George White pointed out on my related meta post Where is Ask Patents marketed? that Google Patents has a button on every patent page that links to us, and I suspect that this is the cause for many out-of-context questions here.
Just as a few examples, this question (deleted), this question, this question, this question, and this question have all been asked within the last few weeks. The important thing to note here? None have any context. What patent or application are we even talking about?
One of those questions went something like this:
When will this be incorporated in the design of modern cars?
Considering this concept has been around so long, when will it be incorporated in the design of modern cars?
Similar to that prior meta post, this is not a question of whether or not these questions are on topic. They are not, regardless of this detail.
What's important, to reiterate, is that there's no reference whatsoever to what patent the question is actually asking about. "Considering what concept?"
Thanks to George's answer, I've come to an interesting conclusion of why I feel these questions get asked without any context.
- When a user is on any Google Patents page, here's an example, he or she will notice a "Discuss this [Patent/Application]" button at the top.
- When clicked, that redirects to a (generally empty) "tag" page:
There are currently no questions about Patent us8645697
Ask Question about Patent us8645697 or browse other active questions.
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If the user clicks the embedded "ask question" button there, that link redirects them to the ask question page we all know and love, but it includes a tag referencing the patent or application they came in on. This is a good case.
However, if the user clicks on the "ask question" button at the top of the page, in the header that all Stack Exchange sites have, that tag is not entered automatically.
This is a discrepancy that I worry causes unnecessary confusion for new users to the site, and leads to a lot of out-of-context questions. Note that the same user doing this process two times might come out with two different outcomes, one where the tag is included and the other where it is not. I know for me personally, I'd be pretty arbitrary about which button I chose.
I propose one of two options:
- We make a minor change (just here or on SE in general), such that when the main header "Ask Question" button is clicked on a tag page, tags are included.
- We somehow promote the embedded button so that it receives more clicks than the header one.
Although these questions are all close-worthy for other reasons, I do not feel that making this mistake is entirely the users' fault. Our UX should be consistent, and if a question like this is closed, it should be because the user misunderstood the scope, and not because they misunderstood the fundamental workings of the site.
I'd particularly hate to see a good question get closed for "Unclear what you're asking" or similar, just because the user thought it would be automatically associated with the page that brought them to us (a fair assumption, I think).