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When asking a question the box on the right says:

How to Ask

Is your question about cryptography?

We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.

Provide details. Share your research.

If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.

visit the help center » asking help »

Given how many times this is coming up I think it would be nice to add the following two points:

  1. Analysis of ciphertext is off-topic.
  2. When asking for comments on a design make sure to include your adversarial model.

Although I am not sure how many questions the second point would actually apply to given that analyzing designs is also off-topic.

Clarification: Questions would often benefit from a clearly defined adversarial model not just for reviewing designs and it would definitely be useful if the people asking the question thought about it.

Addition: Ideally i think the most common errors should be displayed inside the box for the question text. The extra box on the right is easy to overlook unless you're searching for it. It's even in a different sidebar. In the same position where ads are displayed.

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First up, I have a bit of a problem regarding

  1. When asking for comments on a design make sure to include your adversarial model.

because it indeed somewhat contradicts what our help center states

Do we accept questions asking for cryptanalysis of your cipher (hash function, ...) design?

No, we do not. If you want peer review of your full cryptographic scheme, here is not the place to acquire it. However, you might like to break your problem down into specifics, such as "under these conditions, does structure X have desired security property Y?" which would be a perfect fit for us.

See, StackExchange is a "Question & Answer" site. Asking for comments on a cryptographic design would be rather open-ended and more something that would fit a forum, but not a Q&A site.

In the end, that's the reason that side-box you quoted includes the line

visit the help center »

which links to all information askers could need and/or ask for.


That leaves your

  1. Analysis of ciphertext is off-topic.

which is also handled on the same page of our help center, saying

Can I get data analysed here? Can I challenge people to decode something?

No. Such questions are not helpful.


You're trying to solve a user problem called RTFM…

Problem is, you can't put all that information contained in our help center on one page. That's what the help center is made for. Shortening the infos contained there and putting some excerpts in the "Ask a question" box will only support users to not visit the help center at all. That's anything but constructive.

It's the asker's responsibility to "read the manual". Surely, we can't force people to check out all the available information provided in our help center, but I sincerely doubt that people who don't read the manual will read those two points you propose. Even if they do, they'll be bound to rely on those two points you're proposing, completely ignoring that "anything else goes" is not what our help center says.

Fact is: currently, most users don't click that "visit the help center »" link and check the available information before they run into downvotes and "on hold" flags. I honestly don't think adding those minimalized excerpts into the "Ask a question" side-bar box will motivate them to behave differently.

From personal experience I can tell you that, besides failing to proof-read their questions to find and correct typos, they don't even read what's currently being stated in the "Ask a question" info box… as

Provide details. Share your research.

is something that tends to be missing in a lot of questions.

I even have a template I post for whenever I stumble upon questions missing that (which happens more than frequently):

Please edit your question to describe what research you have done. See, sharing research efforts helps everyone. Tell us what research you did, what you found, and why it didn’t meet your needs. That shows users you took time trying to help yourself, saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and helps you get more relevant, on-point answers. At worst might help you frame “a better question”; at best it might even answer it.

Yet, even the comment is being ignored half of the time.

If users would at least read what that "Ask a question" currently states, I'ld be all for your suggestion. But the sad fact that my comment template is anything but superfluous clearly underlines the fact that users frequently tend to not read what the "Ask a question" box says, or completely ignore what it states. Adding more infos to it won't change that behaviour, and they'll skip the additions you suggest just like they're skipping what's being said already. Likewise, most users do not click that "visit the help center »" link to *read the … manual.

If we could change that behaviour (which I can only guess to be the result of lazyness, ignorance, or whatever else reason users might have to skip our linked help center), that would be great.

TL;DR

I don't think adding even more information would be constructive. The linked help center already contains that information. Users just have to click the "visit the help center »" link in the info-box to find "What topics can I ask about here?", "What types of questions should I avoid asking?", etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm trying to solve a UI problem which is generally the correct way to solve what seems like an RTFM problem. :) $\endgroup$ – Elias Jul 27 '17 at 8:34

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