15

One of the seven essential questions is: what goes in the FAQ.

We should bear in mind that no-one ever reads these things first off. Their purpose is so that when someone takes some action (like closing a post) then they can point to the relevant place in the FAQ.

So, what should go in the FAQ?

FAQ entries in other questions

Several FAQ entries were proposed in other questions. Here is a list of them (please add any new questions)

  • 1
    I think a better way to handle this is to make a Community Wiki question (could be this one) for the proposed FAQ, where each 'answer' is one question. Then everyone can collaboratively edit the questions and answers, or discuss them in the comments. – Larry Wang Jul 27 '10 at 16:53
  • Okay, CW'd. (and some more characters full of sound and fury, signifying nothing) – Loop Space Jul 27 '10 at 18:00
  • @Caramdir: A question out of curiosity: When you edited this question, did you already have the user name "Caramdir"? I was wondering why it says "51% anon" here, and my current guess is that this means that user "anon" contributed 51% of the question. But you contributed most, didn't you? – Hendrik Vogt Feb 13 '11 at 11:21
  • @Hendrik: Yes I had that from the start. No idea what happened. – Caramdir Feb 13 '11 at 16:46
  • @Caramdir: Thanks. I've asked over at meta.SO what's happening, but no answer so far. – Hendrik Vogt Feb 14 '11 at 8:12

11 Answers 11

14

We should try to preempt questions about how to typeset specific characters (e.g. Does LaTeX support the sarcmark?) by putting links to Detexify and the Comprehensive Symbol List in our FAQ (and encouraging people to consult those first).

  • 1
    +1 for detexify! – Amir Rachum Jul 27 '10 at 22:33
13

I'd very much favour something like the "include a minimal example" injunction that comp.text.tex tries valiantly to enforce.

(I do, however, absolutely see that this is partly a matter of taste, and that some will think minimal examples heavy handed even for many syntax-related questions.)

  • Yes please! We don't want to be answering questions like this tex.stackexchange.com/questions/496/… – Juan A. Navarro Jul 28 '10 at 17:22
  • @Juan: You read that as a "minimal example". I agree. But, it seems to me that the tendency is toward needing to remind people to include a "minimal example", if you follow me. – vanden Jul 28 '10 at 20:21
  • I see, I do follow! And I agree both things are certainly good suggestions! – Juan A. Navarro Jul 28 '10 at 21:21
  • 2
    I agree that "minimal example" is the more important version on this site. In the question Juan linked to, the 'example' provided neither compiles as is, nor reproduces the stated problem -- so its size is not really the issue! While that question is not ideally minimal, if I'd been able to paste it into my editor and immediately reproduce the results, I wouldn't have complained about the size... – Michael Underwood Jul 29 '10 at 15:10
10

Another suggestion is to ask users writing answers to provide enough information in the answers themselves. I've seen many answers of the form of "The solution to your problem that has been posted at this other random blog, here is a link.", and I think it's great to attribute where the solution comes from, but enough information should also be given in the proposed answer so that even if the external resource is gone the solution can still be reproduced.

This is very closely related to the need to store images in the site itself.

  • This is also true when the answer lies within a package. Answering the question "How can I do X?" with nothing more than "Why not use package Y?" is unlikely to actually explain how to do X. – Michael Underwood Jul 29 '10 at 15:17
  • Definitely agreed. We want the content here. Attribute and credit, but don't force me to follow a link to a site that may no longer exist. – jalf Jul 31 '10 at 0:14
9

Here's another thing that's just occurred to me: the SE platform is extremely good at what it does, but is completely rubbish at what it isn't designed for (seems obvious, really). However, one common experience from MathOverflow is that when closing questions that don't really fit the platform, the questioner complains "Well, where should I have asked it then?". So I think that in the FAQ there should be a list of other places to find resources on TeX etc (or, a list of a few of the most likely and a link to a longer list). I'm not sure what those are, presumably others do. Linking to CTAN is an obvious one, as is tugboat and the TeXFAQ. The tex-users mailing list should probably also be on it.

