5

Preface

Please forget about what I said in Let's make "research efforts" more specific: request to search the web app help, and let's start from scratch. In this post, I'm trying to integrate the feedback I got in multiple public and private conversations. Whatever other post is still "open", instead of commenting about it here, let the post author flag it for moderator attention based on the standard rules if they think that they should do that. Post author: Follow the guidelines for flagging a post for moderator attention.

Web Applications intended audience and onboarding

The question is who is the intended audience and how do they learn how to participate. Please provide a detailed answer, explaining why the answer is correct/appropriate.

Please bear in mind that Stack Exchange "sites" are not like other online discussion forums (Internet forum) and even not like other question and answer sites. Is there any difference between Web Applications Stack Exchange's intended audience and the audiences of Quora, Reddit, official web app communities, and other popular questions and answer sites? I.E. OpenAI has a discussion forum and a Discord community. Are we competing for the same audience ( askers, answerers, and viewers)? Don't forget that askers and answerers are also moderators. New users since day one they can post questions and answers, suggest edits to others' posts (with some exceptions). Once an user earn reputation, more privileges are unblocked for them including moderation privileges. Flagging of questions, answers, and comments is one of the privileges that are unblocked first.

Next steps

Once we have confirmed that the active community has clear who the intended audience is and what the first that we tell them about how to participate, I would like that talk about the following:

  1. We have several old feature requests that have a positive score but that haven't a status tag.
  2. The system and process have changed, so these feature requests should be updated according to the current system possibilities and according to the current process.

This is a plan proposal (that might be discussed in detail after that we have clear who is the intended audience and that it's clear how they can participate):

  1. identify the most relevant community "rules": Which rules are inherited, specific for Web Applications, and might not be the same for other sites. These are "hard rules" and "soft rules".
    • Hard rules are clearly defined for "anyone" in the intended audience. Always and all the time should be applied the same way.
    • Soft rules are hard to be understood by outsiders and new users (people unfamiliar with this community). They might require a long time to be fully understood. They are better communicated and enforced by the core community.
    1. Add one answer for each relevant community "rule" that is unclear or that you suggest should be discussed and updated, explaining why using simple words and a positive, constructive tone. If you need to provide examples, avoid mentioning specific posts and users.
    2. If you want to complain about something or dispute a specific action over a user or post, this should be done following the regular procedure, not in this post.
  2. Review old posts and ancient feature requests and choose which should be discussed/updated first. Add one answer for each suggested post to be discussed, explaining why it's relevant to be reviewed/updated. At the proper time, one Community Moderator will assign to a feature request ready to be reviewed under the current process as the Community Manager Team defines it.

Below is a table listing the elements based on the questions that should be asked in every beta with some additions. Some might need to consider as "discussion finished", and others might need to be reviewed and updated. Moderators might add new items "unilaterally" and based on suggestions received.

This table is not intended to change any rule; consider it a table of content, quick reference.

            Date
Property
Around Site Graduation
Sept. 30, 2010
Today
April-May 2023
Related Meta post
Core Community Area 51 Proposal Top Beta Users? TBD
Community Managers / Staff Jeff Atwood (founder), Joel Spolsky (founder) Robert Cartaino, Roberta Chernoff, Jin (designer) V2Blast, SpencerG, JNat
Source: Users > Participation > Year (April 22, 2023 )
Moderators rechem, phwd, ChrisF, eagle ChrisF, Rubén, Sathyajith Bhat Beta:
Site name Nothing to Install Web Applications After graduation:
Domain nothingtoinstall.com webapps.stackexchange.com How will the domain be chosen?
Site blurb Q&A; for power users of web applications
Source: Wayback Machine, November 29, 2010
Q&A for power users of web applications
Logo / Design TBD Beta:
After graduation:
Elevator pitch, Tagline, Motto TBD TBD Write an Elevator Pitch / Tagline
Welcome banner for anonymous users N/A Web Applications Stack Exchange is a question-and-answer site for power users of web applications. It only takes a minute to sign up.
Anybody can ask a question
Anybody can answer
The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
Welcome for new users Welcome box for new users
Tour title Welcome to Web Applications
Source: Wayback Machine Feb 27,2013
Welcome to Web Applications Stack Exchange
Site description in tour Web Applications is a question-and-answer site for power users of web applications. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about web applications.
Source: Tour history, created Jan 16, 2013, at 18:53
Web Applications is a question-and-answer site for power users of web applications. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about web applications.

