When asking for more information on a question or answer, it's not uncommon to see something along the lines of "Let me just use my crystal ball" or another such remark, to indicate that the person asking the question (which is the more common instance of this) or providing an answer needs to give more information or code because the question or answer simply does not give the information needed, probably skirting around important chunks of code.

Is there a better way to ask for more information? Perhaps a system could be implemented in which a viewing user can "request" more information, users who request more information are displayed on the question or answer as having done so and the user who asked or answered is notified. When the question or answer is updated, everyone who requested more information is notified as well.

  • For notification, click the star icon, you will get notified on any changes – YOU Apr 4 '11 at 2:13
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    @YOU Even disregarding that, clicking the star doesn't alert the person that they need to provide more information. – Cyclone Apr 4 '11 at 2:16

I would say no to this.

The reason is that I believe that more systems to be implemented mean a more complex environment, which in the end will be detrimental for the whole SO. New people will not understand it (even now, it is quite difficult to get it in the first week or so) and other users may be discouraged by the complexity.

As Anna said above before, the comment system works just fine to notify the person asking the question that more information is needed. That should be (and usually is) enough. If they don't come back to check the feedback, then what's the point of answering them anyway?

Now, concerning the detail: 'Is there a better way to ask for more information?', well yes there are many! Asking politely is one of them. Problem is, usually the sarcastic comment gets all the +1s...

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    Remember, this isn't a threaded forum, so answers may be ordered arbitrarily. There's no reason Anna's post would necessarily be above yours. – Gabe Apr 4 '11 at 5:34
  • @Gabe touche! Old habits ;) – Aleadam Apr 4 '11 at 14:09

I don't think a system like that is necessary. If a user is truly interested in an answer to their question, I imagine they'd be checking back to see if they got responses. At that point they should see comments left by others and act accordingly.

They are also notified (via the inbox) of comments made on their posts, so an additional system of notifications is not needed.

As for people who requested more info, they can either star the question if they really want to answer it... or they can just let someone else answer it once the question has been updated. Editing the question will put it back on the front page as if it were new, so it's not going to just fade away into obscurity. (Well, at least not right away, depending on the question.)


I agree with the original poster. Very often on most of the sub-forums, people ask questions that can not be answered without more information. They are real questions (not the "what do you think?" non-questions, that's different, and already flaggable), but are sorely lacking in information. And the first 2-3 comments are ALWAYS "post the source" or whatever.

Having a button that people can click that sends the original questioner a link to the FAQ or some helpful document that says "usually to answer questions, you need 'blah' in your question as well." That'd be custom to each sub-domain for stackoverflow.

I'm also not talking about specific questions where you need just a hint more information. I'm talking about people who say about a C++ problem "My class is leaking memory in this one function. Why is it doing that?" and post MAYBE where it's being used, but nothing else. Gross misconduct really, that there really is no other response than hitting a button, or copy-n-pasting a "post the class definition & declaration, and usage point and then we can help."

I'd rather have a built-in button than have to copy-n-paste the same message and also have the next 3 comments also the same as my own.

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    What are 'the sub-forums'? – Cody Gray May 1 '12 at 4:48
  • I guess I mean all the other places on stack exchange OTHER than just "stackoverflow.com". I'm just meaning that each place would have its own "standard message" if required. – Kevin Anderson May 1 '12 at 4:57

The ultimate problem is this: if comments aren't enough to alert them... what is? Are you suggesting that you can just click a button and the person receives an e-mail that their question needs more info? Or are you saying that a big banner should hit them when they return to the site?

Neither option is a good one; both of them are very ripe for serious abuse. Giving users, even high-rep users, the ability to spam someone's banner or even worse their e-mail in-box, is a horrible idea. Even moreso if it is anonymous.

The good thing about comments is that there is a paper-trail; if you leave a comment, you left your name. Sure, new users will ignore the little red icon in the upper left, but that's a price I'm willing to pay. Especially considering the alternatives.

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