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We try to welcome all new users to the site by giving them a "Welcome to TeX.sx!" link in the comments of their first question or answer. But I've seen a few recently (here's one) where users comment back: "I'm sorry, did I do something wrong?" Then the original welcomer has to say, "No, really, welcome!"

So maybe we should look at the welcome page and see if there's a way to make it more, well, welcoming. Should it say something explicit like "this is the page to which we direct all our new users" or "do not worry, you were not sent this link because you broke a rule"?

I'm soliciting input for this, then we can take what's agreed upon and work it into the welcome page.

  • Another instance where OP got puzzled as redirection info is missing, May be short redirection message about meta.tex.sx with concise welcome would suffice,instead of adding more welcoming info because too much info misses the OP interest. – texenthusiast Apr 26 '13 at 22:44
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    It is just waaay too long and wordy. If you need help, you don’t want to dig through all this stuff. It’d be good to find out what kinds of banners and greeting messages new users are presented with already anyways and see if it’s even necessary to direct them to a welcome page. If we’re directing them anywhere, it should be tex.stackexchange.com/about. – doncherry Apr 26 '13 at 23:52
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    If the user really didn't need to read the newcomer's advice, why greet him with a link to this advice? We can very well say "Welcome to tex.sx" without a link where it isn't needed. On the other hand, this method can make those who recieve a link (either because they broke a minor rule or because the greeter sends the link every time he can) feel bad, seeing that other users aren't given the same "harsh" treatment. – T. Verron Apr 27 '13 at 0:21
  • I had assumed that using the welcome page to greet new users was consensus practice. But since others have chimed in suggesting other procedures, it makes me wonder: could we take what's on the welcome page and work it into the FAQ? Then we could have a welcome message and links to about and FAQ. – Matthew Leingang Apr 28 '13 at 10:08
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    Perhaps before "welcoming" someone, we should check how active they are on other SE sites. They may be familiar with the rules/guidelines already. – marczellm Apr 28 '13 at 16:08
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    @marczellm - Right. Generally, if someone has got to grips with the other SO/X sites, they will have a starting reputation of 101: I don't think the welcome message is appropriate for these users. – Charles Stewart Apr 29 '13 at 10:50
  • @MatthewLeingang Just to avoid confusion here: There’s the FAQ and there’s the about page. The latter one seems to be designed as a first destination for new users, and to be read before the FAQ since it says at the end: “Looking for more in-depth information on the site? Visit the FAQ” – doncherry Apr 29 '13 at 18:29
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    I have found that the shortest greetings create the most questions (read: "Welcome to TeX.sx"). Some get scared they did something wrong. I have tried in a few instances to add a comment that all first posts from new users are reviewed to provide feedback on the posts. I think it is important to tell new users that their post is reviewed and why. – Peter Jansson Apr 30 '13 at 12:52
  • Here is another recent instance of a first-time visitor getting scared by a welcome. – jubobs May 26 '13 at 18:55
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I think the hyperlink should either be shortened to cover only TeX-SX,

Welcome to TeX-SX.

or better, there must be some more words along the lines of

Welcome to TeX-SX! Have a look at our starter page for a quick intro if you wish to familiarize yourself with our format.

But in general, we need to introduce some human-like versions. I would propose to tweak/customize those messages here and there such that we don't act like the agents of a big review machine. Often, two-three stock comments are piled up, say one for image priviledges, one for MWE and other stuff.

I also think that removing this Thanks! business is not inline with our community. We are removing Thanks! but filling Welcome comments under it which is kind of contradictory. Yes the utopia is that every question becomes a general information source free from specifics, personal or social matters. I think that's a blunder of SO team. That's simply not possible. We can't even find duplicates even when we know there exists one. So are we nice or not? And secretly we are adding a link to our Welcome's indirectly implying that RTFM you noob! which is also picked up by a few askers as sampled above. I'm not proposing to stop removing Thanks per se however it is at least awkward practice.

We don't have to be nice if we don't feel like it. Let someone else deal with it. A fake smile is the easiest thing to notice.