  • The LaTeX Wikibook has become a nice resource, which we should consider linking to: en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX – PersonX Jul 27 '10 at 13:35
  • Also, one of our questions is about good online resources: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/162 – PersonX Jul 27 '10 at 13:44
  • 1
    Whilst having a list in a question is better than nothing, I personally don't like these lists and think that they are a horrible way of building up a good resource. That aside, I do think that there's a place in the FAQ for carefully selected such. – Loop Space Jul 27 '10 at 13:59
  • 1
    I agree Andrew. But I think we should keep an eye on that question and see if any of the answers link to things we want to include in our FAQ. – PersonX Jul 27 '10 at 14:04
  • Ah, okay. I misunderstood. I thought you meant that the FAQ should point to this list. Now I see otherwise and I completely agree with you. – Loop Space Jul 27 '10 at 14:28
  • No worries! I was unclear. – PersonX Jul 27 '10 at 14:41
5

One thing I think should go in is a tagging guide with a list of what are considered the main tags; that is, the tags such that every question should have one of - whatever they may be!

  • I'm not sure any such list would be appropriate, since there's no natural division of all TeX questions into subcategories. – David Z Jul 29 '10 at 0:11
  • I think that is only relevant if some tags have "special" meanings. (For example another thread discussed using a [latex-only] tag rather than simply [latex] to indicate that only answers specific to LaTeX are desired. Such conventions may be worth mentioning in the FAQ, but otherwise I don't think we need a tagging guide) – jalf Jul 31 '10 at 0:12
4

I think that whatever the image storage solution ends up being, we should have the recommended behavior mentioned in the FAQ.

Currently, since there is no better solution than having to put the image online somewhere and then link to it, we should say that this is the situation, and give 2-3 free and stable sites for people who have no other option (and perhaps even for people with another option).

(currently stable image hosting sites that don't require registration and with which it is easy to upload images include imageshack.us and imgur.com)

3

The FAQ should include commenting etiquette, for example the fact that preceding the post with a @: will effectively notify the user of that comment is subtle and might not be noticed by a beginning SE'er. Is it true? are there other mechanisms that cause the envelope to change color? What I am and someone writes @First: ? what about @first:? @firstlast:? etc. can I "pull in" someone unrelated by sticking their username in the begining of a post? Seems a little strange to me..

  • I don't think this is the case. – Juan A. Navarro Jul 29 '10 at 11:02
  • Relying on ordering of comments seems contrary to the way SE sites sort comments based on scores. Some way to specify which comment is being responded to (a target to use for a link, perhaps) might be a better idea. – András Salamon Aug 18 '10 at 21:32
3

We should probably say that answers involving a LaTeX package should always link to the package on CTAN. As discussed at Automatic links to the CTAN catalogue? it would be nice to do this automatically, but for the moment we should encourage answers to include

[`package-name`][1]

[1]: http://ctan.org/pkg/package-name

the first time a package is mentioned.

2

The mods can now edit part of the FAQ page, but only the top section 'What kind of questions can I ask here?'. So I guess we need to decide what goes there specifically, rather than the entire page in general.

  • Though I suppose that if we really want something to appear in the FAQ then we can just create a new section inside that part for it. Might look a bit odd, but might be better than not having it. – Loop Space Aug 28 '10 at 12:53
  • Well true but at least in the first instance I'd imagine we should stick to the current structure – Joseph Wright Aug 28 '10 at 20:35
2

I'll make a start with the first FAQ section. Here is my proposal, following the FAQs of SO related sites:


What kind of questions can I ask here?

tex.stackexchange.com is for TeX and LaTeX enthusiasts and users. If you have a question about ...

  • TeX or any of its descendants like LaTeX, XeTeX, LuaTeX and ConTeXt
  • TeX distributions like TeX Live, MiKTeX or MacTeX,
  • (La)TeX related software and tools like BibTeX, LyX, LaTeX editors, viewer and converter software

... then you're in the right place to ask your question!

The best questions contain some code. Their answers will most likely give concrete code back to you.


