We get a LOT of seriously off-topic questions on ServerFault.

This is because new users either can't comprehend the word 'server' in the site name or because they skipped the old, and very clear, FAQ.

So when new users asked eight-word 'questions' about their home routers, recommendations for what was the latest, greatest motherboard or about their fishtank pump we could at least respond with a quick "please read the FAQ".

This is no longer an option - we now have to respond with "please exhaustively read the entire help tree" - which I've not managed to do yet.

I believe the idea behind these changes is to make the place more 'welcoming', well it will be in that new users won't have any obvious actual help and will litter the site with these inappropriate questions.

Worse yet they'll go unanswered and unedited as those users with experience of the site, who put a lot of time into it, will leave or reduce their time on the site because of the lowered signal to noise ratio that's been introduced without any discussion between the site owners and those doing the actual work. I thought this site was supposed to be a community, guess we've just seen that that was never the case.

=== EDIT ===

We're seemingly more inundated than ever with inappropriate questions from new users - it's easy to see why.

This is the top of the first page new users see - the text about 'pro system....' is WAY too small and out of the way - it needs to be FRONT AND CENTRE, in BOLD and in RED text so that it can't pass people by. I suggest it goes between the buttons at the top and the 'how it works' block below.

enter image description here

So then if they ignore that and just blindly hit 'Ask Question' they get this;

enter image description here

Lots of white text, some of it important, some of it not - hidden away on the right and VERY easy to ignore. Again let's move the circled text over beneath the buttons, in bold and red so that they have to be doubly-stupid to have missed it. It won't get them all - we get some real idiots - but we're making it way to easy for new users to get confused.

Can we change this?

  • 1
    (Rather lengthy) MSO discussion thread. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/182812/….
    – tombull89
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:10
  • 1
    oh...sorry, I never go over to SO
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:12
  • 17
    Moar pink and fluffyness is required because people get their feelings hurt when they get asked to read things or do a little bit of their own research.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:13
  • It does say, at the bottom, If you want to suggest a new page, have an issue specific to one site, or have another major change, you can start a new meta post and tag it help-center. so there's always that option.
    – tombull89
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:14
  • 2
    +1 - I hate the new help page because you can't just refer people to it. Especially as the most critical stuff (for us) is on the right-hand column which virtually nobody is going to get to. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 21:41
  • 3
    +1 is there still signal? It looks like there's only noise, drowning out the odd 1 in 100 good question. Trying to have questions migrated either is ignored or is almost pointless due to the sheer amount... Add to that that if you even bother to answer someone (and +1 their question, to encourage) they can't be assed to return the favour.
    – aseq
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 23:27

6 Answers 6


Mostly for the reasons given in this question I had no intention of coming back to SF, other than when Googling for answers. I back temporarily only to offer my support to the sentiment. When I started on SF the site was much more community driven. Things have been steadily going downhill ever since.

Back when we could slap people over the head with "read the FAQ" things were better simply because people then realised there are rules and guidelines. Without that SF is doomed. It's already going down pretty severely (just have a look at recent content) and without some pretty drastic changes, which absolutely must give power back to the community, I see no way of reversing things.

If you go to at any half decent Q&A or discussion site the very first thing you see is a prompt to read the rules/FAQ. The reasons for it should be self evident and.

As for the occasional, and always undesired, appearance by "Community Managers", I can only see this as further interference by those who don't know what the hell they're talking about in a subject area they know nothing about. Keep out of SF and go annoy somebody else.

The final straw for my involvement in SF was merely an extension of what is being discussed. Specifically, a moderator unilaterally, and without even a hint of an explanation, overturning a close resulting from 5 non-mods voting for said close. Who that mod is or what the question is are totally irrelevant. What is relevant is that it's dictatorship, not community involvement, the exact opposite of what the site needs.

