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How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 2:58 pm
by scotty101
Does the forum has a sticky post with advice for how to ask a good question? I couldn't see one.

There are lots of posts from new members that will ask for something without providing enough detail.

Things I would expect
  • What has the user tried so far?
  • Executable Code example
  • Error messages
  • What they expect to happen
  • What actually happens?
  • Pi details - model number/OS etc.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:01 pm
by joan
Good idea. It would help the questioner probably most of all. Bad questions tend to get ignored.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:06 pm
by RaTTuS

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:33 pm
by scruss
It helps a bit, but sets a very threatening bar to entry to asking questions. There's also a risk that a new user will click through to some of the author's writings and be put off by the rather, um, niche opinions there.

Maintaining beginner friendliness on a web forum is very hard. As forums age, they naturally become less beginner-friendly. Most Stack Exchange sites have such hairtrigger moderation now that unless you ask a ‘perfect’ question first time, you'll get downvoted so quickly that your question will be hidden and languish unanswered forever. Even suggesting "search before asking" is problematic, because the value of older technical questions is less, and can often be misleading. For instance, a really complete tutorial on GPIO handling under Python from 2013 would likely mislead a new user completely today. Purely keyword-based web searches favour old answers by default, and many users don't realise this.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:29 pm
by scotty101
How about adapting something like this?
https://css-tricks.com/how-to-ask-a-goo ... he-forums/

1. Provide a link
Are you following an online tutorial? Can you provide a link to a datasheet for the hardware that you are trying to use? Did you copy some code from somewhere?

2. Provide Code Samples
People will find it easier to help you if you provide a short, executable example of the code that you are using. This means they can try to re-create your problem. Posting what you have tried to do is a lot more helpful that just asking someone to write the entire solution for you.
Remember to post them between [ code][/ code] tags.
Linking to a GitHub repository is also a good way to share your code.

3. Explanation Illustration/Photograph or Screenshot
Can you provide a visual aid that might help people understand your problem or help you diagnose a wiring problem? You can link to images stored elsewhere using the [img ][/ img] tags.

4. Exact details
Be Specific. "It doesn't work" won't get you answers. What error messages do you get?
Which model of Raspberry Pi you are using or which operating system will help get you the right answers.

5. What you tried / What you thought would happen
What behavior did you witness and how does this differ to what you expected? Provide details of what you expect to happen or what you are trying to achieve.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:29 pm
by B.Goode
Although personally I agree, someone I know became the target of personal abuse on these forums for having that in their .Sig, for reasons similar to those put forward by @scruss but expressed in more extreme terms.

There is something similar by the author of PuTTy.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:05 pm
by hippy
I disagree; I have always found that post rather arrogant and offensive, insisting upon 'doing it our way if you expect any help'. It is perhaps okay when related to talking to a 'clique of hackers' for which the article seems to be directed but not as a universal.

If people don't want to answer a question then that is fine. Leave it to those who are willing to.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:14 pm
by PeterO
It's the best guide there is to getting answers from the people who actually know the answer to your question. All too often badly written questions get answers from people who thing the OP needs their help even if they have no answer to give.
It might seem arrogant to some, but a concise , to the point, technically accurate question will get the best results.

PeterO

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:35 pm
by W. H. Heydt
While having sticky on how to ask good question, and phrased in as friendly a way as possible would probably do no harm, I am dubious that it will do much to help. The problem being...not all that many people read stickies.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:48 pm
by DougieLawson
This viewtopic.php?p=1050518#p1050518 works but your problem is getting new users to a) search and b) read that stickiness. They don't/won't do that. They find the forum and launch in.

Those of us willing to help then post your well formed list of questions / comments to solicit the real question and the real problem.

The worst posts are the ones where someone arrives saying "It doesn't work" or "My screen doesn't work with my RPi". Those are bordline useless. The "it doesn't work" tends to solicit the "I've got one here and mine works" response and the thread spirals into turmoil. The "my screen ..." ones degenerate into post a link, go ask the vendor and spiral into turmoil.

