Forum: Proper Protocol For How To Ask Follow-Up Questions?
gravatar for jobinv
7.3 years ago by
Bergen, Norway
jobinv1.1k wrote:

I've asked a number of questions on Biostars so far, and the community has been very helpful with answering very many of these. However, there are times when I've tried the solution suggested and it's worked at first, but soon afterwards I run into a very related problem. My question is, what is the proper protocol on Biostars for asking a follow-up question?

On the one hand I could reply to the person who gave me the original answer, but my feeling is that that puts a lot of pressure on that particular person. After all, by being helpful and answering my first question, that person isn't intending to turn into my personal consulting service for future questions - it would be much better if I could ask the follow-up question to the community as a whole. For this, I could either start a new thread and link to the old one, or write my new question as an "answer" to my previous question. Are there any preferences among the community about this?

forum biostar • 2.2k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 7.3 years ago by Michael Dondrup47k • written 7.3 years ago by jobinv1.1k

Question phylogenies!

ADD REPLYlink written 7.3 years ago by Aaronquinlan11k

It's nice that you have thought about this. I think you should not see a reply in a comment thread as putting pressure on one person. After all, comment threads are open and anyone else can participate. In general, I think comment threads are best for this scenario, just be aware that questions can tend to become ignored as they age.

We prefer that new questions are not posted as answers - since answers are supposed to be, well, answers. A new thread is acceptable, provided that you clearly indicate why the problem merits a new question. Otherwise, it runs the risk of being closed as a duplicate (perhaps incorrectly).

ADD REPLYlink written 7.3 years ago by Neilfws49k

I guess make a judgement call on a case-by-case basis... is it a minor clarification on a recent question? Just post a comment. Is it a significant expansion of the original Q you asked a while back? Why not ask anew.

ADD REPLYlink written 7.3 years ago by Ben2.0k

See also how this is discussed on StackExchange: . In general, if the follow-up question can stand alone, it is better to post it separately. This is not a fixed rule or protocol, but if you post a new question after the correct answer has been given, very few people will see it.

ADD REPLYlink modified 7.3 years ago • written 7.3 years ago by Giovanni M Dall'Olio27k
gravatar for Michael Dondrup
7.3 years ago by
Bergen, Norway
Michael Dondrup47k wrote:


first I would like to thank you that you are considerate about your ways of communication with the community. In accordance with Neil's comment, I would like you not to worry about putting pressure on someone by putting a comment. Everyone decides if and to what extent they wish to contribute and how much time they spend on the site. Now. let's have a look at the options you mention and also at the effects on visibility.

  • Putting a follow up as an answer: this is the worst option. Please do only add an answer if it is really an answer. The semantics of Q&A is very fixed (or inflexible, not suitable for extensive discussions). Adding an answer, will also increment the answer counter of the question, which again might give the impression that this Question has already gotten sufficient attention. Only plus is, that the Question will go to the top of the stack, but don't do this.

  • Adding a comment: Suitable for small clarifications and follow ups, e.g. you bet the answer, use: command -a -b -c, however after a new version of command is released, -c now becomes -foo. When adding a comment, all users having interacted with the question will receive a notice in their 'inbox', not only the user who answered. All these users somehow qualify as expert on this topic, and could answer. Downside: the question is not ranked up.

  • Adding a new question, containing a link to the previous question: Good for larger follow ups, that justify a new question. I would not see such a question as duplicate, if it is interesting in its own right. Advantage: fresh question without answer appears at the top of the stack, looking for attention. Downside: relation to the old question is only via a link, possibly both questions require a bit of redundant explanation, or the user has to read both to understand. I recommend this option in most cases.

  • Editing the original question: Maybe for very related follow-ups, e.g. possibly you discovered later that your question falls in a larger class of problems, however attention might be less, because no notification is made automatically. Therefore, adding a comment in addition might help, in order to notify all contributors. Question will appear at the top of the stack, but attention might be less. Editing a question after it has been answered might distort the relation between question and answer, such that the answer was covering the original question well but possibly no longer the extended question. This can create some confusion. Such edits should be marked clearly in the question and the old question retained.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 7.3 years ago • written 7.3 years ago by Michael Dondrup47k
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