10

Jeff Atwood has said this:

That is, when you set out to ask a question, you should …

  • Describe what's happening in sufficient detail that we can follow along. Provide the necessary background for us to understand what's going on, even if we aren't experts in your particular area.
  • Tell us why you need to know the answer. What led you here? Is it idle curiosity or somehow blocking you on a project? We don't require your whole life story, just give us some basic context for the problem.
  • Share any research you did towards solving your problem, and what you found, if anything. And if you didn't do any research – should you even be asking?
  • Ultimately, this is about fairness: if you're going to ask us to spend our valuable time helping you, it's only fair that you put in a reasonable amount of your valuable time into crafting a decent question. Help us help you!

Unfortunately, most of the questions in the GIS SE don't fit this criteria. ( I have violated this myself in some occasions. ) Should we try to implement this? Be strict about this?

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    I love these criteria: they provide excellent guidance as ideals to aim for. But requiring strict adherence to all of them sure would make life simpler for the moderators: we could just sign on once a day and close 95% of the questions. Work done! :-) – whuber Oct 10 '12 at 14:51
9

Geek communities are notorious for chewing the ears off people who don't ask questions correctly, and for those who aren't used to it, this is quite an intimidating thing to deal with and may put people off participating.

The flip side of course is that badly posed questions set bad examples for others to follow.

I'd vote against strict enforcement, unless it really becomes a problem. Above all though, remember all criticism should be constructive.

On the why you need to know part - this can be important as the nature of not knowing something is that people often ask the wrong questions! Understanding their true aims can help give people the answer to the question they should have asked, rather than the one they did.

7

I am relatively new to the community, and only very recently active on a daily basis. I think that the first point, as most would agree I'm sure, is critical. There have been a few posts that I've noticed have very sparse information and it's only after several rounds of back and forth comments that the problem is clear.

As far as the rest of the points go, I personally don't think that they are necessarily vital. Here's my thoughts on them:

Tell us why you need to know the answer. What led you here? Is it idle curiosity or somehow blocking you on a project? We don't require your whole life story, just give us some basic context for the problem.

As this is a community that supports learning through collective problem solving, does the context of the question make it more or less valid if it is for an important government related project versus personal curiosity? I understand that there are different standards that need to be taken into consideration in some cases, but I believe that should be the responsibility of the poster, as they are the most familiar with their situation. If it's important, they will mention it.

Share any research you did towards solving your problem, and what you found, if anything. And if you didn't do any research – should you even be asking?

Yes, in general people should research their problem before turning here, however I understand that in many situations problems can seem so overwhelming that you don't know where to start. In my eyes that is the true beauty of this community: however big or small the problem is, there is likely someone here with relevant experience that can at least push the poster in the right direction. If questions deemed too shallow or poorly researched are closed outright, I think that the nature of this site - or at least what I perceive it to be - isn't being represented, which leads to my last point:

Ultimately, this is about fairness: if you're going to ask us to spend our valuable time helping you, it's only fair that you put in a reasonable amount of your valuable time into crafting a decent question. Help us help you!

Both those asking questions and those answering them are here voluntarily. I spend most of my day working on one or two python scripts, and I come here as a refreshing break. I enjoy helping people solve their problems and I usually learn something new or solidify my understanding of a concept I'm already familiar with in the process. I know that when I have a question, this is a place I can come to get a better understanding of what it is I'm facing and learn something new.

This site doesn't get a ton of post traffic, at least not that I've noticed, and those that do post typically are professionals or students that have specific problems. Of course there will always be exceptions and posts that without a doubt should be closed, but following the above guidelines strictly, in my opinion, would be counter-productive.

Just my two cents.

  • I don't think the points are all vital, but as @whuber says "they provide excellent guidance as ideals to aim for" – PolyGeo Oct 14 '12 at 22:27
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    If questions deemed too shallow or poorly researched are closed outright, I think that the nature of this site - or at least what I perceive it to be - isn't being represented, which leads to my last point Closing isn't so bad. They can always modify their questions and it can be reopened if it meets standards. – R.K. Nov 12 '12 at 8:08
4

The above two answers do address all the points. On the object of providing proper information, I would say that the person asking the question, should be given a second chance. By guiding him, in posting the details, we will be able to answer his queries properly. There were lot of times, when I myself did not provide all the info but was asked for it and I provided the missing information.

Sometimes new members are not sure about all the details that they missed out. So rather than making it, a strict rule-abiding question, we should help and guide these members on how they can expand and correct their questions, so that it can be answered with better understanding.

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