Your feedback on a "How to introduce non-programming-problem questions" guide



Some of my favorite content here has been non-programming-problem questions. Topics about best practices, "what do you think about {insert vague concept}?", "how do y'all approch ...?", "Can you recommend...?"

Don't get me wrong, I certainly have no problem with programming-problem topics. I quite like to help where I can. But as more and more questions here seem to revolve around solving specific problems, I'd like to think about ways to encourage folks to pose this other class of topics too.

One idea, drafted below, is a guide on posing such questions. My thinking is it's a handy tool for yourself, or to refer to others, to help guide folks through opening such topics. I don't think most people will read it, but for those who need a bit of encouragement or direction, it could be a handy tool.

I am curious if you might offer feedback.

I'll set it up as a wiki, so feel free to edit if you're confident about a change. Otherwise, please comment if you have feedback.

Asking non-programming questions

First and foremost, please ask!

A core goal of community is to be a friendly place to chat about topics related to data science, R, and RStudio.
We know that posting to technical forums can be intimidating. But know that many here would love to see you overcome your inhibition and engage with us.

Here are a few tips some folks here think might be helpful.


Put extra effort into your title. Be as clear and compelling as possible.
For many your title will be the only thing they see before they completely ignore your post :see_no_evil:


Besides asking the core of your query,

  • State Your Goals: Some community-members are quite task-oriented here. Stating specific goals for the topic can be helpful.
  • Give Some Background: Don’t forget about context and background. Readers often need a pointer or two to understand where your topic is coming from.
  • Reread your post: Writing is hard, we know, but think about your reader.

Tagging and Category Selection

Feel free to gratuitously (if accurately) tag your topic -- best-practices or recommendations, for example. If you’re unsure of where to post (categories and tags), do you best, and ask early in your post.

Shepherd the conversation

You started the conversation, please help guide it It’s no requirement, but excellent discussions here often occured with steady guidance from the original poster. Encourage, refocus, ask additional question.

Send us Feedback

We are always trying to improve things here. If you have feedback please post to meta-community, or contact an admin privately (@economicurtis is one volunteer), or email

Examples of successful discussions:

These aren’t hard and fast


Maybe create tags for these: best-practices, tool-recommendations, whatever-else. That way it’ll be easier to focus any meta discussion about them if needed.

You might also want to give guidance on whether/when it’s okay to start a new thread on an existing topic. For example, if there’s a thread on “best X tools” but it’s a few years old, a visitor with the same question can get more attention by making a new thread than by adding a post there (thanks to Discourse notification rules, as I understand them). Are both actions by the user okay? Is one preferable?