The problem I'm seeing in some questions is just not enough info.

One of the solutions would be to associate templates with tags, or some other kind of requirements.

Good example to this is regex:

Q: What platform/tool/programming language are you using?

Q: What are expected input(s)?

Q: What are expected output(s)?

Q: What is your best regex shot?

  • 12
    Ironically, I don't understand what you're suggesting.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:22
  • @balpha: Well at least I don't feel as if I'm just being dense today.
    – TheTXI
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:24
  • I'm saying that people do not always give enough information about the topic. And judged by the tags they choose, site would offer an template(like google code's one) to ease providing all information needed.
    – iElectric
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:26
  • Do you want to improve the tags or the body of the question? Puzzled Aug 24, 2009 at 11:28
  • 1
    Are you really suggesting that all regex questions can reasonably be put into your example template? I highly doubt that.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:29
  • When user would specify tags, site would offer him pre-defined templates for body of the question. Does that clarify things?
    – iElectric
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:30
  • It would be a feature, not a necessity.
    – iElectric
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:31
  • Could you draw an image to illustrate it? Aug 24, 2009 at 11:33
  • 2
    Needs more freehand-drawn circles.
    – TheTXI
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:34
  • A lot more, TheTXI! According to the upvotes yet... Aug 24, 2009 at 11:42
  • 9
    "Hello, and welcome to Stack Overflow! You have chosen to ask a [regex] question. If you need a regex for a specific purpose: Press one. If you want to know why your regex does not work: Press two. If you want to know why your regex does work: Press three. If you need assistance in parsing a turing-complete language with a one-line regex: Press four. Otherwise, please stay on the line, and we will connect you to the next available Perl guru. Thank you for choosing Stack Overflow."
    – balpha StaffMod
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:49

5 Answers 5


You could always gently prod the asker by commenting on their question and hopefully they will edit to include the information.

This will help them become a better asker when they get so fed up with the same comments asking them to provide more information.

But really, if they put all that information in in the first place, people wouldn't be bugging them about it would they?


Would it be beneficial to include a predefined set of headers in the question text area that prompt new users (under 100 rep) of the basic information required to solve most programming problems?

Many questions on SO, asked by new users, are essentially:

Help! My family cat died, but the problem is that I am trying to write fizz buzz with AmazingLanguage and it doesn't work. Please help me! KThxBye.

Everyone knows that this question is impossible to answer. And so SO users reply with:

Show me the code.

I propose the following as a template for new users:


Describe what you want to do.

Source Code

Paste what you have developed; type CTRL-k to format selected code.


Paste error messages here, or describe the errors.


How have you tried to fix the problem yourself?


What would you like to know?

The format I use on tex.stackexchange.com is quite similar:


Describe what I am trying to do.


Describe the difficultly I encountered; show the code.


Post related links.


Ask how to resolve the problem, or different approaches.

  • While the template may be useful, I'd say there's enough signposts around this place already - I guess we'd get this: Problem: My family cat died; Source code: I dunno lol; Errors: plz help!!!; Question: My family cat died, but the problem is that I am trying to write fizz buzz with AmazingLanguage and it doesn't work. If the user has successfully managed to ignore all the clues that already exist, another signpost isn't going to help much (after all, some users are incapable of reading anything which is not directed at them specifically). Dec 16, 2010 at 16:33
  • @Piskvor: Conjecture. The only way to know, in practice, as to what will happen is to try. And while I agree there are a lot of signposts, they are not in your face. Dec 16, 2010 at 17:18
  • @Dave Jarvis: Yes, it's a conjecture. On the other hand, the EULA for low-rep users is very much in-your-face; maybe the users could take heed when it's templated for them. Hmmm... Dec 17, 2010 at 10:40
  • @Piskvor: People read EULAs? ;-) Dec 17, 2010 at 14:19
  • @Dave Jarvis: My point exactly. Dec 17, 2010 at 14:22
  • @Piskvor: An EULA and text within your editor are two different contexts. (1) You would have to type around the template text. (2) People habitually accept EULAs without reading. (3) The EULA is longer than 10 very short lines (i.e., you can read the "instructions" at a glance). (4) People are as used to "filling out forms" as they are accepting EULAs without reading. (5) It would not hurt to try, in practice. Dec 17, 2010 at 14:35
  • @Dave Jarvis: Sounds reasonable to me - let's see if it gets some traction here. Dec 17, 2010 at 14:41

I wouldn't make it too strict, this is a low-friction site. I agree that there is some info which is simply essential, but making a Q/A catalogue for every tag is error-prone and maintenance heavy, and also some question may simply not apply, for example when discussing performance of an already working regex, the expected outputs are not really neccessary as it's obvious from the already working regex.

  • I agree to some point. Maybe the templates would be an extra, just to give people a hand if they need one?
    – iElectric
    Aug 24, 2009 at 11:27
  • Giving them a hand is what comments are there for? Aug 24, 2009 at 11:32
  • I think the problem with comments is that they are a reaction after the question has already been asked, and many people seem to prefer downvoting and closing to commenting and being helpful. So it would make sense to somehow state what should be in the question but a) people don't read and b) that would clutter up the UI. Not sure if there is any good solution to that. Aug 24, 2009 at 11:48
  • Hmm, I'm sure there is a way to make it transparent. Let me explain how I imagined this: When user would enter tags, JS would populate select form tag with associated templates. User would choose freely which one to use (or none). Ofcourse, if there was any text already in body of the message, user would be warned. I see some of you are suggesting this is not customer service. Reason for having templates would be to improve questions, as it has been already stated.
    – iElectric
    Aug 25, 2009 at 8:33

Without some more information about what you are talking about it is difficult to give any type of logical response.

Two points:

  • I have no idea at all what this "template" you are talking about should mean. Are you implying that every tag should be made in a certain way, or that every question tagged a certain way should try and fill these required fields?

  • If it is the latter, what you just described as "examples" are probably something that every user thinks about putting in their question. Those aren't just regex examples.


I was almost about to post a very similar suggestion when I found this!

A very good example of where templating or tag based suggestions, prior to the question being asked, will be handy is when people request help with HTML/CSS Layouts and provide very little or no links to a prototype. The best resource here is an image that provides an expected layout.

I believe this can be achieved by a combination of tag sensing and text sniffing, heavily influenced by successful previous questions.

Actually, even suggestions that say something like "Hey, last time someone asked a successful question like yours, they provided us with blah blah blah!"

  • 1
    What if I know what I'm doing and want to ask a question with a different format than someone else who asked a similar question? Would there be a way to get around the prompt? And if there were, do you really think that people would pay it any attention? Mar 9, 2012 at 18:22
  • I expect it to be an unobtrusive suggestion, so someone who knows what he/she is doing could just go ahead. If you observe, the majority of the questions that qualify for the above suggestion, are posted by newbies, either to the site or the topic at hand.
    – bPratik
    Mar 9, 2012 at 18:26
  • Now look at the larger picture, if this sort of rudimentary AI is put in place, given some time, SO will have a very powerful dataset that could potentially be used to enforce/assist with better templating.
    – bPratik
    Mar 9, 2012 at 18:27

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