The StackExchange community is different from other forums, communities, or wikis. It is a great stew of democracy, community editing, self moderation, and wonderfully simple standard formatting. New users won't get it right away, which can lead to awkward confrontations. Communicating and supporting one's question in a way that fosters quality answers is a skill earned through practice and awareness -- hopefully I can help with the latter (the former eludes me yet).

  • title: keep it as short and to the point as possible. You don't have to describe your question exactly, just the jist of it. Cut filler words, like any of the 5 W's. If you think the title is a bit long, such as if it wraps to a second line, eliminate the least important identifiers, but not to the point of making the title ambiguous or vague. An example is here, though the "How To" stuck:
    • original: HELP: How would i sample an audio tract at nyquist frequency using c and a micro-controller?
    • revised: How to sample audio at Nyquist frequency with MSP430F5438?

  • tags: similar guidelines to forming a title, but you have less choice, as using common tags appropriately usually has more value for the community than making new ones. As mentioned in the SO FAQ and something I have trouble with, Don't try to summarize your question using the tags.

  • question: it needs to attract readers to the point to where they want to answer your question. This implies legibility, conciseness, and structure, all of which take effort.

    • legibility: modern browsers come with automatic spell checkers, so use them. Nobody really cares all that much about grammar, but they will notice the effort expunged in well written pieces.

    • conciseness: Large blocks of text are like eating dry toast, so keep it short; again, cull filler words -- not to the extent as in titles, but wherever it doesn't change the meaning of a sentence.

    • structure: this is all about using this forum's limited style palette to make your question (and answers) easier to understand. On the right side of your browser window you should see the "How to Format" window, giving a link to the available markdown and allowable HTML.

      Whitespace is important -- it gives the reader space to breathe! For example, I intentionally put spaces between these sub-bullets, as there is too much text in each to sandwich them together and expect the reader not to shy away.

      Common issues -- must skim:

      1. The XY Problem
      2. How to ask and answer homework questions?
      3. Help Vampires

Oh, and here's a badge: tyblu http://kevinx.net/labs/php/badge.php?txt=Read%20Through%20One%20Of%20tyblu%27s%20Megalong%20Questions . Put it on the fridge.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Your badge, like your question, is too large to easily fit on my fridge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Dec 28, 2010 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


I think a lot of those things come naturally, and before you know the site well, you are going to ask that stuff regardless of how many FAQs are made. That is why so many people can edit. Help the clear and concise question come forward, then as the user continues to contribute, they do it also!

New User

The best thing we can do is help lower the bar to these users to ask questions. I do not mean that we should accept trash, but make them feel more at home, as a site, when someone asks a good question that the formatting if awful on, we fix it for them.

Upvote for the content of the question, not the formatting! You can fix the formatting, you cannot fix the content without changing the question.


The community needs to accept the rate at which we may have to edit tags, but that is the great part about a community, there are a lot of us.

If we each edit one question a day, out of 200 of us, we can do 200 questions a day. Right now we are only having 9-10 questions per day, this means for 200 of us we only need to do it about once ever 3 weeks.

What if users have already started down the wrong path with their problem?

We have to talk to them a bit in comments and help them find the way back out of the rabbit hole. This is something WE can do, but we really need to approach it nicely. If we ask for more info and the user does not come back and a couple days later we have nothing else, we just close the question. This is not hard to do, and no one is hurt by it.

Closing Questions

People need to be less scared to do this, they also need to understand that it can be reversed. If 5 people vote to close, then 5 people vote to reopen, you need a new 5 people to close it again. It is a messy way of taking a vote. Moderators have the job of stepping in when people start getting their feelings hurt or when the votes are due to a disagreement on SO policy.

We make mistakes also as moderators, sorry, I hope you cut us a break. I have been told if no one is mad at me I am not doing my job. I try to channel Robert as best I can, and try to ask other moderators if I have any doubt, but my decisions can be overturned, and I take no offense. I am trying to help the community with a direction and quick action when there are problems. Tell us in meta or come in chat when you think we are wrong. I like discussing things, either you learn more about SO's direction, or I correct something I have done wrong, everyone comes out the better. I try to leave a comment for my reasoning, but I also try to avoid comment wars.


On new sites, it is critical that you are visiting this URL every day:


You want to be vetting all the new users that come in to the site, helping the ones that seem salvageable, and gently (if implicitly) shoo-ing away the less clueful / useful ones.

This means reviewing all new content by new users -- if it's awesome, vote it up and let them know! If it needs a bit of editing to be in tip-top shape, do so! If the user needs a bit of constructive comment feedback, well, share it!

Bear in mind the Pee-Wee Herman rule:



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