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One of the next most popular Risk Factor suggestions is Multiple Questions so this is a general discussion of that close reason.

The main point to clarify is:

  1. Should questions be off topic for this reason
  2. If so should it be a close reason or a "canned comment".

Risk Factor: Multiple Questions in One

Close Reason:

You are asking multiple questions in one question.

Full Description:

Asking multiple questions in one is not recommended as it makes it hard to answer with a concise and focused reply. Additionally it becomes much harder to rate answers as to whether one is better than another as the "best" answer to each part of your question may be held in different answers.

How to Fix:

Separate your question into multiple questions. In general we recommend asking one question first and then writing follow on questions based on the answers to that (feel free to link from one question to another) but if the answers really do not depend on each other then you are welcome to ask multiple questions at once.

A common format we see if an introduction to the world followed by a list of multiple questions about that world. Make sure you look at each of those questions and consider whether it is substantial enough to have a good answer written about that alone. If so break it out into a separate question, ideally linked back to the first one.

Examples:

Impact of FTL on Humanity & discovering new intelligent life

Cell division into three parts

Discussion points so far:

  • I agree that too many question in one post is a problem, but it doesn't need a custom close reason -- that's what "too broad" is for. However, something to link to that explains how to fix it (like this does) would be good.

  • By creating a specific close reason we can have it link to a question on how to fix it and also make it explicitly clear to the person who's being closed why it's been closed and what the need to do to fix it. I think this is specific enough to warrant being a special case - however I do agree that if we have too many other custom close reasons this is one that could be cut.

  • This could also be done via a comment linking to the meta post.

  • The subject matter of this site calls for some leeway on the multiple question front. For instance, I might concisely ask "how would people live in 10% gravity?". Or I might expand on that and ask for examples with respect to biology, performing common tasks like cooking and showering, required exercise routines and supporting technology, and so on. All of those are implicitly invited in the concise version (and having a new question for each one isn't useful), so explicitly requesting them should be valid. Not valid would be "how would people live in 10% gravity and with 16 hour days". – aroth yesterday

  • That's a great example of what should be closed for this reason. Imagine if you got 3 answers. One was perfect for cooking but bad for showering. One had a great description of the exercise but nothing else, another one had good answers on both cooking and showering but was completely wrong on the biology. How would you vote for or rate those answers against each other and which one would you accept? The correct way is to ask multiple questions where each answer can address one specific area and focus on and be a great answer to that area.

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These questions aren't off-topic; they're too broad. Using a custom off-topic reason for this is misleading, implying that the individual questions would be off-topic. It also consumes a scarce resource.

So as I said elsewhere before, I support having a nice clear explanation of the problem (like the one in this question) to link to, and a canned comment that people can use to do so, but I oppose defining a custom close reason for this.

This the current text of the "too broad" close reason. Maybe the answer here is to ask that this be adjusted to also include "too many questions". (This close reason gets applied often for that reason on some other sites I'm active on.)

text: too broad

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  • $\begingroup$ Ideally I'd like to have it as a special case of too broad in the menus but that's not an option. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 8 '16 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB maybe we should instead ask for the text of the "too broad" reason to be adjusted. I thought I remembered it saying "too many questions" already but it doesn't. (I see it applied for that case on other sites, so that's probably why I thought that.) We should also check the editable pages in the help center to see if there's anything we can do there. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 8 '16 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ We would have to specifically mention "Multiple unrelated questions" as mentioned in the OP multiple questions (so long as an answer can apply to all) isn't inherently bad here. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 8 '16 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ So it seems canned comments and a meta question are the preferred way forwards here. :) Would you like to go ahead and make them or shall I do it? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 17 '16 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB done. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 17 '16 at 18:59
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My opinion. People are of course welcome to post alternative opinions.

These questions clearly should be closed. Not much to discuss there. I would be ok with the "canned comment" approach but I prefer a custom close reason.

By creating a specific close reason we can have it link to a question on how to fix it and also make it explicitly clear to the person who's being closed why it's been closed and what the need to do to fix it.