  • 4
    To be fair I was a terrible dictator when I was a mod, that's one of the reasons I gave it up - and it was making me miserable and stressed. It's not an easy job.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 6:57
  • 1
    A moderator is community-elected so it obviously is somewhat harsh to call it a dictatorship. Honestly, I cannot understand all the buzz - the FAQ is still there (although the URI has changed) and requests to "go read the FAQ" are as likely (or unlikely) to be followed as they have been before.
    – the-wabbit
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 10:35
  • 2
    @syneticon That location change is a rather major problem. It may still be there, and now more changeable than before (we used to have a restriction on trilogy sites but with the new Help Center, the SF mods should be able to edit it at any time), but it's currently inconvenient to access and the move has invalidated a lot of history of guidance.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:42
  • 5
    Good to see you back, even if it's just this once and under frustrating circumstances. =)
    – Wesley
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 17:44
  • @GraceNote but this surely can easily be helped? It does not seem to involve much more than a change to the redirection destination of <sitename>/faq, or am I missing some major point here?
    – the-wabbit
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 19:54

StackExchange as a whole seems to have chucked the FAQ concept, which has been with technical-internet spaces since the middle Usenet period, as a poor solution to a bad problem.

  • FAQs mostly serve as a club to whack LazyNet denizens for being lazy.
  • No matter how often you repost it with ***READ ME BEFORE POSTING!!*** it won't be read by LazyNetters (and will annoy regulars).
    • The Web 1.0 variant of this, the Sticky Post, is ignored just as readily.
    • The Web 2.0 variant, the intermodal that pops up when you click the Ask! button, just gets clicked past like every other clippy intermodal ever.

To overextend a metaphor, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink, and you sure as heck won't make them drink by dumping a bucket of water over their head.

Required-reading FAQs can most definitely be created. A series of web-slides going over various aspects of the FAQ, followed by a brief quiz to test for retention, for example. However, it increases the barrier to entry, and StackExchange is all about low barriers to entry.

FAQs are broken and don't serve their originally intended purpose, so best to integrate them into a much larger 'how does this community work' document. Instead of a carefully honed topicality club to whack LazyNetters with, we're left with an encyclopedia-sized club to whack 'em with instead.

One of my biggest quibbles with the new system, is that the http://$mainsite/faq shortcut goes to http://$mainsite/help/ not http://$mainsite/help/on-topic like it should. We have 3 years of 'As you can see in the FAQ' comments pointing to the wrong spot now.

Grr, arrg.

The current system really should be modified in a few key ways. We'll probably have to resort to MSO to get it done, and deal with all that MSOness, but I think it's needed:

How To Ask for new users

  • The low-rep/no-rep Ask! screen should be amended in the following ways:
    • Keep the bolded text at the top. There is a reason 'not a professional' is one of our site-specific Close Reasons now.
    • A link added below the bolded text linking to /help/on-topic, reading something like 'It is a good idea to review what else is on topic here'.

New User header

  • The not-logged in header is actually pretty good. 'Professional' is thrown under the nose of anyone who comes here, and the Tell Me More link points to our about page, which also underlines Professional.
    • Given the technical nature of our users, a LazyNet friendly link should be added below the button named 'Or you can just skip to what's topical here' that links to /help/on-topic. Yes, it pollutes the UI, but it's the kind of coddling behavior that'll actually funnel more people to the document we wish they'd all read.
  • 9
    I honestly don't think it's worthwhile wasting more time on this. Sadly, like the original faq, the revised faq, the intermodal popups, the close reasons, pretty much everything else that is put up to help people get to the best place to ask their question and get an answer this will just be ignored and the quality of SE and SF will continue to decline. On the upside people at SE were employed for a while doing this so the unemployment figures looked peatascopically better:)
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:32
  • 1
    Bigger clubs are more effective at whacking users... provided you can lift the club! Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 15:25
  • @MichaelHampton: Unless they get too big when they catch too much air ...
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 16:32
  • 2
    FWIW, the first change is fairly trivial - so it's done. The second, Chopper took to MSO (I think?)
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 15:35

I'm the Product Manager for the Q&A sites, so ultimately all this stuff is my responsibility.