CATB's ancient Usenet posting is funny, it is sarcastic in the extreme and it does get a point across, but it ain't friendly.

Ultimately, there's no way to fix this problem and maintain a usable forum - we just have to tolerate it and not be too rude to the new users.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:49 pm
by CarlRJ
A bit I would add to the original suggestions: use an informative title for the post.

Too often one sees titles like "help with raspberry pi" (may have just as well used a bare question mark - raspberry pi is the one thing that is expected to be relevant to every post here) or "display" (computers deal largely with processing and displaying information - need to be way more specific: a particular hardware display? how to display data from some particular software or language? give us something to work with). And if you really need help, adding exclamation points doesn't increase your chances. Neither does all caps. And "PLZ MAK A SEKSHUN 4 OSES!!!" fails on numerous counts (though to be fair, that was an exclamation at the end of a post, not a title).

As well, some titles sound like questions, when instead of asking they're providing information, or, conversely, sound informative, but then are only asking questions. (I suppose this is somewhat less concrete, since the initial post and the replies together may end up doing both.)

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:51 pm
by hippy
PeterO wrote:
It might seem arrogant to some, but a concise , to the point, technically accurate question will get the best results.
I entirely agree that technical accurate and precise questions will usually achieve the best results but I do not at all like the way it is presented and the tone used. There are better ways to deal with people who do not ask questions which are not deemed smart enough to deserve an answer.

That article is written from a perspective of those who cannot be bothered with inane, stupid or vague questions and who don't want to spend their time leading people towards asking smart questions and that is fair enough.

A 'how to ask smart questions' without the overtones of that article would probably be fine.

But it cannot, as the article is, be adopted as a mission statement by those who have a more accepting approach. And presenting it as such is likely to do more harm than good when one should expect there to be some less than smart questions asked.

I find pointing people towards that link to be no better than RTFM. It may be a technically correct response but it is invariably not helpful.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:18 pm
by W. H. Heydt
Another--and often overlooked--point is that it is good practice for people asking questions to identify where they are located. It makes it far easier to give advice to those looking to obtain needed auxiliary equipment like PSUs and cables....and even Pis themselves.

Knowing where someone is located can also help in assessing the likelihood that they are or are not a native English speaker (and which dialect) as many non-native speakers write better English than a fair number of native speakers, leading to subtle errors when parsing what has been written.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 7:27 pm
by CarlRJ
W. H. Heydt wrote:Another--and often overlooked--point is that it is good practice for people asking questions to identify where they are located. It makes it far easier to give advice to those looking to obtain needed auxiliary equipment like PSUs and cables....and even Pis themselves.

Knowing where someone is located can also help in assessing the likelihood that they are or are not a native English speaker (and which dialect) as many non-native speakers write better English than a fair number of native speakers, leading to subtle errors when parsing what has been written.
This is a really excellent point (I tried to quote just the best part, but it's all great). And there's an obvious solution: put your location in your profile. I wouldn't mind seeing location being a required field when signing up for the forum. For anyone concerned about privacy, they needn't put more than their country (I've been surprised, at times, just how international this particular forum is).

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:33 am
by Graymalk
Is there evidence that there's a problem that actually needs fixing? I always wonder when someone brings something like this up in a forum. Is there first evidence of a problem, and is there evidence that shows that introducing such stickies and/or rules or grab bag of whatever people personally think would be great, actually fixes the problem?

