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Long time fan of the SE engine and what it has done to QA quality, but now I'd like to actually become a good "asker of questions", and I was wondering if there are any prime examples on how to improve your own question over time, as you research your problem further on your own, and based on answers/comments to your original question?

The reason I'm asking is this, I want to make it easy and with as little hassle as possible, for people returning to the question, to get a hang on the updates to the question, so they are able to help me narrowing things down even further.

I've recently asked a question concerning some network issues I'm having, and if you look into the history of that question, I've edited the question quite a few times, in order to make it more clear what I've tried so far, and what I've narrowed it down to. Furthermore I've responded to the comments and answers directly, so there's no loose ends.

So, if I want to improve my question quality over time, is there any good guidelines or examples I could follow?

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  • I had not seen that one, thanks for the link. Apparantly I'm better of using a google search with site clauses (site:superuser.com), rather than searching on this site, if I want to search all content. :) I am, however, more interested in how to best update your post regularly. Is it by e.g. adding "update sections", where new information is added at the bottom, so the progress is easy to follow, or is it better to just merge the progress into the question itself, keeping it concise and easier for newcomers to read, and returning people will see the markup of the changes anyway? +other tips? – Johny Skovdal May 9 '12 at 5:55
  • People usually append it to the bottom, but if you can make your question more concise I think that's nice as well. – Tamara Wijsman May 9 '12 at 6:18
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Is it by e.g. adding "update sections", where new information is added at the bottom, so the progress is easy to follow, or is it better to just merge the progress into the question itself, keeping it concise and easier for newcomers to read, and returning people will see the markup of the changes anyway?

Please do yourself and others a favor and don't add the following to your question:

EDIT1: Yeah I've checked that Foo is deleted.
Edit197 in response to @someone: Yes, the folder exists.

That's not how a coherent question looks like. If you find out something new, work it into the text. Make your question pleasant to read, and structure it appropriately. Start by describing your situation, then your attempts to solve the problem.

So, rather do it like this, where square brackets denote text you just added:

I can't open Something. [Although I've checked that Foo is deleted, it still assumes the file is there. I've made sure the folder exists.] When I restart my computer, everything's fine again.

When you've done so, use the Edit Summary to state what you updated. This will make it easier to follow your question's revisions.

The idea is: Make it easy for new visitors to read your question and immediately grasp what the issue is. Don't make them scroll to the bottom to look for teeny-tiny bits of important information if that could as well have been in the actual text.

Those who are following you in comments will see your edits and know how you responded to them. There's no need to explicitly state an update in your question. That's why we have revisions, and everybody's free to click the edited… link and check for themselves.

I know it's common practice – especially in forums – to explicitly disclose edits to a post. But Stack Exchange is not a forum. Your questions are the single most important piece of information. There's no thread to read, and there's no chronological component to the eye of the visitor who seeks a solution to a similar problem. That's why there's really no need to clutter a question like this – you'll leave everybody confused. And remember that 90% of our traffic is from search engines — not regular users.

  • But what about readability for returning users that are helping me out? Won't they spend a lot of time figuring out what exactly has happened since they read the question last time? My experience on SE so far, tells me that the same users help you trough the debugging process, and that is why I'd like my question to be easy for the to keep doing exactly that? Isn't it rather tedious for them to go trough the edit history? It is, however, also the "work it into the text" way I'm doing it atm. but I'm just wondering if I'm loosing the primary contributors that way? – Johny Skovdal May 9 '12 at 10:48
  • If you go through a debugging process and a user asks you for clarification, you would have to ping them anyway in a comment. You could mention your result there as well. But note that if your question drifts into a ping-pong of Have you tried X?Yes, see my update comments, then sooner or later those comments have to be cleaned up or taken to chat to prevent even more clutter. – slhck May 9 '12 at 10:51
  • > Won't they spend a lot of time figuring out what exactly has happened since they read the question last time? — I don't think so, with respect to the comment functionality and the fact that we have revisions. I personally would much rather see the OP fix their complete question than adding EDIT all over the place, if it weren't for me, then at least for all others reading the question for the first time. – slhck May 9 '12 at 10:52
  • If it is in response to a clarification yes, but I've been trying to solve the problem myself at the same time (not giving up here! :) ), so some of the updates won't be in reply to a question from another user, and thus, I'm afraid returning users would miss such updates? So what is best practice here? Hope they see it, or comment my own question with the updates, and then edit it into the question, or something third? – Johny Skovdal May 9 '12 at 10:54
  • I think you're overestimating the impact of "returning" users way too much. If they're in for solving your problem, they'll see it. For those that catch your question on the front page after it's bumped, you'd rather do them a favor by keeping your post coherent. Tip: Use the Edit summary too. – slhck May 9 '12 at 10:56
  • Let me remind you again that there shouldn't be a temporal component in a question and its answers. That's really confusing. See this over on MSO too. – slhck May 9 '12 at 10:59
  • the edit summary? I'm not sure what you are hinting at? Very good points btw, thank you. :) – Johny Skovdal May 9 '12 at 11:05
  • See my updated answer (pun intended)! – slhck May 9 '12 at 11:08
  • Ah, with the explanation in parenthesis, I was assuming it was a place to put comments to moderators, justifying your edit. Lesson learned. As for overestimating the impact of returning users, I might very well be doing that. Thank you for all the valuable input, and updating your answer with the link providing, I think we have ourselves a solid answer here. ;) – Johny Skovdal May 9 '12 at 11:13

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