, number one piece of advice offered by countless users across the site, our how to ask page only mentions the Sandbox once, and just doesn't mention other useful resources such as our [meta-tag:faq] or pages such as

  • "This site is for programming contests and challenges. General programming questions are off-topic here. You may be able to get help on Stack Overflow." is one of our primary close reasons (19.05 % of closed questions in the last 90 days), behind "Needs details or clarity" at 44.44 % and "Duplicate" at 23.81 %. This suggests that a lot of users post here without fully understanding what the site's actually about.

Finally, the Sandbox isn't even fully accessible for new users, as due to a bug that has gone unfixed since September 2020 (going on 7 months now), users require 5 reputation to post on Meta.

In short, the systems we have in place in order to help newer users post high quality questions are not working, and I for one am getting a little tired of posting "Check out the Sandbox before posting on main" as a comment beneath most of the new questions.

So what can we do about it?

What suggestions do you have to make it easier for new users to post good quality questions? What can/should we change (or try to change) in order to decrease the number of low quality posts?

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