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The problem I'm seeing in some questions is just not enough info.

One of the solutions would be to associate templates with tags, or some other kind of requirements.

Good example to this is regex:

Q: What platform/tool/programming language are you using?

Q: What are expected input(s)?

Q: What are expected output(s)?

Q: What is your best regex shot?

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Ironically, I don't understand what you're suggesting. –  balpha Aug 24 '09 at 11:22
    
@balpha: Well at least I don't feel as if I'm just being dense today. –  TheTXI Aug 24 '09 at 11:24
    
I'm saying that people do not always give enough information about the topic. And judged by the tags they choose, site would offer an template(like google code's one) to ease providing all information needed. –  iElectric Aug 24 '09 at 11:26
    
Do you want to improve the tags or the body of the question? Puzzled –  Ladybug Killer Aug 24 '09 at 11:28
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Are you really suggesting that all regex questions can reasonably be put into your example template? I highly doubt that. –  balpha Aug 24 '09 at 11:29
    
When user would specify tags, site would offer him pre-defined templates for body of the question. Does that clarify things? –  iElectric Aug 24 '09 at 11:30
    
It would be a feature, not a necessity. –  iElectric Aug 24 '09 at 11:31
    
Could you draw an image to illustrate it? –  Ladybug Killer Aug 24 '09 at 11:33
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Needs more freehand-drawn circles. –  TheTXI Aug 24 '09 at 11:34
    
A lot more, TheTXI! According to the upvotes yet... –  Ladybug Killer Aug 24 '09 at 11:42
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"Hello, and welcome to Stack Overflow! You have chosen to ask a [regex] question. If you need a regex for a specific purpose: Press one. If you want to know why your regex does not work: Press two. If you want to know why your regex does work: Press three. If you need assistance in parsing a turing-complete language with a one-line regex: Press four. Otherwise, please stay on the line, and we will connect you to the next available Perl guru. Thank you for choosing Stack Overflow." –  balpha Aug 24 '09 at 11:49

5 Answers 5

You could always gently prod the asker by commenting on their question and hopefully they will edit to include the information.

This will help them become a better asker when they get so fed up with the same comments asking them to provide more information.

But really, if they put all that information in in the first place, people wouldn't be bugging them about it would they?

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Would it be beneficial to include a predefined set of headers in the question text area that prompt new users (under 100 rep) of the basic information required to solve most programming problems?

Many questions on SO, asked by new users, are essentially:

Help! My family cat died, but the problem is that I am trying to write fizz buzz with AmazingLanguage and it doesn't work. Please help me! KThxBye.

Everyone knows that this question is impossible to answer. And so SO users reply with:

Show me the code.

I propose the following as a template for new users:


Problem

Describe what you want to do.

Source Code

Paste what you have developed; type CTRL-k to format selected code.

Errors

Paste error messages here, or describe the errors.

Resolution

How have you tried to fix the problem yourself?

Question

What would you like to know?


The format I use on tex.stackexchange.com is quite similar:


Background

Describe what I am trying to do.

Problem

Describe the difficultly I encountered; show the code.

Related

Post related links.

Question

Ask how to resolve the problem, or different approaches.

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While the template may be useful, I'd say there's enough signposts around this place already - I guess we'd get this: Problem: My family cat died; Source code: I dunno lol; Errors: plz help!!!; Question: My family cat died, but the problem is that I am trying to write fizz buzz with AmazingLanguage and it doesn't work. If the user has successfully managed to ignore all the clues that already exist, another signpost isn't going to help much (after all, some users are incapable of reading anything which is not directed at them specifically). –  Piskvor Dec 16 '10 at 16:33
    
@Piskvor: Conjecture. The only way to know, in practice, as to what will happen is to try. And while I agree there are a lot of signposts, they are not in your face. –  Dave Jarvis Dec 16 '10 at 17:18
    
@Dave Jarvis: Yes, it's a conjecture. On the other hand, the EULA for low-rep users is very much in-your-face; maybe the users could take heed when it's templated for them. Hmmm... –  Piskvor Dec 17 '10 at 10:40
    
@Piskvor: People read EULAs? ;-) –  Dave Jarvis Dec 17 '10 at 14:19
    
@Dave Jarvis: My point exactly. –  Piskvor Dec 17 '10 at 14:22
    
@Piskvor: An EULA and text within your editor are two different contexts. (1) You would have to type around the template text. (2) People habitually accept EULAs without reading. (3) The EULA is longer than 10 very short lines (i.e., you can read the "instructions" at a glance). (4) People are as used to "filling out forms" as they are accepting EULAs without reading. (5) It would not hurt to try, in practice. –  Dave Jarvis Dec 17 '10 at 14:35
    
@Dave Jarvis: Sounds reasonable to me - let's see if it gets some traction here. –  Piskvor Dec 17 '10 at 14:41

Without some more information about what you are talking about it is difficult to give any type of logical response.

Two points:

  • I have no idea at all what this "template" you are talking about should mean. Are you implying that every tag should be made in a certain way, or that every question tagged a certain way should try and fill these required fields?

  • If it is the latter, what you just described as "examples" are probably something that every user thinks about putting in their question. Those aren't just regex examples.

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I wouldn't make it too strict, this is a low-friction site. I agree that there is some info which is simply essential, but making a Q/A catalogue for every tag is error-prone and maintenance heavy, and also some question may simply not apply, for example when discussing performance of an already working regex, the expected outputs are not really neccessary as it's obvious from the already working regex.

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I agree to some point. Maybe the templates would be an extra, just to give people a hand if they need one? –  iElectric Aug 24 '09 at 11:27
    
Giving them a hand is what comments are there for? –  Diago Aug 24 '09 at 11:32
    
I think the problem with comments is that they are a reaction after the question has already been asked, and many people seem to prefer downvoting and closing to commenting and being helpful. So it would make sense to somehow state what should be in the question but a) people don't read and b) that would clutter up the UI. Not sure if there is any good solution to that. –  Michael Stum Aug 24 '09 at 11:48
    
Hmm, I'm sure there is a way to make it transparent. Let me explain how I imagined this: When user would enter tags, JS would populate select form tag with associated templates. User would choose freely which one to use (or none). Ofcourse, if there was any text already in body of the message, user would be warned. I see some of you are suggesting this is not customer service. Reason for having templates would be to improve questions, as it has been already stated. –  iElectric Aug 25 '09 at 8:33

I was almost about to post a very similar suggestion when I found this!

A very good example of where templating or tag based suggestions, prior to the question being asked, will be handy is when people request help with HTML/CSS Layouts and provide very little or no links to a prototype. The best resource here is an image that provides an expected layout.

I believe this can be achieved by a combination of tag sensing and text sniffing, heavily influenced by successful previous questions.

Actually, even suggestions that say something like "Hey, last time someone asked a successful question like yours, they provided us with blah blah blah!"

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1  
What if I know what I'm doing and want to ask a question with a different format than someone else who asked a similar question? Would there be a way to get around the prompt? And if there were, do you really think that people would pay it any attention? –  Cody Gray Mar 9 '12 at 18:22
    
I expect it to be an unobtrusive suggestion, so someone who knows what he/she is doing could just go ahead. If you observe, the majority of the questions that qualify for the above suggestion, are posted by newbies, either to the site or the topic at hand. –  bPratik Mar 9 '12 at 18:26
    
Now look at the larger picture, if this sort of rudimentary AI is put in place, given some time, SO will have a very powerful dataset that could potentially be used to enforce/assist with better templating. –  bPratik Mar 9 '12 at 18:27

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