The first thing I want to say is that I care very much what the community thinks about any new features or changes that we roll out to the network. I spend a good chunk of time every day sifting through meta so that I can make sure I understand where the pain points are. Just because you don't see me answering doesn't mean that I'm not there.

That said, with respect to the current discussion, I've read every answer and every comment. I can't say that I agree with everything, but I'm committed to taking constructive criticism and fixing things when we've made mistakes.

I sat down with Laura and Anna this morning, and we all agree that based on some of the points made here that the current help landing page design is not the best we can do. We clearly missed the browse use case that the old FAQ addressed.

But I'm not going to make any further changes until I completely understand the problem.

Therefore, it would be very helpful to hear from you guys about what specifically the new /about page fails at that the old FAQ page did successfully (the /about page was designed as a replacement for the FAQ, the primary purpose of the help center was just to move items out of long discussion threads on meta into a more readable and searchable format). After I've got that figured out, I'll sit down and see if I can come up with a layout that might work better.

Meanwhile, to address the concern about old FAQ magic links, I've posted the following idea on MSO to get feedback from the whole community (and I encourage you to go over there and put in your two cents): Redirect old magic [faq] links to /about instead of /help

Want to make it clear that I don't intend any insult by opening a thread on MSO. For those of you unfamiliar with the history of stack overflow, the stack exchange network used to be just one site. When more sites were added, there was never a canonical Meta created - so MSO became that. It's in the works to fix, but other things have taken priority.

What we ultimately decided to do

Some legitimate gripes raised here:

  • The old [faq] magic links don't really work when forwarded to the new help center
  • The about page puts the on and off topic information a bit too low on the page.
  • The browsing use case for the help homepage isn't really as strong as it should be

Here's what we're going to do:

