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I'm having trouble with getting people who review my questions to read the entire question before answering!

I've noticed that my most difficult questions on ServerFault usually end up with answers that suggest something I've already done. What makes this frustrating is that I actually list the actions I've attemped WITHIN the very same question!

For these questions, I've almost always tested out the usual suspects before posting. So, when I post, I'm truly at my wits end and looking for help from other admins. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that people answering my questions only look at the first sentence and immediately post the answer without reviewing the steps that I've already tried. I'm now at the point that I feel like I'm just wasting time posting complicated questions on ServerFault :(

Is there something I can do with my posts to encourage readers to do more than just provide a "drive-by" answer?

  • Link to some examples of your questions and we'll give you tips. – voretaq7 Oct 12 '11 at 16:45
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    I will say this - it might sound like a dig but it isn't intended as one - if one reader misunderstands a question or answer then its probably that one reader who's at fault. If several misunderstand then its probably the writer. – Rob Moir Oct 12 '11 at 20:15
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One simple answer is to simply write a better question, taking into account how people actually read content on the web.

  • Use the inverted pyramid style for composing your question.
  • Use keywords and headings correctly.
  • Make sure that you any excess cruft from your question, or at least give all the details up front.
  • Use formatting correctly. A bulletted list with a short phrase describing details symptoms, solutions attempted, or other details will be far more useful then a huge paragraph.
  • Use simple language whenever possible
  • Make your question scannable. To get a good answer, you must make the it very clear what the problem is.
  • Repeat the problem a couple times using different phrasing. The question title, first statement/paragraph, and final statement, each summarize your problem.
  • Use pictures, a relevant picture can help a lot.

See the following articles about how writing for the web.

If you haven't read it please also see the how to ask page, and related articles.

I am reading your question about group policies. You title is vague, your first paragraph doesn't tell me what the problem is. You vaguely mention two group policies which may be conflicting, but your question would probably be far more readable if you assigned names to them for the question. It would have helped if you described your OU structure, or at least an OU structure exactly like the domain you are having problems on.


As an example, I would re-write your group policy question like this:

I have two policies which are supposed to modify the setting, and the they do not seem to be proccessed the way I believe they should.

The two policies control the the visibility of the administrative tools on the start menu setting.

  • Show_Admin_Tools

    • Applies to Domain Admins, and nothing else
    • Linked at the root only
    • Link order position = 1
  • Hide_Admin_Tools

    • Applies to Authenticated Users
    • Linked at the root only
    • Link order position = 2

There is no loopback processing, policies are not enforced, and inheritence is not blocked.

When gpupdate is run as an administror... the Administrative Tools link does not show on the Start Menu. If it is manually turned on, it is removed again at GP refresh. Checking Group Policy results on a machine shows shows three GPO applications, in the following sequence: first the Authenticated Users GPO, then the Domain Admins GPO, then the Authenticated Users GPO again.

!! might put a picture here of the picture here of the gpresults output, or the eventlog messages !!

Can anyone explain why the Authenticated Users GPO would apply last, even though it has already been applied and the link order seems to suggest that the show tools policie should take precedence? How do I use group policies to display the admin tools for admins, and hide them for everyone else?

  • Thanks... I think part of the problem is that I've been listing my actions thus far at the end of my questions... it may be better for me to try to front load that information. T – newmanth Oct 12 '11 at 16:54
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    Not sure if you saw my edits, but I have suggested a different version of your group policy question. If it is correct, and you think it is better, you might want to update your question on the site. – Zoredache Oct 12 '11 at 17:04
  • +1 The most frequent problem I see (haven't read newmanth's posts) is Questioners with Verbal Diarrhea. You're not writing a novel. Stick to the concise facts (and make sure they're there): What is broke, what is it [not] doing, expected resolution. Feelings, pleadings, salutations, closings/signatures, or thanks should not be a part of it. – Chris S Oct 12 '11 at 18:44
  • Thanks for the example (and advice)! I am not too proud to admit that I'm the common factor when it comes to poor answers :P I really appreciate the help. – newmanth Oct 12 '11 at 20:29
  • In addition to what Zoredache has said, I would also suggest reading through a tech writing book, it is a completely different style of writing. This is the book I have in my library: amazon.com/Technical-Writing-Principles-Strategies-Readings/dp/… – Zypher Oct 12 '11 at 21:46
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This is a human problem. Getting people to read your question fully is no different to writing an effective resume. First you need to attract the reader's attention. Then you need to write in a manner that will encourage the reader to continue reading.

Zoredache's answer is a good but at the same time illustrates the point. It's long and tiresome to read, therefore few will read it completely and properly. Like that answer, technical issues unfortunately can be difficult to condense and still retain their full meaning.

It's worth bearing in mind the comment I made in the second sentence. Those who write good, readable and interesting questions are more likely to write effective resumes, so the practice can be very worthwhile.

  • I was thinking the same thing about my answer while I wrote it. I almost thought about breaking that up into three separate answers. I would have broken it up into the first list describing some of the major problems, the next would be the the lists of all the URLs where to read more, and the finally, my example re-writing of one of h is questions. I wish there was some kind of section break unique to use inside a question/answer other then the horizontal line. The horizontal line is used both between questions, and between comments. – Zoredache Oct 12 '11 at 23:29
  • @Zoredache, one of the problems I see is that if we get too much formatting power the site may well lose some of it's basic Q&A functionality. It's all a bit of a balancing act and I think that the current format is working pretty well for all but a very few posts. I'd personally like to see a forum added where lengthy conversations can be taken. I know we have chat but that's really not suitable for extended discussions across different time zones. – John Gardeniers Oct 13 '11 at 0:13

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