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Just wanted to propose a serious feature to the Stack Exchange sites.

The idea (concept) is a question-based following similar to Tweets.

Imagine you're an average user posting question after question (a bit like myself). For those who just look at the question, it might be a tad confusing (which happens all the time) as to what exactly you mean.

Of course, the normal system stipulates that if the question is ambiguous, then people will vote you down etc. But the hardcore enthusiasts, who have the time and are capable of looking at the OP's previous question(s), may have a better insight into what you are referring to.

Under normal circumstances, you're supposed to clearly ask your question as best as possible (sometimes, this isn't possible though).

So my new system could save the day! A "following" tab, under your question title, where you can choose for it to be:

  • either a "singular" question, i.e.: "I need help with this one thing"


  • "Follow me", which means someone like me could have a "category of questions", all related in a sequence.

That way, the hardcore guys could click on the follow tab and help you along the way, and at the same time separate those questions from the normal "singular" unanswered section of the site. You could even have a "follow" category.

Have a look:

Now, imagine that under your question, when folks look at it, they will see your previous questions, and you won't get so many harsh replies stating the obvious (or un-obvious) as your previous history for the question line will be stated in the question itself.

See below:

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P.s the incentive for following along in a series line means extra incentive!!! – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:29
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Of course the normal system stipulates if the question is ambiguous then people will vote you down etc but for the hardcore enthusiasts who have the time and are capable of looking at the OP,s previous question(s) may have a better insight into what you are referring to.

Then it should have been the duty of the OP to make sure the question has a proper context. They could have included a small explanation, like:

I'm trying to achieve <this greater goal>. I already figured out how to <do something>. Now, I want to <do something else>. In <this previous question>, I learned how to <do this>.

Simple, isn't it? I don't agree with your premise of "sometimes this isn't possible though". Yes, sometimes it takes a bit more time, but you should always think about your readers if you want good answers. Write your question in a way that is easy to digest.

If the question stands well by itself

  • there's no need to downvote it
  • there's no need for that follow feature

If the question doesn't stand well by itself

  • the question may be downvoted, because I – as a reader – don't want to read the full question history. I just want the essentials. The OP should give me at least a summary. If I don't understand what you're trying to achieve by just looking at your question, you need to explain better.
  • even then, the follow-up feature would not help, because not everybody's interested in doing this.
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not everyone ofcourse but alot are, and as I said to help along the way or tutor someone really lacks in the site so adding the extra feature could pay dividends to the users and to people helping by way of extra incentive. Your approach seems lazy but then again so does mine by not posing a credible "full fledge question" but this could answer both! – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:39
My approach isn't "lazy" :) – by all means, I'm not a lazy user – If I see a user who wants to achieve something bigger and asks a series of questions, this naturally evolves into me checking the previous history and eventually making edits to their questions (stating their previous efforts, giving more context etc.), so they can stand alone. I can easily bookmark questions already if I think they're interesting and I can help people. – slhck Oct 14 '11 at 16:41
Exactly but not everyone does what you do, and like I said the option to follow would make it a hole lot easier and by creating a series of questions you are explicitly asking for help along the way and the person aiding in the questions has specifically followed you to help you on your travels. – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:45
@Garrith You have a point, but you are forgetting that it's not only about you – your question should be useful for a thousand viewers that look for help like you do. I can see where this would be an additional feature, but it surely shouldn't stop users from explaining their context. – slhck Oct 14 '11 at 16:48
Rather than the usual crying because some one didnt explain "enough" for the person reading because he has just asked a gazzilion question be4 hand and his fingers hurt from so much typing! And because people (unlike yourself) wont or cant be bothered to look at previous questions. Not to mention the spetznas who just like to downvote everything because you made one error. – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:49
no ofcourse not slhck hence why both options are available like i mention in my post. – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:49
Yes, unfortunately people are lazy, and they need to be spoon-fed ;) And a way to help them (and yourself) is to just mention that you have a bigger context. You don't even have to type that much. Maybe even one line and one link does it (e.g. "chaining" your questions), as this is how your problem will most likely evolve. I don't disagree with the fact that previous context is necessary – but having it in a human-digestible way is IMHO the better approach here. – slhck Oct 14 '11 at 16:59

This defeats the purpose of providing a good answer for Googlers. If your question just says "Got the file opening ok but the bytes aren't there when I read it" we can argue about whether a helpful answerer will click something to get context. (I think no, you think maybe, at least some of them.) But it doesn't matter. Let's pretend that happens and you get a fantastic answer from a wonderful person who invested time in you. Now, let 6 months go by and someone else has your same problem, and goes to Google to search for an answer.

A search engine will only index what's in your question. So that great answer you got? No-one else will ever find it, because you don't have context in your question that would have been indexed with it. The rest of the world comes to Google (and Bing) and searches for "word in your first question" "word in your second question" "word in your third question" and gets nothing, or at least nothing useful.

Write your question for the ages. You'll get better answers and at the same time leave the world a better place. It's why we're all here, after all.

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yes good methods for creating a tutorial list still applies If i say in my title K-means for example then a list of concurrent questions listed and sequenced correctly show a trail to the google user looking in at how the plot developed and how he implemented his code,math etc – Garrith Graham Oct 14 '11 at 16:53

It makes sense to be careful when you craft a question - one person doing work then saves many people doing work when reading and trying to answer it. (I could try and kludge Postel's law in here "be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you receive".)

Two situations:

1) Bob asks a good question. Bob's question gets an answer. Ann, using a search engine like Bing or Google or DuckDuckGo finds Bob's question, and the answer. Ann is happy (and starts using stack exchange to ask and answer questions). Bob is happy.

2) Bob asks a good question, but in a lousy way. Bob's question gets a few downvotes. People don't really understand Bob's question, and give wrong answers, or they ask for more information; Bob's question doesn't really get a good answer. Ann, using a search engine, either doesn't find Bob's question, or finds it and is disappointed that it isn't answered. Ann is not happy. Bob is not happy.

Please, ask good questions.

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