  • All old [faq] links will now point to the about page. The about page was intended as a replacement for the FAQ, not the help homepage, and as you guys requested, the about page has the one-liner about who should post on the site at the top and the on and off topic reasons summarized on the page
  • We will be moving up the on and off topic reasons for the about page to the second position instead of the fourth position. This is the first thing people will read after the box about this being a question and answer site
  • We will move the asking box on the help homepage to the first position. The asking box contains the on and off topic articles and also the article about closing, which we think are the three most important articles. This change isn't as big as it could've been, but we did go back to the drawing board to see if we could get a better layout fairly easily, and everything that we came up with that we liked would require a pretty decent re-architecture of the section. I'm afraid we have to move on to other things at the moment.
  • 15
    You must care a lot about about this site given your account here is 37 minutes old... Here are the points; 1) We want new users to made super-aware that the site is for professional sysadmins and not home/shopping/mucking-about-with-IT BEFORE they get a chance to post anything on the site and we want a single URL that we can point them to explaining these points when they continue to make inappropriate posts - we used to have this. 2) It's not clear whether SF users need to monitor Meta.SO to learn about how SF is run - it's also a little insulting, are we second-class citizens?
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 19:47
  • 5
    /about does a serviceable job of replacing some of what /faq covered -- Redirecting FAQ to /about is certainly more sensible than pointing it to the help center (which drops people into a sea of information without so much as a life vest). No technical solution will ever address the fundamental problem though (people don't read the scope/topicality information - before or after posting).
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 19:57
  • 3
    @JeremyTunnell Welcome to Meta.SF, nice of you to join us. Regarding point 2), many of us have been around since before this place was here so we're aware of the history, but the question is why is it still like this? it also begs the question of why bother with this place at all, can you see the confusion we have here - we feel like we don't matter to you guys.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 20:11
  • 7
    "If you would like to provide feedback or suggest features that would affect other sites, you should do that on MSO." -- have you not seen how requests from other sites often either get ignored, or buried by ignorant SO members who are convinced that because they don't have a problem there isn't a problem?
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 21:05
  • 6
    @JeremyTunnell: So Far as I can see the new /about takes care of the things we care about from the old /faq.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 18:11
  • 5
    I'm happy to see that you're getting some changes done, but I still must insist on a MUCH more visible warning about the site belonging only to professional sysadmins/network administrators.
    – pauska
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 16:12
  • 1
    @JeremyTunnell - could you have a look at my edits in the question above please.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 14:06
  • 2
    @Chopper3 We don't have enough data after all the new help/close/about changes to see what the effects have been. I'd like to let things settle down before we consider any more changes. So give it a couple months and let's see what the numbers look like.
    – Jeremy T
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 19:12
  • 2
    @JeremyTunnell: My impression is that there is no lessening in the river of shit that is the front page of SF :(
    – user9517
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 19:22
  • 5
    My experience is that we are getting more crappy offtopic questions after the faq/help rewrite than before. I'm starting to believe that SE doesn't want SF to be a professionals ONLY site. Less traffic is less revenue.
    – pauska
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 19:24
  • 8
    @Chopper3, because your last comment is directed toward an employee, I'm not deleting it, lest anyone accuse us of censorship. That said, it's not acceptable behavior. You can argue about features, priorities, and whether our PM is allocating enough attention to this site vs. all the others as much as you'd like - we encourage that. You cannot, however, suggest that him not acceding to enough of your requests means that he doesn't care about his job. This discussion hinges on how we can work together to keep this site professional; let's all try to to do the same for our interactions.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 20:13
  • 5
    @Jaydles - Jeremy and yourself clearly have no idea of the strength of feeling of how you're ruining the site for those who actually contribute to it. You may feel I wasn't being very nice but for someone who supposedly has something (?) to do with the running of this site to suggest we review things in "a couple of MONTHS" is genuinely angering and in my opinion massively unprofessional. Here's an idea; work out what percentage of the total rep gained by all users since these changes was earned by those contributing to this discussion. You're forcing away those that make the site work.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 21:13
  • 7
    @Jaydles: Y'all are fiddling while Rome burns. We are absolutely failing to reach out to and retain our target market, almost none of the questions on this site are from demonstrably professional IT administrators. If I were in the market for hiring an IT Admin quite frankly SF would be that last place I would want to advertise because of that.
    – user9517
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 21:27
  • 8
    @Jaydles We want to have a more professionally orientated SF and you (as SE) want to market that as a place to sell advertising for your recruitment business. These should be so closely aligned as to be inseparable. Unfortunately you don't seem to be listening to us when we tell you there is a huge problem that ultimately hurts all of us. Unless of course you don't care because clicks beats shit.
    – user9517
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 21:38
  • 6
    @Jaydles - this question is about us being ignored, so ignoring us further, for months, is bound to anger and confuse us. Please prove us wrong by not ignoring us any further.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 22:20

I find it's pretty easy to put a link in a comment to the on-topic help page and possibly a related meta post (or canonical question, such as for the licensing questions).

A great deal of these off topic questions are covered by the bold text near the top of that page. If someone can't even be bothered to read that far (or click on the help link in the first place), I'm not sure another help page (even one that is more concise) will help them.

That said, people are known to skip FAQ pages with alarming regularity no matter how easy you make it, so a proactive solution is hard.

It would probably be a better strategy to use javascript to shove the on-topic help page in people's face gently introduce people to the purpose of this site the first time they try to post a question. An abbreviated version of it might be suitable for that purpose.

If, after being shown in bold text that our target is IT professionals looking for help with their professional environment, people still ask us how to reset their password configure their ISP-provided residential gateway or whatever, I submit there is nothing we can do except comment to them and delete their question. However, we do need to present the core of the criteria as concisely as possible.

We could probably make such a prompt look a little like this:

Welcome to Server Fault!

Server Fault is a site for system and network administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity. We most appreciate questions that have a single right answer and indicate that you've done at least some research into the problem on your own. Provided that your question is of that nature, we would be delighted to help you out.

That would filter out a great deal of the problematic questions while being extremely concise (but hopefully not terse).

We could also be a bit longer:

Welcome to Server Fault!

Server Fault is a site for system and network administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity. Provided that your question is of that nature, we would be delighted to help you out.

