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Guidelines for asking

asked 2017-11-06 18:49:18 +0100

Jim K gravatar image

updated 2017-11-29 08:09:08 +0100

On this site, it's reasonably straightforward to upvote or downvote questions, or ask for corrections or clarification. But how do I decide what counts as a good question or a bad question?

From what I could find, the closest thing to guidelines is at Also, this answer gives links to a different site.

For example, consider the question at It seems like a bad question for many reasons:

  • title is too long and doesn't seem like a summary
  • no version number or operating system
  • not clear what file types are involved
  • no reproducible steps were given
  • The whole question is very unclear.

However, I did not downvote because I cannot point to any recognized standard that was not followed.

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answered 2017-11-17 19:23:23 +0100

Jim K gravatar image

updated 2017-12-27 12:05:24 +0100

Here is a suggested list of guidelines for asking questions.

  • Research the problem online first to avoid duplication. Mention what you find. Attempt to solve the problem before asking, and explain what efforts you have made. Programming questions should include code snippets.
  • Simplify and isolate the problem as much as possible. Use elementary problem solving or debugging techniques. Describe problems encountered and show error messages.
  • Give all information and steps necessary to reproduce the problem. Attach* a sample document if necessary. Provide version, operating system and locale when relevant.
  • Use common grammar and wording so that people in other countries besides your own can understand. Calc formulas should use ; for the separator.
  • Clearly state the actual question and desired results. The title should be a short summary, and include relevant tags. Do not check the "community wiki" checkbox.
  • After asking, monitor the question for a few days in case corrections or clarifications are requested. Edit the question or add a comment as needed, but do not use the answer box unless you are providing an answer to your own question.*
  • If a useful answer is given, mark it as correct by clicking ✔ in the upper left area of the answer, and consider upvoting.* Otherwise, explain in a comment below the answer why it is not acceptable.

* Requires the number of karma points listed here.

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Thanks, for the tips. gravatar ( 2017-11-25 02:35:07 +0100 )edit

May I add:

  • To edit, complete your question, or answer a request for clarification, do not use the answer box. Use comments or edit your question.


pierre-yves samyn gravatar imagepierre-yves samyn ( 2017-12-12 08:33:44 +0100 )edit

I was just now thinking about that. Yes, it has been added.

Jim K gravatar imageJim K ( 2017-12-12 09:50:42 +0100 )edit

Agree, but then they will probably end up solving most of the Q's themselves. :-~

More seriously, I think this list needs to be shorter rather than longer. 3 points might do: a) Help goes to those who earn it. b) Show that you're trying to learn and solve your own problem. c) Provide lots of clear and exact details and don't leave anything out.

Now I have to ask myself If I always live up to all that, and I know that I don't. So d) sit on it awhile before submitting.

EasyTrieve gravatar imageEasyTrieve ( 2017-12-20 07:04:38 +0100 )edit

@EasyTrieve: Your list is a good summary, and could be all that is necessary as a reminder for people who have some experience. It's also a reasonable answer to what counts as a good or bad question (feel free to post it as an answer).

People who are new may not know that "exact details" includes version and locale, for example. And the "community wiki" checkbox was not obvious to me early on. So I think such tips are helpful as well.

Jim K gravatar imageJim K ( 2017-12-20 19:53:38 +0100 )edit
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Asked: 2017-11-06 18:49:18 +0100

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Last updated: Dec 27 '17