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What should I do since Joel Spolsky doesn’t want questions to have troubleshooting steps?

On this week's pod-cast, Joel and Jeff came to a disagreement on what I would call pre-emptive questioning.

Then issue is this -- you have a problem, and you've already done some of the obvious RTFM things to work around that, so should you mention that in your question (or subsequent edit/comments) to get an answer to you going as quickly as possible?

Joel seems to think you shouldn't, because for StackOverflow to be a valuable canon of knowledge, it should have the obvious solutions documented, even if the original questioner had gotten past that point.

Jeff comes down on the camp that questions should be crafted as carefully as possible, and should thus include details about what has been tried.

It seems this is a tension between the Wiki-vision, where StackOverflow is a searchable repository of programming knowledge, and a place to get a quick answer to questions.

It seems that human nature would drive one to including the pre-emptive details, since people don't want to look like they haven't already thought of and tried the obvious solutions. Add in the factor that those who suggest the obvious solutions on tech boards are generally less than gentle in doing so, so there is a social incentive (independent of rep/badges) toward Jeff's camp.

  • I'm pretty sure I saw this question earlier today.
    – mmyers
    Jul 24 '09 at 17:00
  • @mmyers: Yes -> meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8649/… Jul 24 '09 at 17:02
  • There was much discussion about this earlier on #8649. The overwhelming consensus is ignore Joel. (also, I'm closing this as a duplicate so the discussion can be contained in one place) Jul 24 '09 at 17:09

I really didn't get Joel's point on that. Whether all possible reasons for the particular problem are mentioned in the question or in one or several answers, does, in my view, not make a difference to someone who's reading the whole thing anyway when searching for a solution to his own, related, problem.


I think there is room for both. Questions in Joel's vision may very well be longer lived and more popular, but I think Jeff's ideals are more pragmatic for most of the user's coming to the site with questions.

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