Personally I think that a specific close reason is warranted for the following reasons:

  • This is by far the most common single reason I have for needing to close questions and to explain why I've closed them.
  • While a subset of "Too Broad" it is a different and specific subset, one that can clearly be identified and which specific and actionable advice can be given to fix.
  • Providing it as a close reason means everyone can see it, not just the few people (and let's be realistic, it will be a few) who have the canned comment.
  • Our use case differs from many other sites. This is nothing like as common or as big a problem there since our subject matter tends to attract broad questions. For example Stack Overflow questions are unlikely to ask about multiple things at once since they are by their nature focusing on one specific problem.

In conclusion: I think this is specific enough to warrant being a special case - although it's a shame we couldn't have it under "too broad" rather than lumped into "off topic".

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it's better to have a custom reason for this. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Mar 7 '16 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ I like having a custom reason but will having a custom reason under off topic and having too broad cause confusion? $\endgroup$ – James Mar 8 '16 at 15:53
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Is this really a good idea?
Is it not already covered by "too broad"?
Are not very closely related questions best asked together?
Is fragmenting a problem? Would this scare away new users?
Do we really need a canned reply, when we can point out what is wrong in just a few words?
Are "..and if so, are..." chains of questions OK?
Is this close reason dependent on how related the questions are?
If so, are there scenarios where multiple questions are allowed?
Is it a good idea to edit out side-questions from another persons question?
Should that be discussed with the OP first?
How often is multiple-questions-in-one actually a problem?
What about assumptions made for the setup are also demanded to be checked?
Is this the kind of post you want to avoid?

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a lot of questions, what's the answers? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 7 '16 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ oh sweet irony. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 8 '16 at 15:51
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My opinion: no custom reason

  • Like Monica said, it's amply covered by "too broad", and it's not "offtopic" - marking it as such (even with a custom reason) would risk leading to confusion over why something was being closed - you would have to know that there was a sub-reason of offtopic that you could select that was actually a sub-reason for too broad that we weren't allowed to implement in that manner... it's just messy.
  • The wording of the reason would have issues regardless of how careful you are. The problem with asking multiple questions isn't actually the fact that you've asked multiple questions; it's that the effect of asking multiple questions causes your question to be too broad to effectively answer. I think we can all agree that it's possible to ask a question that contains a whole bunch of questions but is perfectly valid (And indeed in many cases a very good question), when the extra sub-questions help focus exactly what the OP is looking for (If we don't all agree on that I can try and find examples).

The problem isn't multiple questions, it's BAD multiple questions. In which case "Multiple questions" can't be a close reason, because it isn't always incorrect. The thing that makes the question bad is being too broad as a result of the multiple questions, hence: Too Broad is sufficient.

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually good multiple questions is a rarity and only works when it's actually one question being phrased different ways or narrowed in on. For example if asking a general question about a steam engine specifically asking what pressure and temperature is achievable would probably be ok. However that's actually two measurements of the one question which is about the conditions under which the steam engine works. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 8 '16 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ If you have a good "multiple question" example that isn't actually one question asking for multiple outputs from one answer/calculation/etc then I'd be interested to see it. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 8 '16 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Another example might be planet size+mass. An answer might provide both of those but they are both outputs from the same answer, not separate independent answers. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 8 '16 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB that's my point though. They are "Multiple Questions". What you're saying is that "Multiple Questions That Require Multiple Answers" is bad, which I entirely agree with, but the fact that the distinction has to be made proves the point - We're not even agreeing on what "Multiple Questions" actually means :) $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Mar 8 '16 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ Well it's subtle but I'm pointing out that there's a difference between one question with multiple facets and multiple different questions. The key distinction being whether they can be answered as one coherent answer. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 8 '16 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB, I know, but if we're having this discussion about what "Multiple Questions" means, the chances are it's not the only time you'd have to have this conversation. I agree that your definition is valid, but it is a subtle distinction, and one that could easily be misinterpreted. Better to focus on the general symptom (question is too broad) than the specific cause (OP asked multiple questions in one) in this case. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Mar 9 '16 at 9:13

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