I'm looking to put together a blog post that people can reference on how to ask, and the right way to ask question here at Super User. What are some suggestions that you would have for new users coming to the site and asking questions? What are some things that you would like for me to focus on?

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Hasn't Tom done something similar already? –  slhck Sep 18 '12 at 15:14
    
@slhck for the blog or as a meta question? –  KronoS Sep 18 '12 at 15:17
    
@slhck ah... there was this: blog.superuser.com/2011/05/02/how-to-get-answers so maybe this is redundant, but I feel that address how to improve your answer. I'm looking to give a tutorial on how to get it right the first time. Might be the same thing, but that was my thinking. –  KronoS Sep 18 '12 at 15:20
    
I guess it wouldn't hurt given the upcoming Windows 8 launch :) –  slhck Sep 18 '12 at 15:22
    
@slhck that was another reason behind me wanting to have a revisit. –  KronoS Sep 18 '12 at 15:32
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@KronoS: Check out meta.superuser.com/questions/4689/… as well, perhaps that one can help as fuel for a new blog post. It's much more detailed than the original blog post I made, a revised blog post (perhaps in another style) might not be a bad idea. I'm pretty sure there are other meta posts (perhaps on Meta.SO) that deal with this subject, but maybe someone does still jump in with a nice view on it... –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '12 at 15:34
    
I bumped into this today msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2009/02/17/… –  JoshP Sep 18 '12 at 16:21
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@KronoS This is a great idea! I suggest making it short and to the point. Too long of a post may cause people to skim over it or not read it at all. More importantly; how do you get the new users to read it in the first place? At times it appears they are so focused on asking their question (or placing their order) they are not interested in reading about "how to ask". –  CharlieRB Sep 20 '12 at 11:41
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3 Answers

I like Zoredaches idea of keeping it simple, short and to the point. Get the most important points across quickly.

With that in mind, I threw together this quick list of hints:

Summary

  1. Summarize your whole problem in one sentence.
    • This will be the title of your question.
    • Don't put any OS names in front of the question or stuff like that, leave those for the tags.
  2. Summarize your whole problem in two sentences.
    • Neither of which should be a copy of the title.
    • This is your first paragraph.
  3. Add additional paragraphs, detailing these points as applicable:
    • A paragraph is created by leaving an empty line in your question.
    • How did you already attempt to solve the issue and what was the outcome?
  4. Does your question relate to a specific operating system, device or topic? If so, use an appropriate tag to let people know.

Example

How can I copy the path of a registry key to memory?

I am using regedit.exe to edit a registry key. I would like to copy the path of that key (like HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Input Method) to the clipboard.

I tried pressing Ctrl+C while having the node selected, but the path was not copied to the clipboard.

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This topic has been done to death via the ask page, and the many other blog articles, meta.stackoverflow.com questions, and other similar meta posts on other sites. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to cover the issue again, but keep in mind that the people that need the the information in the post the most probably won't really read it before posting.

So the critical things I think need to be covered are venue, and writing style.

  • I suspect your blog might focus on asking on superuser, but as a general rule it is very important to make sure you ask the question in the right place. Not spending the time to compose a question in the right place waste everybody's time. Check the FAQ/About page first, look at the tags, look at the tone of the questions.

  • Compose your questions with the inverted pyramid style. That is start with the most simple statement of your problem, and then expand with further details. I get very frustrated by questions that SPAM me with lots of detail, but then forget to actually ask a clear question. In a question, the title, first sentence/paragraph, and final sentence/paragraph should each be a clear statement/summary of the problem.

    A inverted pyramid style question would look like this.

When I do foo I get ping, but I expect pong

I am trying to do foo on a system from vender acme, running and foo is verion n.nn

When I run foo in debug mode with widget X it shows error message blah

When I look at log file foo.log it shows an error foo is corrupt.

What should I do to get foo to return pong?

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Always provide LOTS of details when asking a question. No detail is irrelevant.

Far too often I see questions with not enough detail to get a good answer, but never have I seen a question that includes too many details.

(Example of "no detail is irrelevant": I heard about a video-processing system that would intermittently fail while in development. Some days it would work properly, and some days it wouldn't, with no change in system variables/updates. Eventually they figured out that when the developers wore plaid shirts to test it, it didn't work because the system couldn't process the complicated pattern and gave up. When they wore other shirts, it worked fine.)

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Ah plaid shirts... Not only are they WAY out of style, they'll break ur computer :P –  KronoS Sep 20 '12 at 16:18
    
I don't have specific examples in mind but I have seen many quwstions with too much detail. The additional details aren't the problem so much as too much detail often means the person hasn't clearly defined their problem. Without a clearly defined problem the just spam thequestion with lots of worthless information. I also see people spam a 'question' with lots of information, and forget to actually ask a question. –  Zoredache Sep 21 '12 at 21:12
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It doesn't matter for how much detail you're going to ask someone with a problem, they're always going to leave out the detail that would help you understand their issue. If you press them for "all possible details" the question will be too long and a lot of people will simply not read it at all. It's a dangerous statement to make. –  Oliver Salzburg Sep 21 '12 at 21:58
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