9

Often, a question is not phrased clearly or lacks the terms that another user would use in searching for information. This is often not the "fault" of the person asking the question, who may not be fluent in English or familiar with the (La)TeX or typographic vocabulary. This affects the provided list of possible related questions; distressingly often, these are wildly inappropriate. Usually, comments from other users include more familiar keywords when asking for clarification.

But a general search on the site -- and (I have been given to believe) a web-wide Google search -- omits searching in comments by design. This makes it difficult to find relevant information without making multiple guesses about what to search for or reading through numerous questions unearthed by "approximation".

I will correct spelling or add tags when there's an obvious error or omission, and I will often ask for clarification in a comment. But if I'm not sure, I do nothing else, knowing that the next person to look at a question will probably be similarly confused, or not even look at the question.

What action can one take to make it easier to find an entry later, especially if it does get a good answer, and a similar question might be answered by the same information?

Alternatively, please offer an improved search strategy.

| |
  • 3
    Funny, that there is a typo in "typosgraphic" :) – Skillmon Feb 10 at 19:25
  • @AndréC the question, as I understand it, is not about linking the other questions, but changing the question in a way that the system will generate better suggestions to future visitors who want to ask a question. Say I ask a question about an itemize list, but as I'm totally new to LaTeX I call this "bullet points", now the system will not find this question for a future visitor asking an identical question, but using itemize in the title instead. – Skillmon Feb 10 at 19:29
  • I always thought that this is what tags are meant for. It is just that the tags do not really buy us much since they are used almost randomly. It is great that you add the missing tags, but many users (including me) don't. Given the popularity of the post on empathy for users who do not know LaTeX well I am also unsure how to proceed. There seems to be huge support for the proposal not to ask in the comments to clarify the question and for not linking to related posts. IMHO doing this helps precisely users who do not know LaTeX well, but I seem to be almost alone with my opinion. – user194703 Feb 10 at 19:44
  • 1
    @Skillmonlikestopanswers.xyz -- Who says I proofread what I type? (Fixed. Thanks.) – barbara beeton Feb 10 at 20:11
  • 1
    @Schrödinger'scat -- I must admit that I'm sometimes blindsided by tag aliases -- yes, the "generic" form is really the general topic, but specificity is lost. And newbies take a while to become familiar with tag use -- I know I did (and sometimes still do). Re linking to related posts, I will continue to do so; if nothing else, they may help later visitors in finding what they're looking for -- that is, if comments aren't removed. – barbara beeton Feb 10 at 20:15
  • There's absolutely nothing wrong with commenting to suggest clarification or suggest related posts. Where has there been anything to suggest otherwise? I'm not referring to a perpetual request for MWEs, since that might be varied in its usefulness. The site offers a side-banner where site-specific posts that are linked are listed, so I don't see anything wrong with doing that. – Werner Feb 11 at 0:48
  • @barbarabeeton: Are you familiar with the advanced search options? It's not always much better than a search using Google, but you could use it to filter out the noise. I often search for answers - is:answer - since they would include the more generally accepted use of terminology. – Werner Feb 11 at 0:50
  • 1
    @Werner -- Thanks for the pointer; I'm not fluent with advanced search options (nor, indeed, with manipulating databases), but it seems to be something I should learn. Regarding the side-banner, if the OP hasn't included really precise terminology in the question, the "related" suggestions are usually quite useless, which is a shame. Having an operable crystal ball is more helpful. – barbara beeton Feb 11 at 1:45
  • 2
    Unfortunately you can't search by image, because the hundreds of duplicate “how do I draw this” question are not really searchable otherwise. – Henri Menke Feb 11 at 4:02
  • @HenriMenke You can search by image, just do e.g. a Google image search for site:tex.stackexchange.com torus and get tons of hits. – user194703 Feb 11 at 5:30
  • 2
    Sometimes a question is good but its title gives no indication what it’s about (‘Please help me!’). When I’ve asked questions, I remember a list of links popping up, with ‘Have you looked here?‘ But I don’t remember anything prompting me to write the sort of title which, though brief, gives others a sense of the topic. Writing good titles can be hard, but perhaps we can find a polite way to encourage the effort? – Thérèse Feb 13 at 19:59
  • @Thérèse -- That's exactly the sort of situation that I was thinking of (well, at least one such), and yes, polite encouragement, maybe with a suggested text, is a good idea. Worth an answer. – barbara beeton Feb 13 at 20:29
5

Imagine the question was badly not as well phrased as it could be, but received interesting answer.

In such case, why not create a new question, and flag it as duplicate of the former one, so that we have 2 entry points for the same good answer(s)?

Having similar questions answered multiple times is a waste of effort, but I believe that increasing good answers “catchment area” through creating similar questions phrased differently isn't a bad thing.

| |
2

Get more people to edit/cleanup/weed out questions. Yes, it is a thankless job, with little payoff. Perhaps a "cleanup hero" badge?

It is clear that more documentation on "how to ask good questions" won't go very far, but perhaps it should be shown prominently to new users, and perhaps a short reminder/summary (for people with reputation less than some limit?) when asking a question. Perhaps show a very short tip selected at random, with the "Similar questions"?

| |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .