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Sometimes, answers to the OP question can lead to

  • new questions, related or totally unrelated to the original question,
  • open discussions, just loosely related/unrelated to the original question.

I'd like to propose some options like

  • "branch into related question" (links back to original question)
  • "branch into unrelated question" (links back to original question)
  • "branch into discussion" (the original question is not so important anymore and the aim of this branched off discussion is not to answer the original question anymore)

By "discussion", I imagine more of the classic web discussion forum, where every reply gets appended at the end of the discussion list (so, up/down voting does not change the display order).

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4  
Stack Overflow is not a discussion board. –  Aarobot Jul 14 '10 at 14:53
2  
Your first point is easy, ask a new question starting with "Like this question" or "Similar to that question". The second one is just a new question (it does not need a backlink)...and discussions are not supposed to be here. –  Time Traveling Bobby Jul 14 '10 at 15:04

3 Answers 3

Stack Overflow isn't built to handle discussions, that's why you'll see people close questions that are discussion and aren't Q & A type questions.

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My question wasn't specific to Stack Overflow (where I agree there's no need for discussions), but it came up when I was browsing the proposed sites on Stack Exchange Area 51. Some topics (take Guitar for example) can start with a simple question, then people give answers, but at the same time discussions could arise. My feature request was to support broader discussions, but not clutter up the Q&A type of the system. –  ToastedSoul Jul 15 '10 at 7:07

There's two links on the page for asking a new question while you're looking at a question. Consequently, I think we work better in a manual solution to branching into a new question for two reasons. First off, if we wanted to have the link be independent of the question material, this is extra metadata to add to questions. Specifically, extra metadata that is already handled by adding links to the body of posts and comments. We don't really need to add any additional functionality for linking two questions since the current system is very seamless with it.

Subsequently, because the best utility of this system is by incorporation into the post body, this is something which is best done manually. The post body is meant to be written by a user, not a machine, so it should be up to the user to decide how to place the link and how to format it. You might want to incorporate it as a big header like the Possible Duplicate links (but obviously not pointing it as a duplicate, just a related question), or you might want to casually mention it in your question body. And sometimes you might not want to mention it at all, so the current system gives the greatest combination of both freedom and functionality for performing this. So making an automated process seems unnecessary and most importantly unwieldy.

George Stocker succinctly addresses discussions.

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  • "branch into related question" (links back to original question)
  • "branch into unrelated question" (links back to original question)
  • "branch into discussion" (the original question is not so important anymore and the aim of this branched off discussion is not to answer the original question anymore)

For your first two options, you can simply (and are encouraged) to create your own distinct question and link back to the first. As long as your question is fundamentally different from the previous question (has different focus and would generate different answers) then this is the kind of behaviour we want.

You should add a note: "This came about based on the answers to other question"

For the third option, it has already been noted that StackOverflow is not meant to be an area for discussion. The comments allow limited discussion, but the focus of the site is for concrete questions that have specific and actionable answers. This was purposefully designed in that manner so that StackOverflow could become an encylopedic source of knowledge, rather than becoming just a message board where people plastered it with their opinions and such.

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