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I think there is one "relatively simple" functionality that could be added to SO to assist in helping clarify vague questions, and that would not be experienced as "negative," or "punitive," by people (particularly newcomers to SO, or people for whom English is not their first language).

This suggestion would not "get in the way" of people who want to answer responding to questions immediately.


  1. Let SO users of some appropriate "rep" (or any user?) suggest/invite questioners to fill out an optional on-line Form in which there are a series of check-boxes, or options from drop-down lists, or whatever UI is appropriate: somehow get their choices back into the original question in a useful, terse way.

  2. In terms of the design and content of that optional on-line Form: well, I trust the creativity of the SO community, in which I am only a "larval" newcomer, could best envision that, and optimize it for maximum benefit.

Obvious things, for example in C#, I'd like to know (which are not revealed in many questions and which cannot be inferred from the question) are whether the question is in the context of WinForms, WPF, etc.

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That seems like an awful lot of work (both to build, and to use). From my experience, asking "Can you clarify?" in a comment typically gets the job done.

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@Jonathan I wish I could say that has been my experience, but it has not. But perhaps my experience reflects that I am focusing on answering, in general, newcomers ? – BillW Feb 27 '10 at 10:24
@BillW it seems to fail in two way: 1) users who never respond to the comments at all and 2) users who can't actually state what their problem is. You suggestion might help some of the second kind, but I am given to doubting it. – dmckee Feb 27 '10 at 14:31

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