I find with some questions, answering more succinctly is easier when there's reference to something in the OP's profile - whereabouts, experience, that sort of thing. The profile is hardly going to be 'Facebook', and tell the world what your dog had for breakfast, but a blank profile sometimes makes me think 'they've made no effort, I'll follow suit'.

What ways could encourage at least a modicum of information to be inserted?

  • 4
    Context should be self-contained in the question alone, so future readers don't have to juggle profiles, questions, and answers. And what happens when users change their profile info, or the user is erased all together? The context is lost, helplessly. We are not answering for the benefit of one user, we do it for the benefit of everyone. If an answer is so overly individualized that knowledge of personal information is required to answer, we should think about closing it, rather than turning this into facebook. Feb 27 at 22:33
  • @user1079425 - I specifically didn't want 'facebook', as the wording in my question says. A particular OP asks a particuar question most often because that OP needs the answer. Not for any general helpfulness. IfI have a clue as to where the OP is, it can be a good guide for how I word the answer, without having to spend more time than necessary.
    – Tim
    Feb 28 at 8:12
  • The general helpfulness doesn't come from OP's intentions, but from how we as a community carve our questions and answers. Structurally speaking, keeping the context in one place makes things easier for everyone. If your answer is so overly focused and localized that you need OP's specifics to answer, you should rather consider not answering at all. Feb 28 at 22:04
  • 1
    @user1079425 I don't think over-specificity is the concern here. IMO there are two issues. 1) Knowing a little about the OP's background would help in broadly gauging how basic or technical to make one's answer; and 2) a user (particularly a new user without a Q&A history here) with no profile at all risks signaling a lack of commitment to the site, which, if I read Tim correctly, can dampen one's desire to put effort into an answer.
    – Aaron
    Mar 2 at 16:29
  • @user1079425 My own feelings on those two issue are that 1) It's usually clear from the question itself what the level of experience is, often we as a community leave a variety of answers at a broad set of technical levels, and the OP is free to ask questions by updating the post or in the comments, and 2) This can be annoying, but can be countered by either recognizing the value of the question for other users or by downvoting/closing/flagging if it lacks value.
    – Aaron
    Mar 2 at 16:33
  • @Aaron - you did read correctly. I guess my question is more relevant in 'Home Improvement' - where there are far more discrepancies around the world - voltages, local rules regarding planning, byelaws, etc. Answering on that site it's often hopeless without at least location info., which is often sparse to non-existent, thus ignoring the question is a good option.
    – Tim
    Mar 2 at 16:42
  • @Tim That makes a lot of sense. I can see where the discussion there could be quite different from here.
    – Aaron
    Mar 2 at 16:46
  • @Aaron I don't think over-specificity is the concern here either, did you intend to reply to someone else? Specificity (regardless of how we want quantify it), and all kind of important context for that matter, belongs in the question (persistent), not in the profile (not persistent). That's all. Perhaps you got distracted by the last part (overly individualized answers tend to be of no use for the community at large), but I'm talking about answers there, not questions, or profiles. A symptom, not the disease. Mar 2 at 20:03
  • @user1079425 I see. Yes, you're correct that I was responding to the mention of "overly focused and localized" answers. Rereading now with your clarification I understand what you were getting at.
    – Aaron
    Mar 2 at 20:14
  • @Tim But your profile in 'Home Improvement' is irrelevant to that site. It reads 'Teacher, multi instrumentalist'. For the usefulness you claim it'd have, you don't seem to follow your proposed pattern. Does 'Home Improvement' explicitly encourage filling profile information anyway? Mar 2 at 23:28
  • @user1079425 - brilliant point. That must have copied across from MP&T. However, any questions ( I guess only a couple) from me on that site had no relevance that a more accurate profile would help.
    – Tim
    Mar 3 at 7:08
  • @user1079425 - at least it shows my location...
    – Tim
    Mar 3 at 7:24
  • 1
    "Home Improvement" needs to know where you are; "MP&T" needs to know where you're at.
    – Aaron
    Mar 6 at 23:11

Across Stack Exchange, one of the precepts is that folks can put as much or as little in their profile as they want. They can be completely anonymous, or have a wealth of information. Stack Exchange definitely don't want to put pressure on folks to populate the profile.

I agree with you that it makes answers easier if you know what level to target it at for the OP, but in reality, answers will remain for anyone visiting in future, so it probably doesn't matter as much as you think.

For folks who ask one question and then go, we probably will never get much info, but those who stick around tend to build their profile after a while, and we can always suggest that to those who use chat.

  • I understand that to future readers an answer may/not have relevance, although I tend to attempt to answer at the Op's level, when possible. Hence the point. I guess the anonymity for me is a projection from dvs!
    – Tim
    Feb 27 at 12:14

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