Some things which are within the scope of this community include:

  • Server and Workstation operating systems, hardware, and software.
  • Business/Enterprise grade virtualization
  • Enterprise storage, backup, and disaster recovery
  • Network routing, switches, and firewalls
  • Operations, maintenance, and monitoring

If you are unsure whether your question is on topic, please take a moment to read through our help page https://serverfault.com/help/on-topic. Otherwise, you're in the right place - ask away!

This might be better than the original solution (before the overhaul) of pointing new users at the FAQ page, because at least everyone will have seen it.

We could also write a proscriptive blurb, but I'd prefer to avoid that lest we appear hostile.

Needless to say, I think the on-topic help page is really the key to mitigating this issue. We need to gently make it very clear that this isn't merely an advanced mode of SU.

  • 8
    The main problem is that before this change we could reasonably expect users to read the FAQ before asking a question. Often they didn't, but this was their failure. With the new help center, this is no longer possible - no one is going to read all that stuff before asking his first question.
    – Sven
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:37
  • True, it's not proactive, but people aren't usually known to read FAQs even if they are one page long and there is a flashing link to them from the front page of your site. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:52
  • 5
    @SvW - exactly, it's beyond any reasonable expectations of new users
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:54
  • I've edited to address this need anyway. It's a legitimate need, but I think a different solution is better. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:55
  • 1
    @Falcon Whether or not people could be bothered to read it before they post the first time, it was still a much faster way to process the information once someone was linked to it. The new format is not what I'd consider friendly to new users (I know, I know, SF is friendly to new users?), and I think that's really the larger problem.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 20:07

I'm Grace Note, a Community Manager. I’d like to share the approach we took in designing the new help center, as well as some of my own thoughts on fixes that can be applied that might address your concerns.

I sent a newsletter last month to all moderators shortly after the changes to the Help Center. This doesn't automatically make its way to every site's Meta, though, and especially for something as big a change as this, it is fairly important that all of the network is aware of it. We'll be looking into good ways to handle this better going forward. It is not our intention to have worsened the problems on Server Fault so let us work together to fix them.

In a sense, what is present is that the old FAQ was divided into a few different destinations based on what reasons people were sent to it for. For people brand new to the site or who are unaccustomed to how the whole site works (basically, the FAQ as a whole package), the intended destination is /about. Topicality, though, is buried on this page beneath site purpose and functionality. For topicality, reputation, promotion, and all the other jazz, the intent is to link to the specific section of /help. The intent was primarily that, rather than bogging down people with this giant document. Laura explains such in a comment here, which mostly echoes what I just wrote here.

This wasn't a smooth transition, though - on paper it sounds quite nice. In practice we did break one particularly convenient portion of the user guidance workflow. Falcon is right that it was designed so that linking to /help/on-topic would bring people directly to what was formerly the top of the FAQ. /faq#questions, which used to link directly to the section you're seeking out, does actually point to /help/on-topic, but considering people easily accomplished in the past without an anchor since it was the top segment, it's clear that this holdover didn't actually tide as much as it meant to. Thus we lack any directly convenient link for users to point at the actual destination intended as we used to with the FAQ, and the convenient links we do have plop people in a giant wall.

Some initial thoughts on how this could be fixed. sysadmin1138's post made me notice that we actually don't have quite the same hero bar on /help as we do for anonymous user homepages. At the very least, appending the "Server Fault is a question and answer site for professional [...]" on that bar there, before we tell them about taking the tour, might be nice. It won't address the underlying problem but considering the hero bar there is directed at a new user (hence the tour option), I think restating the site audience is appropriate.

Past that, the main thing is to make the appropriate links more convenient to use in some fashion. Especially topicality, as Server Fault isn't the only site that primarily just pointed at /faq to hit the top of the page - I've got a fair share on Arqade that is probably all kinds of wonk now. The original actions aren't "lost", since /help/on-topic covers exactly the section that we all want to point at with convenience, conciseness, and straight-to-the-pointness. It lacks the ease-of-access that the old FAQ had though, and while people can link to it directly, there is no direct route for new users to see nor a quick link for experienced users to provide guidance with. Don't want to make a big rush on this portion here though, so we're still looking at how to work on this part. Something kinda like what is asked for here.

