I notice that the GIS Stack Exchange Tour page doesn't explicitly state that there should only be one question per post. The closest it comes is:

This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

Can we change this to state that followup questions, which substantially change the original question, require a new post?

An example of why this is necessary is shown in Modifying placement properties for labels using ArcPy?. I can sense the OP's frustration ("just answer the question!") but IMO the original question has been answered ("it's not possible" is a valid answer) so a new question is warranted.

Does the GIS SE site state that a new question is the correct approach in this situation?

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    A more immediate question might be "can we change the Tour page at all?" -- it looks pretty canned up. – blah238 Jun 24 '14 at 4:48
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    yeah maybe. The Stack Overflow tour page is pretty much identical. Is it stated anywhere else that each question should stand alone? Is that even a rule? – Stephen Lead Jun 24 '14 at 4:51
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    The Don't Ask page from our Help may be the best place to say "one question per Question". I'm pretty sure that the moderators have a lot more flexibility on what goes there. – PolyGeo Jun 24 '14 at 5:19
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    The Tour is updated with the information you have provided, thanks for the quality feedback. – Mapperz Jun 26 '14 at 14:08

The Tour is now updated


Thanks for the feedback and improving the GIS-SE site content


I can't find a place where it explicity states "one question per question" (in an official capacity, though we do have Framing (asking) good Questions for GIS Stack Exchange? linked from the help), but I have understood that to mean/be a response to questions that give all of their problems at once. In effect, the question is too broad.

One good example I have from recently is How do I create zones using location features? There are three distinct questions there. And all three have multiple considerations and possible approaches. A single answer to the asker's 'question' as a whole could (would) be very long. Another example that comes to mind is Network Analyst: Location Allocation for Model Builder where the basic question is 'troubleshoot my model'. We solve the first specific issue with the asker then moving to the next issue that came up. That turns into a running dialog rather than a Question and Answer.

In the example you cite, I think (and have understood from site help files) it's perfectly ok to answer 'I don't know how/you can't do it that way, but you could do it this way' with a full answer/explanation, even if it differs from the original question. This stems from the How do I write a good answer? page which states:

What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”.

If there were no possible work-around, then by all means the answer should be 'you can't and here's why.' But in your example, you can't but you could do it this way would be a great answer to that question. Search results will be both questions and answers that have the terms - you could solve it without requiring another search. You did give the answer (just not the details), so I can see going either way - a new question or an answer there. I think the latter would be most helpful, or at least linking the current question to the new question (or one that already answers it, should such exist).

In short, I don't think it's a hard-and-fast or black-and-white rule. I think it's a case-by-case sort of thing, and some of them are fuzzier than others.

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    All good points. I edited the original question on my linked post, to remove the focus on Arcpy, since that wasn't necessarily what the OP wanted anyway. I still think it would be good if GIS.SE stated somewhere that one question per posting is the best approach. – Stephen Lead Jun 25 '14 at 0:16
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    @StephenLead I probably would have just changed the question title and left arcpy in the body, but since you still mention arcpy in your answer it's all good. The idea being future someone searching on how to do it in arcpy finds the statement 'you can't in arcpy but...' I suppose the tag is still there too at the moment. But I definitely agree that a more explicit statement on question per question would be good. – Chris W Jun 26 '14 at 1:02
  • Yeah in retrospect I should just have done that originally. It's a fine line - trying to care for GIS.SE, without being too inflexible over the details.... – Stephen Lead Jun 26 '14 at 1:34

I think multiple questions in a Question, whether they be posed at the outset, or via the Question scope creep you encountered in this instance, are too broad for the Q&A format we use.

Making this clear in the Tour (if possible) or on the Asking and/or Don't Ask pages seems like a sensible thing to do.

Following up on a suggestion by @ChrisW in a Comment here, another heading could be added to one or other:

Your most important question is important to us

If you ask more than one question within your Question, you may see it closed as being "too broad". It is harder for potential answerers to try and provide multiple solutions, and difficult for later readers to try and follow which answer matches up to which question, so just ask your most important question, and then research/ask the others separately.

Once your most important question has been answered, reward the person who helped by Accept-ing their Answer and, if you have follow up questions, research/ask them separately to avoid re-entering the "too broad" scenario which could lead to it being closed to new Answers.

For Tour wording perhaps something just a little "punchier" ...

Your most important question is important to us

Asking one, and only one, important question within your Question helps attract prompt and clear Answers.

Your other questions are just as easy to research/ask separately!

  • If the help pages are more accessible to moderators, I might suggest it be added to the How to Ask instead (maybe under a Be Focused heading?), or both. For that matter, imho how to ask should be second in the list (not near the bottom) and come before don't ask. Carrot before stick and all. – Chris W Jun 26 '14 at 1:10
  • Only complaint I have is the ungrammatical capitalization of words like question and answer. Just use plain English, IMO. This seems to have been inconsistently transferred over to the Tour page. – blah238 Jun 26 '14 at 23:20
  • @blah238 I use the capitalization to emphasize the difference between an SE Question & Answer, and a conversational question and answer. However, I can live with that being blurred, as long as it is one or other on the Tour. – PolyGeo Jun 26 '14 at 23:26
  • Yeah I get that, but I just find it hard to read. Same with bolded links, if I wanted all my links bolded I would create a user style ;) – blah238 Jun 26 '14 at 23:30
  • @blah238 Maybe its my eyes but I don't want to miss seeing the option to link out to something that someone has seen important enough to link to, and I prefer OOTB to having a user style on top. Perhaps a user style can be used to unbold all links just as easily. Either way I'll take your comment on board (note no capital C this time :-). – PolyGeo Jun 26 '14 at 23:36

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