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User asks about two unrelated, except in that they have both, issues in a single SO question (example). How should we handle this?

  1. Edit to remove one or the other, which might invalidate some answers?
  2. Flag for mod to separate into different questions?
    • Is this even doable?
    • How do you handle answers that attempt to answer both?
  3. Vote to close, even if separately one or both questions meet the acceptable criteria?
  4. Other?
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4 Answers 4

We should have a mechanism to encourage/force the questioner to split the questions into their own separate posts. That way the people who answer the questions can focus on one topic and those who read those questions later on will not have to wade through unrelated information to find the answer they are seeking.

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Do you trust the judgement of the person who asked the question with splitting answers across the two new questions? How would you handle answers which answer both parts of the question? –  Flexo Sep 17 '11 at 13:30

Ideally, situations like that would be resolved before there are any answers. That's the easiest case. Any user can edit (or suggest an edit) on a question and then comment to the OP asking them to post whatever got edited out separately.

Assuming there already are answers that address both questions...

Edit to remove one or the other, which might invalidate some answers?

If there aren't many answers, this is not a bad idea. You can edit the question and leave comments on the answers saying the question has changed and part of its scope was removed. Most answer authors in my experience will either edit or remove their answers in response, as needed.

If there are a lot of answers, or the questions is old, you may be limited to just commenting on the question asking the OP to not post like that again.

Flag for mod to separate into different questions?

  • Is this even doable?
  • How do you handle answers that attempt to answer both?

Moderators can't do anything in this case that any regular user couldn't do. At most, a moderator can edit the question and post the removed part as a new question of their own. Answers could be handled as described above.

This is not the best practice, however, since in some sense doing that steals reputation and the question from the OP. If it's something that requires OP's further input, having someone else post the question would only complicate things.

Moderators cannot split answers or move answers between questions, short of editing and reposting as their own.

Vote to close, even if separately one or both questions meet the acceptable criteria?

I don't think voting to close is appropriate in this case. At best, you could use "Not a real question" as a reason, but if the question doesn't yet have answers, it's best to just edit it. If it does have answers, then it most likely was answerable.

Other?

I think handling this situation through edits and comments is the best approach. Sometimes we might have to live with combined questions, but that's life. Hopefully there aren't so many out there that this is a widespread problem.

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A moderator could delete irrelevant answers if they edited the question to remove one of the issues if the answer only addressed that issue ("not an answer"). That still leaves answers that address both parts. In that case, I suppose leaving a comment would suffice. –  tvanfosson Sep 17 '11 at 14:42
    
@tvanfosson Yes, that's a good point. I usually leave a comment on the now-irrelevant answers to give the authors a chance to edit them anyway, but there's probably not as much need or opportunity for that on SO. –  Anna Lear Sep 17 '11 at 14:44

I would comment on the question explaining this to the OP and asking him to split his question in two.

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That's similar to option (1). What would you do with answers? Flag them to move to the new question? Presumably that's doable. What if they just delete one or the other? –  tvanfosson Sep 17 '11 at 13:12
    
@tvanfosson, good question. I don't know. Flagging for moderator attention should be doable once the OP splits his question. –  Darin Dimitrov Sep 17 '11 at 13:16
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@Darin Moderators can't do much more than normal users can in this case. At most, we can edit the answers or leave comments asking the answers' authors to edit them themselves. –  Anna Lear Sep 17 '11 at 14:28
  1. If the question is being edited to removed the secondary question, then also the answers should be edited to remove the answer for that questions.
  2. I have been a moderator for 90 days, and for what I can remember, there isn't a tool for splitting a question in two; you would also need to edit those answers for both the sub-questions, and that is clearly a manual task. There would be a problem if there is also an accepted answer that, if the question would be split, could not be anymore the accepted answer.
  3. There isn't a reason for closing for this specific case; if a question is, for example, closed as off-topic when it is not off-topic, just to make the user ask the two unrelated sub-questions in two separated questions, then the question is closed for the wrong reason. Voting to close a question should be done if the reason to close a question is listed in the reasons to close and it applies to the question; I don't close a question because I don't like it, and I find an excuse to close it.

About the question in specific, the OP asked the sub-questions in the same question because, from his point of view, both were referring to the same snippet of code. Truly, the question about the security box could be asked for any snippet of code using ClipBoard.SetText(), and it is marginally specific for that snippet.
If it were possible to define which is the main question, and which is the secondary question, I would say that is better to answer to the main question, and forget the secondary one. In this question, titled "ClipBoard.SetText() triggers security message dialog box," the accepted answer doesn't explain why the dialog box is shown, but it explains why it is necessary to call ToList(); what was supposed to be the secondary question seems to be, for the OP, the main question.

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Hmm, in this specific case, perhaps the question title needs to be edited to match the accepted answer. That's a different, but related problem. FTFY. –  tvanfosson Sep 17 '11 at 14:44
    
It's not just the title, as the first sentence of the question is, "When I try to access the clipboard I get a security dialog box." –  kiamlaluno Sep 17 '11 at 15:15

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