I've been ruminating on what is a 'good question' and I'm not yet totally convinced that Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand neatly answers the question. I don't think a question being interesting defines whether it's good or not.
I can break down somebody else's question into one of three categories.
- It is a super easy question for me to answer because I learned it last year. Good because I'm the first to answer, I can get points and I want high score!
- This is a complicated question requiring abstract knowledge that is way out of my league, perhaps a year from now I'll be able to answer it.
- This is an interesting question. I don't know the answer but I have enough knowledge to piece together the parts, I'll load up the Views UI and test my solution before submitting my answer. Answering this question brings me the same pleasure as doing the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen or today's Sudoku.
Nevertheless, what makes an interesting question is completely subjective. I'm sure that whatever the modern day computer science equivalent to the question, "Is cardboard the proper material for a light bulb filament?" which was asked in 1879 would get nothing but down votes for being a ridiculous notion.
I will never ask a question that Mark Trapp thinks challenging or interesting. Does that mean all my questions are not good?
Putting the subjective aside since one expert which this site wants to attract might have a different idea of interesting than another expert. Is there a blueprint diagram of a properly formed question? Is there data to back this up?
I can't speak for questions but I have tested what makes a good weekly email newsletter for a newspaper, publishing website. I can also back up my arguments with data and facts since MailChimp tracks these things. First, putting body, lead or teaser text is a good way to get people to ignore the email. Second, using artsy, creative, wordplay headlines in links does not get people to click through to the website. (This, by the way, is something that will never be able to be explained to an editor coming from print.) I have data that shows writing plain headlines that describes exactly what the user will find on the other side is the best way to get people to click through.
This might be true for Stack Exchange questions. Having a clearly writen title that is neither too long nor too short that describes exactly what the question will be might be the best way to get people to click through to read the question.
What are the other elements of a question and the body of the question that get answers? Can a good question be diagrammed, with all the elements that make it good, labeled demonstrating the pattern? Is there evidence or data that can back up these conclusions the way I can back up my assumptions about the anatomy of a good email newsletter, one that gets a lot of people onto my site?