Proposal: note when creating a thread to ask one question

As a volunteer here, I have the habit of focusing on new threads that don’t have any replies, and replying when I can contribute expertise. I suspect that other volunteers might have the same strategy as I’ve seen it happen a couple times that a post will contain multiple questions and one question gets answered while the other, presumably outside the answerer’s expertise, is left unanswered. I’ve also seen scenarios where folks ask one question, that is answered, then add a follow-up question to the same thread that does not get answered.

I think a solution to these cases is to simply put a note at the top of the post creation box notifying users that they’ll be more likely to have each of their questions answered if they only post one question per thread, and that if they have follow-up questions they should consider posting a new thread.



I’ve seen this a couple times, too.

Sometimes people ask several questions that are closely related so it would be good to clarify that one topic per thread, but ok to divide question on one topic to sub-questions.

Yeah I think that’s probably worth trying out and seeing if it helps. @martinmodrak what do you think?

We might even note that it’s ok to post threads with background info that’s redundant to previous threads background info, that way follow-up questions can be asked without losing background. Or maybe suggest that if there’s pertinent background they can note as much with a link to the thread with said background?


As a freshly starting user, reader, poster and culprits of such an unanswered multiinquisitive thread, I think it is a great idea.

When I formulated my question, I wanted to give as much background as possible, and outline the complexity of my problem which requires multiple answers. What I also suspect in hindsight is that perople might refrain from answering such topics because they are only expert in some aspects of the matter.

For me at any rate it was a bigger step from reading here to formulate my question. Also of course I didn’t want to appear rude and only ask short questions without much context. So I think it’s good to encourage new users to ask one question per thread to maximize their chance of getting an answer and if needed to ask multiple questions.

Perhaps as an additional solution you can offer some examples of best practice and link to well formulated questions.


Great idea. I think a full example would be a little long to put as the default text that appears in the main box when folks start a thread, but a link to a pinned thread that is an example should work.

This is an interesting idea, but I am slightly skeptical if it would be the most practical way to address the issue. The potential benefits are there and were discussed above, so I’ll speak about potential downsides:

To answer a non-trivial question, I usually need to take some time to really understand the problem/model/context/… In many cases, this is the most “expensive” operation. Once I’ve built that context I can often quickly answer all the questions in the topic (if they are at least a bit related). The same applies when the user asks a followup question after my first answer: I’ve already understood the problem once, I can usually quickly refresh my understanding and answer without paying the cost of digging through the question again. I also feel a sense of ownership over the topic as I know others are less likely to engage, once they see someone else has started handling it.

If people separate their questions into multiple topics, they would often/sometimes get answered by multiple people, so each would pay the cost of initial understanding. To the extent splitting the topic brings new answerers, it also puts heavier burden of the collective mental resources of answerers. And from my monitoring, we don’t have much spare answering resources - we just barely manage to stay on top of all the topics.

While I think it might be useful to remind people to not ask multiple unrelated questions at once, I wouldn’t really push for strict “one question per topic”.

Even if we wanted to support “one question per topic”, could we achieve that? The problem with notes and other written instructions is that people most likely to both read and follow written instructions AND correctly evaluate if several questions are (un)related are also quite likely to carefully think about their topics and separate their questions into topics sensibly even without explicit instructions.

From my experience the most problematic bundles of several questions are usually the less well-written questions that often ignore the instructions we’ve already put in place (e.g. “share model code”) and so I assume they would ignore this new suggestion as well.

The issue of abandoned/fragmented topics is real, so what do I propose instead?

I think we could advertise more is that it is OK to repost a question that arised at the end of a long abandoned thread and that it is OK to tag people to get their attention. It should IMHO also be the norm that if I provided a first answer in a topic, but can’t/don’t want to answer a followup question (e.g. because I don’t have time) I write a short reply to that effect. In the best case also tagging someone else to take over (via the Who to ask list). E.g.:

Sorry, can’t followup, short on time. Feel free to repost the last question as a new topic to get more attention.

Sorry, I can’t answer that, but maybe @someotheruser can?

We might also decide to invest in really marking solutions in questions (or with tags that solution is not expected) and we could then monitor unsolved topics the way we currently monitor topics with no answers - but that would be a notable change in workflow, so not sure we could pull it off.

Also everybody on TL4 (Leaders and above) can split and merge topics, which we might want to use more if a completely divergent subtopic emerges.

Does that make sense?


Good point that I hadn’t considered! Would it work to still go with my proposed system but suggest that follow-up posts link back to the initial post so that new volunteers can see that others have already done that investment? As a volunteer, if I saw such a scenario I’d probably wait a day or so to see if the original volunteer(s) chimed in to answer the follow-up, and if it’s still unanswered at that point, start investing the time to answer myself.

Alternatively, and I think you alluded to this in your mention of tags, maybe mix my whole suggestion and have a way to flag a topic as having an unanswered Q by the original poster? That way if a thread asks a Q, and a volunteer asks a clarifying Q or the poster, and the poster responds but the original Q persists, the back and forth as seen from a glance in the “new topics” view (that I tend to look at for opportunities to contribute) doesn’t make it seem that the question has been answered. Wait. I guess there’s already the check mark box to tag a thread as solved! Should we just make it more clear for folks to use that more consistently? (Your point that posters are variable in how well they read/follow the post guidelines being also good/pertinent).

I wonder if we should (and if discourse permits) change things so that the volunteer is able to check the “solved” box. That way if the poster ghosts (which I’ve seen), the question doesn’t pop up to everyone as still unanswered (admittedly we’d just have to open and read the thread, but that’s still overhead we could avoid). And if the poster feels the question is not answered and has clarification or follow-up, make it explicit that it’s perfectly fine to u check the solved box and post said queries in the thread.

Oh, I forgot to reply here: this is supported. It is currently allowed only for Leaders (TL4), but we can also allow it for Regular (TL3) users.


Awesome! So to reiterate, the idea would be to encourage volunteers to proactively mark a thread as solved if they think their latest contribution to a thread resolves all remaining open questions. Then if the poster has additional questions or points of clarifications, they can add those and reset the thread to unsolved.

@martinmodrak any idea if it’s possible to add a “unsolved” bookmark at the top of the topic list, in the same way there is currently “Latest/New/Unread/Top/Categories”? That would permit volunteers to quickly focus on threads with issues that remain unsolved.

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This seems to not be possible by default, but it seems possible with some custom scripting: (leaving here so that I don’t forget about it)

That might be a good idea, I’ll think about it


I have hoped to have this option many many times when the person who asked the question replies to my answer that it answers their question, but they don’t click the solution tick box.


OK, I thought about this and I’m convinced there is no reason to restrict this feature. I’ve allowed Regular (TL3) users (which inlcudes Aki :-) ) to mark solutions to all topics.