Here is what I did:

  1. Landed on a post via google.
  2. Found the answer helpful, but needed more explanation. Wanted to ask a question to the person who answered. Incidentally it was the same person who asked the question.
  3. Added a reply, with my question.
  4. A moderator deleted my reply, stating that that was not the way to go about it, I should create another question with a link to the original one, and then add a comment in the original question asking the user to visit MY question.
  5. OK, I posted a new question. But I could not add a comment to the original question (don't know why). so I edited my reply to the original question and requested the user to help me with my question, providing a link.
  6. My reply was deleted again. AND locked.

WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? Shouldn't there be a better way to guide newbies?

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    If you check out Ian's Stack Overflow profile you'll find he has a blog. At that blog you will discover at least one possible method you might be able to reach him. I understand your frustration - looking at your question I see it's quite possible that few people will be able to help you. It is difficult to interact on the site without being able to comment. One of the best ways you can gain reputation is to answer questions - I suggest you try and answer at least one per day so next time you can comment. – Pollyanna Apr 5 '11 at 23:08
  • It may be useful to note that linking to the original question from your own question will also cause your question to show up in the "Linked" sidebar of the original question, which can help people find yours on a voluntary basis. – Brad Mace Aug 23 '11 at 2:52

Unfortunately the site doesn't support person to person communications. Your attempts to get a specific person to attend to your question don't fit with what the site intends to be.

You can post your question as a stand alone question, with a link to the original question, and others will likely answer you just as well as if they original person had responded.

If the person you are trying to contact wants people to contact them, they will have placed contact information into their user profile.

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    I think the real issue is that the new user cannot post comments and so cannot ask that user to view their question without either posting an answer or adding a comment with an @usernamehere on their own question. – Richard Marskell - Drackir Apr 5 '11 at 20:47
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    @Drackir, why would any user (ab)use comments to ask another user to take a look at some other question? (As an aside: if you think @usernamehere would work even if that user has not participated in a post, then see How do comment @replies work?) – Arjan Apr 5 '11 at 20:58
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    @Drackir: The point is that we don't want anyone asking a specific user to view their question. How many requests would Jon Skeet get per minute if that were okay behavior? – Bill the Lizard Apr 5 '11 at 20:59
  • @Arjan: I just meant that that was specifically why the OP was getting confused. I wasn't saying anything needed to change necessarily. Also, I wasn't aware that @usernamehere doesn't work across answers let alone questions. Thanks for the link. :) Edit Also, apparently the moderator that closed the OPs question didn't know either. – Richard Marskell - Drackir Apr 5 '11 at 21:05
  • @Arjan, It would be called ABuse if someone is asking a particular user to take a look at a NON-RELATED question. When someone has solved a problem, it is understood that he/she might be able to solve SIMILAR problems. And hence, it makes sense that someone would want the attention of a specific person. No, I don't think @usernamehere should work even if that user has not participated in a post. that's illogical. – Apeksha Apr 5 '11 at 21:11
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    I don't want to be notified by users asking me to take a look at their related question, @apeksha. So for me, that would be abuse of the comment system. If I wanted to be contacted, I'd leave some contact details in my profile, just like Adam explained above. – Arjan Apr 5 '11 at 21:15
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    @Bill, (If that were ok behaviour) The amount of requests Jon Skeet gets depends on the number of problems he has solved. and the possibility of someone wanting to adapt the solution, but not sure how. Let me ask you, If I were to post a separate question with a link to the original one, what is the probability that the person who solved the original problem will take a look at mine? that decreases the probability of my problem being solved, especially in my case where the original question was ultimately asnwered by the asker himself. That means no one else on SO could solve it!! – Apeksha Apr 5 '11 at 21:17
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    @Apeksha: there is no expectation on SO that posting an answer creates an obligation on the author to answer further questions. You're perfectly free to show up here, post an answer, and never come back. OTOH, if you do wish to answer additional questions on a given topic, there are a number of ways to find out about them. So ask your question, and the folks who want to answer it probably will. – Shog9 Apr 5 '11 at 21:18
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    Edit request: Remove "unfortunately" from the first paragraph. – juan Apr 5 '11 at 21:21
  • @Shog9, I agree, it is not an "obligation" on the author to answer further questions. The author can choose to not reply, even if asked directly. But it should be possible to do so, it would just make the process quicker and more questions will be closed, probably faster. just my opinion. – Apeksha Apr 5 '11 at 21:32
  • @Apekska: Just as an aside Jon Skeet is the long time highest rep user on Stack Overflow. In this case he is a stand in for any of our really prolific answerers. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Apr 5 '11 at 22:57

