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Writers.SE is the first Stack Exchange Site I've ever been involved with - I just happened to stumble across it one day while surfing the web - so I apologize if this might seem obvious to many of you. It's not to me, though.

I was reading through posts on what makes good questions, and one of the things listed there was something to the effect of: Questions that are updated to reflect answers given, continual research into the answers, etc. This is pretty easily seen in "objective" questions and answers - maybe not objective in that there is only one right answer (like to a programming question, for example), but not subjective in the same way that many writing answers / questions are.

Which got me wondering: how should we be updating our questions and answers as time goes on?

What particularly got me wondering about this is the large number of good answers to so many questions. One thing that kind of bothers me about Writers.SE is that the "best answer" picked might be seen by some as the "one good answer" or "only answer" or "objectively correct answer" to the question. When, in fact, it's usually not. I still pick a best answer, if for no other reason than because I think it is very important for community involvement.

But would it be a good idea, especially for those questions which receive a lot of answers to go back and create a link list in the original question which gives a quick overview of the answers given? Or for more "subjective" questions than the one I linked to (like Tips For Expanding My Vocabulary?) would it be appropriate for the author of the original question to choose a best answer, but then also point out (at the end of his original post) other noteworthy answers?

Stack Exchange seems like the kind of place where you don't want a lot of the exact same question coming up again and again - you want it to come up once, and then gather all of the good answers under that one-time-asked-question. If that's the case, it seems like a lot more thought and effort needs to go into not only how we ask questions, but even the format of the question (that it looks nice and is easily readable), plus making sure that the very first thing that people read (the question itself) clearly indicates good answers, maybe even includes links to other websites as time goes on, etc.

I'm just wondering if this is appropriate for the "Question" post and, if it is, how best to go about doing all of this / encouraging others to do it, as well.

One idea I had (which I haven't followed yet, but it came to me just this afternoon) would be encouraging the use of SE's basic HTML formatting: headers in questions that divide the question itself, extra description, further reading, good answers, etc. It's just an idea. I just wasn't sure if that was appropriate for the "Question Post" itself or not.

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You bring up a lot of interesting points. Ultimately, the StackExchange framework is just a tool, and it doesn't always work quite as well as we'd like. I personally think it works a little better for the absolute "one-right-answer" topics, like programming, than it does for more subjective topics, but we can still make it work for us.

One thing that kind of bothers me about Writers.SE is that the "best answer" picked might be seen by some as the "one good answer" or "only answer" or "objectively correct answer" to the question. When, in fact, it's usually not. I still pick a best answer, if for no other reason than because I think it is very important for community involvement.

SE actually has two mechanisms for showing the "correctness" or "quality" of an answer. The green check shows the answer that the original poster liked best. Consider accepting an answer as showing your opinion (and giving a little rep to the person you feel most deserved it). The second mechanism is vote count. The accepted answer is at the top of the list, but all other answers are still ordered by votes.

So, if a reader only reads the first two posts, those will be:

  • The answer considered best by the original poster
  • The answer considered best by everyone else (or second-best, if everyone agreed with the original poster)

This seems pretty good to me. If people can't be bothered to read more than one post on a given question, I honestly don't think there's that much we can do for them. If there's no accepted answer, those people will just read the first (highest voted) answer.

But would it be a good idea, especially for those questions which receive a lot of answers to go back and create a link list in the original question which gives a quick overview of the answers given?

I personally prefer creating a new answer, marking it community wiki, and adding all the links to that. You might also mark that answer as the accepted answer. Here's an example.

  • By making it an answer, you keep Q and A neatly separated.
  • By making it CW, you lower the rep requirement to edit, so others can help keep the list updated.
  • By accepting it, you draw attention to it (though accepting your own answer doesn't cause it to rise to the top).

Or for more "subjective" questions than the one I linked to (like Tips For Expanding My Vocabulary?) would it be appropriate for the author of the original question to choose a best answer, but then also point out (at the end of his original post) other noteworthy answers?

I would encourage you to point out noteworthy answers with your votes, and only with your votes. The whole point of the voting system is that the number of votes point to the answers the community likes best. Creating a list of personal favorites in the question essentially tries to replace the quality-by-votes system with the quality-by-what-the-OP-likes-best system. As the original poster, you get the check mark to place where you like, which is already a pretty powerful mark of approval. I think the rest can be safely left up to the community.

Of course, this is all my personal opinion. There's no "official" way of dealing with list-of-X questions, so different SE sites have come up with different policies (or lack of policy).

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Not being a novel writer myself, I try to keep my answer short ;) You essentially hit the spirit of SE.

If there are more than one great answer, vote all of them up, refer to them in the OP (original post, i.e. the question), but - provided you have enough reputation - you can also edit the best answer to incorporate the main points of other good answers. Or you might encourage the answerer by comment to elaborate. It's all about good answers, not reputation.

Editing your OP, it is a good idea to include a heading like Edit:, such that answerers see what has changed. Maybe again leave a comment on answers to inform of the change and provoke reactions.

As for duplicate questions: they will be there. High rep users and moderators will take care of them, marking them as duplicates and eventually merging them. If one does not have the rep yet to do so, flag them for moderator attention or leave a comment for the OP.

English.SE as well as writers.SE sound very interesting to me, as I expect much more style. Surprise me, ye word smiths.

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    Thanks! I was planning on going back through my questions and editing them (in a way that still made sense with the answers), but I just wanted to make sure that was okay or even encouraged. I assumed it was, but like I said, this is my first experience on SE, and I just wanted to make sure. – Nathan Fischer Jan 1 '11 at 15:04

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