The FAQ continues:

Please look around to see if your question has already been asked (and maybe even answered!) before you ask...


I omitted the word 'expert', as I believe this site supports new users as well.

Further, I know that this site is not the perfect place for very specific questions regarding a certain editor or software. Though possibly help is available here because many of us use some of the common editors and tools. It might be hard for a new user to find the correct forum, mailing-list or wiki for a very specific piece of software. If a question is hard to answer here, we know where to lead the questioner as we know the resources. That's the reason why I included such related software: we don't sent the questioner back just because his question concerns a LaTeX IDE feature but not LaTeX itself.

Another FAQ entry or link could write that clearly. Remember the venn diagram on the about page: if the sets stand for TeX, LaTeX and friends: related software, then tex.stackexchange.com could be the tiny asterisk in the middle, their intersection.

  • 1
    Absolutely agree with dropping the word "expert". Is it pushing the boundary of this section too far to also write something like "And while you're here, have a look to see if there's a question that you can answer. If you know how to do something, chances are that someone else wants to know how to do that too!" – Loop Space Aug 30 '10 at 7:31
  • @Andrew: I'm not sure about dropping "expert" - it does make sense to emphasise the the site wants to attract experts who want to answer the questions of everyone. @Stefan: Can we farm out this answer to its own question? I think the issues are too big for this comment thread. – Charles Stewart Aug 30 '10 at 13:30
  • @Charles: good idea, I've done that: meta.tex.stackexchange.com/questions/432/… – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 30 '10 at 15:55
  • @Andrew: as this first part of the FAQ is regarding questions only, and the next part as well, speaking about answers might be too early. But talking about answers may come later in the FAQ, like currently to be seen after "Be honest". – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 30 '10 at 15:57
1

Here's another one: it's partly etiquette, I guess.

Quite a few answers are going to be of the form "run this command on your output". I've given a couple of those so far and gotten the response "how exactly do I do that?" in the comments. I actually started writing out instructions on one before I realised the impossibility of it.

I would like it to be clear in the FAQ that exact details of how to run a command are difficult to give and not really appropriate to ask for (going "beyond the call of duty", as it were). That, of course, does not preclude anyone from giving help when asked for it. Making this clear from the outset will, I hope, mean that people are more likely to contribute answers of this type and that people won't feel guilty (or get voted down) when they don't respond to such requests.

  • Do you have any specific example? Maybe the question on how to run said command could also be asked as a separate question, and then you simply provide a link to the existing instructions elsewhere. – Juan A. Navarro Jul 29 '10 at 11:06
  • @Juan A. Navarro: Two examples are my answers to: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/534 and tex.stackexchange.com/questions/452 . In neither case would I like to see a separate question on how to do it. In one case (the first) there are no instructions elsewhere, but I don't feel it appropriate to provide any (see comments). In the other case, I can provide a little help, but don't want to be spending all my time here on command syntax. – Loop Space Jul 29 '10 at 11:28
  • Uff.. this is tricky, on the first one I completely agree with you, the answer was there: "use this if you know perl, otherwise look at the other solutions". On the second one I'm not so sure, if the question was asked by a beginner, they would be put off by this kind of reply and leave the site. I personally think the site should be friendly to beginners, but how much is too much? – Juan A. Navarro Jul 29 '10 at 12:18
  • @Juan A. Navarro: I think that "leave the site" may be a little strong; in retrospect, a little more detail on my part would have made it clearer and not involved any extra effort. The balance is between giving enough information whilst not requiring each answer to have so much extra information that it's a chore to write out even a simple answer. I'm probably a little too far on the "concise" side of things, possibly due to coming here from MathOverflow rather than StackOverflow. – Loop Space Jul 29 '10 at 12:36
  • Why not simply put "how to run a command" in the FAQ itself (or link to somewhere, or mention something useful at least), instead of writing in the FAQ that one shouldn't ask for such help? If someone does ask for such help, anyone can just post a link to the FAQ then. – ShreevatsaR Jul 29 '10 at 15:11

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