Get the Context In The Question, Not The Answer

The majority of questions require more context than provided to answer well (indeed, true experts will always ask for more context before trying to provide an answer).

Let’s take a typical question, “Which drill bit should I use?”

You can’t really answer this question without much context.

What sized hole do you need? What are you trying to build? What is your budget, risk tolerance, and current level of skill with drilling holes?

The more context a member provides, the better answers they will receive.

Problems begin when well-intentioned members try to provide answers without much context.

Since few repondees hedge the answers (i.e. “if you’re trying to do [x], use this, but if you’re trying to do [y], use this…”), the majority of these answers will be only applicable in specific contexts.

This means you need to focus on getting the context in the question rather than hoping for it in the answers.

You can learn from StackOverflow’s system below:

Summarize the problem?
What are you trying to achieve?
What have you tried already?
What tools and technology do you use?
etc..

These are all really useful nudges to ensure members are providing the context they need to get the answers they want.

You might not be able to use the same approach as they do, but you can provide the right nudges at the moment members are writing the question or, failing that, when they join the community.

You’re probably not going to get much context in the answers, so work hard to get the context in the question.

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