:)

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    All excellent points. We might change the title of the linked meta question to "Welcome to TeX-SX! Here's a starter guide". Removing thanks is not at all like removing hello lines - they do not get in the way of post content in the same way - I routinely vote to reject pure "remove thanks" edits in review for this reason. – Charles Stewart Apr 29 '13 at 10:57
  • I'm very thankful that you have bought up the 'removing thanks' thing- I think a few folks have done it religiously motivated by the gold badge... – cmhughes Apr 29 '13 at 20:57
  • @cmhughes They can keep editing if that's the thing that motivates them but the problem is more related to what they are doing with the edits. – percusse Apr 29 '13 at 22:29
  • I don't agree with this section of answer "And secretly we are adding a link to our Welcome's indirectly implying that RTFM you noob! which is also picked up by a few askers as sampled above. We don't have to be nice if we don't feel like it. Let someone else deal with it. A fake smile is the easiest thing to notice." Welcome and starter guide does not hurt anyone except a comment space and one's effort to copy link from meta.tex.sx. There is no fake smile as its a text based communication and being nice is contagious one day fakes turn to original. – texenthusiast May 8 '13 at 18:34
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    @texenthusiast We are not distributing flyers at the entrance of a institution. If you want to welcome someone you can do it. If you want to remind someone the format you can do that. You can't do that simultaneously. Because it's awkward. I welcome people because I feel like it. Otherwise my link would be site rules. I actually find it disturbing to hide the rules under a welcoming message. Otherwise why would you welcome someone if it's just text based communication? – percusse May 9 '13 at 7:02
  • In your words "or better, there must be some more words along the lines of.... ." Hence we have text building blocks. Also welcoming with meta link starter guide means one way to Encourage people to participate in the meta site? and use site effectively from mod's words. May be it's only your view of distributing flyers and awkwardness cannot be attributed to larger community as seen in text building blocks. I follow them :). – texenthusiast May 9 '13 at 7:32
  • @texenthusiast Notice that text building blocks are individually edited and the text is taken from this answer. So I don't think it's just a consensus. Speravir decided to edit it and you can reedit too it doesn't mean we have taken a decision together unanimously. The last bit is important as it says why we include the link but Speravir left it out with some reason beyond me. – percusse May 9 '13 at 7:37
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(This post is mainly not about the welcome page per se, but about the practice of greeting new users with it.)

The welcome page is rather off-putting because of its length. That's unavoidable: there is a lot of material to cover. Using sections instead of huge bulleted lists would make it more palatable but other than that I don't see room for significant improvement.

My recommendation is to not throw it at new users unless you really want to tell them “you are not welcome here until you've read this”. If that's the case, say so: “Please read this advice”.

If you have a specific point to address, say so. For example: “Please use Ctrl+K or the {} button to format code by indenting it by 4 spaces in the editor. For more tips, see our welcome page”.

If you have nothing specific to tell users, then don't tell them anything.

As a new user, when the first reaction I got from [tex.se] was a comment that told me “Welcome, here's a wall of text”, I was put off for several reasons:

  • Is there any specific part of this wall of text you want me to read?
    As a Stack Exchange veteran, I do know the general stuff like formatting and accepting answers. If I was new to Stack Exchange, this would be far too much for one sitting.
  • Why are you stalking me? Waiting for me to post just to jump on me?
  • Neat, a reply to my question! Ah, no, it's a comment, someone must be requesting a clarification. What, you're disturbing me for this

I really don't see the point of the boilerplate comment, and it's rather off-putting. Please don't leave a comment unless you have something to say.

