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And is there the potential for a debugging-specific style of question/conversation in the StackOverflow universe?

These things start out as questions, but many times end up as debugging sessions.

SQL Server select * from <table variable> hangs for small table

Lately I've been participating in a number of questions like this. It is useful for the questioner, but the comments are difficult to follow and repeated edits of original question can also be difficult to follow.

Any thought of a super-chat designed for back-and-forth debugging but attractive to people who want to ask "questions"?

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The OP got his question answered, so I closed it as "Too Localized." –  Robert Harvey Apr 7 '11 at 21:47
    
As far as the "Super-Chat" function is concerned, chat rooms are available for extended conversations. –  Robert Harvey Apr 7 '11 at 21:48
    
@Robert Harvey - What I meant by super-char was a chatroom that was actually linked in to the SO question. Perhaps there could be something to encourage a room to be created and attached to the question once it gets to be chatty and show prominently on the question that the question resulted in a chat session - the upshot of the chat session would need to be posted as the answer. –  Cade Roux Apr 7 '11 at 22:48
    
that was actually implemented when chat started out (can't be bothered to look for a link for that now), but it wasn't ever used much, so it died a natural death. –  Benjol Apr 8 '11 at 11:23

1 Answer 1

I think Q&A and chat make a nice complement, provided users (both askers and answerers) are disciplined. I don't see what you think is missing and would be solved by a “super-chat”. Here's a good scenario:

  1. Asker asks a troubleshooting question.
  2. Someone comments that this is likely to take a lot of back and force and invites the asker to chat (with a link to a specific chat room, either existing or specifically created depending on the usage in your sub-community).
  3. Some discussion happens on the chat.
  4. The asker updates the question with extra information that he now knows is relevant, and with a link to the chat transcript.

    Here's more information, following <link to chat transcript>. Uninstalling and reinstalling the program didn't help. Moving /path/to/file out of the way did solve the problem, but I lost my configuration. …

  5. People post answers based on that extra information, perhaps summarizing the troubleshooting methodology as well.

Step 4 is very important. A troubleshooting question has two purposes: solving the problem, and teach the asker how to solve this type of problem. In order for the question and answers page to be useful to future visitors, the methodology must be apparent there.

Of course, participating in a troubleshooting session may be more energy than you're willing to spend. Reasonable troubleshooting questions should not be closed as long as the asker sticks around to provide more information upon request. But if noone is willing to spend the energy, askers must be prepared to accept a partial solution, turning “solve my problem” into “what's the first step to resolve this problem”.

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I've yet to see 3 happen. –  Cade Roux Apr 8 '11 at 1:09
    
@Cade: I've done it a couple of times (on Unix.SE). I think it's done occasionally on SU and Ubuntu as well. It's up to you as an answerer to propose. Obviously you only want to try with serious-looking askers, not the ask-and-run kind. –  Gilles Apr 8 '11 at 7:34
    
I guess what I'm asking is "what can be done to encourage use of chat as a tool to augment questions in an effective way when comments are getting unwieldy to follow across multiple answers on a troubleshooting question?" –  Cade Roux Apr 8 '11 at 15:29
    
@Cade: Encourage potential answerers to participate in the chat (by posting a comment on the question early on). You may meet some opposition because helping in the chat won't give them rep. So maybe this is viable only in gentler communities, not in the high-activity tags on SO. –  Gilles Apr 8 '11 at 22:00
    
@Cade: Also encourage askers to update their question when they're providing new information, rather than just commenting. Example: how to encourage people to use the chat is rather different from your original question, which is how to use chat efficiently. Please update your question to reflect how our conversation has modified your focus. –  Gilles Apr 8 '11 at 22:03

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