Why is our help center so awful?

Ok, so theoretically, if I want to learn how to participate in the site I can do so by going to the help center, right? Wrong.

There are a vast number of meta.rpg posts (e.g. How do we handle a desire to challenge the frame of a question?), blog posts (e.g. Gorilla v.s. Shark and Good Subjective, Bad Subjective), meta.se posts (e.g. Is there Markdown to create tables?), and random other sites (e.g. What the formatting page says is the official formatting documentation but is actually hopelessly outdated), not to mention all that stuff that doesn't seem to be documented anywhere, until it's mentioned in passing by someone who knows about it on meta (e.g. Could we have a shortcut bracket link to the good subjective, bad subjective post?). As someone trying to learn how to use the site, this is frustrating. Is there a way we could consolidate these kinds of things via links in an actually-useful help center? Is there a reason we only provide the information we do?

• I concur that it could be expanded. Feb 26, 2015 at 18:31

Because we don't have control over the help pages. They're set network-wide in order for the SE network to control network-wide policy (an example is the recent roll-out of the Be Nice policy page). It's good to have standardisation, but the trade-off is that it has the usual downsides of one-size-fits-all approaches.

On the plus side, a bunch of this is actually in the help (e.g. bracket shortcuts, the actual markdown reference1), or in our meta tag (frame challenge, local GS/BS implementation). I agreed that "we can't do tables" would be useful to mention in the formatting page, but we can't add that ourselves.

There's no need for a new feature though, and you can start fixing this right now on your own: ask and self-answer questions on these topics as you figure them out, and then flag them to have a moderator consider adding the tag. And if you see a page that people regularly refer to that's missing the tag, flag it too.

Tagging meta questions as FAQs is our most effective means to collect together useful information that's particular to our site, or that's hosted off-network.

1. Yes, the "official markdown syntax reference page" is misleading right there at the top of the formatting help page, but it's unfortunately a necessary kowtow to the original designer because he gets grumpy about how Markdown is used and changed by people other than him, even when it's permitted by the Markdown license. The formatting help page does go on to correctly explain our Markdown flavour's formatting syntax.
• Cool, I didn't know that tag was a thing :) I've been reading through meta by absolute vote sorting, but the faq tag sounds like a better search. Thanks. Feb 26, 2015 at 21:40
• @thedarkwanderer You've probably just noticed that in comments, [faq] redirects to the tour. If you're going to point someone at the faq, you have to write [meta-tag:faq].
– BESW
Feb 26, 2015 at 21:54