Before others can help, a clear question must be formulated
Sometimes questions aren’t as clear to others as they could be or they may be missing critical information needed to provide a correct answer. When someone asks a difficult question it is their responsibility to ensure that anyone reading it will have all of the information they need to understand and diagnose the problem. Sometimes this is not the case.
- The post may not have a specific question, or it may be only implied by the details
- The formatting of the question may be so poor as to make it difficult to read
- The question may lack the code which exhibits the behavior in question
- The question might mention an exception but lack any of the exception’s details
Why this is a problem
Without a clear and concise question with relevant details of the problem, it is less likely that the question can be answered. Questions like this tend to only be answered at best by educated, and worst by completely wrong, guesses. It is more likely that these answers will be worthless to the person who asked the question, to future visitors who also have a similar problem, and for the people that spent their time and effort to construct them.
Why this is worth a downvote
If a question is important enough to ask, it should be important enough to spend the time and energy on it that is needed to make it answerable. Those who volunteer to answer the question are spending their limited time analyzing the question because it is unclear rather than spending this time answering it. If they misunderstand the question and still answer, and it is incorrect, the time spent on that answer is wasted. Wasting the time of people volunteering their efforts can be seen as rude.
What to do next
Edit the question to clarify and make it understandable for anyone who reads it. The actual question should be easily identified and not hidden in the details of what is causing the problem. Text should be formatted for easy reading. Code should be formatted as code. Text should use correct punctuation and capitalization and be formatted into appropriate paragraphs.
The question should be monitored for comments. When people ask in comments for clarification, the question should be immediately edited and those requested details should be added. Responding to comments makes it more likely that an author of a question will get correct answers to their questions. Answers should also be watched for, as they may also indicate the need for clarification.
In general, questions should be reviewed and edited at least twice, but preferably more times, before submitting it. The viewpoint of those answering the question must be considered. If they knew nothing of the codebase, or the function of the application, would they be able to answer given what is in the question? Sometimes it is helpful to view other people’s upvoted questions and analyze how they asked their question from this viewpoint.
The code should not be directly copy/pasted in its original form. Instead, it should be cut down to only keep the parts essential to identify and reproduce the issue. This reduced and isolated code should be tested to verify it exhibits the same issues as the original. This is commonly referred to as an MCVE.
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