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There is a particular user here with 6 or 7 questions about his housing situation.

A few of the issues:
Non-tech savvy roommate thinks I hacked into his computer because when he scans wifi it shows my printer connected

Primary roommate wants me to give him copy of key to my bedroom and I don't want to

How to insist roommate provides me with proof of utilities bill?

How to say I will not be participating in the current system of sharing costs (because I don't think it's fair), when people are easily offended?

How can I communicate I need to be told specific rules that they consider Christian values?

Each answer is being asked and answered as though it is a standalone issue, but it isn't--it is a larger picture. Is there a system for this?

  • I'm fairly certain I know which user you're talking about, and I think it would be beneficial to this question to link several of his questions in you post to make it easy for everyone to gain a better understanding of the situation you are describing – Rainbacon Mar 11 at 13:47
  • not sure if I want it to be specific or general. – WendyG Mar 11 at 13:49
  • Even if you want it to be general, I think it's useful to illustrate the situation that prompted the question – Rainbacon Mar 11 at 14:04
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The reason why users may ask several questions revolving around the same main topic is that we encourage the community to post one unique question per post. From the Help Center:

Be specific

If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer.

When asking several questions in a unique post, it becomes difficult to answer. Some users may refrain themselves from answering because they don't have advice for all the points mentioned in the question. Another issue is that it makes it difficult for visitors to find the answers they need to a specific situation if the post contains lots of separate issues.

So, is there an issue with users who ask several questions related to the same main topic? The answer is no. It's even rather encouraged to ask specific, contextual questions that tackle a single issue. The "Too broad" close reason explains why it isn't a good fit for Stack Exchange:

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

This is something that's also generally broadly discussed in comments below posts containing multiple questions, and it was indeed discussed with the user you're mentioning in your question, whom we helped splitting their issues into different posts.

  • In this situation as there is loads of backstory the answer may just not be appropriate. And honestly the answers are not going to help, as they don't actually answer the real issue. – WendyG Mar 11 at 14:11
  • But i guess the real issue is a "what should I " question with lots of symptoms – WendyG Mar 11 at 14:11
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    The "one question per post" guideline is contained in the Too Broad close reason that exists for every Stack Exchange site: Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. – Alex Mar 11 at 14:37
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In general, I'd seriously discourage answering multiple questions as a whole. Each question deserves its own answer and an answer should answer the question asked without fluff and digressions.

If you can't answer the question you're currently answering without also answering all the other questions or incorporating details from these questions, you are most likely dealing with a question that's either too broad or a duplicate. In these cases, the answers from avazula and Upper_Case explain what to look for and what to do: vote to close and comment, point out possible duplicates or lacking information/details.


That said, there may be something said for pointing out when and where you make assumptions/draw conclusions based on earlier posts by the same OP. If you do see a certain pattern of questions that are all related, and you decide to write an answer where a small part of your answer is influenced by details from previous questions about the same situation, please do point this out.

I've had this happen to a question of mine on pets.se once, where the answerer linked back to a question I asked about the same situation involving the pet on IPS:

I'm taking all the information given in this question by the same user into consideration, so the answer covers more scenarios than in the question posted here.

So, if previous questions influence the answer you give to this question:

  • link back to the other questions and quote the relevant parts.
  • Clearly point out the parts of your answer that are influenced by questions other than the one at hand (e.g. certain assumptions about the situation you make).
3

I don't think that there is a system for this. Leaving a comment to that effect on any new question might be the best available option.

For this specific case, the user in question seems to have a view of the situation along the lines of "everything is fine, except for these dozens of exceptions", and has explicitly rejected advice that strays much outside of each individual question. I don't know how much we can do to move beyond that while trusting the information the OP has posted and respecting their intent.

If the user were active in chat or more frequently utilizing the sandbox it might be easier to address this meta-quality to the set of questions, but I'm not sure that's much better than commenting on the posted questions.

But more broadly I don't think it's such a bad thing. While it's fine to try to nudge people towards asking about the problem we think they are really having, or to ask a question that "summarizes" their other questions, it's not hard to imagine someone in a less-than-ideal situation that has lots of scenarios in which interpersonal skills come into play. Their questions may be related in that they take place in the same setting and with the same people, but it's still possible for each question to be about a distinct IPS scenario and be useful on its own (to the OP and to future browsers).

Finally, I think that we should allow some leeway for situations like this one. The proliferation of seemingly related questions might irritate some, but it can be harder to see a situation fully from within rather than with an outside perspective. And, someone coming to IPS.SE might have a poorer-than-average ability to assess and appreciate the "true" situation, making it hard for them to see the commonalities that underlie each question and describe a broader, core issue (even if it seems obvious to other IPS users).

Engaging in comments on questions is a bit awkward for this, but I'm not aware of much else we can do.

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    One thought I'll leave here to add to this: Keep a close eye out for stuff that may be duplicate questions. We've had users before that duplicated questions with only subtle differences (slightly different names for the person they're talking to (nurse vs. medical professional), phrasing their goal slightly differently, or subtle differences in setting), mostly when their original questions were closed. – Tinkeringbell Mar 11 at 14:17
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    A string of questions like described here might eventually fall under the same, noticing someone is asking a lot about a similar problem/situation and commenting is a good start, but sometimes things need to be closed as a duplicate. – Tinkeringbell Mar 11 at 14:17
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    @Tinkeringbell That's a good point. I wonder how well we can conceive a generic "cutoff" for when questions are too similar because they are repetitive due to expressing the same underlying issue. Maybe it's a case-by-case thing, with each potential one coming to meta? – Upper_Case Mar 11 at 14:23
  • Yep, it most certainly will be case by case. Sometimes it is very obvious, other times not so much (because the questions will be asked one after the other or further apart). In all cases, it is going to be depending on how well the community remembers other questions already asked. But if you notice anything like the differences I described above, feel free to at least consider a duplicate :) – Tinkeringbell Mar 11 at 14:27

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