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The "How do I ask a good question?" Help Center page could use some work. Part of it is wrong, some of it could use more info, and some of it could be expanded. Let's go through what's there, and then let's brainstorm some ideas for improving it!

Search, and research

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn't meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Yep, if there is a obvious dupe target, explaining why it didn't work is important. Specifically that OPs should include what exactly they tried and how it didn't work. A.k.a. "It didn't work" isn't sufficient for not being a dupe.

Be on-topic

Our community is defined by a specific set of topics that you can view in the help center; please stick to those topics and avoid asking for opinions or open-ended discussion. If your question is about the site itself, ask on our meta-discussion site. If you're looking for a different topic, it might be covered on another Stack Exchange site.

Seems good.

Be specific

If you ask a vague question, you'll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer.

Incorrect. Vague questions that can't be answered without more info should (and hopefully will) be closed as "Needs Details or Clarity", perhaps with a (polite) comment explaining what else is needed. Vague, incomplete answers aren't the correct action for insufficient detail in a question. Either the question is specific enough for a good answer, or it isn't.

Make it relevant to others

We like to help as many people at a time as we can. Make it clear how your question is relevant to more people than just you, and more of us will be interested in your question and willing to look into it.

This is true, but unhelpful. To me and most active SE users, this makes sense. But think about it from the perspective of a first-time question asker who knows nothing about the SE model - "Why should I care about it being useful to others, I just want an answer to my problem". I'll come back to this in a bit.

Keep an open mind

The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn't mean it is wrong. A conclusive answer isn't always possible. When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don't agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we're just trying to help.

Yes, frame challenges (this) sometimes happen, and being open-minded is important. Although, frame challenges (on AU) tend to happen when the OP has an XY Problem, so IMO we should explain (or link to?) the XY Problem. Also, asking for a source is fine, but how they learned it really isn't the purpose of comments, so that should probably be removed (a brand new AU user is highly unlikely to use chat).


I also propose that we incorporate some of the MCVE page from SO into this page, but talored to AU. Here's what I propose (ish):

I don't point out the "Minimal" part, because I'd like to avoid XY Problems when possible. Maybe there is a way to do both...?

When asking a question, people will be better able to help you if you clearly explain your issue, and you don't include more info than is needed to clearly communicate your question. Your question should

  • Provide all parts someone else needs to reproduce your problem in the question itself. If you're having an issue with Ubuntu itself, see if you can reproduce it in a live CD, and if so, include the exact steps you took to reproduce the issue.
  • Include any and all commands (and command output) formatted as code blocks, not as images.
  • Explain what you're trying to accomplish - this makes it easier to find a solution

Also, we may want to re-order these items to have the most important ones at the top.


Regardless of if you agree, disagree, or have more ideas, feel free to post an answer! I'm not attached to this perticular wording or these perticular things too much, my goal is to make that page as helpful as possible

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    Discussion regarding this Help Center page should be on MSE, so I’m closing this and I’ll suggest some stuff there
    – cocomac
    Aug 19 at 20:22
  • I suspect that discussion there will be for global changes to the template, that is: changes that would be rolled out to all SE sites. Fair enough, but specific changes exclusively related to AU would not be covered there.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Aug 19 at 23:41

2 Answers 2

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In the interest of making sure this is highly visible, I'm copying this from @V2Blast (Staff)'s comment on the other answer:

We generally avoid customizing Help Center articles for specific sites unless the current version of the page doesn't fit the site at all. If you think the relevant Help Center page should be updated network-wide, you may want to suggest the change on Meta Stack Exchange instead. Also, it doesn't need to be HTML; markdown works just fine on Help Center pages.

With that in mind, let me suggest we close this discussion out here and, if warranted, open a discussion on MSE. If it were just about tweaking the AU page, I'd throw in some suggestions myself, but I can understand the SE Staff desire to keep one common page across sites as much as possible.

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  • Done! - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/381380/… - Also, I VTC'd this question but turns out the owner can't do that without anyone else so it might take a bit
    – cocomac
    Aug 19 at 20:37
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    I can understand a template for new SEs, but the fact that we can't tailor help pages to our own community is frustrating. If they are going to be the same across all SEs then these pages should have generic SE branding/logos and not the individual SE communities. I would suggest that we petition SE to allow communities to edit their own help pages, but I just have a feeling that will never happen.
    – Nmath
    Aug 20 at 3:28
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I fully support the idea of improvements to this page and it would be a simple world if the Moderator Team could directly edit the page. However for a variety of network reasons this is currently not the case.

Drawing from a post on the Stack Moderators Meta pages (quoted in italics and modified slightly as shown with [xxx] markings) I propose a roadmap for the changes to go through:

  1. Create a post on the appropriate community’s Meta site asking for an edit to a Help Center page. So this has been done thanks to @cocomac!
  2. Copy/paste the URL of the Help Center page in the question and submit the edits. Include the source text and the proposed edits so that [the Community Managers] can quickly make the changes. Be sure to have gathered consensus from the community/moderator teams about the change before moving to the next step. This process of Community consultation is now underway and probably should be given some reasonable time to process. As for the source code I see the relevant section for editing in this on the page: <div class="s-prose js-post-body w100"> Contents here... </div>. Simple matter to edit this and present to the CMs as raw HTML. Edit: As corrected by @V2Blast ordinary standard SE markdown is fine in this case...
  3. Tag the post with 'status-review' which will trigger an alert on [the Community Managers'] internal board and [they will] triage it and add it to [their] queue. This can be done by any of the Moderator team.
  4. [Community Managers] will respond and make the edit or ask further questions should something be unclear or need to be adjusted.
  5. The tag will change to either 'status-completed' or 'status-declined'.

So the process will take a while I suspect but in an ideal world we will eventually present a single 'Answer' to the Community Managers that contains alterations to this page, in raw HTML, that has achieved Community consensus. And then respond to any concerns of the CM team.

Should be fun :)

References

  1. What parts of the help center can site moderators edit? A look at areas that Moderators can directly edit. Most other areas need Community consensus and an obliging CM...
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  • "probably should be given some reasonable time to process" -- Just don't forget that the change is out there in meantime 😉. Case in point -- Is 4 months an appropriate amount of time? Ready for status-review? Might be worth a bump to see if there's any more feedback, but we probably shouldn't let another 4 months pass before implementing. I can format as HTML, if needed - That wasn't brought up earlier. Aug 18 at 3:24
  • @NotTheDr01ds 4 months is too long I suspect :). My own idea for a time frame for the changes proposed here was about 4 weeks and then submit; I guess I have chosen an arbitrary time. However the page you have looked at in your Meta question can be directly edited by the Moderator team, no CMs required. My apologies that this has perhaps slipped through the cracks, if you give me a little time I will make the edits, hopefully by the end of tomorrow my time.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Aug 18 at 3:35
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    We generally avoid customizing Help Center articles for specific sites unless the current version of the page doesn't fit the site at all. If you think the relevant Help Center page should be updated network-wide, you may want to suggest the change on Meta Stack Exchange instead. Also, it doesn't need to be HTML; markdown works just fine on Help Center pages.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Aug 19 at 18:25
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    @V2Blast Done - MSE: Let's improve the "How do I ask a good question?" page
    – cocomac
    Aug 19 at 20:36
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    @V2Blast It is beyond the scope of of this Meta question of course but it is on my personal wish list that the network would provide the template for such pages (as is the case now) but then release control and allow editing of all such pages at a site Mod level. I have read discussion debating both sides but my own preference would be for more independence for AU (and other sites) in this area.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Aug 19 at 23:37

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