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I'm bumping this old idea of mine for some consideration for this site. Basically, I'm offering here a way in which we can help guide users in crafting a better quality answer without it being hammered by downvotes/close votes while it's on the open site. We know that people are supposed to edit and refine their questions, but it can be hard to recover from a negative stage. This gives people the chance to write questions and have people critique them for suitability/wording before posting to the main site in a hopefully better state. The idea is to start with a high quality question.

This is an idea that's been in use on the WorldBuilding Stack for some time now and I'm proposing that we trial this idea here in order for people to draft and discuss their questions before posting them to the main site. The idea is that people can spend as long as they want to creating a draft here and discussing a question without it being lost in chat.

Obviously, I am not proposing that everyone use the Sandbox for every question. It's here for people who would appreciate some help in crafting their questions, or for those people who feel that their questions might be consistently down-voted for some reason.

What is the Sandbox?

This "Sandbox" is a place where Workplace.SE users can get feedback on prospective questions they wish to post. This is useful because writing a clear and fully specified question on the first try can be difficult. There is a much better chance of your question being well received if you post it in the Sandbox first.

To post a question to the Sandbox: Post an answer to this post with the content of your proposed question. You can create as many answers as you have proposed questions, but it is recommended that you only work on one question at a time. The content of the post should be as close as possible to the format you would use when asking on the main site. If you would like, you may add a section at the bottom explaining what parts of the proposed question you are most worried about.

Once you have posted your proposed question, users will be able to comment on it with feedback. You can then respond to their feedback with comments of your own, or make edits to your post to attempt to address their feedback (after editing, be sure to comment to notify the user that you have taken their advice). The feedback/edit cycle can go on for as long as needed until either you are confident that your question is ready to be asked on the main site, or you've decided the question just won't work.

When you think your question is ready for the public, go ahead and post it to the main site. To help keep this sandbox clean, you should edit your post here so that it contains the title and URL of the posted question, and nothing else. Regardless of whether or not you decided to post to the main site, once you are done with your Sandbox post, you should delete it. This will not completely delete the post, but it will get it out of the way so that new proposed questions can be more easily located.

Sandbox readers/comments should:

  • Assess the question for suitability for the site (indicate any potential close reasons/duplicates)
  • Ask clarification questions
  • Propose edits
  • Anything else to help the questioner create a really great question

Tips for usage:

  • Type the question as you would do on the main site, with all of the formatting that you're going to use
  • Use a h1 heading ('#Heading Text') to indicate your question title (wording of titles is important to gather viewers appropriate to your question, and helps people in the future searching for answers to the same question as you)
  • Include any that you want to use for your question at the end (use the format of '{tag:tag-name}', replacing curly braces with [] brackets)

Any questions/suggestions regarding this sandbox idea, please leave a comment below.

  • We already have Meta and chat to help users craft questions - and I've seen plenty of users doing so. The problem is that most people just don't use the resources we already have. Why do you think Sandbox will be any different? – David K Jul 5 '18 at 14:35
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    Meta is more often usedin an attempt to resuse questions that have already been closed/downvoted. The sandbox will allow people to create and collaborate on questions before attempting to counteract a negative state. Starting with a high quality question is arguably better for the site than improving a bad quality question. – Snow Jul 5 '18 at 14:40
  • I certainly agree that it's better to start with a good question. I'm saying that I've seen users come to Meta or chat and say "I'm thinking of posting this question - what should I change before I put it on the main site?" I'm not sure that having a specific Sandbox will be any more used than the resources we currently have. Or at least, the users who will use the Sandbox won't be the ones who would post the bad questions to begin with. – David K Jul 5 '18 at 14:54
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Suggested alternative: let's develop a question template!

Stack Overflow is currently beta-testing a new interface for asking questions, where instead of giving you a textbox to fill out it asks you questions to help you refine your question. It's early days for that even on SO, let alone the rest of the network, but I have hopes that if it works out there, they'll have written it in a general-enough way for other sites to use. (Obviously the specific guidance/questions would need to change.)

Can we come up with our own question template and/or list of points to cover, and point people at that? Maybe we'll be able to plug it into this framework later, or maybe it'll always be a standalone thing, but it seems worth considering.

  • Sounds good. I didn’t know about this. – Snow Jul 5 '18 at 17:11
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    If we can develop a good template, I'm on board. Although I'm sceptical that we'd be able to come up with a useful template - I think it has a lot of potential on Stack Overflow because a lot of programming questions are easy to break down into needing at least X, Y and Z details to be answerable. But here I don't think we'll get much more than a language tag - the rest of the information required seems too open-ended and "untemplateable". – Dukeling Jul 5 '18 at 20:26
  • @Dukeling I don't know what a Workplace template would look like either. It seems worth exploring because if they've done the SO thing in a general way (I sure hope so!), we might be able to plug into that and get some built-into-the-system guidance for new askers. A sandbox, on the other hand, has to be completely community-run, including pointing people at it, so they'll usually find out about it, at best, for their second question. – Monica Cellio Jul 5 '18 at 20:30

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