I see a request for a schematic, part number, picture, or other basic info in the comments to a question almost every day here, sometimes a few times a day. Here's a random example, and another and another, just from the last few questions (and yet another perfect example just popped up)
Here's another example that manages to give a schematic but misses out other potentially useful info (IC Part number, SA shots, etc)
And another which has three requests for a circuit/photo/etc, but ends up with a picture of the product ad, instead of the OPs setup.
Another good example of a new user's question.
Another interesting example here where @Olin mentioned some need for improvement of the question and the likelihood of it being closed in his answer, but this was edited out - fair enough as it probably should have been a comment, but it would save time if the (new) user knows beforehand that such a vague question is likely to be closed.
Another one today from a new user which is a good example of a question that misses all the common requests out.

I have posted similar requests in the comments so many times I have considered writing a script in autohotkey to save time :-)

If a user has asked less than a certain amount of questions I think it would be a good idea to have either a list of things to add alongside the entry box, or a pop-up asking whether you have remembered to add this info. Maybe there could be a scan of the text to see if there are any links/pictures/keywords to determine whether the reminder is necessary.

I know we have the "how to ask a good question" in the FAQ, but:

  • Hardly anyone reads the FAQ
  • It doesn't appear to mention common EE related information it would help to add to your question.

So what do people think?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how much control we the users have over the stackexchange platform, but I doubt we can get much custom stuff. So from what I can tell it's all about educating users and helping them asking the correct questions. What we could do is to create a prototype question (either here or on the main site) in the form of a wiki question and keep on pointing people to that. It could also be a part of the "ad rotation" on the right hand side of the site. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 8:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @trygvis - yes, I'm interested to hear what we can do from one of the mods or someone from the site dev team. At the very least a prototype question sounds like a good idea, trouble is where to put it; since if we have to keep pointing people to it would be quicker to just request the info directly instead :-) A small dialog would not be hard to implement, even with some basic intelligence as mentioned. I would be interested to see how much such a feature would reduce these request comments, and speed up the answer process... \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 10:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... sometimes it can be over 24 hours before either: enough info has been presented, or the real question has emerged. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would really help in many of these cases if people had filled some profile information. Age, background, experience, ... I agree with @trygvis that stack-specific-intelligence is probably out of scope or very complex to implement fore SE, but this is one of those things that I don't mind if I get proven incorrect. \$\endgroup\$
    – jippie
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 23:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @jippie - You may be right about a script, but what about the idea of a simple list of reminders at the side of the entry box then? I think this would actually be the most effective way of doing things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 15:36

3 Answers 3


You can't fix stupid. Adding to the FAQ would be good if it's constructive, but there's a difference between an FAQ and a document stating the obvious. The smart people, the ones who actually read the FAQ, won't read it if it's a four page tirade on how noobs can't ask good questions.

There's also a fine line between informing users and annoying them. I have a hard time thinking of a way to remind people to ask good questions without annoying the people that already know.

I think there are a number of mechanisms already in place to get people to do the Right Thing:

  • reviews on new user posts
  • leadership by example, when questions are edited by more experienced users
  • critical comments and downvotes on bad questions
  • \$\begingroup\$ 4: Closing bad questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not suggesting a "four page tirade", just a pop up or suggestion panel alongside when a new user posts. Unfortunately I don't think it's a simple as "smart people will read the FAQ" (many intelligent folk won't) and "you can't fix stupid". I agree we have plenty of stuff in place already, but it doesn't seem to do much for this particular issue, which wastes quite a lot of time (requesting info, either getting or not getting the info, voting to close, info may suddenly arrive, possibly voting to reopen, etc) \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OliGlaser there is already a "How to Ask" box on the "Ask Question" form. Are you suggesting changing that, or something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phil - I'm thinking of something like: simple reminders that are displayed (e.g. at the side of the entry text box, rather than the user has to click on) or maybe a pop up based on a scan of the question to see if any schematic/picture/link has been added. This would only apply for say, the first few posts a new user makes. A little bit like in e-mail software, where if you have e.g. "attach" in your text it pops up with "did you forget to add an attachment?" when you click send. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OliGlaser I think that sounds fine, but how do you know what questions need a schematic or a datasheet? I can't imagine an algorithm that would do a good enough job at that to be better than simply placing something like "please include a schematic and link to datasheets wherever possible" in the "how to ask" box that's always displayed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost - I agree the algorithm would be a very rough test, but better than nothing (and depending on how it's coded may be not so bad) However, I think a simple checklist alongside the entry box is a better idea in any case (for the first few posts) This would be trivial to implement and it would be hard to avoid reading it, which unfortunately is the main issue with the links/FAQ; people can easily avoid clicking/reading them :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 15:59

Good idea, but it fails to account for "new user" restrictions. Anyone under 10 rep cannot post images, or add in more than 2 links. Yet people keep scolding them and downvoting their questions and immediately jumping to close votes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair point, but this is not only about completely new users, and also the info can often be provided in text form (e.g. part number, readings, code, etc) and if necessary a couple of links is plenty for a schematic/picture or similar. I agree about folk often being too quick to close questions with new users, I think at least 12 hours or so should be given for the user to see comments and respond to them. However, I think these reminders would actually help with this issue, as the question would have more chance of being deemed "acceptable" first time round. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 15:45
  • "English as a second or other language" is quite often a major factor, and some people seem to be completely unable to discern this. In other cases they can discern it but don't care - an attitude which includes aspects of applied racism in some cases. [Where's my flame suit?].

  • I have been frequently told that people can edit and reopen but you see a significant percentage of newcomers just never come back. Again, some thing this is a good thing - an attitude which can overlap into elitism and racism to very variable extents.

A boiler plate 'diatribe' which appropriate sections of could be pasted as an answer when needed may be useful. Or not.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree on the two points you raise and think we should go easy on newcomers and allow for English not being the OP's first language. However, my request has little or nothing to do with either of these, since we frequently see questions from people to whom neither of the above apply that get the same old "can you post a schematic/picture/links..." requests - it's because we are so quick to close questions and be (too) strict with newcomers that I think they need all the help they can get. Since no-one reads the FAQ, some basic reminders at the side of the input box would go a long way IMHO. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oli Glaser
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 11:57

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