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There've been a number of question recently, where, for example, the body of the question contains many sub-questions that may lead to slightly different lines of thought/research. Often there's a push to/suggestion to edit the question to limit the scope to a single question/answer, with the comment about the site appreciating laser-like focus. What's more, once edited, the body of the question may not align with the question in the title.

Many such questions are pure garbage, but there are some, even from new users, that show a level of sophistication that I think should warrant a more permissive attitude.

I think some of my recent questions also fall into the category of "multiple questions" and many of my questions certainly don't have a level of sophistication inherent in some of the particular questions that come to mind when I'm asking, but for new users with low reputation, the benefit of doubt might not be given.

I'd like to posit that we should be a little more lenient on the approach taken to such multi-question questions, judged against the quality of the body of the question in addition to the number of sub-questions. Is there a downside to being holistic in the "closed for lack of focus" option? The garbage/nonsense questions usually have other issues as well.

If the body of a question introduces or reintroduces topic X, properly motivates curiosity on topic X, and turns to ask a couple of questions about topic X that might immediately come to mind, for me that's a +1, or at least leave open.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for bringing this up! But is that block of text in the <quote></quote> format, a quote from somewhere? $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ No, it’s the format that I use for asking questions. My main question is indented with >. If that’s not the best practice then I can change. $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ I've made a minor edit, can you check if you like it, and revert the edit if you don't? $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Looks good thanks! $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 20:24

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Voting to close questions can be discouraging to new users.

I simply comment out the superfluous questions (so that they don't have to retype them) and then as politely as possible, try to explain to them our "one question/post" policy and that they would be very welcome to ask the other questions in new posts, and to even provide a hyperlink to the first post in the new questions if they want to.

An example of where I did that was here.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 I like this practice. It achieves "laser-focused questions" while avoid the discouraging effect of closing. $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with you on this one (not that it's something I've ever done) - I'm fine with tolerating multi-part questions so long as they can all be answered in a single, coherent way. Of course, this is often not the case, but how is a newbie supposed to know how to make that division? So supporting them through that is very helpful. $\endgroup$
    – DaftWullie
    Sep 6, 2021 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this - the problem of course is that sometimes two questions aren't even related. I do like your technique of commenting out superfluous questions! I think I shall start doing that. $\endgroup$
    – auden
    Sep 11, 2021 at 17:59
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Multi-question posts suffer from the following disadvantages:

  • they make questions less likely to receive answers as some folks will refrain from answering until they can answer all constituent questions,
  • it is unclear how duplicates are supposed to work for multi-question posts,
  • titles of multi-question posts are often a poorer guide to their actual content,
  • it is harder to find questions buried in multi-questions posts which reduces their "reuse value",
  • multi-question posts obscure the true number of questions on the site.

As far as I can tell, there are no real advantages to multi-question posts.

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    $\begingroup$ These are reasonable points, but if the poster of a well-written multi-question post isn't sufficiently motivated to split their question and ask them in separate threads, closing the original question would be a net loss to this community. I suppose we shouldn't encourage such questions, but in some cases, they can be tolerated. $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2021 at 17:10
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My two cents:

  1. Posts containing multiple questions are usually inefficient, and we should discourage them. By this I mean that, even if the OP gets all the information they seek, and they are completely satisfied, part of said information will probably remain hidden under a "false flag". Multi-question posts can rarely be given a title that thoroughly describes their content, which means retrieving the information in them becomes much harder.

    This is exacerbated by broad questions being often harder to answer. Practically speaking, they very often come from people that have some underlying confusion that leads to a series of related but different questions. Often, answering a single question will clear up the issue and solve all the other questions at the same time.

    So then the question becomes: what's the purpose of a post? If you think the main goal is to help people with their immediate problems, then the above is a non-issue. If you think the main goal is to add valuable and reusable information to the site, then the above issue is something we should avoid.

  2. Nevertheless, I don't think we should have a strict policy such as "always close questions which are not hyper-focused". I do think that most of the time these posts are better off improved in some ways, and often they should be closed, but context is always important. I can definitely see cases in which broad questions are still useful, and other cases in which it's still better to let OP ask a question even if it's not ideally focused.

    So as to what we should do, I'd say: always encourage people to focus their posts as much as possible. In many cases, also close said questions if/until OP makes them more focused and easier to answer. In other cases, if you think the question/answer is still going to give a net positive value to the site, don't close.

    Editing questions to make them more focused is also often a great idea. But this assumes that (1) one knows well enough the context to be sure you're not actually changing what is being asked, and (2) has and is willing to spend the time to edit it. Almost any post can be made into a great question if given unlimited time, but the responsibility to ask a good question should fall on the OP, not the community. I see these edits as a favour/kindness done to the OP, which is always appreciated but shouldn't be expected. Radically changing the spirit of the question is also not desirable in my opinion.

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