2

With many of the questions people ask, the appropriate answer will largely depend on what tools and equipment they have access to.

Should we answer questions in multiple sections, describing different, but equally valid answers based on different tools or multiple answers, each with a specific tool?

Perhaps when users sign up, we specifically ask them to put into their profiles what they have access too, or even when they ask a new question, have this question specifically listed in the "How to Ask" section.

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  • This is somewhat going off on a tangent to part of your question, but one case in which I've encouraged someone to post a second answer in the past was when the person had already posted an answer which didn't solve my problem, and later posted a comment which explained why it didn't work. I didn't think it was appropriate to accept a non-working answer but was fine with accepting an answer which explained why the commonly-recommended solution didn't work. superuser.com/questions/451958/… – rob Apr 21 '15 at 17:10
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All the necessary context for a question should be in the question itself. If necessary, you can add a comment to the original post asking what equipment the person has. Sometimes it's a good idea to ask the person to clarify whether they are asking for a hand tool method or power tool method, then create a separate question for the other class of methods.

Should we answer questions in multiple sections, describing different, but equally valid answers based on different tools or multiple answers, each with a specific tool?

Ideally it should be a single answer broken into sections, unless there's a very good reason to post multiple answers (usually there isn't). Keep in mind that you don't always have to provide every gory detail of each method if there are multiple methods for doing something. You can summarize how to do something and link to references which provide more detail.

Perhaps when users sign up, we specifically ask them to put into their profiles what they have access too, or even when they ask a new question, have this question specifically listed in the "How to Ask" section.

Asking everyone to list their tools in their profiles is a nice thought, but I think it's unlikely very many will keep their profile information up-to-date as they buy or sell tools, and it's just as unlikely that everyone who joins the site will remember to review each person's tools before answering a question. Even if we could get everyone to follow this practice, as people do add or remove tools from their profiles, the next issue would be deciding whether we need to go back and add or remove answers to old questions. That seems like it would quickly become a confusing and expensive site maintenance nightmare.

Remember, if you think a question does not contain enough information to be answered definitively, you can always downvote it or, if you have enough rep, vote to close ("too broad," for example). Ideally you should post a comment explaining your downvote or close vote.

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  • Yup, 100% Very well put, rob – FreeMan Apr 20 '15 at 16:52
  • Great answer! Now I don't have to. ;) – bowlturner Apr 20 '15 at 17:24
  • Thanks, guys! :) – rob Apr 20 '15 at 17:56
  • I like your point about asking users to maintain their toolset in their About me page a lot, but I disagree with your take on only writing one answer to a question. If you agree with my answer to that part of the question, you can vote on it independent of my answer to the other part of the question. (see what I did there?) – drs Apr 20 '15 at 23:57
  • Actually this is a bad example because the way in which you split your answer in this meta question--by splitting the original question into multiple parts and addressing each part with a separate answer--is outright wrong since LeeG is supposed to accept one as the definitive answer, and neither addressed the entire question. The question body is intended to clarify the title. If each part of the body must be addressed with a separate answer, each should be split into a separate question. Otherwise we're encouraging writing multiple incomplete answers over writing a single good answer. – rob Apr 21 '15 at 0:36
  • @rob, yes, my two-answer example here is off the mark. If it were on the main site, each answer should address the question completely, just using different methods. On the meta site, answers reflect opinions and discussion points and I felt it was better to separate out the discussion points so that the merit of each point could be gauged separately. I don't think being able to select the best answer is as important as voting, especially on meta. – drs Apr 21 '15 at 11:42
  • Point taken, but in the context of this question, we're discussing whether it's appropriate to post multiple answers on the main site. The wording of your comment also led me to believe you intended to give an example of what would be appropriate on the main site, not what is a appropriate on meta. – rob Apr 21 '15 at 16:28
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Should we answer questions in multiple sections, describing different, but equally valid answers based on different tools or multiple answers, each with a specific tool?

I do think there is merit for the same author to post multiple answers to the same question, each employing its own technique or toolset---as long as the individual solutions are sufficiently complex and independent of each other.

This way, each method will have it's own vote-count, thereby allowing the community to best express which method it likes the best.

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  • The "sufficiently complex and independent of each other" qualification that you mention might classify as "a very good reason to post multiple answers" which I did note as an exception in my answer. But if the answers are sufficiently complex it may still make more sense to reduce the scope of the question and spawn separate questions to accommodate other answers if appropriate (especially as we try to grow the site). – rob Apr 21 '15 at 1:01
  • As far as giving each method its own vote count, I'm torn on the idea of a popularity contest between different methods. Some really great solutions might be pushed to the bottom simply because they're less common or because not as many people have those tools. – rob Apr 21 '15 at 1:14
  • @rob I agree, "sufficiently complex" makes it seem like the answers need to be much more involved and detailed than I intended. I am going to see if I can reword it. – drs Apr 21 '15 at 11:31
  • @rob, The popularity contest is an interesting point. Would we rather the answer that benefits the most to be on top or the best answer, but one that requires tools that fewer people have (and thus fewer people benefit from the answer)? I don't know the answer to that. – drs Apr 21 '15 at 11:34
  • I don't necessarily think a less common answer should be the highest-voted or accepted answer, but I also don't think it should be buried. If the top answers list multiple options/methods/solutions, it seems to me that the less common answers will still have a fighting chance of garnering a few votes. – rob Apr 21 '15 at 16:30
  • also I can see room for cases in which a method doesn't necessarily require exotic or uncommon tools, but is simply a new or recently-rediscovered technique that finally found its way online. It may not be very popular simply because everyone is used to one or more other methods. – rob Apr 21 '15 at 16:56
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Perhaps when users sign up, we specifically ask them to put into their profiles what they have access too, or even when they ask a new question, have this question specifically listed in the "How to Ask" section.

I think @rob did an excellent job addressing this, I just have one thing to note. When asking yourself questions like this, always consider who will benefit the most from the answers: the scores of viewers that come to the question in the future. All of these viewers will have different tools at their disposal. The more varied solutions our site has, the better a resource it will be for each of these viewers.

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0

To answer the explicit question,

Should we answer questions in multiple sections, describing different, but equally valid answers based on different tools or multiple answers, each with a specific tool?

"no".

If we know of several answers, the correctness of which will depend on hand tools or power tools, we should use the comments feature to establish the framework of the question, then answer the question. In this particular discussion, "which tools are available", we should encourage the use of "hand tools" and "power tools" tags.

I am somewhat new to Stack Exchange and have spent a lot of time as a newcomer perusing Stack Overflow. There, the OP poses a question, others ask for clarification in the comments and finally answers are generated. There is a wide use of tags, one of which is always operating system (mac?), developing environment(delphi) or language (Lisp). A question without this level of tagging would immediately be commented with a request for this minimal context.

No one would come up with a solution using Lisp until they knew the questioner was asking about a problem with Lisp.

Obviously, Woodworking is going in a less formal direction and we do not require that the user exhibit a level of resourcefulness on Google that has led them to hit brick wall and finally ask for help on the Stack. If we did required a wider search before asking questions here, I suspect few questions would make it to this particular Q&A forum. Oops, this is leading me in a new direction, somewhat off topic - I'll wait for an appropriate question, or perhaps ask my own meta question at another time.

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