Triggered by Handling creeping questions.

When a question morphs into something different, a "Create followup question" link would open a new question and copy the original question's tags (and optionally content).

The new and original questions would be linked, similar to duplicate question links.

This provides normalized ways for trails of questions which are inappropriate in a single question, or for when a question morphs so much that existing answers are no longer relevant. Followup questions could be asked by the original asker, a user (with enough rep?), from a comment, or...

If a non-asker creates the followup the OP would be notified. Not sure about notifying OP respondents.

This would also provide a way for people to track the genesis of a solution, or to track back and forth if they're in a different stage of the same process.

Robert raises an important point–we can already insert links to/from OP/NP. This is occasionally done. The feature request is for a normalization/officialization of that process–to make it easier to connect narratives that should be connected. Other than providing a "de-followup" action I'm not sure how to police this functionality to avoid misuse/abuse yet.

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    It could (in some way) incorporate some features of the original as well to make life easier for the OP - eg automatically including tags. – Jon Egerton Aug 16 '12 at 16:30
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    I feel like this feature would be extremely confusing to new users and easily misunderstood. – gobernador Aug 16 '12 at 17:47
  • @gobernador How so, and how could it be improved? By hiding it until you had a certain rep, or...? – Dave Newton Aug 16 '12 at 17:51
  • @DaveNewton Well, by mis-used the first thing that comes to mind is a user post a "follow up" question to just some random question when they should have just started a brand new question. – Servy Aug 16 '12 at 17:54
  • I don't think that hiding it until you had a certain rep level would be a good thing, because I feel like it would most benefit inexperienced users. – gobernador Aug 16 '12 at 17:54
  • @gobernador What are some potential solutions, then, if it's most confusing to those it would benefit most? – Dave Newton Aug 16 '12 at 17:58
  • @Dave Honestly, I don't know. Your idea has merit, due to the iterative nature of problem-solving as you say, but I don't have a solution, only a concern. – gobernador Aug 16 '12 at 18:02
  • "Not sure about notifying OP respondents." >> Nobody should have any right to notify any other user about a new question other than the user himself. Comments are already abused as a mechanism for simply getting somebody's attention; having automatic notifications would actually encourage that type of abuse. So no, absolutely freaking not, just because I answered somebody's question does not mean I have a duty to answer or even look at their follow-up questions; I did them one favour already. – Aarobot Aug 16 '12 at 23:08
  • @Aarobot I'm almost positive nobody believes you have a duty to answer or look at follow-up questions, but you sure seem mad. – Dave Newton Aug 17 '12 at 13:50
  • The original comment that I replied to appears to have been deleted, but if I seem mad, it's only because I've been involved in these drawn-out threads before and can say with certainty that almost nobody, under any circumstances, would want to be notified about the follow-up questions; after a few rounds of this fix-it-for-me-I'm-helpless game, most people just want out. – Aarobot Aug 18 '12 at 2:28
  • @Aarobot Oh, I thought you were quoting the question, since that's what I said in the question. Being involved in a long, drawn-out thread implies you participated--that's voluntary, AFAIK :) – Dave Newton Aug 18 '12 at 2:30
  • Sure, I participated, but it wasn't long and drawn-out when I started participating. It starts out as simply answering a question, then politely responding to a few quick follow-up comments, and eventually devolves into unpaid consulting services. That is, in my not inconsiderable experience, about the time when a follow-up question is most likely to be created - and not coincidentally the time when those helping with the original problem are least likely to want to continue the thread. – Aarobot Aug 18 '12 at 2:37
  • @Aarobot I guess I'd just say "don't continue it" then. IMO setting expectations is part of public discourse on a forum. I'm not fundamentally disagreeing with your concern, I just don't care about it ;) – Dave Newton Aug 18 '12 at 2:39
  • WTF? I don't continue it, that's the whole point. Sending notifications about "follow-up" questions is telling them that they should continue it, creating noise in their inbox about questions and users they want nothing to do with anymore. Even manual notifications (where some user replies to an old answer of mine and writes "could you come answer my other question [link]") are seriously annoying; automatic notifications would most definitely turn people off of the site. – Aarobot Aug 18 '12 at 15:14
  • Simply, the ability to choose which questions to answer, and not be bothered about the ones they don't, is one of the principal reasons that good contributors don't burn out within a few weeks. And even then, as I mentioned above, there are avenues for abuse. Participation is voluntary, the system doesn't send notifications for things that users aren't reasonably expected to be interested in; if I'm still interested in the subject and following the site/tags, I'll see the follow up question anyway. If not, then I'm not interested. – Aarobot Aug 18 '12 at 15:18

I'm not sure we want to encourage this.

I've seen community members who post a long string of simple questions that really would be better served by a book or tutorial. They do this quite readily, without any prompting from a "follow-up" mechanism.

I'd prefer to ease the rules a bit so that people could post comprehensive answers to questions of a more general nature (as opposed to questions of a highly-localized troubleshooting nature), but the community seems so allergic to this type of contribution that I doubt it will ever get any traction.

Regardless, I think that posting strings of questions, whether they are related by some mechanism or not, is contrary to the current Stack Overflow ethos of "What have you tried," and "Show us the work you've done so far." Instead of solving the problem one time via a comprehensive, well thought-out answer, it's death by a thousand pinpricks.

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  • The nature of problem-solving is iterative, and solving one problem often leads to another, not-necessarily-related one. I don't think answers here lead themselves to comprehensive, all-encompassing answers, because solution to larger problems diverge very quickly, at least in the tags I tend to be in. I'm sympathetic to pinpricks, I'm just not sure the options are better (questions that completely change meaning, relying on manual linking, etc.) – Dave Newton Aug 16 '12 at 18:01
  • But why do you need a new mechanism for this? What would you gain that isn't already adequately served by links provided by the OP? In fact, this is precisely what you accomplished by the link you provided in your question here. – user102937 Aug 16 '12 at 18:02
  • I don't think that this will be a problem. We already have the 6-per-day restriction, so the worst you'll get is 6 of them from a particular user. The main benefit of this question is that the follow-ups will automatically have a link to the prior question. Thus a clear chain can be determined. – Nicol Bolas Aug 16 '12 at 18:03
  • @RobertHarvey Because manual processes don't tend to work. I'm not sure how the feature would be policed to avoid inappropriate use yet other than providing a "Nuh-uh" action for people with edit access or something. – Dave Newton Aug 16 '12 at 18:04
  • I don't think we should discourage features that could be quite useful, just because they could be mis-used by help vampires and such. – Adam Rackis Aug 16 '12 at 18:18
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    @AdamRackis: The possibility of abuse always has to be considered. Were that not the case, we would have no need for rate limits and Captchas. – user102937 Aug 16 '12 at 18:20
  • Rate limits and captchas are a great way to limit abuse. They keep the features, and just (try to) make sure they're not abused. – Adam Rackis Aug 16 '12 at 18:21

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