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This question is to help me (us) ask better questions of this community to encourage better working together.

What questions here bring out the best in you? I don't mean which are the best / most appropriate questions but which bring the best out of you? That is, it brings out your best thinking and most constructive behaviour.

Consider, for example, questions that make you think or that are asked in a certain way. Or consider specific a question should be.

Or more abstractly, questions asked on a certain day / time, ...

So I'm not necessarily asking about specific subjects but rather how a question is asked. What inspires you to drop everything and start answering?

This comes from my observing questions that get the highest points - "I’m graduating with a Computer Science degree, but I don’t feel like I know how to program." is very positive, but my first ever question caused a minor storm.

Ironically, I'm nervous posting this question so please don't attack if this is inappropriate.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com May 20 '10 at 12:28

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

    
Thanks for all the replies so far - I'll wait a bit (for other comments) and then attempt to produce a summary. –  Wikis May 21 '10 at 10:45

13 Answers 13

I like questions which are well written but surprise me on a topic I thought I knew well.

For example, if a C# question contains a short but complete program and ends with, "I expected the answer to be X for reason Y, but the result is Z. Can anyone explain this?" I'm likely to get involved pretty quickly... especially if I'd have predicted X too.

Basically, any question which sends me reaching for the spec (or an email to Eric Lippert) is good for me.

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Wait, you need to use other resources to answer questions? Is this the real Jon Skeet or has your account been compromised? ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 15:46
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@Josh: Sometimes half the answer is just knowing what to look for. Have you seen the C# spec? I doubt that even Eric Lippert knows the whole thing by heart! –  Aarobot May 20 '10 at 16:10
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@Josh He's messing with us. He doesn't use external resources. Occasionally, though, he asks Jon Skeet a question msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2009/03/24/… –  MarkJ May 20 '10 at 17:21
    
@MarkJ: Oh that is too funny. –  T.J. Crowder May 22 '10 at 10:29

I like questions that:

  • are on a topic I'm familiar with (hey, we all like to show off)
  • are really related to something the questioner is trying to do, trying to understand, etc. (homework is fine as long as the questioner is looking for help as opposed to a monkey to do their work for them)
  • show that the questioner has put in some effort to find the answer themselves (I hate questions where copying the title of the question into a Google search would result in an answer in the top five hits; I recognize that as my own little bugaboo)
  • are properly formatted
  • are written in something reasonably resembling English, recognizing this is a challenge for some questioners, but knowing that there are a lot of translation resources out there now
  • provide code examples if code-related
  • are asked when I happen to be the only person kicking around SO, so I have a reasonable chance of getting the answer in ;-)
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+1 for English! I wish more non-native English speakers used Babelfish or the like, too many incomprehensible questions on SO. –  rlb.usa May 20 '10 at 14:16

Strangely enough, I like complicated, obscure questions or questions that require a bit of back and forth with a detail-oriented and well spoken user. The kinds of questions where the asker describes the situation in detail, The answer suggests a few paths and requests more information, the question is edited, and the answer is updated with the final solution.

Easy, on topic and clear questions that don't require any back and forth are nice for gaining rep, but I enjoy working with people, and I like the satisfaction I get when helping someone solve a frustrating issue.

These kinds of questions seem to be more prevalent on SuperUser and ServerFault... but SO has it's fair share too.

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Simple, for me. I work hardest at questions that:

  • Show a decent understanding of the subject matter;
  • Address a problem that's generally important but hasn't already been solved;
  • Provide a real challenge beyond the monkeywork of troubleshooting (what "doesn't work!?")
  • Bounties also help, not just for the rep gain but also for the visibility.

Specifically, they usually take one of the following forms:

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I like the clear questions that come out of interest for the topic, not out of "I've been given this homework so I'll go ahead and copypaste it to stackoverflow without any comment or sign of progress on my behalf so the bored people of SO do it for me"

Just my 0.02 cent.

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Ugh, plz-send-meh-teh-codez . –  rlb.usa May 20 '10 at 14:17

I like questions on ASP.NET where someone wants to do something, but they have no idea what they are talking about. Usually other people who might potentially answer steer clear because of the question confusion incurred by the asker (they don't know what they are talking about).

Unfortunately, these aren't high-visibility questions, and earn meager reps of +0...+2 . And sometimes include long drawn out comment-help-sessions.

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Personally, I won't touch these with a 20-foot pole. Good on ya, it's relieving in a way to hear that some people actually like participating in these. –  Aarobot May 20 '10 at 14:09
    
I feel that everyone has to start somewhere. But when someone is way over their head like - "How do I build Wikipedia from scratch in two weeks? I don't know how to program." - I run away fast! –  rlb.usa May 20 '10 at 14:15

I've noticed my answers are the best when the question is clear and well-phrased. Most of the time, the person with the question just needs that one little hint, and then everything is beautiful again, apart from the hair pulling or cat skinning.

Also, posting example/pseudo code is a very useful tool to explain your intentions.

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I like clear, precise questions. It helps a lot if the asker shows that they have gone to some effort to look for an answer, though I don't consider this mandatory - sometimes you just need another person's insight to get the right Google terms. It doesn't matter whether they are low-level ("what does this funny error mean?") or high-level ("what sort of algorithm should I use for this problem?").

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+1 for clear and precise! When asker takes time asking, I feel compelled to spend more time answering. 8-] –  rlb.usa May 20 '10 at 14:08

I like the unrelated ones the best ;) Like this one when it popped out on SO.

Ok, seriously.

I like when author of the question expects me to drop in some link and say: "use this, I did."

And I like the crazy ones that You have to think something out (like one question I once answered about "captcha equivalent")

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I like questions where the asker experiences a WTF problem and I can come in say, "Oh, I had that problem too. It's crazy, right? Here's a solution/work-around."

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Any question about a language or framework or API that I'm currently studying. I may not always know the answer but the very act of researching the answer is valuable to learning.

Currently that makes XNA questions the ones that bring out the best in me

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I wouldn't exactly say I like them, but I certainly learn a lot from questions and answers that test my patience and (as my mother would say) "builds character!"

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

OK - here's my summary: it seems like the most common feature is questions that are:

  1. Clear
  2. Where the author has shown some effort to investigate themselves and
  3. Questions that really make you think.

The last one seemed, to me, to come back in almost every answer - that you like a real challenge.

Thanks for all the responses.

Please feel free to correct this summary or add your own comments!

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