My question on plugins has reminded me of the failing of a strict Q&A format. The inability to have a dialogue with the people answering the question.

Yes, there are options like chat, email, and meta, but they fall a little short of the mark.

  • chat is 'real time' and the participants may be in different timezones, or simply not online at convenient times, making this impractical.
  • email is precluded by SE's (sensible IMHO) policy of not exposing email addresses.
  • meta is meant for discussion of the site, not the actual meat of a Q&A

So that seems to leave three options - edit my question, post an answer of my own, or open new questions.

  • editing the question runs the risk of if being a chameleon question or rendering existing answers irrelevant
  • posting an answer with more questions is clearly not acceptable
  • Asking new questions ... well then you get a chain of "continued in ..." comments which are very hard to follow. Unless, when a final answer is arrived at all the preceding questions are deleted.

So, how do we deal with this type of issue?

This is a generic problem with SE's format and that's not meant as a criticism.

In this case of the specific question I linked, it's the answers I'm receiving which are both surprising me and leading me to want to refine the question to tease out what I'm starting to think might be a very important corner case.

3 Answers 3


This is inherently something SE can't do well simply since it wasn't designed to do it. The purpose of the SE network is to offer better Q&A than a classic forum ever could. And you have to interpret Q&A very strictly there: tightly scoped as well as well defined questions with (mostly) objective answers.

The problem you're having is with scope. The possible answerspace is so large that different answers can take entirely different directions.

There is a solution though, and you've already said it: try to divide your question up into smaller questions. Just start with the first sub question that puts you on the right track to answering your question and revisit the problem in a next question when you're one step closer to the solution if necessary.

Chameleon questions are indeed a valid concern since they undermine SE's primary function. Which us not to help you with your problems, but to help anyone on the Internet with similar problems.

You can answer your own question, but that answer must be held to the same standards as any other answers. And if a question is not answerable, it's also not self-answerable.


overactor is right. The Stack Exchange format is deliberately designed not to be a forum or discussion board; it's a Q&A site. However, that doesn't preclude some good results of a discussion making it onto the site: if a discussion is had in chat, then someone may be able to construct a question of it, and the participants an answer.

If you're getting surprising answers, you should work out why - is it because you didn't scope your question appropriately, or is it because there were answers you hadn't thought possible, or just hadn't thought of? If it's the first, you may be able to edit your question - as long as you don't change the basic question it asks, you can widen or narrow the scope (just don't make it too broad). It's still courteous to comment on each answer to notify their authors, though.

If it's the latter, then again consider why. If you work out some reasons, then often they pose new questions which can also be asked here. By doing this, and asking series of questions, you not only get comprehensive, full answers, you also leave a trail of good content on the site. And everyone's happy.


Stack exchange sites are not the place for questions that call forth book-length answers. Only some parts of the FLOSS world have settled legal status. Many are still in the territory of dueling legal theories, awaiting litigation or legislation. Expecting to find answers that apply in very general ways may not always be realistic. In some cases, the best you can do is to ask much narrower questions about very specific situations.

You might want to start by reading http://www.rosenlaw.com/oslbook.htm, and then ask questions.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .