I am glad that you want to participate. You are certainly welcome. But I want to point out that there are some rules you may find strange at first, especially if you are only accustomed to discussion forums. Maybe a post of yours was edited or deleted for not complying with these rules.

Well, here they are. Together with the FAQ they should make your start in our community less confusing. This is not a complete list of the rules, but rather a primer which tells you what we consider correct behavior in the most common situations.

Note that if you do not follow them, we will probably change your post. This has no other consequences - we don't punish you for what you did, we just transform it the way it fits with the site.

If you find them too long to read through them, just jump to the section describing what you are trying to do. They are more or less independent, so it should be easy. Also note that before you can do some things, you need reputation on the site. I have written the minimum reputation requirements for all actions mentioned. If you can't figure out how to do something, check to see if you have enough rep. If you don't have it, stick around, write a good answer or two, and you will likely get it.

We hope that you will find value in being part of our community!

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May I suggest a simple and succinct statement of the question at the top. Otherwise, your question is a bit too tl;dr. Maybe also community wiki and break your answer in to multiple answers? As is, this is all a bit intimidating, and I can see new users seeing the wall of text and giving up. –  yossarian Mar 5 '13 at 20:01
    
@yossarian I am afraid I mixed the problem and the solution here. Now I split the problem definition to a different question and I am leaving this one as solution-only for the benefit of new users. –  rumtscho Mar 5 '13 at 20:37
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I'm curious how the about page doesn't satisfy this need? –  jcolebrand Mar 5 '13 at 21:18
    
@jcolebrand the about page gives you the list of all options you can do on the site. It doesn't tell you when to choose which option. This results in users being frustrated because their contribution gets deleted as not-an-answer. See meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1651/… for more motivation and an example. –  rumtscho Mar 5 '13 at 21:21
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rumtscho, are you sure you're thinking of the about page and not the FAQ? The about page really does cover quite a bit of this, as do the how to ask and how to answer pages. Not wanting to make light of the effort here, it just seems like we're duplicating existing and better-organized content; newbies aren't going to read this wall of text. –  Aaronut Mar 6 '13 at 3:32
    
@Aaronut Wow. Thanks for the link. I'm new here and I did not know that page was available. Is the only link to that page in the footer? –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 8 '13 at 18:26
    
@PrestonFitzgerald which page? –  Aaronut Mar 9 '13 at 2:23
    
Sorry. I was referencing the About page. I've since noticed that there is a link up in the header too. I somehow missed that previously. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 9 '13 at 3:56
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2 Answers

I have something new to say/ask, where do I post it?

There are three things you should consider before posting something.

  • Is it relevant? If it is not about the question you are currently reading, it is not relevant. We take our questions very literally here. If for example the OP asks how to improve the recipe they are using, telling them to use a different recipe is considered not relevant.

  • Is it important for the OP? The person who wrote the question you are reading (the OP) had a specific problem in mind. If what you can say something which can solve the problem for all readers who have the same problem, then it is important. If not, then it is not important in the context of the question.

  • Is it on-topic? We have a list of question types we don't do here. Not because the users are not interested in them - we know they are - but because we have made the experience that our community cannot produce good answers for these types of question. You can find this list in the FAQ.

This leaves you with four possible combinations.

It is relevant, on-topic and important for the OP: Write a new answer

You can always do this, even without an account. If you take your time to explain it well, you are more likely to convince other users that it will work, and so more likely to get reputation for it.

It is not relevant for the current question but can be important to other users: Ask a new question.

If you want to know something different, just go ahead and ask. You can always do this, even without an account. Please make sure that it is not on the off-topic list for questions though. If you know something different and want to tell us, it is perfectly acceptable to ask about it and then answer your own question. This is a good thing to do, and the other users are likely to reward your sharing of knowledge by giving you reputation.

it is relevant and not important for the OP: Write a comment.

You need 50 reputation for this. Things like asking for more information, correcting wrong assumptions the OP makes in the question, suggesting completely new ideas (e.g. if the OP asked "How do I do X?" and you want to say "In your situation, Y would work as well as X and is easier") are a good example for comment content. Keep in mind that, because comments are not important per definition, the moderators can delete your comments for rather mundane reasons, for example when the post becomes too cluttered. This doesn't happen with questions and answers, which are only deleted if they break the site's rules.

it is not relevant and not important for the OP. It is OK to say it in the chat

If you still want to say it (for example, because it is important to you personally, as opposed to important to the site users), visit our chatroom. Off-topic discussions are tolerated there. You need 20 reputation for this, and you cannot make sure that a particular user will see it - in fact, many of the users who post on the home page do not visit chat. But if you want to say something to a person logged in in chat, start a message with @ followed by the first few letters of their user name. If you can tab-complete it, the user will get notified that there is a message for them.


I have an opinion about the existing posts

That's great. Our site not only offers information useful for cooks everywhere, it also lets the users evaluate this information, so that good information "bubbles up" by being displayed prominently. Instead of writing "I agree/disagree", please use our more efficient mechanisms.

