This is something I wish SO had.

On some SO questions, they clearly get quite long and figuring out the different attempts can be tricky. Many people can be wrong, old bugs can be fixed in a framework (this has happened so many times to me esp when googling an error message), people can talk about tangential issues, and discursive questions can really eat up a lot of time esp if the sol'n is simple.

HOWEVER, often the fix is embedded in this. This phenomena is compounded by popular questions becoming more popular via google search. Would it make sense to have a summary version at the top? Say, it takes 3 minutes to read and a couple of minutes to think about and a question gets 500 views, that would be saving several hours of usable time. Perhaps, a summary is only valid after an answer has been accepted?

  • 4
    tl;dr. Please summarize your question. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:19
  • it's a feature request not a question
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:23
  • 2
    Can you elaborate a little bit more on how this summary comes to be? Who writes it? The OP? Other users? Also what deems a post "worthy" of a TLDR version? Where's the cut off?
    – Lix
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:23
  • Provide specific examples, please.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:27
  • I would think any person could write it / update it - maybe put some view requirement of like 100 or so? It would be great if it could autoparse issues (spec github issues) and store them (and possibly point to other SO questions). I think the best metaphor is an scientific article abstract.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:28
  • here's an example: stackoverflow.com/questions/3033421/… legitimate question, but TLDR but 2k+ views, summary is in order
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:30
  • Question title is the summary. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:33
  • that's a title not a summary of answers or correct answer
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:33
  • Don't edit answers into the question. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:35
  • 2
    Part of writing a good question is tailoring it to your audience. Each user should take care to write summaries when they are needed and if they don't you are free to express you opinion by (1) not bother ing to read it and help them or (2) downvoting if you feel the question is that bad. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:40
  • thx @dmckee what you're saying makes sense. However, you don't control your audience. Your first point is the user behavior (effect from cause). That's why in question I said often times there is the correct answer embedded at a alter point. I think downvoting has a lot of shortcoming (as can be seen by this question perhaps lol). In practice, I rarely people summarize both questions and answers.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:45
  • My take on this: TL;DR is redundant. Write it well and fluidly and there is no issue. Too verbose is too verbose with or without summaries. The site generates a neat "short version" from the opening text on lists of questions/answers if you give it half a chance.
    – Flexo
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Why complicate stuff? Users are free to add a TL;DR section if they wish. Forcing them to do so seems counterproductive, both for questions and answers.

For questions, it's really the asker's job to be clear. It's their question, and they should know that writing a better question will get better answers.

For both questions and answers, this may put people off from posting.

  • i never said force. I actually hardly ever see a TLDR version. Actually I think it would be quite productive - time saved is better spent doing other things. A model very succesful in academic literature
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:32
  • @timpone so, you're not forcing. Then what new feature is there? People can already add TLDR sections. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:48
  • in practice, people don't summarize. The new feature is an over time summary. One example is answers being outdated or functions being deprecated. If I searched on google for 'how to present a modal view controller in iOS', there would be answers that Apple has deprecated. Or a pull request has already been made. In practice, that information isn't made obvious.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 19:53
  • @timpone I repeat, what new feature are you proposing ? Please clarify your question. Initially I thought it was "force people to write a tldr", but that's not it Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:06
  • you currently have a questions, answers, and comments. You could add a summary at the top that would summarize both the question, the intended audience, whether the question is outdated, and other relevant information for a user who probably would come in from google. This would allow thigns like a listing of highly voted questions that also have an articulate summary listing that could be gleaned much quicker than currently.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:09
  • @timpone people can already do that using section headers. What's the point of a programmatically separate section? Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:11
  • i've actually never seen anyone summarize or put at the top that an issue was closed or specify what the inteneded audience should be. Maybe some vague question like noob question which I've done. Also, since what currently exists is unstructured, you can't search against it. It's fine you don't like the idea - was just trying to suggest something that is used extremely commonly and effectively in other fields like law, medicine, and science for generations.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:15
  • @timpone Not that I don't like the idea, I don't see an idea here in the first place. I see little to no difference between having a separate TLDR box and just using section headers. A better idea would be to have a little red box appear advising the user to add a TLDR section if their post is too long. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:21
  • well, that's certainly true regarding the TLDR. In languages like Ruby, it's often hard to keep up with changes. Sorry just tired of this and have to visit friend.
    – timpone
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 20:51

Here's what I think.

You don't have to read every question ever.

Yes I know, that's strange and we all want to be willing to help but unfortunately we can't always do that. There are loads of questions in SE that go unanswered and that's a shame but it's just another fact of life.

There are people who will be interested in reading those long questions and will end up answering them if they find the solution, however if you don't have the initial interest to read up on the details of the question chances are that you won't be able to show enough interest to answer it anyway and the tl;dr might end up being superfluous.

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