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Since May of this year, we've seen many first-time users post comments in answers. (This page explains why they can't post comments.)

(There are much worse "offenses", and nothing about this is really urgent presently.)

Most of them have not read either the tour or the help center. I propose that new users who have NOT read them be either:

  1. Presented with a "Please take the tour" message, but allow them to post anyway.
  2. Be prohibited from posting anything until they at least take the tour.

(I think #2 is going too far. Bad idea!)

Of course, either of these options would have to be done in a very tactful way, so as to not offend or run anyone off. How could we do this?

Answers and comments welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Hope you don't mind friendly other-site-moderator comments and insights. :) $\endgroup$ – Thomas Ward Aug 4 '17 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasWard Heavens, no!! I agree with your answer. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Aug 4 '17 at 1:10
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Thomas Ward's answer explains why such restrictions would not be very effective. I'd like to point out that on the other hand, they would also would annoy new users who do want to actually answer the question. Some of those users would leave instead of answering.

Moderators can clean up non-answers posted as answers, converting them to comments if they are useful. Non-moderators can spot non-answers and flag them. Nobody can do anything about contributions we lost because the user decided not to post them.

We are not in Stack Overflow's position of having a firehose of new content no matter what we do, and striving to improve the average quality. We have the opposite scale problem: we want more contributions so that we can find the good ones.

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    $\begingroup$ This, 100% of the time. (You don't need the destroy-the-posts equivalent firehose, or Mjolnir, Hammer of the Mods, here, on a regular basis, unlike SO and Ask Ubuntu where we regularly flush out evil or raze posts to the ground and turn them to ash with lightning because of the sheer volume of evils we encounter) $\endgroup$ – Thomas Ward Aug 4 '17 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, gentlemen. I added option #2 as an afterthought, and I don't think that should happen! (Question edited to clarify that.) Not that I think #1 is very important, but when hamSE grows ... ? $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Aug 4 '17 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeWaters What you're now proposing is a modification to the Stack Exchange software on the hypothesis that there will be a problem in the future. That doesn't seem likely to happen. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Aug 4 '17 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinReidAG6YO Isn't it a problem on much larger SE sites? $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Aug 5 '17 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ I should really have asked this on metaSE, not here. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Aug 5 '17 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeWaters It's actually okay to ask things that fall into the category "modification to the SE software" on per-site metas, because they should be discussed/proposed in context. But certainly it's appropriate to go to meta SE when you see a network-wide problem. — Shall we take "featured" off this question? $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Aug 5 '17 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. I just did that. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Aug 5 '17 at 21:09
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NOTE: I am a moderator over on Ask Ubuntu, and am speaking from my observations and experience there, as well as observations on other sites for moderation, and as part of observing moderation patterns through my efforts with Charcoal and the SmokeDetector bot.

Some of these statements may not apply to this site or meta, however the core principles remain the same. Approach this with that in mind, and please be kind with responses to my thoughts.


The TL;DR: You can't really 'prevent' first time users from posting comments as answers, because they're likely to just breeze through the rules pages without reading so they can post. Do that enough, and watch their answers deleted as a result, and they'll eventually hit a system-placed answer-posting ban at some point, and then they will have to change their act, or never be able to answer again, basically. (Same applies for too many duplicates or bad quality questions, or questions that just get closed as unclear on a regular basis and is a large majority of their posts.) You'd also anger every new user, which would harm the site actively.


Regardless of how you try and restrict this, users will "glance" over the rules so they can get past the system locks, and then post comments as answers either way to try and make their statements known. This is similar to the regular actions taken by users when prompted with EULAs on software installations, insomuch as they agree to the terms but don't read them.

The same thing is applied to posts and rules on SE - even with restrictions as you suggest users will still blow right through them and not read them closely.

That being said, there are automated mechanisms in place where if a user constantly posts comments as answers, and they are flagged or deleted for moderation purposes, the user gets stuck with a answer ban for some time until they prove they can provide quality posts. (Same for horribly poor questions too).

Moderators also, on a site by site, moderator-team-consensus on the basis for this, can reach out to users with mod messages about consistently disobeying content rules (though you probably should NOT wield the Mod Hammer of Doom at the first time you reach out to the user on this kind of case, and just message them first...). (On Ask ubuntu, I occasionally prod users privately when they are consistently being bad, though that usually only happens when they consistently post poor content and also some decent content and do NOT have an existing ask/answer ban).

My two cents on insights into what you propose here on your meta thread. :)

(I have this opinion also: If a user posts a comment as an answer and then flags their post to be converted to a comment, I usually let the user slide. Such users are rare but they are nice heh)


Kevin Reid AG6YO made a very valid point - such restrictions as proposed here are going to anger every new user (with the exception of some users, because some of us get the +100 association bonus so we can post comments), and that'll actively harm the site, rather than help things.

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