Today alone I've flagged - at a guess - more than 5 but less than 10 answers, where the answer has been of quite severely low quality; for example "this is my pet theory" or general commenting. In other words, treating the site as a discussion forum rather than a Q&A site.

In all cases these had the following in common:

  1. A new member with typically 1 rep (i.e new to the SE network overall, not just this site).
  2. An actual registered member rather than a generic "user#####" account.
  3. The person had no badges indicating that they hadn't even read the Tour.

On any given day there seems to be at least 2 to 3 of these that I personally become aware of, and item 3 above (which I think I picked up from either Richard or Meat Trademark, so credit where it's due) is particularly common.

By my count we had 15 such members today, but only 3 awards of the Informed badge in the same time period - 2 of which are on > 100 rep and so are likely already members of SE sites and therefore know how they are meant to work. That's not a good hit rate.

The purpose of the Tour is quite explicit and it's very obviously intended for exactly this kind of member:

  • It explains what the site is.
  • It explains what it's not.
  • It explains how to use the site.
  • It provides useful links for further information.

But yet (and I guess in much the same way as a file called "readme" is the most secure place to store your passwords) an incredibly high proportion of new members are not reading it (with only 505 Informed badge awards an incredibly high proportion of old members aren't either.....)

This is, I believe, a problem that's quite specific to SF&F (and maybe one or two others) - you're not going to get "here's my pet theory" answers to a programming question, for example. It's also a problem that seems to be generating an inordinately high amount of low-quality content on this site.

What's the solution? Can we set a requirement that a new member cannot post an answer until they earn the Informed badge? Would this be discouraging to new members? Is there any way of at least automatically dropping a hint that they should read the Tour page before participating? Or is the current setup viewed as OK?

  • I second that emotion. RTFM is rarely a bad idea and likely to lead to an increase in the overall quality of answers from new members without being overly proscriptive.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 19:03
  • you're not going to get "here's my pet theory" answers to a programming question Well, you do get those on Programmers.SE. More often on there though, new users there will ask questions that belong on StackOverflow.
    – Izkata
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 4:28

2 Answers 2


Short of forcing people's eyelids open, Clockwork Orange style, you can't force people to read the Tour. In fact, even if you flashed it, word by word into their retinas, they still won't read. People don't read. Really, they don't. There isn't any good way to force people to read the Tour/tutorial/primer/whatever before posting, and you'll only be adding an extra barrier of entry that will block out people regardless of the quality of their content, based solely on their willingness to pretend to read a FAQ page.

  • 1
    Extra cookie points if you add a thirt proof link to Coding Horror :) Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 4:44
  • 1
    Great, now you have me trawling CodingHorror looking for references. :) Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 6:20
  • Exhibit A, unfortunately. Keen's answer is, of course, correct, but I'm going to award the Accept to this one unless a third, stronger case to not have such a requirement is made in the next day or so.
    – user8719
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 15:59
  • Too long, didn't read. (sorry, I couldn't resist!)
    – Beofett
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 13:49

No, this shouldn't be required. It's encouraged that new users take the Tour, with the site providing a big banner that sums up Stack Exchange and provides a link to the Tour. That banner states:

New user banner

(taken from a random SE site that I've never used)

It being easy for anyone to hop on an SE site for the first time and ask a question or post an answer is part of Stack Exchange's DNA. By being easy to participate, we encourage a rapid growth of the user base and pool of knowledge on the site. We don't erect barriers to make it more difficult to post questions or join the site.

There's an obvious downside to this approach, in that there will be low quality posts from new users. But that's why high-reputation users are given tools to help moderate sites. There's an expectation that people who are heavily invested in a SE site will help make it better. Part of that is moderating these low quality posts. If you dislike low quality posts:

  • edit them to make them better
  • flag them when they can't be edited
  • downvote and comment on the issues with the post

Lastly, these posts aren't unique to SF&F.SE, all SE sites have variations on the theme. That's another reason why I'm not up for treating this like a special case that needs a special solution that other SE sites don't have in place. The SE platform has solutions already in place for low quality posts, make use of them.

  • Also worth noting is that while Jimmy is comparing flagged newbies vs. tour takers, we're better off looking good at either the number of newbies who do take the tour or the number of good quality posts. I would wager that either stat would show these bad posts outliers.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 20:15

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