What kind of questions can I ask here? The detailed version
About / Tour About (Wayback Machine, July 12,2010) Tour
Featured Site Featured Site
Ask question form How to Ask
Is your question about web applications?
We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.
Provide details. Write clearly and simply.
If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.
Source: Wayback Machine July 10, 2010
Asking a good question
You’re ready to ask your first question and the community is here to help! To get you the best answers, we’ve provided some guidance:
Before you post, search the site to ensure your question hasn’t been answered.
  1. Summarize the problem
  2. Provide details and any research
  3. When appropriate, describe what you’ve tried
You’ll find more tips in the sidebar.
The guidance in the "Step 1: Draft your question" box on the Ask Question page should be customized
FAQ / Help Center FAQ (Wayback Machine, July 10, 2010) Help Private Beta: What should our FAQ contain?
Public Beta: What kind of questions can I ask here? The detailed version
Tags TBD TBD
Close Reasons
  • Too localized
Beta:
Pro-forma comments N/A N/A TBD
Custom post notices N/A N/A TBD
What Outsiders Think
How hit/run users arrived
TBD TBD Who do outsiders think Web Applications is for, developers/power-users or Joe-user?
Good Questions TBD TBD Private Beta:

Known Issues

Participation

  1. There are many posts with no upvotes, no downvotes, no comments, and no flags.
  2. Questions bumped "infinitely" (questions bumped more than 10 times, derived from the previous point).
  3. Initial core community no longer participating.

Vocabulary

  1. Jargon every where.
  2. Terms, phrases, and supporting literature have their origin in the "programmers world", and they are still referenced in the user interface and help articles. The explanation of these language elements is hard to find and understand.

Broken-windows

  1. Tags i.e., tags of programming languages
  2. No exemplary questions having a large number of views and high scores

Web applications nature

  1. Most web applications can't work if the vendor/operator stops offering the service.
  2. There is a small room for customizatión / extension in most web applications.
  3. Web applications might change without allowing users to keep using an old version.
  4. Most web applications have a low entry barrier for new users causing many users to get stuck because they have not understood the basics, i.e., the web app domain vocabulary (jargon/argot).

Specific developer/vendor issues

Google

  • Webapp name changes.
  • Webapp name recycling (use the name of an old app for a new app, the new app hasn't had all the features of the old app).

Recurrent no good fit posts topics

  1. Programming / developing web apps.
  2. Creating / managing webapps.
  3. Domain name service (assign a custom domain to a website, set MX records, verify domain ownership, and like).
  4. Software as service/clouds.
  5. Help / Service desk request.
  6. Seeking for bug/service failure confirmation (is this happing to someone else?).
  7. Troubleshooting.
  8. Call for solutions (similar to give me the codez, challenges, contests).
  9. Teach me / guide me (looking for a mentor, user-tailored help).
  10. Seed questions.

Conclusion

Please let's build together a clear definition of who is the intended audience and how they learn how to participate. This question is intended to be answered with explanations.

After clarifying the above, let's discuss the other points shared in this post. In the mean, those willing to help refine this post, please leave a comment and let me know if you are interested in using participating in a chatroom.

Related

Posts from Meta Stack Exchange

Actual audience

Posts from Sister Sites

Chemistry Meta

Engineering Meta

English Language and Usage Meta

Japanese Language Meta

Super User Meta

  • Target audience of answer on SU
  • Target Audience
  • Workplace Meta, The

  • How do we define our audience? (Diagram)
  • Is this site only for "Seasoned Professionals"?
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      I would be interested to hear what all the moderators think about this question, as it is an important question that defines the future of WebApps StackExchange.
      – Flimm
      Apr 25, 2023 at 8:26

    3 Answers 3

    2

    who is the intended audience

    Anyone who use public websites (which include websites only accessible via payment or some other conditions such as owning a Pixel 6).

    how they learn how they can participate.

    Mostly looking at existing posts. That's one reason why we need to consistently apply policies (which implies having clear policies, such as clearly stating whether showing research is required).

    A few ones may wander in some help pages but I believe that's just a minority, at least for their first few posts.


    In response to the comment:

    Over the years was said that the sites should be interesting for "experts" and that sites lacking of them will be full of questions but will not get answers.

    I don't think one can be experts at websites, unlike e.g. on http://stats.stackexchange.com/ one can be an expert in AI or on https://french.stackexchange.com/ one can be an expert in French. There is no similar expertise for https://webapps.stackexchange.com/ beyond knowing some website well, aside from a few exceptions for websites with advanced features such as Google Sheets.

    I view https://webapps.stackexchange.com/ as a place where users of a website seeks help or help other users of the same website.

