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If a "How to ask a good question" FAQ were to be compiled, what do people here think are the top issues that it should address?

On my list are: rudeness, vagueness, spelling and grammar.

Edit

Following Jon's answer - I am looking for what people should do, as well as what they shouldn't.

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3  
I very rarely see a rude question, and as for spelling, well I am actually quite a literate guy, but not such a great typist. And grammar is very much in the eye (ear?) of the beholder. –  nb69307 Aug 6 '10 at 23:15
    
I wonder how i rank in the how to ask question department. You think i may be good, but i could be awful stackoverflow.com/users/34537/acidzombie24 –  acidzombie24 Sep 23 '10 at 6:00
    
Grammar/spelling vary with region. en_GB, en_US, en_CA, en_AU, and whoever I missed have slightly different rules, so don't get too hung up on this if the post makes sense, and doesn't make your eyes bleed. –  Phil Lello Apr 30 '11 at 22:15
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6 Answers

up vote 36 down vote accepted
  • Not saying what you've already tried
  • Not giving any code samples
  • Giving code samples which don't actually reflect your failing code
  • Giving irrelevant or overly long code samples
  • Saying "it doesn't work" but not in what way
  • Saying "it throws an exception" but not stating the exception type or message
  • Writing contradictory questions in the body and title
  • Writing one question, and then commenting when that question is answered, "Oh, I meant [some other question]"
  • Not responding to requests for further information
  • Giving arbitrary restrictions without reasons for them (when those reasons may very well rule out other options too)
  • Failing to format code (even when it's blatantly obvious that it looks horrible)

However, I think just a list of things to avoid isn't the right approach. I once blogged on how to answer technical questions helpfully - I'd be happy to write a similar post on asking questions usefully, and for that to used as part of a FAQ entry, if that would help.

EDIT: I've now written that post: http://tinyurl.com/so-hints

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8  
No followup is, IMO, the top offender in questions. –  Paul Nathan Aug 6 '10 at 22:10
    
I would love to see you write up a similar post on asking questions. –  AnonJr Aug 7 '10 at 0:59
    
I'd suggest also: Asking how to do something awkward or impossible without saying what you're trying to accomplish. –  David Thornley Sep 8 '10 at 14:03
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Your suggestions +

  • plz send me the codez
  • not stating platform / framework versions in question
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I need it in 10 minutes!

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Even better: I need it in 10 minutes because then I'm off to my job interview. :) –  Pëkka Aug 6 '10 at 22:31
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@Pekka: ...or already at the job interview. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 6 '10 at 22:58
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Don't you hate it when people answer with nothing but links? :D Oh right, we're talking about bad questions, not bad answers...

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see also: codinghorror.com/blog/2006/06/… –  Jeff Atwood Aug 6 '10 at 23:47
    
+1 for XY Problem... too often it is the questioners own assumptions that are the root cause of their problem. –  Richard Aug 7 '10 at 9:37
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Not explaining what they actually want to achieve. Zero background information just slamming in a code sample that isn't working for them.

If people would explain what they want to achieve besides what is not working for them the answer could be of better quality, because maybe what they're doing is a (completely) wrong approach besides bad coding.

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As to what you should do, I'd is ask yourself this before posting a question:

"If you posted this request for information (and asking for information is a good thing to do) under your real name, would you want your boss and co-workers to read it and know that you posted it?"

But this is a commonplace about the internet, universally ignored.

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