Stackoverflow does not function like regular forums, where subsequent posts contribute to a discussion. Rather, all "replies" to a question are potential answers. There are no threads, just questions followed by potential answers. You can comment (if you have the rights) either question or answer for various purposes, such as ask for further explanation, express approval or disapproval, make suggestions, etc.

So, in "replying", if you create an answer that's really asking a question, the post gets the banhammer. If you make a comment that's really a question (or say a complimentary question), that should be allowed, normally.

Finally, if you don't have commenting rights, then yes, the quickest way is to ask a question. The best way is to get commenting rights by answering some questions... :)


We have a guide for newbs.

The reason why StackOverflow is full of awesome content is that we (the community first, moderators a distant second) keep it tidy and in good order. That means deleting answers that are not answers and preventing new users (users with low rep) from performing many actions.


  • Maybe the mod could have left the comment he was trying to leave so that the loop was closed. – Lance Roberts Apr 5 '11 at 20:47
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    @LanceRoberts: There are literally hundreds of "not an answer" flags that come across every day. We don't have enough (active) moderators to engage in coddling new users via leaving comments, waiting for the user to respond acknowledgement (good luck on that) and then deleting the non-answer. If we had 2-3x as many active mods it would be more feasible to convert them all into comments, not that that would stop them from doing it again. Its a mess with no good solutions. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 20:53
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    Great, Aretha stuck in my head now. – Uphill Luge Apr 5 '11 at 20:59
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    @HansPassant: And now its the theme to Gilligans Island. Also, you are breathing consciously. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:04
  • @Will, not saying I disagree, but FYI, users get the comment in their inboxes even if the answer gets deleted 10 miliseconds after the comment was posted – juan Apr 5 '11 at 21:18
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    Is it possible for mods to actually transmute a "not-an-answer" answer to a comment? Would this be a good feature, or too much power (or also too much work)? @Lance – jscs Apr 5 '11 at 21:19
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    @JoshCaswell: Yep, we have that power, and I'd like to see high-rep users get it, too. The problem is that it takes some time to do this. You have to open the question, figure out where the comment goes, sometimes splitting it among other answers, or splitting it up if it is too long... its a big time sink. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:24
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    That makes sense. I've upvoted your feature request. Didn't realize the mods were so overworked. I'll hunt fewer turkeys! – jscs Apr 5 '11 at 21:34
  • @JoshCaswell: Eh, the real issue is getting to the important stuff buried under all the noise... That, and we have some mods that don't do jack. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:39
  • @Will: The only problem was that the mod told the OP to "add a comment in the original question asking the user to visit MY question." – Hendrik Vogt Apr 6 '11 at 11:54

It is one of the failings of SO that it takes 50 rep to leave a comment. If you ever get that you can make sure someone is specifically notified by appending the '@' symbol in front of their name.

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    I'd rather flip it myself. 0 to leave a comment, 50 to answer. And you get 50 rep for reading the faq. Or breathing through your nose. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:05
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    @Will: +1 to points for reading the FAQ. +1 to 0 to comment (why do you think so many people post "thanks" as an answer!!!). – user27414 Apr 5 '11 at 21:15
  • @status-declined: Although I'm not sure having fifteen hundred "THANKS!" comments would be all that great... Maybe you have to have 2 rep instead of 0... – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:24
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    @Will, then the only way to get rep is what, post enough questions to pass the 50 rep bar? – MPelletier Apr 5 '11 at 21:56
  • Perhaps we should sent @Lance after all the recently deleted answers to add a post-mortem comment – Ivo Flipse Apr 5 '11 at 22:20
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    Considering how easy it is to flag and delete comments, perhaps the comment privilege ought to come sooner. – Gabe Apr 5 '11 at 23:31

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