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What's the netiquette for a bad question (mine)?

Generally, my first attempt at a question is a sort-of meta "what should I be asking?" type of question without a clear answer. I'm at fault for asking bad questions, but the answers are helpful in composing a better question.

So, what do I do with those crummy questions? Accept the best answer to an unanswerable question?

If I edit the question so that it's more sensible I find that I get few replies and it's more expedient to ask a variant question which is better stated.

For example, I've edited a question about triggers to death and then some. In all fairness, my original question was answered, so I should accept that question, and then...I dunno.

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Can you perhaps show a few examples or link to them. It may not be clear to others what you're asking. –  jmort253 Jul 29 '12 at 8:57
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Are we talking about the main site or Meta? If we're talking about the main site, "how should I ask/what can I ask" questions shouldn't be there in the first. –  Time Traveling Bobby Jul 29 '12 at 8:58
    
yes, I suppose I do tend to ask "what can I ask" type questions on the main site. Guilty as charged. –  Thufir Jul 29 '12 at 9:05
    
Beyond just the etiquette, you have to think about what answers the question as it is written. Don't forget 2 years from someone, a novice C# programmer might read your question, see an answer that is checked and think it solves the problem, when in fact it is solving a previous edit –  psubsee2003 Jul 29 '12 at 9:19
    
This question seems to have an element of "what should I be asking?" in it. Please edit it to make it more specific, or re-post the more specific version as a new question. I'm not sure which alternative would be best. –  Ari B. Friedman Jul 30 '12 at 3:13
    
@AriB.Friedman is that a meta-meta exercise in irony? LOL. –  Thufir Jul 30 '12 at 3:48
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@Thufir Only double-meta? I must be losing my touch :-D –  Ari B. Friedman Jul 30 '12 at 10:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'm not 100% sure, but it sounds like you might be trying to use Stack Overflow as a forum by using the revision history as a conversation thread.

I did look at the revision history for one of your posts, the one you reference in your question about triggers, and I may be mistaken, but it appears as if you're completely removing your initial code examples and questions from your first revisions and replacing them with each edit you make.

In other words, it looks like you're perhaps receiving follow up comments asking for more clarification, or perhaps those users are providing you with troubleshooting steps, and then you're perhaps following up by replacing your original questions with completely separate blocks of code and information, so that the final revision shows only the last step in your troubleshooting process.

On one hand, I think you're making great attempts at making your questions better. Most, if not all of them, are upvoted, and most of them have good, detailed answers, which is oftentimes one of the signs of a good question.

However, my concern is that some information is missing from the later revisions, contextual information that may be important for future visitors coming from Google.

Revision history is generally used to keep track of a question as it's improved, not to keep track of the troubleshooting steps taken on that question. This is likely to confuse most people, and I'm not 100% sure if your questions will have value to future visitors in this format, since many people coming from Google don't necessarily have Stack Overflow accounts or understand how to see a posts' revision history. Also, I'm not sure if the earlier revisions have an impact on the posts' SEO.

You sort of have the right idea: Edit and improve! But my suggestion, to really make your questions useful by future visitors (and more likely to be upvoted), is to leave the information from your first revision intact in your final revision, unless of course the comments indicate that there is too much information that makes the question confusing.

To help improve questions where there are oftentimes some minor discussion involved to get from point A to point B, many users will use a horizontal break to divide one edit from another.


EDIT: Like this!

Lastly, keep in mind that broad questions are less beneficial to the community than targeted questions, so if you do ask a question that gets an answer, and that leads you down the path to a different but related problem later on, then a separate, new question may be best, as long as it's not a duplicate of the previous one.

The fact that you edit your questions to improve them is promising. But be sure that the final product, your contribution to Stack Exchange, is something that a future visitor can read and say "I have that same problem!" and then benefit from the answers. Good luck!

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Just my 2 cents, but I personally really hate seeing EDIT: in a question. I would much prefer the OP to add to the question in a seamless manner. –  Bart Jul 29 '12 at 10:25
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Overdone, it can be annoying. If it makes sense to make it seamless, I agree! But what do you recommend when each of your edits involve different troubleshooting stages, where reverse engineering the process may be critical for a future visitors' understanding in order to see how the asker and answerer got from point A to point B? –  jmort253 Jul 29 '12 at 10:27
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Something like "After trying X, I had result Y. While better, this does not resolve the issue". I mean, why would trying something throughout the question's life be different from when you've tried something beforehand. It's not a huge deal though. Just style. And I prefer one over the other. –  Bart Jul 29 '12 at 10:29
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I think the trouble with the seamless edit is that it's hard to work out whether the question has been reworked to incorporate the comments and other answers or not. –  McNab Jul 29 '12 at 21:32
    
I am fine with seeing Edit somewhere, but a tricky question may end up being a short novel, would a pagination feature be something to cosider? I know markdown has a spoiler. –  Ryan B Jul 30 '12 at 3:39
    
@RyanB - I feel like pagination could turn Stack Exchange into a forum. In my experience, when there are troubleshooting steps, many of them are usually things the op should have done before asking. This isn't always the case, but many times it is the case. –  jmort253 Jul 30 '12 at 5:15
    
I see your point @jmort253. Should we construct a list of recommended other places? –  Ryan B Jul 30 '12 at 12:27

If you have new questions, ask them in a new question. Do not fully edit out your old question each time someone answers a piece of your problem. As it stands now, your question is not useful to passers-by, but the individual questions might have been if you can make them relevant to a larger audience than yourself.

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