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:25 am
by B.Goode
Graymalk wrote:Is there evidence that there's a problem that actually needs fixing?
Simply look at the number of contributions made by the first two posters in this thread. More importantly, look at the consistently courteous and knowledgeable quality of their contributions. If we want to encourage and retain volunteers of their calibre I think we should listen if they perceive a problem.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:26 am
by DougieLawson
When you've been here for another 23,222 posts you'll understand there is a problem (especially at the start of the new school year). But, sticky posts are not the answer because most new posters don't bother reading them.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:18 am
by gkreidl
The text should be carefully designed for this forum.
I don't believe that a sticky would really help but the following might work:
First posts are moderated. It should be easy for the moderator to fire an automatic email to the user with the "Howto ..." text. At least that will catch more attention.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:31 am
by B.Goode
gkreidl wrote:The text should be carefully designed for this forum.
I don't believe that a sticky would really help but the following might work:
First posts are moderated. It should be easy for the moderator to fire an automatic email to the user with the "Howto ..." text. At least that will catch more attention.
It should be easy for Moderators to reject First Posts that have a Subject of "Help!" or some close equivalent.

But they don't.

So I'm not optimistic about getting them on-board with something that needs more subjective judgement. (But I'd love to be proved wrong.)

Just having a 'community-endorsed' resource that questioners could be referred to would be a good start. Little things like location, h/w version, OS version, installation/boot method (image, NOOBS, PINN, PiBakery... ), Boot medium (SD card, msd, net), network configuration, tutorial details...

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:26 am
by texy
B.Goode wrote:
gkreidl wrote:The text should be carefully designed for this forum.
I don't believe that a sticky would really help but the following might work:
First posts are moderated. It should be easy for the moderator to fire an automatic email to the user with the "Howto ..." text. At least that will catch more attention.
It should be easy for Moderators to reject First Posts that have a Subject of "Help!" or some close equivalent.

But they don't.
Well technically you only see the first posts in that category that get through - you don't actually know about the posts that get stopped ;)

But when you see 100-200 first posts on a daily basis, and a great deal of them are spam, it's really no surprise that a few badly titled posts get through.
Would it be better to reject them altogether, and put those people off from posting? Yes they can be edited at that moment, but it does all take time and effort.
Texy

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 10:20 am
by Burngate
Early on in the life of this forum, I was asked if I would consider acting as a moderator. Thinking about it, I came to the conclusion I couldn't do it properly, so I declined.
Nothing I've seen since has changed my mind - I'm in awe of our present moderators and the job they do. Thankyou, all.

As well as some way to get posters to ask decent questions, I wonder if there's some way to get them to give some feedback after their problem's solved - there are lots of threads where the poster asks a question, several people answer, then nothing more is heard from the OP. Did it help? Was it useful? If they solved their problem, how did they do it?

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:10 am
by texy
I find it annoying when there is simply no acknowledgement sometimes when questions have been answered, but I guess that's the internet for yah :(
Texy

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:52 am
by gkreidl
texy wrote:I find it annoying when there is simply no acknowledgement sometimes when questions have been answered, but I guess that's the internet for yah :(
Texy
Even worse: people asking for help via PM and never read the answers (lingering in outbox).

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:30 pm
by DougieLawson
gkreidl wrote:
texy wrote:I find it annoying when there is simply no acknowledgement sometimes when questions have been answered, but I guess that's the internet for yah :(
Texy
Even worse: people asking for help via PM and never read the answers (lingering in outbox).
That's one of the primary reasons for my forum signature. Keep the questions on the forum, keep the answers on the forum as that means the folks who do bother to search have a better than zero chance of finding things.

Re: How to ask a good question. Sticky?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:37 pm
by Graymalk
B.Goode wrote:
Graymalk wrote:Is there evidence that there's a problem that actually needs fixing?
Simply look at the number of contributions made by the first two posters in this thread. More importantly, look at the consistently courteous and knowledgeable quality of their contributions. If we want to encourage and retain volunteers of their calibre I think we should listen if they perceive a problem.
Isn't that a different problem with a different source? I'm always leery of discussions like this because I think they try to lump a bunch of separate anecdotal observations together and call them a single problem with a single source of blame that can't defend itself because it isn't here yet (i.e. newcomers). I think that's unfair, unwelcoming, and definitely not in character with this place.