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Often it's not possible to provide an answer to a question without discussing it first, and Stack Overflow doesn't have any way of doing that.

Is there something I'm missing here?

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"Often"? Do you have an example of a question (or several) that cannot be answered without an extensive discussion?

Usually if more information is needed, people leave a comment for the OP and the question is edited to include the extra information.

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I'm guessing that the OP doesn't have enough rep to comment. – Belinda Apr 5 '11 at 14:20
@Belinda they can always comment in their own questions – Pëkka Apr 5 '11 at 14:20
@Belinda Good point. At least they can still comment on their own questions and answers to their questions until they have enough rep to leave comments on any post. – Adam Lear Apr 5 '11 at 14:21
@Belinda - I've just checked and in this case the OP does have just enough. – ChrisF Apr 5 '11 at 14:21
@Pekka - but the OP talks about providing an answer, so that rule doesn't apply – ChrisF Apr 5 '11 at 14:21
One of my questions, for example: – mtk358 Apr 5 '11 at 14:42

Questions that require "discussing it first" are actually discouraged by this type of Q&A. That puts a lot of responsibility on the author to ask a clear and concise question that doesn't need followup. But for those times they miss the mark, we provide features to ask for quick clarifications (comments) and an outlet for out-of-band, on-going discussions (chat). Access to those features is limited to users who earned just a bit of reputation — showing that they have at least tried out the system to see why we don't just jump into these sorts of "conversations" that are common on other forums.

Stack Overflow isn't really a discussion forum. Questions that require on-going debate or back-and-forth followup aren't really well-suited to this type of Q&A system.

We know that and it is by design.

The premise of a Q&A system like this is that you can ask a clearly-stated, specific question which will receive an authoritative answer… and those that come after will need little effort to find it. That gives the site a lot of longevity because the content highly relevant and continues to solves people's problems.

Compare that to, say, a traditional forum which supports and encourages extensive, back-and-forth, threaded participation. This type of "social questioning" allows everyone to contribute their piece of the conversation, growing boundlessly until the topic has completely exhausted all possible interest from the participants.

But along the way, the information — the solution to the original problem — gets lost in all the noise and conversation. Even the questions themselves start to degrade as people become entertained in the discussion process and chat becomes disguised as questions posed just for entertainment.

That's why we avoid facilities that allow these type of discussions… and forgo the types of "social questions" that require it.

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