    Is there any difference regarding audience with Quora, Reddit, official webapp communities? I.E. OpenAI has a discussion forum and a Discord community. Are we competing for the same audience ( askers, answerers and viewers)

    As long as questions are on-topic here and answers are actual answers, no difference regarding audience. I often use Reddit and used to use Quora.

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      Thanks for your answer Franck. Over the years was said that the sites should be interesting for "experts" and that sites lacking of them will be full of questions but will not get answers. Please expand about how the audience should be composed. Remember that Stack Exchange sites are not like other discussion forums and even not like other question and answer sites. Is there any difference regarding audience with Quora, Reddit, official webapp communities? I.E. OpenAI has a discussion forum and a Discord community. Are we competing for the same audience ( askers, answerers and viewers)? Apr 22, 2023 at 15:59
    • 1
      @Rubén sure, added. Lmk if should add anything. Apr 22, 2023 at 22:38
    • Thanks for editing Franck. It looks to me that by "expert" you are understanding someone having recognition as a knowable person in an academic or professional field. IIRC Jeff explained that in most Stack Exchange sites it's naive to expect such kind of experts to be interested in participating, but that it's feasible to attract, "amateurs" willing to share their expertise. Not sure if this was posted as a comment or as the answer. If it was the first, it might take a while to find the exact words. Anyway, what do you think might be the term for someone with a lot to share about a web app? Apr 23, 2023 at 22:25
    • Something as simple as an "advanced user"? Some time ago Gmail used "ninja" and belt colors and called "master" to the top level, similar to what are used in Asian martial arts :) Ref So, you want to be a Gmail ninja? (from 2009, images are broken) This looks to be the latest Wayback Machine archive version that shows the content -> web.archive.org/web/20120802191317/http://www.google.com/mail/… Apr 23, 2023 at 22:28
    • 1
      @Rubén I think "advanced user" or "regular user" both sound good. Personally I'd simply use "user" (of a website). I wouldn't make it sound too fancy, as new users are welcome to contribute too and many questions about a website aren't advanced (but sometime the answer to a simple question may be hard to find eg webapps.stackexchange.com/q/169569/18147). Apr 23, 2023 at 23:24
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      @Rubén I have never been a fan of using fancy terms to qualify users such as "road warriors and seasoned travelers" used in travel.stackexchange.com/tour, which I find quite arrogant and very much untrue since in practice most questions on travel.stackexchange.com are basic. Apr 23, 2023 at 23:24
    • So you go for "beginner" something in the middle and "advanced"? Apr 23, 2023 at 23:39
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      @Rubén On webapps.stackexchange.com/tour instead of "Web Applications is a question and answer site for power users of web applications" I'd write "Web Applications is a question and answer site for users of web applications" or "Web Applications is a question and answer site for regular and advanced users of web applications" or "Web Applications is a question and answer site for novice, intermediate and advanced users of web applications". Apr 23, 2023 at 23:55
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      I agree with @FranckDernoncourt . Too many good questions are getting closed nowadays as lacking "clarity or details", seemingly because they don't target "power users" enough. I think it would be better to remove the "power user" language altogether, so that good questions can remain open.
      – Flimm
      Apr 25, 2023 at 8:18
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      @Flimm FYI, Web Applications SE is scheduled for an election next week, 2023-06-06 - 2023 Moderator Election Q&A – Question Collection Do you want to nominate yourself? I'd be happy to vote for you. We can discuss it in our chat room: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/144897/… May 31, 2023 at 3:59
    2

    The question is who is the intended audience […]

    Defining our target audience determines the scope of this site. We should not limit our target audience to advanced users or experts only. By welcoming any users of web apps, we can increase participation and activity on this site, and help the community learn and grow.

    Let me begin with an analysis of this SE site. This site has a broad scope, covering all kinds of Web Applications, but it suffers from low activity and participation compared to other SE sites. I think that any actions that would further discourage user participation and activity would be a mistake, as many meta posts have already expressed (listing some of them here):

    Look at the community votes on those meta posts and the answers. The community generally opposes narrowing down the site’s scope, such as the recent inconsistent enforcement of mandatory, unclear “research” requirements and closing questions for “lack of research”.

    Let’s not limit Web Applications SE’s audience to only "experts"©®

    Why? Because limiting this site's audience to only "experts" would further reduce the questions and answers that are allowed to be posted on this site significantly, which in turn, would further reduce participation and activity on a site with already low participation and activity. Most of our traffic comes from search engines, and I believe most people who find us there are not experts. A cursory look at questions on this site will reveal that most of them are not by "experts". (And how do you define an "expert"©®™ anyway?)

