Yesterday I posted a question about JavaScript on Stack Overflow. The question in my opinion was well formulated and right to the point. However, besides a couple of comments I haven't obtained an answer yet.

In the past, I asked other questions on different (and possibly more complicated) topics, and I received prompt and precise responses that solved all my issues and made me very happy.

What are the conscious and unconscious mechanisms underlying the interest of the Stack Overflow users in a question and trigger their answer?

  • 5
    Some good questions are just very difficult to answer and/or are not likely to get many upvotes because it is localized. Having a good accept rate and posting a bounty can give people more incentive to take the time to find the answer.
    – Vaughn Cato
    Nov 20 '12 at 14:51
  • looks like you've jumped the gun here... Nov 20 '12 at 15:42
  • 4
    Your question was kinda long, it had a lot of code, It requires a bit of effort to understand what the question is and you have a "it doesn't work with Chrome" statement. (always explain how it doesn't work). In general it's not a bad question, but it requires a bit of effort to answer Nov 20 '12 at 15:50
  • 2
    How to ask a smart question
    – gnat
    Nov 20 '12 at 15:57

The trick is to get readers to the point where they think to themselves:
"I can answer this"

The longer the question is, and the more complex the question is, the more likely people will just look at it and decide that they'd rather look for something else that's easier to answer.

Your question, although not a bad question, at least for me, didn't get the reader to the "I can answer this" stage very fast.

I think part of the reason for this is that your actual problem: "it doesn't work with Chrome" was below the fold, where people won't initially see it, and it wasn't exactly clear what "Doesn't work" meant.

Did It mean that the user can select multiple items? Is your onchange event even firing. do you have errors in your error console? etc.

To entice people to answer you question you want to:

  • Simply and clearly define your requirements and problem.
  • If your code is long or sensitive, include a SSCCE - Small Self-Contained Complete Example.
  • Always explain how "It doesn't work".
  • Include relevant information and code. Exclude irrelevant code(unless asked for)

In general, the more work it takes to get the reader to the point where they believe they can answer the question, the less likely that they'll do that work.

  • 7
    "It doesn't work" is basically meaningless. Always include the behavior you expect and the behavior you're getting, including the exact wording of any error messages that are occurring (we don't necessarily need the whole stack dump, just the actual error).
    – user102937
    Nov 20 '12 at 16:09
  • 6
    @RobertHarvey: The only thing less helpful than "it doesn't work" is "it didn't work", adding the implication that the unknown and unspecified problem may also be unreproducible. :]
    – McCannot
    Nov 20 '12 at 16:19

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