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More often than not, users tend to post questions with a problem but don't actually post the code required. This results in the first comment being "post some codez then" followed by an inevitable edit on the question. It is only after this exchange that the question can actually be answered

Another issue I've seen is people obscuring code, hiding their precious variable/class/file names but in some cases they are just hindering the question.

A fine example is this question, which itself spawned an answer that doesn't answer the question, just corrects the obscured code.

Would it be possible to add something to the FAQ or maybe even with certain language tags (PHP, jQuery for example) have a a reminder in the right hand column to prompt people to paste in the code they are using. Maybe with jQuery you could even point to jsfiddle or similar.

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do you really think that putting stuff in the FAQ (or the right hand column) is going to help users who can't even get it together enough to show basic code for the problem they have? There has been some discussion of pre-filled question 'templates' per tag, but those are extremely invasive... –  Jeff Atwood Sep 20 '11 at 9:07
    
@JeffAtwood very true. –  Dunhamzzz Sep 20 '11 at 9:08
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You could ask exactly the same question about people who supply a wall of code, or don't supply the error detail, or just tell us "it doesn't work". It's just another specific case of users who don't know how to ask questions. –  Justin Sep 20 '11 at 11:07
    
This is all about getting users to ask good questions. When you figure that out, bottle it; you're gonna make a mint. –  Won't Sep 20 '11 at 13:31
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3 Answers

Kind of crazy idea, but how about implementing "Ask a question" wizard for users with less than 100 reputation, which have the standard text area +post code, if applicable, post error details, if applicable (and the 3 textareas in the 3 steps are combined in 1 question, the code is automatically formated, etc.)?

And since 3 steps will be annoying for users who know how to ask questions, revert to the standard input if some criteria (100 reputation for example) is met

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I'd even say: make it optional once a certain limit (possibly 100 rep) is reached. Some users might say "Why don't I get that cool wizard any more?" –  Joachim Sauer Sep 20 '11 at 12:50
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I certainly agree with the comment:

This is all about getting users to ask good questions. When you figure that out, bottle it;

however, I think much could be done to standardize feedback to the user (particularly newer users). From what I've seen, the most frequent impediments to the Q&A process from the input side are:

1) no source code 2) did not list intended results 3) what have you already tried? 4) what packages are you using? 5) cannot duplicate error

For example, certain posts exist that describe in great detail how to quickly create "toy" datasets or how to output data for someone else to input. However, these "standards" aren't reliably referenced in feedback to [new] users.

So even though it is quite difficult to force users to conform, I think providing a ranked list of common errors showing good examples and bad examples may be useful (possibly wiazard form, as described above). Should this fail to elicit the question in the propoer form, as standardized feedback requesting clarification to the input specific to the "offense" would help.

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There are lots and lots of tutorials, guides, faq's etc. on how to ask good questions. People that ask bad questions never read them, so adding another one doesn't help. –  Servy Feb 11 '13 at 18:04
    
That's true, but I think standardizing the feedback to the user would help point the "offender" in the right direction. Right now the feedback is non-standardized, and in many times a would-be answerer requests clarification without fully documenting how to clarify. Moreover the FAQ really doesn't address attaching reproducable examples, intended output, etc. –  Jack Ryan Feb 11 '13 at 18:32
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Perhaps users would be more encouraged to supply code in the question if there where a secondary text field that says "Add your code here" or etc. (This input could later be treated as attachments/ downloadable files for testing.) The basic idea is to extend the ask question form with something similar to https://gist.github.com/. Most people would not want to leave an empty field while desperately looking for answers.

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