An annoying behaviour that wastes time and effort are comments that shift the goalpost after receiving an answer. Sometimes the cause is an incomplete explanation of their needs and some other times the OP is just requesting new "features" that may render inappropriate a particular strategy already developed in the answer.

What should we do to avoid shifting sands comments?

How do we deal with them without appearing as attacking the OP?

It's frustrating to contribute effort to a specific question to then see contradictory details or new requests not previously mentioned in the question.

I wonder if new users could be confronted with a checklist while editing their questions, designed to prevent this and other poor questions. Is that technically feasible?

Current tips seems insufficient

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  • 1
    Could we require the Informed badge before allowing posting questions? Unfortunately there is no mention in the tour of any of the good practices the are considered almost mandatory before asking, such as searching the site and the documentation, sharing formatted code and data, etc.
    – rhermans
    Feb 19, 2016 at 9:18
  • 5
    SE tries to keep the entry barrier as low as possible. People don't even need to register to ask. I think they'd never agree to requiring a badge ...
    – Szabolcs
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:49
  • 16
    Once I got so irritated at the frequency of this that I copied a remark into my SE scratch notebook for easy pasting: "It's bad form to alter a question so much. You make the answers and work others have done on your behalf seem irrelevant. SE is not a private consulting service but a public Q&A forum. Please, either ask the question you need to ask the first time, or ask a new question." The wording might need changing since the situation you describe does not seem exactly the same. But I think such an "attack" is ok. The 3rd line might be unnecessary, but on the whole it's not unkind.
    – Michael E2
    Feb 19, 2016 at 11:17
  • 3
    I'm entirely with you on the checklist! Just avoiding the questions destined for math.stackexchange.com would save so much hassle.
    – Yves Klett
    Feb 19, 2016 at 12:16
  • 3
    @MichaelE2 I believe it could be better if your comment is set in a more respectful tone. Perhaps starting it with "Dear Mr. Moron" Feb 21, 2016 at 7:34
  • 2
    @Dr.belisarius but to account for all eventualities, "Dear Dr./Mr. Moron" may be advisable.
    – Yves Klett
    Feb 23, 2016 at 7:49
  • 2
    can we try and draw some conclusions? Is implementing the checklist something technically possible on StackExchange? Is there any other solution?
    – rhermans
    Feb 23, 2016 at 11:17
  • 1
    @rhermans See my comment here mathematica.stackexchange.com/a/108616/193 :) Feb 29, 2016 at 2:15


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