14

Maybe it's just me, but I have the feeling that there is an increase in very long, very, very detailed posts, often not even formatted but wall-of-text style. I often stop reading midway through because it is very difficult to find the actual issue OP is inquiring about within the convoluted heaps of texts. And more often than not, those overly long posts tend to be unanswerable because they are dependent on individual factors. It often feels like people just need a place to tell their story.

Is there any way to add a pop-up that tells askers that their question might be too long and that they should try to shorten their question? I do not think a word limit is useful, as in some cases people might really do need such long questions. Just a short message popping up along the lines of

Your post is very long. If possible, try to keep it short and concise to increase the chance of good answers.

1
  • This answer on the StackOverflow meta mentions that a warning shows up when a user submits a post containing over 25 000 characters. It is unclear to me whether it applies to all sites or just to SO. If it is generic, perhaps the number could be customized on a per-site basis.
    – Anyon
    Sep 4, 2023 at 23:24

3 Answers 3

10

While it might be technically possible to install such a warning (I would have to ask staff), I am afraid it won’t be worth the effort.

By experience, most users who post overly detailed question cannot filter them down to what’s actually important to the question, either because they cannot do so in general or they don’t know what’s relevant in their particular case (after all, they are asking a question about it). This becomes most evident when authors of such questions are asked to shorten their question by commentors: Even when the authors honestly try, they are most often unable to properly shorten their question. Only when the commentors give explicit instructions related to the question, this has a good chance of working, but then it’s often easier if experienced users edit the question themselves.

6
  • 2
    Do you think popping up a message to ask the user to provide a TL;DR will be useful/helpful ?
    – Nobody
    Aug 31, 2023 at 9:33
  • 4
    @Nobody: Not really. Summarising is an even higher art form than sticking to what’s relevant.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Aug 31, 2023 at 20:00
  • 1
    You can warn them before they even start typing, but not after. Even if there was something that would pop up after there's a lot of text in the question, it wouldn't be effective since nobody is going to want to trash what they've already written to make it shorter—it's a lot of effort.
    – Laurel
    Sep 3, 2023 at 11:27
  • For what it's worth, I usually just pass on very long questions unless the headline is a real stunner or I have a special interest in the topic. A popup after a certain number of characters might help the OP. Adding something to help might help a bit.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3, 2023 at 14:13
  • 1
    Usually, the problem with walls of texts doesn't come from the fact that it is too thorough, but the lack of formatting. At least for me. A few line breaks there and there can make a difference.
    – Clockwork
    Sep 3, 2023 at 19:21
  • 1
    @Clockwork: While those cases also exist, I don’t think this question is about them, but about questions that spread across several screens (let’s say five thousand chars upwards). Paragraphs alone won’t save these and many are also properly paragraphed from the start.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 4, 2023 at 7:00
1

I think this is a good idea. I suspect that many new users assume that longer is better -- the more details they give, the more helpful we can be. And after they take the time to write a very long, detailed post, it can seem counter-intuitive when (seemingly) random people start commenting that the post needs to be shortened. While I agree with Wrzlprmft that users might not be able to fix up their posts without help, having the automated message will at least "plant the seed" that the post will need edited. This may make them more receptive to suggestions in the comments and suggested edits.

I would suggest something like:

Your post is very long. Concise, well-defined questions tend to get better answers. Remember, good questions are such that others in the future could potentially have the same question.

Unfortunately, we would have to ask staff to implement this for us. This is likely to take a long time to happen, if it happens at all.

-2

If the question is not focused, vote to close with the "not focused" reason.

If the question is not useful, use the downvote button.

2
  • 2
    I think the proposal was targeted at what can be done before someone hits "post", trying to both prevent extra effort by the community on these posts and also perhaps improve the level of onboarding without making posting here feel unfriendly, where people start pointing out all the problems with your post as soon as it appears. I don't think there is disagreement about the range of options available to everyone else after a post like this appears.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Sep 5, 2023 at 2:17
  • @BryanKrause That makes sense, but the original question was not as specific as your comment. Sep 5, 2023 at 11:05

You must log in to answer this question.

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