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I have observed the following on several occasions:

  • New user posts a very broad, subjective, and/or open-ended question (and not the "good subjective" type, either).
  • When the question is closed, the user says something like, "But they told me on X.SE that X.SE is only for questions about X, that Academia.SE is for soft questions, and I should post it here."

Obviously, it's very frustrating for a new user to be told to post here, only to have the question downvoted and closed.

What can we do to help avoid this situation?

To clarify: I was thinking about how to educate the High-Rep User of Other SE who says to Brand New SE User there, "Hey, you should post this soft question on Academia instead."

(Brand New SE User, even if he reads our help center, is likely to trust High-Rep User of Other SE more than his own understanding of our somewhat confusing help center. And High-Rep User of Other SE is already familiar with the SE way, and may be more capable of understanding our policies than Brand New SE User.)

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    I'm not sure what to search for to find a generalisation of this problem on meta.stackexchange, but users on one stack telling people to post an off-topic question on another stack without themselves knowing what's considered on- and off-topic on that other stack is a general problem rather than one specific to academia.stackexchange. – Peter Taylor Jul 31 '15 at 7:13
  • What about advertising it at Math.SE - it may be submitted here – Alexander Konovalov Aug 26 '15 at 8:43
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Programmers SE have a bot in their chatroom which scans Stack Overflow for references to Programmers. If they see someone inappropriately recommend Programmers to a user, they step in.

Actually, the same bot works for Code Review SE. Either the remit of the bot could be expanded (address a query to the current owners & operators), or its code could be forked to create a new bot for Academia SE.

  • What would it take to get such a bot for our chatroom? – Wrzlprmft Aug 25 '15 at 10:38
  • @Wrzlprmft. Someone could fork Duga. – TRiG Aug 25 '15 at 10:51
  • If someone makes the bot, I would have no problem with hanging around in the Academia chatroom and monitor what I get (it shouldn’t be that much, I hope). – Wrzlprmft Aug 25 '15 at 11:35
  • This sounds like a good idea; the chat room isn't too crowded and busy for the messages to get lost, nor too abandoned for the messages to get unseen. It may work as an active prevention. I really like the idea. – yo' Oct 5 '15 at 14:18
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Related to TRiG’s answer, something that we could do very easily is linking the feeds of tags on other sites that are prone to this phenomenon into our chat. In a quick search, I could find:

If you know of other such tags, please let me know.

This may be a good thing for other reasons as well, as we may offer another perspective on such questions or link to relevant questions on Academia.

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I get the sense that a lot of the problem comes from people having never read the "What can I ask?" page in the help center. There's nothing we can do to improve our educational material for those people who never think to read it in the first place.

So, how about we try to make it really easy for them to encounter the educational material at the right time. A simple way would be to force new user accounts to get put through the tour page upon signup.

Better, though, would be to put the review of the rules right at the point of question submission. Maybe before the submission of the first question there could be a "review your own question" prompt that puts the key bullet points from the help page up for somebody to click on saying that they think it passes them all? This would require implementation by SE staff, but might help a lot.

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    At a minimum we could post a link to the help center when we vote to close. – StrongBad Jul 29 '15 at 13:38
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    there could be a "review your own question" prompt – Actually there is something already like this already implemented. It’s called tag alerts. – Wrzlprmft Jul 29 '15 at 16:44
  • Actually, I was thinking about how to educate the e.g. High-Rep Physics.SE User who says to Brand New User there, "Hey, you should post this soft question on Academia instead." (Brand New User, even if he reads our help center, is likely to trust High-Rep User of Other SE Site more than his own understanding of our somewhat confusing help center.) – ff524 Jul 30 '15 at 7:26
  • @ff524 Oy, that's a much harder problem... – jakebeal Jul 30 '15 at 13:26
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If you can find the original comment made by the high-rep user where this was suggested, post a comment replying to that high-rep user educating them about Academia.SE. At least that one user might know for the future. No, it doesn't scale, but it's basically the best mechanism we have right now. I don't know of any better way.

This problem is not unique to Academia.SE; it pops up on other sites, too, and as far as I know, they don't have any better solution, either.

And as far as the new user, about all we can do is be sympathetic but firm and informative when letting them know about why their question must be closed.

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