should askbot add an easy re-formatting privilege?

asked 2010-12-30 09:03:14 -0500

niles gravatar image

updated 2010-12-31 12:14:59 -0500

Evgeny gravatar image

New users at http://ask.sagemath.org routinely post questions without using any of the formatting tools. Their questions frequently include code snippets which are then rendered with markdown and the results are almost unreadable (the underscore character, in particular, has special behavior).

So my question: could (and should) askbot add a feature so that users with some karma can reformat, but not otherwise edit questions/answers of other users? I'm imagining this being roughly the same privilege as re-tagging.

To be honest, I can't really think of a good way to implement this . . . one idea, which would work for code blocks but not all other kinds of formatting, would be to display blocks of text from the original post, with a checkbox next to each one and a button "format as code block" -- it seems a little clumsy, but maybe it's close to a workable solution.

Alternatively, maybe the code formatting button deserves more prominence than the other formatting buttons. A prominent warning flag could remind people to use the code button as they're composing their questions -- in particular if there is a high density of non-alphabet characters. (To me, more than 20 or 30% would be enough to justify a warning message.) Or a brightly-colored box with something like "Does your preview look right? Use the formatting tools for code, quotes, lists, hyperlinks, etc."

As a general comment, the formatting buttons are easy for new users to miss, and it's not at all clear how to use them or what they will do if you press them. (I, for one, have had bad experiences with lousy wysiwyg html editors--I think a lot of people still avoid using them if they can. Users of askbot should somehow be notified that askbot uses a very good editor.)

Oh (sorry this is getting long) I just noticed the "Tips" section which appears in the right hand margin when composing a question :) Can this be modified to give site-specific tips? (i.e. can the administrators of asksage add their own list?) I think colored backgrounds to make the "Tips" and "Markdown basics" sections more noticeable would be very helpful too.

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Comments

Hi, Niles. I've lowered the karma limit to 300 to edit any post for now. Thanks, will consider how to add these features, the reformatting feature is probably not simple. Maybe there is a way to modify the editor to make the field editable only using buttons. Customization of the tips is an interesting idea too.
Evgeny gravatar imageEvgeny ( 2010-12-31 12:58:37 -0500 )edit
thanks :)
niles gravatar imageniles ( 2011-01-01 08:18:53 -0500 )edit