What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 133 Stack Exchange communities.

There are some meta Q&A's that can be used at StackOverflow for those standard comments that frequently need to be made. These links work so well because they point (new) users to a source of commonly agreed practices and it gives the commenter sort of a mere messenger status which helps users not to feel offended. It is no longer "me correcting you". But it also gives the comment a bit more weight because it is backed by the community. Examples:

Now there is one comment that I could tack on at least 10% of the questions I read at StackOverflow:

"it does not work" is not a sufficient problem description.

Or words of similar import. It is amazing how many people just say that something "does not work". Often leaving no description of what they expected to happen, what actually happened, let a alone a decent exception message or stack trace.

I would like to have a "canonical" link for that situation.

I think there is no justification for a faq section to specifically cover this issue. (I often refer to the faq when question as a whole is unclear). Is anyone aware of an appropriate Q&A here (I could not find one after searching pretty hard). Or could we create one?

share|improve this question
1  
Personally I think comments like ""it does not work" is not a sufficient problem description." to be rude due to the fact they're made with the intention of dismissing the user, and think a canonical link would just lead to more dismissive/sarcastic comments like that. A much more polite way to write that would be to rephrase it as a question, which indicates your primary purpose is helping the OP, and you're not just trying to dismiss them with a sarcastic comment. "Can you define "it does not work" a bit more? :)" –  Rachel Dec 27 '12 at 14:41
2  
@Rachel I totally disagree with the first part of your comment, sorry. Intentions are always hard to guess and being rude is never my intention. I do agree that a question probably works better. –  Gert Arnold Dec 27 '12 at 14:47
    
This seems to move toward what we had with WSOIN. With an emphasis on "had". –  Bart Dec 27 '12 at 14:55
    
@GertArnold Sorry, I didn't mean to accuse you of being rude. I just wanted to point out that dismissive comments often come off as rude to some users, and a post like this would likely promote more dismissive/sarcastic comments like that to be left. I think that's part of why the "What StackOverflow is Not" post got deleted - It lead to too many dismissive or sarcastic comments linking to it, which leaves the impression that the site's users are rude stuck-up jerks (even if that wasn't actually the user's intentions). –  Rachel Dec 27 '12 at 14:56
    
@Rachel Although I do see the validity of your comment, I also disagree and I think I see Gert's point. However, at the same time, should a system that just enables you to say "what have you tried" (as well as any other "defaults" avaiable) also be allowed?. People will just ignore/downvote/close rubbish questions... and it works... So - I can see what you're suggesting, but think it's already covered - and can't see how it'd work –  Jon Clements Dec 27 '12 at 14:57
    
And in the light of WSOIN, this discussion might be of interest, if you haven't seen it yet. –  Bart Dec 27 '12 at 14:57
    
@Rachel (umm, my comment relates to your first comment, not the later one... bit akward... but another comment to put a bit more context to what I was commenting on...) –  Jon Clements Dec 27 '12 at 14:59
    
@Rachel OK, understood. Of course I see such links being abused, just as anything can be abused. But many people make good use of them. Another benefit is that a link can explain more than you want to put in a comment. –  Gert Arnold Dec 27 '12 at 15:01
    
@JonClements No problem, thanks for clarifying :) The difference with "What have you tried?" is that it's a question to ask the user for more information so you can help them. That's different from a dismissive comment, where users just leave a comment and move on, with no indication that they ever plan on coming back and actually helping the user. We can't force users to act a certain way, but we can try to lead by example. –  Rachel Dec 27 '12 at 15:04
    
@Rachel thanks - now I read my further comment back - I'm amazed you made sense of that (definitely not my finest pieces at the keyboard). A comment that could be perceived "rude"/"dismissive" - agree - that shouldn't be the case... However, isn't it better to at least have a comment, rather than just be ignored... On active tags (with high rep users), something really, really stupid can be downvoted, closed and deleted in under 10 minutes. Could that not then be considered "dismissive"/"rude" to users...? –  Jon Clements Dec 27 '12 at 15:17
    
@GertArnold You may find this post useful, although its very generic so I would still take the time to write a more detailed comment asking for specific information, and only tack this on as a footnote, such as "[This meta post](http://meta.stackexchange.com/q/156810/158605) contains a good checklist of things to double-check when posting a question" –  Rachel Dec 27 '12 at 15:17
    
@JonClements We actually had a discussion about this on The Workplace's Meta a while back. You might be interested in the answers there: What is rude on The Workplace? –  Rachel Dec 27 '12 at 15:22
    
@Rachel Very interesting! Thanks for link. However, it's one of those "the more I find out, the less that I know" thingies! –  Jon Clements Dec 27 '12 at 15:29
    
@Rachel That's a useful link, thanks, may do it. –  Gert Arnold Dec 27 '12 at 15:39
    
«with no indication that they ever plan on coming back and actually helping the user.» Why is ongoing engagement a requirement for commenting, @Rachel? What's wrong with "I can't do anything with this as it stands, here's what you need to fix so that the next person who comes along might be able to."? It's not any single person's responsibility to help until the asker is completely satisfied. A judicious dollop of preliminary advice can be just as valuable. –  Josh Caswell Dec 27 '12 at 19:28

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't think there is much more to be said about it than that does not work is not a sufficient problem description. The bulk of any response to a question that suffers from this problem should be devoted to figuring out what the problem actually is, and that differs from question to question. This means making a sufficiently generalised help page is problematic. Perhaps we could expand the "Be Specific" section in the How to Ask page.

On a side note, I do agree that a comment that states nothing but:

"it does not work" is not a sufficient problem description.

is not particularly useful, and is ironically subject to the same flaw it is pointing out in the question. If you see something like this, you should comment and try to suggest ways the OP can provide information on how the code does not work (asking for traces/exceptions etc).

share|improve this answer
    
Agreed, the "What does 'does not work' mean?" comment almost always needs some customization, listing the possible interpretations of that phrase given the circumstances. –  Josh Caswell Dec 27 '12 at 19:26
    
Expanding the "Be Specific" section is a helpful proposal an maybe justifiable because this "does not work" really happens time and again. The short comment not being very useful is what I'm fully aware of but as I explain in a comment above I sometimes let it happen - my bad. –  Gert Arnold Dec 27 '12 at 20:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .