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For those that don't know, a Sandbox is a meta question that is constantly maintained as a place for users to get feedback on their questions before they post to main. Users can post their questions as answers to the Sandbox meta question and receive feedback from the community for how they could change to be better received.

For more, you can see the working Sandbox over on Worldbuilding where they explain it much better than I could. They even have new Sandbox answers post directly into their chat!


We had an interesting discussion a while ago on whether or not we should open a Sandbox. The top answer there gives a good walk-through of what we'll need if we do decide to have one. The answer ends with:

If people are willing to work at these, then I'd agree with this. But we need to keep in mind what this will require.

I for one, would love a Sandbox and would be happy to help maintain it. What can I (an average Joe user) do to push for its creation and show my support? I've upvoted the linked question and it's answers but the post is from almost a year ago and nothing has come of it.

What can we do to kickstart the creation of a Sandbox?

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  • Might be worth linking to/explaining what the point of a sandbox is. :) – Catija Jul 9 '18 at 18:20
  • Done. Thanks for the tip @Catija! – scohe001 Jul 9 '18 at 18:26
  • Side question: Do any sites have a sandbox for answers? Unlike many other SE sites, I see more deeply problematic answers on IPS than questions (and it seems to be a lot harder to fix up an answer than a question using the built-in SE tools). – 1006a Jul 11 '18 at 17:50
  • @1006a I know WorldBuilding has one here, but I've only ever used their question box. – scohe001 Jul 11 '18 at 17:52
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    @1006a and scohe001: WorldBuildings answer Sandbox is basically unused. In the 4.5 years of its existence there were 5 posts - one of which was a request to undelete an answer on the main site. One reason why WorldBuilding has a question Sandbox is that questions don't need to be immediately answered. You have time to work on stuff. IPS works with real-life problems. A question Sandbox might be more difficult here. And an answer Sandbox will likely be not so useful because people want to answer right now, especially because answering early is rewarded by high reputation. – Secespitus Jul 11 '18 at 18:45
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Based on what I've seen on Worldbuilding, a functional sandbox requires a few things:

  • People to actually monitor it and help people; if sandbox users can't get prompt help they probably won't try again. Not everybody checks meta regularly, so we found that feeding new answers into our main chat room helps.

  • People to guide askers, especially new users, to the sandbox. These are probably the same people as in the previous bullet, but the tools are different: comment templates (to make your lives easier) and an abundance of diplomacy. Because you don't know about new users until they ask a question, and because you're probably only suggesting the sandbox if there's a problem with that question, you're dealing with a user who's already invested effort and is maybe feeling frustrated.

  • Easy access to the sandbox. Users require 5 rep to post on meta by default, so brand-new users can't. You can change that threshold, but it applies to all of meta, not just that question. So figure out if that's ok. Similarly, a question with a few deleted answers from low-rep users gets auto-protected; on Worldbuilding we had to keep unprotecting the question, over and over, until we asked for a change -- again, meta-wide -- to that threshold.

  • Sandbox curators. If the sandbox fills up with posts it'll become hard to use, so you need to get stuff deleted that's no longer relevant. If it was asked that's easy, but what about abandoned drafts? You'll probably want to work out some time limits and processes and stuff.

You asked what it takes to get a sandbox started. The Worldbuilding sandbox was driven by non-moderator users. In fact, several of the moderators aren't active in the sandbox beyond responding to flags asking for old posts to be deleted. This can be nearly-entirely user-driven.

So what does it take? One user who cares enough to drive it, and several other users who'll actively help.

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    How did Worldbuilding's sandbox start? Just some user starting a sandbox-meta-thread? How do I figure out whether or not there's enough users who care to drive it? – Tinkeringbell Jul 10 '18 at 9:10
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    @Tinkeringbell As far as I can tell someone asked whether people want it and someone else responded that they would like to try it. The problem about the Sandbox is that it's quite a different approach to the normal usage of the site. For example there is no rep-incentive to participate and ideally everything gets deleted at some point, so there isn't even a whole lot of your participation on Meta visible in the end. That will deter a lot of people. Starting and seeing where it takes you might be the best way to tell. – Secespitus Jul 10 '18 at 9:39
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    The first Sandbox was created shortly after that linked discussion and there were ups and downs in participation over time. We also had to rethink some things when activity ramped up and obviously every site is different. (I wasn't part of the site when the Sandbox started, but I am very active there nowadays, so I thought I'd link to a few discussions.) – Secespitus Jul 10 '18 at 9:39
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    @Tinkeringbell what Secespitus said is pretty much it. Somebody saw a sandbox on another site, wanted to try it, and got enough other people interested to make a go of it as a community effort. I'm personally not a big fan of sandboxes because that's a different interface we have to teach new users besides the real one baked into the software; I'd prefer that we fix whatever issues are causing new users to have a diminished experience (probably the close UX and comments). But we can't fix that so the community looks for something it can do. – Monica Cellio Jul 10 '18 at 14:32
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Most importantly you'd need users who are having trouble asking questions who are willing to put in the time to workshop their question and receive help from others in making it a good fit for the site.

The easiest way to do this is to reach out to users who are about to have their questions closed and offer suggestions on how to get them reopened. Suggest that they propose a question on Meta and ask for feedback on how to make it a good fit for this site.

Once there is enough demand for feedback about how to make questions a good fit for this site we can then start talking about how to create an institutional solution like a question sandbox.

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    Hmm. The reason I actually posted this is because I was writing up a question to post but wanted some feedback on it first! Does that make me one of the users you'd want me to reach out to? Also, I feel like asking users with closed questions (who are usually laser focused on getting their question opened and answered) to write a meta for me might not work out too well. – scohe001 Jul 9 '18 at 18:48
  • If you'd like feedback on making a question a good fit for this site I'd be glad to help. You can either post a question on meta or reach out to me in chat. – sphennings Jul 9 '18 at 18:55

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