[new members] How do I ask a good question?

Offer your ideas on how to improve the site or report problems.
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HB
Admin

Postby HB » Jan 04, 2018, 10:01 am

I participate on a programming site called Stack Overflow. They are a dedicated Q&A forum and are hyper-focused on neatly delineating the topic; their FAQ How do I ask a good question? offers very good advice for anyone seeking answers, notably this excerpt:

Stack Overflow wrote:Write a title that summarizes the specific problem. The title is the first thing potential answerers will see, and if your title isn't interesting, they won't read the rest. So make it count:

  • Pretend you're talking to a busy colleague and have to sum up your entire question in one sentence: what details can you include that will help someone identify and solve your problem?
  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important! Remember, this is the first part of your question others will see - you want to make a good impression. If you're not comfortable writing in English, ask a friend to proof-read it for you.
  • If you're having trouble summarizing the problem, write the title last - sometimes writing the rest of the question first can make it easier to describe the problem.
In the body of your question, start by expanding on the summary you put in the title. Explain how you encountered the problem you're trying to solve, and any difficulties that have prevented you from solving it yourself. The first paragraph in your question is the second thing most readers will see, so make it as engaging and informative as possible.

Obviously equipment mega threads are "collector topics" that don't summarize a specific problem/observation, so over time, they meander from subject-to-subject with the only common theme being the piece of equipment. Such threads are not very search-friendly; those who join the conversation rarely read the thread in its entirety, so new participants inevitably ask questions that have been asked/answered before. That's why we recommend that before creating a new post, consider the recommendations above.
Dan Kehn
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JR_Germantown

Postby JR_Germantown » Jan 04, 2018, 12:11 pm

I'll have to steal that stackoverflow link. ;)

For years, I've referred newbies to this, which is probably from the listserv/usenet era:
http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

I like the stackoverflow version better.

Jack