This week we take a detour off the beaten path, and talk exclusively about best practices on Ask Different, and Stack Exchange in general.
Stack Exchange is a Question & Answer site. It is not a Wiki, Forum, Blog, or content aggregator like Reddit or Digg, but it takes many good ideas from these types of sites. For a long time Stack Exchange consisted of what we call the “Big 3″ Sites, Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User, but over the past 2 years it has expanded into a network of 31 unique topics and growing. All of these sites follow the same basic principles, but differ in their content and scope.
Stack Exchange is built around asking Questions, and providing Answers, and everything that has been built out from that reflects it. The better a Question is, the better chance you have of getting a complete and definitive answer. Things that make a good question are good spelling and grammar, with respect to the fact that Stack Exchange is a US company and a predominately English-speaking audience, and proof that your question is a legitimate issue that you have already attempted to fix. There are some very notable exceptions to the common English-speaking situation in sites such as Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and German Language and Usage.
Regarding Ask Different itself, we are a community devoted to Apple enthusiasts and power users. Questions about Apple Hardware, Software, other Apple services, and third-party hardware/software for use on Apple devices are all on-topic. Questions about programming (except AppleScript and Automator) and the Apple Developer Program (including iAd), or using Apple’s various operating systems on non-Apple Hardware are not. Other topics that are almost always restricted from discussion on Stack Exchange are shopping or buying recommendations, pre-release or other unofficially released software, and illegally obtaining software or other media. The reasons generally range from the fact that these questions are not a good fit for Stack Exchange, or are generally illegal subjects. Asking questions about pre-release software is futile because questions about bugs or missing functionality could change within a day, and does not fit well with the non-immediate nature of Stack Exchange, nor it’s intent for being a collection of factual knowledge and answers.
Over the course of this episode we go over some of the best practices for writing questions, answers, and comments, and provide some advice on editing and voting.
Some of the specific questions and pages we referenced, and those that we regularly visit for their various uses are:
- Ask Different – Our Q&A site. Of course.
- Meta Ask Different – The Meta sites are about the details involved in asking questions, and not always about actual Apple questions, except to define or address scope.
- The XY Problem – A post to Meta Ask Different regarding indirect answers to a question, and what actions should be taken in this, and similar, situations.
- Making an Airport Appear As a Computer – The question that inspired ‘The XY Problem’ post.
- Search Options on Stack Exchange – Kyle suggested simply pressing enter in the search box to get detailed search tips, but you can also simply use this link.
- How to quickly identify all eligible iTunes Match upgrades – An example of information that is completely detailed elsewhere, and how to give appropriate attribution to the source, but also preserve the content in a way that enables complete reference on Stack Exchange, just in case the link should ever stop working in the future.
- The Ask Different Blog – This link may be a bit redundant if you’re reading this, but since some of you are reading this from a Podcast client, it’s still relevant!
- Stack Exchange Chat Rooms for Ask Different – The current set of active chat rooms related to Ask Different. We do our best to be available in the Ask Different Chat room as often as possible. As do other users of Ask Different.