  • 4
    Perhaps you should put a step in your planning which assesses the effect of the changes designed to make the place appear more welcoming to the newcomer will have on the long term users.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 19:41
  • 11
    "I sent a newsletter last month to all moderators shortly after the changes to the Help Center" - exactly.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:20
  • @Iain I checked internally, we did some evaluation on that end and the response was largely positive. Probably might've helped to focus more on ironing out issues than fixing up various privilege/badge quirks. We'll work on that as well as better spread of communication, especially with regards to advance news of upcoming changes.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:42
  • 3
    @GraceNote: Internally != long term users.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:45
  • @Iain I mean, I checked internally with people who informed me that we did focus group testing with existing users as well as new users.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:48
  • 10
    I'm sorry but from where I'm standing, these changes appear to be something that stack exchange has done to the communities rather than for the communities. And while that's your right, and I don't want to be waving the "we're special snowflakes" flag, the fact that the audience for this site is scoped differently to the other 'main' SE sites means that is a problem imho and this site is getting less and less useful for the people who contribute to the site day by day.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 21:18
  • 7
    @RobM agreed. The main site has become a real clusterfuck since help center went live. No longer can I say "Please take a moment to read our [faq], because your question doesn't seem to fit here." It's just not reasonable that a new user should read the whole help center, where it was entirely reasonable to ask them to read the faq. The help center makes it hard for new users to even find what is and isn't on-topic here. Then, to top it off, I can't even vote to close things any more. I can "put things on hold" (how fluffy) with reasons that don't line up with why we close things on SF.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:57
  • 4
    Server Fault already had a hard enough time with users asking off-topic and overly broad questions and now it's exacerbated by the help center obscuring that information even further. It used to be one click, now it's multiple clicks, plus locating topicality in the middle of a list - which no new user will ever find on their own. You took something simple (one click where the first sentence was the site's topicality) and replaced it with a mess of information that no one will ever read. I've stopped voting to "on hold" things and haven't really visited the main site much lately.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:59
  • 12
    SF is taking a real turn for the worse lately and it's clear that no one is listening to the current users. At this rate we'll be of /r/sysadmin quality in no time. (sorry for the 3-comment post. This has been bothering me for some time and I wanted to make sure someone at SE got the notifications)
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 23:01
  • 3
    @MDMarra Yeah, even though Im pretty active on meta, and reasonably active on meta.SO, the help center and the new close reasons really seem like theyve been dumped on us with very little input. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 2:31
  • 4
    @MDMarra +1 to each of those three comments (I'd upvote more if I could), as I couldn't agree more. The quality of questions here seems to be declining rapidly, and I now spend far more time in the review queues than I do actually trying to answer questions, and as such I don't feel like I'm offering much value to the site these days. I'm not a high rep user, but I've been here since the early days and I come here most days because I'm enthusiastic about my job and enjoy what I do. The scope of this site is vague/ambiguous at best, and the new help centre just makes it totally confusing.
    – user11604
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 10:31
  • So I know that a nice solution to one small portion of this is that /faq should point not at the hub of the whole thing, but specifically at the on-topic stuff. I will push for this but I'd like some alternatives. /rules? /scope? If the word FAQ wasn't an option, what do you feel would be the best "name" for the primary destination of education?
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 11:23
  • @GraceNote /readme or are we trying to get away from the "traditional" tech terminology?
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 13:28
  • 1
    @Bryan: #200 out of 120k makes you a top user.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 18:38
  • 1
    @Chopper Noted. Pokin' folks about this now.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 15:12

As a way to help mitigate the fact that yes, the new help center is much longer than the old FAQ, we've added a nice big featured link to the on- and off-topic page, front and center in the help center.

enter image description here

This way, it's MUCH easier to find when people stumble across the help center on their own, or get there from an old faq link that redirects them to the help center landing page.

