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The way the askers write questions is a factor in determining how good the answers we get are.
Obviously, if you ask a clear, direct question it is easier for a someone to answer you. But, sometimes I've done that and my questions have still been overlooked. I've noticed some question-posting methods that aren't exactly obvious, but do help me get better answers.

Some tricks I've learned...

  1. Even if my question is very complicated, I try to write a short question. People get turned off by longer questions, probably because they think its not worth their time (relative to other questions with equal reputation potential). After I get some traffic and votes on my question, and maybe some comments like "Can you post the code?" or "Clarify this..." I might post more, but by then I am already getting attention to my question. So, in summary, even if I know the answer requires a long question, I don't make it long until I've already gotten people to look at it.

  2. I use more generic tags when possible. People are more likely to have c# and linq as a favorite tag, than MethodCallExpression, and I tend to get more views if I use at least one or two general purpose tags along with my more specific tags.

  3. I've noticed that if I give my question the performance tag, then SO heavy-weights like Marc Gravell, Jon Skeet and Eric Lippert are more likely to answer my question (especially if I use it in conjunction with a C# tag). Since having this realization, if I can think of a way to rephrase my question to sound like it is related to C# performance, I will word it as such and tag it accordingly.

  4. "Be polite. SO Users HATE when people be impatient, rude or impolite." - Benny

So,

Does anyone else have any tips for getting better answers and question-recognition on SO? I think it would be really helpful if everyone contributed their own observations and techniques here.

P.S. This question is probably too long.

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  • 2
    Agree with 1. First, people don't want to read a lot, but second I find it's even better to leave important information out, especially if it's obvious. This gives people a chance to point out "obvious things 1, 2, 3" and then you've got them hooked on the question.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 5:15
  • 7
    I have to disagree with Point 1. If I'm interested in a question, I read it, no matter how long it is. On the other hand, if important information is missing, I might leave a comment requesting it and then never come back (if not reminded via comment ping f.e.). And Point 3 sounds to me like you're trying to trick people into reading your question...that's a no-go in my opinion. But thumbs up for 2. Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 8:15
  • 4
    As @Bobby says already, be very careful with Point 3. That is guaranteed to end in tears sooner or later
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 9:05

8 Answers 8

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+50

These tips work for me

  1. Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

  2. Ask questions around 7:17AM UTC. There is a correlation between that time and floods of answers, especially from heavyweights.

    • Best time to post by Answer vote count
  3. Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

  4. The optimum phrasing of questions is within 3 and 4 paragraphs. If you go above or below, your success rate at good, precise, clear, concise answers decrease by the Bernoulli principle for every 1 paragraph less than 3 or every 2.3 paragraphs more than 4.

    • Answer quality by # of paragraphs
  5. Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

  6. From days of analyzing the public StackOverflow data dumps, the best questions will contain one of these words (stack, overflow, question)

    • Answer vote count by best 3 words to include
  7. Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

  8. Following on from 4, also after applying statistics at PhD level, each paragraph should keep to no less than 10 words, but absolutely no more than 40 words. If you include code blocks, try to reformat so that it fits on 6-8 lines. Scrolling code blocks is no good, so try to keep the code monospaced and loosely JUSTIFIED across 6-8 lines.

    • Optimum paragraph word count going by rule #4
  9. (lest I forget) Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you.

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  • 1
    I'm confused, what are the Bollinger bands representing here?
    – Tom
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 10:36
  • 3
    you forgot to label the axes, i think. Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 16:25
  • +1 for "Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you."
    – DavRob60
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 17:20
  • These are good tips for answering and commenting on questions and answers, but not on asking good questions in the first place...
    – user163250
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 6:00
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It's so simple, the tip to getting a good answer is to ask a good question :)

  1. Write your question in good English - to the best of your ability.
  2. Capitalize appropriately - especially "I". Non-capitalization makes my downvote finger twitch.
  3. Make a reasonable effort at solving your problem (as Sachin say), but also make a reasonable effort at expressing it clearly.
  4. Don't litter your question with extraneous noise. "Hello, my name is", "Thanks"
  5. Don't demand anything: "I need this real fast today!!"
  6. Make your title talk: potential answerers won't even click through to read your question if the title is too vague.

Actually, this is mostly tips for not getting your questions closed or downvoted, but that's the first step to getting good answers...

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  • 6
    +1 for "capitalize appropriately." Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 11:53
  • Isn't (1) a little harsh, not to mention subjective? Stack Overflow has an international audience, and sometimes non-native English speakers just have a hard time trying to express themselves in English clearly. Imagine if Stack Overflow were only in Cantonese, and you had to write questions using perfect Cantonese :/ Maybe the solution is to have more Stack Exchanges in other languages?
    – user163250
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 5:54
  • @Keoki, there is no mention of 'perfect' in my post. 'Good' English is English that communicates to people who understand English. If I can't understand your question, or if understanding it requires too much of my (unpaid) energy, you're unlikely to get an answer. That's not a value judgement, it's a fact.
    – Benjol
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 6:53
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I've written a long blog post about this very topic.

There's a "how to ask" page on Stack Overflow which is partly a condensed version of that blog post, too.

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  • note, we also link to your excellent blog post in that page :)
    – waffles
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 7:55
  • @waffles: Yes indeed - and thanks for the edit :) (I new "how to ask" was somewhere in the URL, but didn't quite get it right...)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 7:57
  • 2
    Can we have a 'FAO:John Skeet' tag please?
    – Tom
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 10:35
8

Number 1: Be polite. SO Users HATE when people be impatient, rude or not polite.

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I always try to supply sample code or a sample page (like jsfiddle) for them to view your current problem.

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In addition, you have to convince SO people that you have tried something before asking the question. One most important thing SO people hate is to give the complete code (do your work completely) to OP in a silver platter.

Eg question - "Write a code to store image in DB", for such questions you should have your sample code and explain if you are stuck somewhere. Do not ask for complete code.

Second thing is to make sure that your accept rate is always good (more than 80%) :)

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Be responsive, if you can answer questions in the comments as soon as they are posted you are more likely to get more response.

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Good answers are worth only if the question is good, like stated above many times. Even wizards need to read, from time to time, how to ask questions the smart way: http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

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  • I did not know about STFW before.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 17:11

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