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What options are available to new and existing users to promote an old question asked by someone else that may have fallen out of date, needs update, or it's two years old and I want to know if there is anything new?

This is an extension of How to get attention for your old unanswered questions because many of these questions may be answered and you are not the original asker. It also doesn't read like a very good, clean FAQ question.


Backgrounder: Between a little discussion on the Super User chat room and the notes on closing exact duplicates on Super User I figured it would be good to show an example of a possible duplicate question.

The idea is to make an example of a duplicate question that has legs on it's own to add to the FAQ and update an old question with new information.

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2  
A related discussion, less about bringing up to date but about attention on already-asked questions all the same: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/54329/… –  Grace Note Aug 10 '10 at 15:22

2 Answers 2

Keeping in mind the intent of the original author, here are some things to attempt. Some of the pieces of advice may not apply if you are editing a question written by someone else.

  1. Try To Be Clearer
  2. Try To Be Shorter
  3. Update Based on Community Input
  4. Do Extra Research, Help Solve It Yourself!
  5. Add A Bounty

Important Note: Every edit bumps you to the top of the active list, so each time you go through one of these steps, it will add a little extra exposure.

1. Try To Be Clearer

Most questions already make sense to you, because you have been struggling with it for a while. No one else out there has. Try to rewrite the question with that in mind.

Make sure your question has all of the following:

  • A clear and specific title.
    Does the title (without anything else) accurately describe the general problem you are having?

  • A quick summary to start off.
    The title should be general enough to attract the correct experts, the summary should be specific enough to detail what the problem is.

  • Relevant code samples
    Do not put all of the code. Start with the section (or line) that is causing the problem, try to include anything that is called as part of it or immediately before. Edit out ANYTHING that is not called or irrelevant.

  • The specific error message
    Critical that the actual error message is specified (if available). Never say "There is an error" say "This is the error: [insert error message here]"

  • Contextual details What operating system, what language, what version, what else is running concurrently? Does this exist on all environments or just one? What restraints exist?

2. Try To Be Shorter

If the question is very short, then it may be too short. GOTO STEP 1
If you have already gone through step one, then it is likely far too long. Users do not like to read more than they have to, so always trim questions to only the important information.

Key items to remove.

  • Too much context.
    If there is a lot of text describing the project in general, it may not be necessary.

  • Too much code.
    If there are more than 20 lines (it varies) necessary usually it means that you have not tracked down the problem to a specific enough point. See if you can do some work on your end to narrow it down. If it is not your original question, make sure to run any code provided, to ensure that your problems are actually the same.

  • Too many logs.
    Although it is great to post the specific error message, it is not necessary to post an entire log. If this goes over 10 lines, it is almost certainly too much.

3. Update Based on Community Input

If the question is not yours, this step may not be appropriate or possible.

If a question is specific, precise and concise. It should get answered if possible, however sometimes you may have missed providing some important information.

  • Detail what you have tried
    Sometimes it is not clear what you have already tried and the results of it. Usually this is something you can add as a comment on an unhelpful answer that may have been provided.

  • Add requested information
    Often users will add comments stating that they cannot answer your question for some reason. Try to edit your question to include (keeping step 1 and step 2 in mind) those extra details.

  • Respond with "@commenter" syntax
    When you say "@devinb" to one of my comments, it will notify me that you have responded to my concern. This will help show the user that you are engaged in the question and are actively trying to work it out with them.

4. Do Extra Research, Help Solve It Yourself!

It is possible that after engaging the users on the question, you discover that not only was some information missing in the question, you don't have it yourself. Try to find out more about the problem to solve it yourself.

  • Websearch Just One More Time
    Try it with different words, try typing the keywords backwards, try crossing your fingers. See if anything new turns up. If it does, edit it into the question.

  • Run The App Just One More Time
    Check your variables, check your stack and heap, stagger your debug statements. Try and shake it up a little. If you find anything new, edit it into your question.

  • Try The Suggestions
    Even if you know they won't work, they might change the problem into something that you are more familiar with, or you can get more information about.

  • Sleep On It*
    Hey, the problem could just go away... right? :)
    *Please don't sleep at work

5. Add A Bounty

Every Bounty'd question enjoys the following perks:

  • having a dedicated tab on the homepage
  • a visual marker that distinguishes them from every other question
  • a potential reputation award for every new answer
  • getting bumped to the homepage at the time the bounty is set

Edit:
This link has some advice for helping non-native speakers that has some considerations for re-writing your own posts as well.

This link contains a short version of what is written here.

This link contains additional advice relating to keeping your questions interesting so that users will want to find the answer for themselves.

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Maybe it's just me, but this answer feels like it's primarily guided towards bringing attention to your own questions, while the question is about those that you didn't ask. There are some overlaps, especially parts 4 and 5, but are you strongly suggesting that we should actually lay siege and conquer an earlier-asked question by changing its title and post body to reflect your own updates? –  Grace Note Aug 10 '10 at 16:37
    
@Grace Turns out that I didn't focus on the question very well (Chelion and I were talking about it on Meta ahead of time), but basically, 3 is the only one you can't really do. 1 and 2 are still valid, because if you are trying to get attention for an old question, then improving it would be a great way to start. –  devinb Aug 10 '10 at 17:05
    
@Grace, I've edited it a bit to focus on the fact that you don't have to own the question. –  devinb Aug 10 '10 at 17:13
    
Much better. I agree that making questions clearer and shorter is a good idea even on other people's questions, but it's important to make sure you don't make it look like a hostile takeover. –  Grace Note Aug 10 '10 at 17:27

My take on the question:

The accepted answer in your linked question is a good start - you can so long as you have at least 100 reputation offer a bounty on an existing question (even if it has an accepted answer). This is new as of June 2010.

Additionally you can add comments to the original question, or even some of the answers seeing if you can get them to clarify their answers to also answer your variation of the question.

The other option that is an example here is to make the duplicate question, explicitly showing you've done the due diligence of actually reading the original question and showing how and/or why it doesn't work. Saying how the original question doesn't answer your specific related question is good, complaining about the formatting and such is most likely not a good reason to make a duplicate question.

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