  • While it is unfortunate that you were off-put by the greeting and I hope that it wasn't sufficiently off-putting to drive you away from the site, I think that there is some value in pointing new users to the site specific faq (i.e. the point of the point of the boilerplate comment). I don't leave the comment myself, and I'm not sure exactly where/when it should be done, but I do think it should be done somewhere. – Scott H. Aug 20 '13 at 19:26
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    @ScottH. There is already feedback on the question asking page. (Try it when not logged in.) This feedback can be customized per site if the community requests it. It comes at the right time: before posting, not after. – Gilles Aug 20 '13 at 19:30
  • @Gilles The current 'Welcome' page dates to before the new 'About' page: we were pretty limited in editing the old one. I've not really tried with the new one. – Joseph Wright Aug 20 '13 at 19:37
  • @JosephWright I don't think the new about page has anything to offer specifically for TeX.SE (it is a better introduction to SE than the old /faq, however). There could be a link to the welcome page from the “Ask Question” page. – Gilles Aug 20 '13 at 19:39
  • @Gilles Ah yes. Incidentally, I seem to get the same ask page whether logged in or not. You raise a good point. I wonder whether the likelihood of a random user reading the welcome page is the same whether directed to it from the ask page or from a comment. – Scott H. Aug 20 '13 at 20:23
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    @ScottH. I'm sorry, I'd misremembered: there is nothing special about asking with a new account except on Stack Overflow. There you get the How to Ask page. There are professionals on getting people to read stuff, but I'm not one of them. My layman's opinion is to provide feedback at the right time: generic feedback on asking while composing the question, generic feedback on evaluating answers when an answer comes in, specific feedback when a human sees a need, … – Gilles Aug 20 '13 at 21:02
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    @Gilles Your laymans opinion sounds quite reasonable. – Scott H. Aug 21 '13 at 2:23
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If I happen to be first to a "new user" I often add a "welcome to tex.sx" comment, but have never linked to the page and I agree with percusse that the "if you wish to familiarize yourself with our format." in one of the boilerplate comments does have negative connotations.

Really I don't think pointing to a page about community rules and practices as a comment on a first post really makes sense. Some people hang around and "join the community" and if they do but have a problem picking up the conventions pointing them at such a page might help. But many first time posters have just landed on the site by accident and want an answer to a question, they don't want an explanation of how to mark up a question (they just did that) or how to @ ping people.

  • Agreed: I wonder if this looks a bit like a 'ticking off in disguise' – Joseph Wright Aug 21 '13 at 12:54
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It seems to me there are (at least) three parts to the question here.

  1. Should we welcome new people? If we view TeX-sx as a 'community', then saying hello to new members is something that seems reasonable. That's I guess what saying 'Welcome to TeX-sx!' is about.

  2. Should we link to any information as part of saying hello, and if so what? Assuming we accept part (1), then do we just say hello or should this link to any information? The current 'wall of text' is probably not what we are after if the aim is just to welcome new people, but I wonder what exactly we do want to say.

  3. If there is something specific to highlight, should the link be to a general text? If you are commenting on a post from a new user and do want to point something specific out, do you also say 'hello' in the same comment and do you link to a general hello text (or indeed say 'hello' at all)?

OK, they are questions not answers :-) I've got no problem with (1): saying hello doesn't seem to be problematic although I don't tend to do it myself. I'm not so sure about linking to anything for (2): the original idea of the 'welcome' text was to be helpful, but it's grown too big and I'm not sure that a replacement won't either so broad as to be meaningless or go in the same direction. On (3)

Welcome to TeX-sx! I notice that <thing>, see <specific-link>.

seems to be perfectly reasonable.

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    1. No, we should not systematically post a comment on each user's first post. Only post a comment when you have something to say, not just to say hello. Stack Exchange is not a social site, and you don't need to go through an initiation ceremony or to be formally introduced to ask a question. – Gilles Aug 21 '13 at 15:10
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    2. I think the welcome page is great, apart from its “wall of text” appearance which could be resolved by changing the toplevel bullet points into sections. But when you tell someone to read it, tell him which part is relevant. If you wonder what exactly you have to say, maybe it's because you have nothing to say, in which case you should say nothing. – Gilles Aug 21 '13 at 15:12
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    3. Yes, if there is something to say, it's often good to link to a page that provides more detail, that has a rationale, that looks official… For example, if someone posts an incomplete TeX snippet, I think this is a fine comment: “Welcome to TeX Stack Exchange! Please post a complete working example so that we can see exactly what problem you're running into.” – Gilles Aug 21 '13 at 15:15
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    @Gilles Re: »Stack Exchange is not a social site« -- I must say I've experienced quite the opposite. (People are interacting with each other which is the very definition of social IMHO.) I am nearly exclusively active on tex.sx but here I have the feeling of a big, great and very friendly community. I would have been happy if someone'd said hello to me on my first post here. I cannot see anything bad in a greeting. – clemens Aug 21 '13 at 19:33

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