If you think that an answer helps the OP to solve their problem, then upvote it.

You only need 15 reputation for this.

If you think that an answer hinders the OP to solve their problem then downvote it

For example, do this if it offers a solution you know to be wrong. You need 125 reputation before you can vote down.

You can also Upvote and downvote questions based on whether you think they are useful for other users with the same problem

. This does not has to mean useful for you only. Especially if a question is on a beginner level and you are too advanced to benefit from it, you should not downvote it for being "too easy".

If you think somebody made an obvious mistake then edit the post.

Please try to preserve the meaning of the original post. An edit will be reverted if it amounts to putting words in someone's mouth. You can always use the "edit" button, even if you don't have an account. Until you get 2000 reputation, your edit will be placed in a queue and only made visible when a high-rep user or mod has approved it. - If you think that a question or answer breaks the site's rules, then flag it.

You need 15 reputation to do that. Note that this is not supposed to be used for answers which are merely incorrect. Downvote these instead of flagging. A moderator will review flagged questions and answers and, if the flag is appropriate, delete the post (a few other options are available in special cases). He or she may also leave the post alone if he/she thinks it is OK.

If you think that a question should not have been asked in the first place, you will have the ability to vote to close it

For this, you have to gain 3000 rep. Before this, there is a flag type which lists the same reasons for a close vote. A moderator can close a question flagged for these reasons.


A post I wrote was downvoted/edited/closed

This happens frequently on our site. We have found out that the site functions best if everybody sticks to the rules described above. If your post hurts them in some way, it will be transformed so that it complies with them, or, if this is not possible, it will be deleted. A question will be closed for some time before being deleted; during this time, you (and other users) will have the possibility to cast reopen votes.

The important thing to remember is that it is not personal. I know it hurts. You wrote something, wanted to share it with us, and we are rejecting it. But remember that we are aware that you don't know the rules when you are new. We don't want to be rude to you, we don't think any less of you for getting the rules wrong. We just correct your mistake, point out the relevant rule to you so you will know it the next time, and move on. No bad feelings. We are just keeping our site efficient, and new users often grow accustomed to the rules quickly and start gathering reputation even after a few closed/deleted/edited posts in the beginning.

The best way to not have this happen to you is to stick to our rules. If you think you did, but somebody still did it, you can complain on the post itself in a comment, with a flag (which a moderator will see) or on meta. This has following advantages and disadvantages:

  • Complain in a comment. Advantage: quick, low-friction. Disadvantage: doesn't work well for complex issues.

  • Issue a flag Advantage: the best way to quickly get a moderator's attention. You can use this to complain about a moderator's actions too: there are multiple moderators, and usually, a moderator does not handle flags issued against him/herself. Disadvantage: You get no feedback about how the issue was resolved. Even if a moderator wants to give you feedback, they can't do this through a flag. (They will probably leave you a comment somewhere if it is something very important, but this does not happen each time).

  • Complain in chat. Advantage: it is easy to do, and you can speak with experienced users in real time. Disadvantage: The person who did whatever you are complaining about will probably not notice that you complained, and will get no chance to present their side. It is suited to hear other users' opinions, but it is not a good channel for resolving problems unless you know the relevant user is currently in chat.
  • Complain on meta Advantage: High visibility, every user who visits meta can notice that there is a discussion. This sometimes includes employees of the Stack Exchange parent company. Also, once the problem has been solved, the solution remains easily found and becomes part of the site's rules so that the next new user having the same problem can be pointed to it without restarting the discussion. Disadvantage: requires more effort.

More

  • If what you want to say or ask something important about other users' behavior (including moderators), you should post here on meta. Simple clarifications can be done in comments.
  • If you want to know more about how the rules of the site are applied, ask here on meta.
  • If anything is not covered here, your best option is probably to ask what you should do in a specific situation. For quick and easy answers, ask in chat. (The answer may still take some time if nobody is online). For important questions which may interest other users, ask here on meta.
  • For detailled information about how each of the things I mentioned above works (meta, chat, up/downvoting, etc.), see the Privileges page.
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Improvement suggestions welcome! –  rumtscho Mar 5 '13 at 21:53
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[This is a very first draft of an alternative approach to @rumtscho's first section.]

We've all suffered searching the Web for a question, and having to read pages of forum posts to find the buried answer. Seasoned Advice works to avoid that; we're not a forum. We have several features on our site to help with that.

The first is that the site is organized into questions and answers. A question presents a problem someone has faced; an answer should strive to be the only thing he or she needs to read to solve it—and nothing more. Time is valuable, the pot will boil over!

The second thing is voting. If you want to say "thank you, this helped", please upvote the answer.

The third is commenting. If you wish to request clarification, report an error, or suggest an additional point to cover, add a comment to the relevant question or answer.

Finally, we do have a place for friendly conversation, jokes, and fun: our chat room, The Frying Pan. You're welcome to join us.

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