A few weeks back, Jay and I had a nice conversation with voretaq7 and Chopper3 where we discussed and debated the various items raised by the community here in http://meta.serverfault.com/questions/5744/questions-to-ask-the-se-staff-regarding-the-future-of-serverfault. Both of these fine gentlemen were extremely helpful in helping us to understand some of the problems faced by the folks here, and we came up with a few different ideas for improvement.
One of the biggest problems facing this site are the number of poorly asked and straight-up off-topic questions asked here on a daily basis. While y'all are pretty good about closing and migrating these, it's demoralizing to see so many of them flooding in - not to mention discouraging for the folks asking them. We all liked the idea presented in Question #7:
Question #7 - What could be done to ensure that new users can't ignore notices regarding the site's objectives and our expectations for new users? Could we force new users to agree that they've read these before asking their first N questions, maybe even answers? Perhaps even warn them that they may see some negativity if they ignore the requirements?
When Stack Overflow was facing a similar problem a few years back, a very similar solution was implemented:
Every new Stack Overflow user with <= 10 reputation is now presented with a mandatory “How To Ask” page that they must click through before asking their first question. The text on this page is a heavily edited subset of Google’s excellent Tips for Getting Help.
This is how that page would look on Server Fault if it was enabled today. How do you force people to read something like this? Well, you can't - but if they don't read it carefully, they're gonna miss the bit that tells them they have to click that checkbox in order for the "proceed" link to do anything - that is, anything other than reload the advice page and start them back over at the top. There's also a handy search field above the fold, for folks more inclined to attack a problem by typing into any empty entryfield than to search.
But... Right now it doesn't do much to directly attack the problem of folks completely misunderstanding what sort of questions this site is for. Sure, there's a link to that, but that link is on the Ask page itself - if you're not inclined to click through already, you're probably not going to see it. So how about we modify the introduction on that page a bit, make it directly address the most common point of confusion:
To improve the chances of your question staying open and getting an answer, make sure that it is about professional systems administration. If your question concerns personal equipment, try asking on Super User instead. Here are some additional tips:
That text would appear in this context:
To be clear, this is in no way a panacea; it certainly didn't eliminate low-quality questions on Stack Overflow, and I don't expect it will here either. But every little bit helps, and in particular it is always useful to catch misguided but well-intentioned people sooner rather than later. Rather than just adding another short hurdle for them to leap over, this offers at least a chance of redirecting their efforts in a more constructive direction.
I think it's worth a try. What about you?