Nudging newbies in the right direction
As this site continues to grow and get more popular, the prevalence of "incorrect" postings (non-useful subject lines like "Help me", posting questions or ideas as Robots, asking questions in the shoutbox, etc) has increased to the point where more of our members are concerned about it. On the whole, the vast majority of our users seem to have a good grasp of what should go where, but it would be beneficial to everyone to nudge those few others in the right direction -- they'd be more likely to get their questions answered, other people with the same question can find the answer easier, and we don't have to wonder which of the many "help" threads just got replied to.
In a previous discussion on possible solutions, 1468 (Zanthess) made a great suggestion -- rather than restricting membership, why don't we just ask new users to complete a short, 5-10 question quiz about the site's policies and best practices before letting them join? As the idea was discussed, several users asked if that might be excessive -- forcing people to take a quiz when they join could turn away potential users who give up on what they perceive as a "snooty" site that's making them jump through hoops just to join. Those are valid points.
So we're implementing a slightly modified version (also suggested by Zanthess). We're still fine-tuning how we want to implement it, but the basic plan is that, rather than making people take the quiz when first signing up, we'll allow them to create their account and browse the site as usual. They can also post comments and replies without restriction. It's only when they first try to create a new posting, such as a forum thread or a robot, that we'll step in and say, "Hi there, we ask all new members to take this short quiz on the site's best practices before creating their first posting."
Having them review the FAQ and Best Practices at that point, just before they make their first entry, will ensure that the information is fresh in their minds, and it'll help to cement that information by actually using it right after completing the quiz. Also, by this point they'll hopefully feel more involved and accepted by the site, so the perception will be less like, "this site I've never heard of wants ME to take a test?"
This will take two or three weeks to implement, because real-life work is hectic right now, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads-up to let you know what's on the way, and let you offer any input you have. And in the meantime, go easy on the newbies who post in the wrong place. Let's try to nudge people in the right direction, rather than shove them. Nobody trusts Shover Robots. :)