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Related: How are new users supposed to participate on this site?

In most StackExchange sites, new users are encouraged to ask questions. On this site, we encourage running questions through the sandbox. However, 5 rep is needed to participate on meta. It seems contradictory; new users can post questions and are encouraged to post questions by the StackExchange format, but the questions they post are hit with a comment, asking them to use the sandbox.

A possible solution to this is to have a community wiki sandbox on the main site, but that might be a bad idea. However, this might work; a single sandbox doesn't clog the question queue.

How can we fix this problem?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand why you think it would be a bad idea. What question queue do you have in mind? \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak The one that you can get to from clicking on the logo, and the questions list. It is a bad idea because the main site will be clogged with those questions. Currently, sandbox questions are ~1 per month. That is going to increase. Additionally, the sandboxes are edited many times a day, and I rely on the main page question list to find questions that are popular now. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 16 '14 at 5:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they don't get to the hot question feed, this might actually be a good thing. More visibility means that newbies are less likely to post a live question instead. Frequent edits ensure it sticks to the top. As for having multiple sandboxes - well, should we? StackExchange questions are paged after 20 answers, so we could just as easily rely on this paging. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak In regards to multiple sandboxes: that was what I'd much dislike. I wouldn't want to ignore everything tagged sandbox, but I wouldn't want to constantly see sandbox questions. In regards to the edits, I would much prefer if it did not appear in the hot questions feed, but rather off to the side and all over the faq and asking a question pages. However, that would require some serious changes to the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 16 '14 at 6:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if we just had one really big sandbox? The paging would do the job that having multiple sandboxes currenty does. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak I think it would be problematic. We are supposed to upvote questions when ready, so that would mean that unready questions sink to the bottom, where they are harder to view. When bad questions are proposed, they will be downvoted and sink even further, making it even harder to find good questions. In response, high-rep users will have to vote to delete many such questions. There are several other problems that can develop from such a huge sandbox. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 16 '14 at 6:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just sort by active or oldest rather than by votes. I could even write script to do that for you. Since I already sort by active, having the sandboxes rolled into one is a good thing. And "sort by votes" is already useless in the current sandbox. I can write you a script to do that for you ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak No need to do that, I know how to. ;-). I wonder if that actually is a viable solution. One more thing: sorting by active or by oldest allows the annoying deleted answers to be put above non-deleted ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 16 '14 at 6:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it? I never observed that behavior. Nothing a userstyle can't fix, though. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak You can observe that behavior in the current sandbox. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 16 '14 at 6:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ hmm... true. I can smite them with a hide-hammer, however. Something as rudimentary as .answer.deleted-question {display:none} or something as complex as my answer collapser with persistence added. Me, however, I don't really care about them. Deleted answers are generally quite inactive, so they sink to the bottom naturally. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Feb 16 '14 at 6:52
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While on other SE sites it is usual that someone comes here with a question first (and is completely okay), I think at codegolf it's better if someone actually answers a few questions first before giving others a new task. Therefore I don't think it's bad that you need at least one upvoted answer to actually participate in the sandbox.

Of course for this to work it would be better if there would be indications of the sandbox when asking a question (especially for new users). I know that this won't probably happen until the site goes out of beta.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One more thing; if we think that new users should answer questions first, why don't we include in the faq or somewhere else that we recommend this (maybe explicitly mention the sandbox as well) \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 21 '14 at 1:03
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This is a good point for which I don't have a good answer. It should be easy enough to get 1 vote for an answer by way of introduction, but demanding that may not feel very welcoming.

In the past we have suggested that users use either the sandbox or chat for getting advice on their questions, but there is a rep requirement for chat as well.

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I think having a sandbox on the main site might be worth trying — not so much because of the 5 rep threshold, which I feel is pretty much a non-issue for the reasons SztupY describes, but simply because it might increase the visibility and use of the sandbox, and thereby improve the quality of the challenges.

We should at least give it a try — if it doesn't work out, we can always migrate the sandbox(es) back to meta.

Regarding some issues raised in the comments above:

  • We should probably close retired sandboxes on the main site. This would prevent them from being bumped by new proposals, and should thus cause them to gradually sink off the front page. (Comments don't bump threads. Answer edits do, but presumably those would taper off gradually after closing, as the old proposals are turned into challenges or just abandoned. I might expect to see one or two sandbox questions on the front page, but rarely more than that.)

  • The boilerplate text for the sandbox questions could suggest sorting answers by activity. In fact, it probably should do that anyway.

  • If people really want to ignore old sandboxes, we could consider making a special tag like for them that could be ignored without ignoring the current sandbox. Anyway, note that even ignoring all sandboxes doesn't actually hide them — it just grays them out so that they're easier to skim over.

  • The fact that deleted answers can clutter up the answer list is annoying (to 2k+ users), but not specific to sandboxes or to this site — it's annoying on any question that has a lot of deleted answers. The best solution (short of convincing the SE devs to show deleted answers in collapsed form by default) is probably a user script — if there isn't a suitable one out there already, I could try to write one.

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When asking a question, you get the "How to Ask" text which is very visible.

If the SE framework supports it, I'd add a suggestion to use the sandbox (linked to the current) and/or read and answer some questions first.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't address my concerns that new users can't immediately post questions like they can on other stackexchange site. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 25 '14 at 5:06

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