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If a user posts several questions all clearly regarding the same piece of work, what is the best way to keep all the information together?

For example, I answered a specific question, and when the poster asked further questions he was correctly told by a moderator to ask specific subsequent questions, not migrate a single question.

The further questions asked were all around the subject of the original question and for my answers to make sense I had to refer to the other questions the OP had asked.

In referencing other questions that were sometimes quite long I felt it alienated many other people from adding their answers.

What is the best (and / or official) method for addressing these "ongoing" questions? Referencing previous questions of trying to take each as a seperate entity entirely?

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4 Answers

If questions are related and one could be more easily understood by referencing the other, then do so; but consider that a single question should be stand-alone, a unit of work, so to speak - if it isn't then it may well be at risk of being 'too localised' anyway, or just a plain badly asked question.

Gathering a number of questions into a single question is undesirable (sometimes necessary, as there is often other aspects surrounding the issue of concern, but they ought to be intrinsic to that unit of work and not in the least straying from the task at hand.)

But, ultimately, one question / set of answers should not be relied upon, or necessary in order to answer any other given question.

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There are tons of times when new programmers are on the steep part of the learning curve and may get stuck repeatedly on a single program. It's hard for them to explain exactly what they need, but if you can figure it out from previous questions, sometimes you can put together good answers that have the potential to help others in the future. –  agf Aug 19 '11 at 16:52
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@agf: Indeed. I don't believe I contradict that. It is simply that, all other things being optional, the question, in and of itself, should be answerable without such other information being required. –  Grant Thomas Aug 19 '11 at 17:29
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I've been wondering this too.

This user has asked a long series of related questions. He's done a tried to make each one specific, separate, and of reasonable scope. As a result, several of the questions have been unanswerable based only on the information given in the question.

Because I've been following the progress of his program from the beginning, I've been able to see the big picture, and answer several of the questions, each time referring back to code posted in previous questions and answers. Now, this is good for me, but the other people answering don't have all of the information. Edit: These linked questions show up in the sidebar, right above the related questions. This should be more prominent, but it doesn't solve the problem of them not being obviously connected until after I've posted my answer.

My Proposal

When a uses asks questions less than seven days apart, suggest they add links to their recent questions if they are related. Provide a list-o-links with checkboxes, and then prepend them to the answer like the Duplicate Question link. This would make it much easier for people to give complete, helpful answers as they would have more context.

What is the best (and / or official) method for addressing these "ongoing" questions? Referencing previous questions or trying to take each as a separate entity entirely?

Always try and provide a complete answer. If you don't answer a question in context, you're not doing anyone any good. Context matters -- there aren't very many absolutes.

Also, if you know that there is information in other questions, edit it into the question. Even if you don't have 2000 rep, you can suggest the edit.

Edit: From my comment on the other answer, about whether questions like this are "too localized" and don't end up being a good resource anyway:

There are tons of times when new programmers are on the steep part of the learning curve and may get stuck repeatedly on a single program. It's hard for them to explain exactly what they need, but if you can figure it out from previous questions, sometimes you can put together good answers that have the potential to help others in the future.

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"each time referring back to code posted in previous questions and answers" if so, this means the other questions will be in the "Linked Questions" sidebar, which explicitly ties them together.. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 19 '11 at 17:26
    
I've never even noticed that -- It should be more prominent. But it still doesn't solve the problem of the person asking the question not linking back. Suggesting this to them would make all the difference. –  agf Aug 19 '11 at 17:32
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A couple of things to keep in mind, both of which help to solve this problem:

  1. All questions should be entirely self-contained. That means no question should require any other question to exist on the site or for someone to read another question in order to understand what is being asked. All relevant portions and background information from previous questions should be briefly summarized in the follow-up question.

  2. Follow-up questions should include a link back to the original question that they follow-up on. That way, if someone wants to see additional background information or follow the train of logic, they can do so easily (assuming those questions still exist). As Jeff points out in a comment, doing this also ensures that the other questions will be linked in the "Linked Questions" sidebar, which explicitly ties them together.

We really don't need any new or additional features to achieve the desired effect. More importantly, I'm afraid that adding such features would backfire, as it would cause people to think that there's such a thing as "threaded discussions" or that this site works something like a forum where multiple questions can be combined into one. That's not correct, and that's precisely why we require that each question stand alone. Follow-up questions are perfectly fine, so long as they follow these rules.

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I've asked something like this today.

Link/Tag/Track Questions/Answers

It's not always the problem of linking related questions etc. In my case I'm thinking of a feature which gives me the ability to build a bundle of (even better if its items can be ordered) questions (and of course the more valuable answers to them) together to achieve a personal process workflow for some specific topic.

The details (personal vs public bundle/ordering vs random etc) can be discussed but I think this feature would add more order and value to the SE community.

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