How to ask a great question on EE

Rob JurdExperts Exchange Community Manager
CERTIFIED EXPERT
Published:
Updated:
Asking a question on Experts Exchange is the BEST way to engage with other members in the community - to problem solve, learn, and collaborate. Questions are simply collaborative conversations between members! I have put together some tips and tricks for you on how to get the best engagement.

Questions are Collaborative Conversations 


Asking questions on EE is one of the best ways to connect and engage with other members. Questions are truly just conversations with your peers in the community! And remember, 'experts' are members just like you :) Asking a question is a way to learn from others who have knowledge and experience that they can share. Members may be able offer you their advice, insights, troubleshooting ideas, and more.

I have put together a short version and a long version of some tips and tricks for you based on my years of experience in the EE community :) The outline follows the steps in the question asking experience. If you are looking for more detailed advice on asking questions, skip down to the long version for more details.


The Short Version 

1) Provide a detailed description of your question. 

  • What are you trying to solve or achieve? In other words, what would “success” look like to you?
  • Make sure there is an actual question :)
  • Upload any supplemental material such as code snippets, files, screenshots, or examples of data.

2) Make sure you obfuscate/anonymize your data! 

Anonymizing (obfuscating) your data makes it easy for other members to thoroughly understand your question while protecting your sensitive information and intellectual property. Once private information is posted, it can be difficult to fully retract. See the long version below for ways you can do this.

3) Based on what you’ve described, sum it up into a question title. This is the first thing that other members will see on your question! 

  • Write a concise and descriptive summary explaining what you are trying to solve. This will increase engagement on your question. 
  • Avoid saying things like “help me” or “urgent”. 
  • Contributors will mainly be looking for relevant information about what you are trying to achieve! 
  • Avoid simply repeating the description.

4) What type of question is this? The question type helps categorize your question further to demonstrate to other members what type of help you are looking for. 

  • Troubleshooting 
  • Advice
  • Research


5) Select all topics that are relevant to your question. This is what will make your question visible to other members in those topic areas. 

The topic selector will automatically select topics for you based on the description of your question! Only remove them if they seem irrelevant, and you can add additional topics. Make sure any topics you add are 100% relevant to your question!


The Long Version

1) Provide a detailed description of your question. 


What are you trying to solve or achieve? In other words, what would “success” look like to you?
  • How have you tried to solve this particular problem or situation so far? Explain some of the things that you have already tried. What worked? What didn’t work? 

Make sure there is an actual question :)
  • The more information you can provide, the better! But make sure you clearly state what your question is and what you are trying to achieve. 

Upload any supplemental material such as code snippets, files, screenshots, or examples of data.
  • If you are adding specific code snippets, include where the code resides if it is pasted inline (as opposed to attaching a file). For example: index.html or main.js or myProject.cpp 
  • When asking a question, it’s very easy to leave out critical information.  If you’re referring to data, code, error messages, documents, spreadsheets and the like, it is important to include any code, files, or screenshots to help members get an idea of your technical landscape 
  • Try to “slim down” your question. While it is important to include all relevant information, it is almost as important to not clutter up the question with non-relevant information. For example, if you have a question concerning 5 lines of code, include the lines of code in your question. Make sure to include screenshots if they add context. Please add any supplemental information as attachments.

2) Make sure you obfuscate/anonymize your data! 


Anonymizing (obfuscating) your data makes it easy for other members to thoroughly understand your project while protecting your sensitive information and intellectual property. Once private information is posted, it can be difficult to fully retract. Here are some tips on the best ways to do that:

  • The easiest way to obfuscate data is with a search and replace in a text editor. 
  • For large data sets, just include a smaller sample with names and other sensitive information changed to protect privacy
  • Change domain names to “mydomain.com” 
  • Change company names to “mycompany” 
  • Change public IP addresses to “x.x.x.x”, optionally, private IP addresses can be obfuscated, but there is usually no need 
  • Do NOT use url shorteners. For example: bitly.com. Members do not want to risk clicking on a URL that appears to hide something. 
  • Do NOT attach compiled/executable files, and make sure all files are relevant. Downloading files that cannot be interpreted is perceived as a huge risk. 

If a project is too sensitive, or if you find that there is no practical way to obfuscate your data due to Intellectual Property or NDA requirements, then the project may require paid consultations and advice outside of EE.

3) Based on what you’ve described, sum it up into a question title. This is the first thing that other members will see on your question! 


  • Write a concise and descriptive summary explaining what you are trying to solve. This will increase engagement on your question. 
  • Avoid saying things like “help me” or “urgent”. 
  • Contributors will mainly be looking for relevant information about what you are trying to achieve! 
  • Avoid simply repeating the description.

4) What type of question is this? The question type helps categorize your question further to demonstrate to other members what type of help you are looking for. 


Troubleshooting 
Your question relates to solving a particular problem or issue that you are experiencing and is more technical in nature.

Advice
You are primarily looking for the thoughts, insights, and advice of other members. Your question may not necessarily be about solving a particular problem.

Research
You are looking to learn more about a certain technology, etc.

5) Select all topics that are relevant to your question. This is what will make your question visible to other members in those topic areas. 


The topic selector will automatically select topics for you based on the description of your question! Only remove them if they seem irrelevant, and you can add additional topics. Make sure any topics you add are 100% relevant to your question!

You can also “propose” new topics if a topic doesn’t currently exist as an “official” topic on the platform 
  • We’re always looking for new areas of technology to add as topics. So in addition to adding approved topics, you can “propose” topics that you would like to see added. 
  • This works a bit like a hashtag - if it becomes popular enough and there is enough content in a proposed topic, then we will make it official!

Ready to ask your question? Get started here! You can also click Ask a Question in the top navigation.
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Rob JurdExperts Exchange Community Manager
CERTIFIED EXPERT

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