Going forward, the goal is that users will link to specific help articles to guide users to a place that addresses their specific issue (whether it's the list of topics accepted here, rules for appropriate behavior, explaining why questions are closed, etc.). We've learned that people do not sit down and read any sort of FAQ or help center end to end, even if all of the information is on one page. Contextual learning is usually more likely to convey information that sticks, which is why we designed the help center this way.

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    People rarely read any type of documentation these days because it's so easy to 'ask the internet' but that's a different problem. Your 'solution' is poor, we have several years worth of comments that say (effectively) Please read our faq which are now made useless by the having them redirected to a general help document rather than the more specific target that they originally pointed to. It would be preferable to have someone update the database with links to the original target rather than the band aid provided.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 21:02
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    Instead of "mitigating" the help centre being unfit for purpose, why not just make it fit for purpose. Or, and I realise this is a bit radical, roll back to the old setup which at least 'sucked less' and come up with a proper solution?
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 21:09
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    This is a good step forward. There are fundamental problems here, folk just don't read jack anymore, but for those inclined to do so, this makes the key information more discoverable.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 21:39
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    "Folks don't read jack" may be fine for gaming.se, but this is a site for professionals. A "professional" that doesn't read the documentation isn't the kind of professional that will bring much value to this community.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 0:13
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    @Iain The old faq had anchor links for each section; we added redirects for those anchor links to the corresponding pages in the new help center. Anything that linked to a specific piece of info still links to that specific info. There is no way we can reasonably assume that everyone who linked to just /faq (rather than /faq#questions) intended to highlight that one section, so we are not going to a global redirect like that. We're doing our best to accommodate the feedback we've gotten, but keep in mind that implementing customized solutions for 100+ sites would be impossible to maintain.
    – Laura
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 0:17
  • @RobM The whole reason for the redesign is that the old FAQ was simply inadequate at fully explaining our model. It provided good information, but we had loads of other information scattered throughout a lot of places, many of which were undiscoverable to new users. Consolidating it into one place is an improvement. If, however, you have specific ideas for how to make the help center better, I welcome them. See my above comment, though, that I can't promise to implement a fully customized version just for SF - we don't have the resources to fully customize every site in the network.
    – Laura
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 0:21
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    @Laura: Your argument is specious. You (as ever) seem more concerned with the minority. I don't think I ever sent someone to look at the /faq without meaning that they should read about what was topical/not topical. I am fairly sure that pretty much every regular here did the same thing. So, you are prepared to invalidate hundreds if not thousands of my (and other links) on the off chance that you don't invalidate the occasional link that meant something else - pfft, how crappy is that?
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 6:12
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    Laura, consolidating information into one place would be an improvement if it was consolidated into something that actually improved discoverability. And if everything was actually consolidated into one place instead of being hidden behind "view more" links, which kinda invalidates your point. I realise that this is Stack Exchange's site to do with at it pleases, and I'd actually respect that as a reply more than what you're currently doing - trying to sell me an outhouse with a door that doesn't close properly by claiming it's the Taj Mahal.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:10
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    More 'broad-brush'/'one-size-fits-all' responses from The Gods - desperate to do anything but listen to those who do the actual clean-up work. Server Fault may not be perfect but at least there are people giving their time for free to keep it as close to perfection as possible, the lack of dialogue being demonstrated time and again here will simply mean those who care about the site stop doing so.
    – Chopper3
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 22:43
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    As a suggestion, if it is not possible to create a site-specific redirect from /faq to /help/on-topic, maybe it might be more adequate to alter all historic comments' texts referencing the /faq in any way to go to the new location of /help/on-topic. I can see how it creates a load of up-front work, but if SE is reluctant to doing the redirect this seems like the option making the most sense.
    – the-wabbit
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 11:35
  • @syneticon-dj: I think that's what I suggested at the start of the comment thread.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 14:00

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