As an active user on dba.stackexchange.com and gis.stackexchange.com I find some questions to be problematic (more often on GIS) because of the failure to provide sample data. On dba.stackexchange.com, it's normal to get some kind of text-representation of sample data. I would go so far as to say that it's driving me away from answering questions on gis.stackexchange.com, despite having a preference for spatial-questions.

It may be acceptable to ask questions without sample-data, but with the rarity of sample-data I wonder how much expertise is driven away from the answering side.

If others identify in the same fashion, perhaps we could ask Stack Exchange for some kind of indicator of when we have sample data or search qualifier

is:question has:data

I would be far more likely to read questions and stay active if that was possible.

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    How would people upload data? Do you propose StackExchange to host data uploads? Currently, users can upload sample data to cloud hosting sites, but it is the answer's risk to download these files to their own computers. Further, a lot of the data that people work with is confidential. I would never upload a client's data to this site. If I have to show an example, I create screenshots to make it vague. I think most of the questions on this site can be answered without the need to download sample data.
    – Fezter
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 23:43
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    That would be great too. Or, an external service like we do with pictures. Or, a box that one could check to demonstrate that the test case has sufficient data to actually demonstrate something. Commented May 7, 2017 at 23:50
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    Personally I'd prefer a screenshot or text explanation of the data concerned, and I'll create my own to test for answering. I have never and will never download data to test myself if it's provided (and many users do currently provide through services such as Google Drive, Dropbox etc). I have on occasion followed links but even those I don't often follow.
    – Midavalo
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 0:20
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    How does Database Administrators do what you are asking? If this is a feature request that is wider than GIS SE, or in any event, I think it is something that should be asked at Meta Stack Exchange because it is not implementable at our level.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 0:24
  • @Fezter I was looking for a Meta SE Q&A like that one without success
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 1:44
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    The second answer on the Meta Q&A that @Fezter posted sums it up quite well - StackOverflow is meant to be a knowledge exchange platform... not a place for troubleshooting "hey, dig through my source code. fix the problem for me" issues for free
    – Midavalo
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 2:40
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    @Midavalo. Are you suggesting that this site continue to aggressively close questions that do not provide a minimal complete example of the problem, and yet at the same time discourage posters from sharing data because "we don't want to dig through your stuff" ? This sounds like a recipe for boring questions answered by non-experts.
    – dbaston
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 12:57
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    @dbaston I am suggesting that we need the MCVE plus example data and explanation in the question itself, not a dataset I need to download. And this isn't a recipe for boring questions answered by non-experts, as it's how we've always done it so no change here. Downloads aren't often included, and the questions with MCVE generally get answered with good answers.
    – Midavalo
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 15:02
  • As a disclaimer, I'm answering PostGIS questions, not ESRI stuff. Simplistic datasets are always desirable. On Database Administrators the nature of the site is one such that questioners intuitively paste graphs, grids, or textual tables and at least half of them tell you their desired output. Here, we all too often get descriptions of geographies and datasets and it's almost as if what they desire is a pseudo-code query. This makes answering the problem very difficult. Commented May 8, 2017 at 17:01
  • I have set status-deferred to Meta Stack Exchange because this could only be implemented at that level rather than this per-site meta.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 21:51
  • Can you migrate to MSE? Commented May 10, 2017 at 22:11
  • I think that I should be able to.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


As you seem to have discovered, the GIS community, as a whole, is far less familiar with databases and programming than the communities of Database Administrators and Stack Overflow, and yet some of their requirements in those disciplines are very advanced.

It is for this reason that we invest a lot of our volunteered time into helping GIS SE users phrase clear questions by exercising upvotes, downvotes and close/re-open votes frequently.

I don't think you are asking for a mechanism to be able to upload data to GIS SE, but instead are wanting a way to "tag" a question as having suitable data described within it, so that a potential answerer does not have to use comments to try and obtain that before they can start answering. You then seem to want to use the search bar to find questions "tagged" that way.

This could be done using a tag, but it would be a meta-tag, and those are not encouraged on any SE sites.

Consequently, I would not expect to see that implemented within GIS SE, nor anything like a checkbox to be implemented SE-wide to indicate the presence of data within a question.

If you see a question that does not have what you need to start answering it, I recommend that you try and get it from the asker quickly by using comments, downvotes and (flags for) close votes to elicit it before you (and others) lose interest in answering their question.

When you have obtained the Cast Close and Re-open Votes privilege at 3,000 you will find it much easier to help users get their questions into answerable shape more quickly, more often, by only leaving them available for answering once they have the necessary data described, code attempted, etc.

That is how we can all help prevent or defer answerers' fatigue and burnout.

  • I agree with everything you have said, except that we should expect to see this implemented site-wide. Fundamentally, putting the burden on those answering questions is the wrong place for it. If the questioners need the functionality to upload data which is more important than pictures then they need that functionality. In lieu of having that functionality, those answering should get some indicator of the quality of question they're jumping into especially if they're using RSS feeds for notification (as I do). Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:47
  • @EvanCarroll for either of those feature requests you would need to ask at Meta Stack Exchange because they would need to be implemented network-wide. The limit of what we can do site-specific is pretty much a few custom close reasons and a few help pages.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 21:06

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