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A new user answered a bunch of questions without really understanding what this site is about, so received downvotes and an automatic answer ban. The user commented that he hadn't been forced to read the "about" page before posting. Should that change?

New users are presented with a prominent link to the "about" page when they visit the site; is that enough? (Think user experience, not just legalities, please.) Or should users have to actually load the page (we can't actually make them read, of course) before posting a question or answer? Or would that be pointless because, as noted, we can't actually make them read it, so maybe that isn't any more effective than when people have to scroll through a license agreement or TOS doc?

Is the "about" page sufficiently prominent, or should the site machinery push it more for new users?

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  • Downvote? (I know that voting on meta conveys agreement/disagreement, but this question doesn't put forth a particular proposal.) – Monica Cellio Aug 4 '13 at 20:13
  • I would say based on the title that the voter was saying they should NOT be forced to see the About page – Double AA Aug 4 '13 at 21:34
  • @DoubleAA, ah, that makes sense. (I wrote the title first but then the question evolved some.) I'll adjust that. – Monica Cellio Aug 4 '13 at 22:05
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On the home page, the link to the About page is not just prominent; it's very prominent. If the user comes straight into a question page without seeing the home page, there's still a somewhat-prominent banner promoting About, and there's a very prominent set of guidance for answerers that pops up if you click into the answer-entry box, as msh210 pointed out.

There may be a tweak or two that could make these measures a bit more attention-grabbing without being onerous, such as the forced click on OK that msh210 suggested, but as you note, there's a general tendency of users (of all electronic devices, programs, and fora) to skip past any sort of fine print as quickly as possible and get right into usage. I think that the present measures are sufficient to make the presence and friendliness of the About resource clear to any user who is at all inclined to use it, and it'd be difficult to come up with something automatic that'll force people who are not so inclined to take note of it that wouldn't also be very annoying to many people.

What I think we could do, though, is use our own welcome message practices to reinforce the value of the About and Help pages. Perhaps we could include a blurb about "If you haven't yet, please do check out About" in standard Welcome messages, though that may just come off as boilerplate clutter and make the rest of the welcome message seem more so. Instead, I think I'd recommend that any time we're addressing a new user whose posts seem at all problematic, we make sure to include an encouragement to review About and possibly [relevant sections of] Help, so they can get a better idea of what we're expecting. That would be a measure that's targeted both in applicability and content to where and how it's most needed, and it might help nip strings of problematic posts from new users closer to the bud.

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  • 1
    Don't forget the exciting shortcuts, such as [about], [help/on-topic], etc. – Jon Ericson Aug 5 '13 at 20:40
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Note that, when an unregistered user clicks in the text area to post his first answer[1], the following text pops up above the text area:

Your Answer

Thanks for contributing an answer to Mi Yodeya!

  • Please be sure to answer the question. Provide details and share your research!

But avoid

  • Asking for help, clarification, or responding to other answers.
  • Making statements based on opinion; back them up with references or personal experience.

To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers.

There's an "ok" link to dismiss the box, and it's at the top of the box (so the above-quoted text is between the answer text area and the "ok"); it may be worth forcing a click on that "ok" before allowing an answer to be posted — or even before allowing text to be added to the text area.


[1] And perhaps all future questions until he's registered, but I don't know: I only tested this once. Or perhaps any first answer gets this, even if registered: again, I haven't tested this properly.

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