Encouraging clearer questions on discourse?

I think that perhaps the responses to questions like this one are too “friendly” here, on the Julia Discourse. FWIW on Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange a vague question like this one would receive comments asking for clarification, prompting the asker to fix the question, with mods standing by ready to take mod action if necessary. Other established forums, like the Archlinux Forums, are similar. This Discourse is the opposite, there’s usually a considerable number of people ready to try to answer the question even though it’s not at all clear what the asker’s problem is or what the question means.

Seems like this willingness to waste effort could fatigue the community. In fact this phenomenon has been well-known for a long time:

https://slash7.com/2006/12/22/vampires/

Perhaps it would help to display some instructions like “Be precise and informative about your problem:
describe the symptoms of your problem or bug carefully and clearly” (this is actually quoted from Eric Raymond’s “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way”).

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Sometimes we steer people towards this post: Please read: make it easier to help you

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I personally prefer the friendly tone here compared to the over-precise tendencies of other forums; sometimes a vague question produces some surprising replies with an interesting method coming from a person’s different way of thinking.

I would also note “enforcement” of style also creates fatigue.

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Atm if you click New Topic to start a question you get the usual input window at the bottom which is divided into the text and preview field. Initially, the right is empty, but if you fill in a title then the right might be filled with Your topic is similar too... suggestions, which is already helpful.

I wonder if the PSA link could be squeezed in somewhere in this fresh question window too?

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Even worse than poorly asked questions is disappearing for several days or more and never clarifying or responding to those who took their time answering.

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Funny, when reading the thread for the first time earlier this morning I was going to reply pretty much making exactly the three points above :slight_smile:

I’m always very taken aback by the tone of discussions if I have to venture out into some Linux forum, and I would be very sad to see the Julia community going off in a similar direction. Fortunately I haven’t detected this tendency, nor any fatigue in answering even low quality questions, since I first joined back in the old Google Groups days.

I do think making sure that every new poster is as-close-to-forced as made possible by Discourse to read the “make it easier to help you” post would be a useful thing, although I feel like this discussion has been had before so it might not be possible to do more than we’re currently doing (or we’re already doing more than I think?)

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The first two posts you make here, you do actually get a welcome message in the new compose window, exactly as you suggest. :slight_smile:

Right now it’s the discourse default message, but we can indeed customize these.

New topics

Welcome to %{site_name} — thanks for starting a new conversation!

  • Does the title sound interesting if you read it out loud? Is it a good summary?

  • Who would be interested in this? Why does it matter? What kind of responses do you want?

  • Include commonly used words in your topic so others can find it. To group your topic with related topics, select a category (or tag).

For more, see our community guidelines. This panel will only appear for your first 2 posts.

New replies

Welcome to %{site_name} — thanks for contributing!

  • Be kind to your fellow community members.

  • Does your reply improve the conversation?

  • Constructive criticism is welcome, but criticize ideas, not people.

For more, see our community guidelines. This panel will only appear for your first 2 posts.

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Help vampires are definitely real and they are scary. If you find yourself getting frustrated by someone that’s feeling a little blood-sucky — either publicly or in DMs — the best action to take is to message a moderator by flagging it. Moderators can step in and either more forcefully ask for folks to be respectful of others’ time or simply close the topic if it’s obviously going nowhere. We don’t see everything on this site, and even if we choose not to take action on that particular thread, it’s good to get things on our radar for pattern identification for the next time.

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I think customizing the welcome message would be a good thing to try. Maybe the three bullet points (which feel a little generic) could be replaced by simply saying something along the lines of

As a new community member, we encourage you to read the advice in this post - it provides a list of useful tips which will help you to ask your question in a way that makes it easier for others to help you, and increase your chance of getting useful responses.

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