    Answers on this site should help any user, regardless of their level of expertise. You can’t anticipate everyone’s level of knowledge, so you should base your answer on the OP’s situation and needs. If the question requires an advanced or expert solution, explain it as well as you can. Provide context, examples, and links to more information if possible. That way, even non-experts can learn something from your answer.

    We should welcome questions and answers from any web app users, regardless of their level of expertise.

    Whether they are beginners, intermediate users, advanced users, or experts, they should be able to post without facing question closure as "needs details or clarity" because they didn't provide enough background "advanced/expert user" research. If we only cater to experts, we will further drive down user activity and participation on this site. By welcoming web app users regardless of expertise, we can educate them and grow our community. Hopefully, the beginner user will become an advanced user, and then an expert user from the knowledge they gain by participating in this site.

    The question is […] how do they learn how to participate.

    I believe the existing site tour — https://webapps.stackexchange.com/tour, and the help center articles What topics can I ask about here? and What types of questions should I avoid asking? are sufficient for onboarding new users.

    To avoid confusing users — new and old, about community consensus and site policy, I request that the help center article “Why do I see a message that my question does not meet quality standards?” be removed from the “Closed Questions” category in the help center. This article is not a reason for closing questions, and it should not be presented as such until we as a community reach a conclusion on this matter.

    That article is for users whose questions were automatically blocked by the SE server and are automatically notified that their “question does not meet quality standards”. It should not be used as a reason for closing questions.

    I'd agree that that Help Center article should not be linked to in these cases, because it's about a completely different situation, as you point out.

    - comment by V2Blast, a Community Manager to a Meta SE post where I inquired about this

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    • What does it mean "expert"©®™? Apr 28, 2023 at 23:35
    • @Rubén What I meant is that the term “expert” has no clear definition in this context. For example, how do we determine who is an “expert”? To make the language more vivid and engaging, I used those characters with “expert” as a rhetorical device. Apr 29, 2023 at 0:17
    • Thanks for your reply. I'm thinking that we might need to work in rewriting some docs using "simple" words, i.e., avoid all the obscure SO inherited terms and terms like "power user". The term expert might not be completely removed but might need clarification as both answers agree that this term might not make sense in this context / causes confusion. This doesn't imply that will be changes to the current community rules, just write the required docs (help articles / faqs) using a vocabulary understood by the currently active users and the potential new users. Apr 29, 2023 at 1:53
    • At the proper time, this should be managed by using feature-request so the CM's could handle the job that implies to validate that every was handled according to respective Stack Exchange rules and when needed assign the required time/resources i.e. like a designer time to update a banner, etc. Apr 29, 2023 at 1:57
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    Audience: Anybody able to post using English and following the community norms.

    Regarding how to participate, the first thing should be explain that posts should kind, specific, brief and fully describe the problem or solution directly in the post body.

    Next, I think that it's key to tell new users the site topic, the basic norms like the expected behavior (be kind), the basics of writing good questions and answers, no chitchat and meta-commentary in posts, the site topic, including the basic usage of tags, upvotes, downvotes, the basics about reputation, answer score and badges, close of questions and the basics of moderation, meta and chat.


    As far as I know, the philosophy behind Stack Overflow's question-and-answer platform is to provide a space where anyone can ask and answer questions. While many users have suggested additional features that would create barriers to entry, such proposals have been rejected by the Community Managers team. The focus instead has been on measures to prevent "very low quality" posts and spam.

    A welcome banner is shown to not logged-in users:

    Web Applications banner for not logged in users

    It claims that

    Anybody can ask a question

    and that

    Anybody can answer

    Considering this, the Web Applications Stack Exchange audience is "anybody", but the site scope looks to say something different:

    Web Applications Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for power users of web applications.

    Anyway, "power user" doesn't seem to have stopped people from asking / answering questions in the almost 13 years of this community, probably caused by "selective blindness"... It might be possible that the "Ask Question" words are too strong for people looking for help compared to anything else on the screen.

    Effective and kind communication in English is crucial when posting in this community. Adequate language and communication skills are necessary to understand the tour, help center, and site workings and be comprehensible to other participants. Failure to make on-topic inquiries and clearly express them may result in a question post-ban. Similarly, posting answers that don't answer the question might lead to an answer post-ban. Failure to follow the code of conduct might lead the user to get a temporary suspension. Failure to learn the workings and community norms will lead the user to be "suspended" for a long time.

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      Web Apps isn't just for power users. The help center says: "Web Applications Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for web applications enthusiasts and power users." (Emphasis mine)
      – Flimm
      Sep 4, 2023 at 16:45

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