Some other web-based communities I use have links to
HTML summaries, which generally pop-up a new window (note
of course that these aren't the evil auto-popups, but only
appear when you click :-). I've heard people say they find
those useful, because they can have the second window off
to the side while they compose.
Perhaps a combination of ideas: start people at the point
of having the summary, with a link to the page that covers
the HTML usage in depth (separate window or not, at your
judgement). Have that be the default for unreg users, and
for registered users at Level 1. At Level 2, go to just the
link (or a briefer summary, like a simple list of tags for
visual aid/recognition/reminder, plus the link). At Level 3,
reduce again (if you didn't go with just the link at L2, now
you would, or you'd go completely bare). That also answers
the issue of when to move from one state to the next. When I
registered as a user and started replying to posts, it
didn't take long to move from L1 to L2, so the "annoyance"
factor for the more seasoned users should be low.
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