11 minute read

Best practices for your Team

Need a few tips and tricks to send to your team to help them get familiar with Stack Overflow for Teams? We've got you covered with these how-to's. Simply copy and paste into the communication channels your team uses most.

When to tap your private Teams community vs. the public Stack Overflow community?

When you have a question specific to your company's technology, tools, processes or procedures, use the Stack Overflow for Teams community. If you have a general coding question that isn’t related to something work-related, use the Stack Overflow public community.

How to ask a question

Asking a great question is the first step towards getting it answered. To improve your chances of getting an answer, here are some tips:

Search, research, and keep track of what you find. Even if you don't find a useful answer elsewhere on the site, including links to related questions that haven't helped can help others in understanding how your question is different from the rest.

Write the question

Summarize the problem as a title

The title is the first thing potential answers will see, and if your title isn't interesting, they won't read the rest. So make it count:

  • Try to sum up your entire question in one sentence: what details can you include that will help someone identify and solve your problem? Include any error messages, key APIs, or unusual circumstances that make your question different from similar questions already on the site.
  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are essential! Remember, this is the first part of your question others will see.
  • If you're having trouble summarizing the problem, write the title last - sometimes writing the rest of the question first can make it easier to describe the problem.

DON'T phrase your question like this:

C# Math Confusion

[php] session doubt

android if else problems

DO phrase your question like this:

Why does using float instead of int give me different results when all of my inputs are integers?

How can I redirect users to different pages based on session data in PHP?

Why does str == "value" evaluate to false when str is set to "value"?

Explain the problem

Before you provide any code, start by expanding on the summary you put in the title. Explain how you encountered the problem you're trying to solve, and any difficulties that have prevented you from solving it yourself. The first paragraph in your question is the second thing most readers will see, so make it as engaging and informative as possible.

Help others reproduce the problem.

Not all questions benefit from including code. But if your problem is with the code you've written, you should include some. But don't just copy in your entire program! It likely includes a lot of irrelevant details that readers will need to ignore when trying to reproduce the problem. Include just enough code to allow others to reproduce the problem. 

Include all relevant tags.

Try to include a tag for the language, library, and specific API your question relates to. If you start typing in the tags field, the system will suggest tags that match what you've typed - be sure and read the descriptions given for them to make sure they're relevant to the question you're asking!

Read more about using tags »

Proofread before posting

Now that you're ready to ask your question, take a deep breath and read through it from start to finish. Pretend you're seeing it for the first time: does it make sense? Try reproducing the problem yourself, in a fresh environment and make sure you can do so using only the information included in your question. Add any details you missed and read through it again. Now is an excellent time to make sure that your title still describes the problem!

Additional resources

Learning to ask a good question is a worthy pursuit, and not one you'll master overnight. Here are some additional resources that you may find useful:

Respond to feedback

After you post, leave the question open in your browser for a bit, and see if anyone comments. If you missed an obvious piece of information, be ready to respond by editing your question to include it. If someone posts an answer, be prepared to try it out and provide feedback.

As the author of the post, you will also receive notifications for all new activity to your question. These notifications will appear in your inbox on-site, but you can also receive notifications via email.

How to answer a question?

Here are a few tips on how to make your answer great:

Pay it forward.

Saying "thanks" is appreciated, but it doesn’t answer the question. Instead, vote up the answers that helped you the most! If these answers were helpful to you, please consider saying thank you more constructively – by contributing your answers to questions your Team members have asked here.

Have the same problem?

Still no answer to the question, and you have the same problem? Help your Team find a solution by researching the issue, then contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer. That way, even if you can’t figure it out, the next person has more to go on. You can also vote up the question so it gets more attention.

Answer the question.

Read the question carefully. What, precisely, is the question asking? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be "don't do that," but it should also include "try this instead." Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

Provide context for links.

Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there.

Write to the best of your ability.

We don't expect every answer to be perfect, but answers with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar are easier to read. They also tend to get upvoted more frequently. Remember, you can always go back at any time and edit your answer to improve it.

Accept an answer

One of the most important parts of asking a question is to make sure that the correct answer is accepted and pinned to the top of the others. Not only does this give the author of the answer a small reputation boost, but it also gives a clear indication of what solved your problem and that your problem is solved.

Questions with an accepted answer appear differently in lists of questions to give others a quick indication that the problem is resolved.

A tag is a word or phrase that describes the topic of the question and helps categorize your question with other, similar questions. Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer, by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories. Tags can also be used to help you identify questions that are interesting or relevant to you.

Tags can be applied in many ways. We've found that many communities share a few common categories of tags that:

  • Identify a language.
  • Draw attention from a particular department.
  • Label a product.

Use tags on a question

Whether you're writing the question, updating it, or editing someone else's question, adding and removing tags is a useful tool that should always be used to add valuable information to the question and replace obscure or difficult-to-understand tags with well-known and popular tags. Simply start typing into the Tags box and you should receive some suggestions on tags that match what you've typed so far.

Note that up to six tag suggestions will appear at a given time, sorted by the most relevant match. The text you type can match anywhere in the text of a tag, and hyphens are ignored completely when finding matches. Tags that are specific to your team will display in your team's color, whereas tags inherited from the public site will display as normal tags. You'll also see a short description of the tag if one is available for that tag.

With the suggestions visible, you can hit tab to select the first matching tag, or use the arrow keys to move between different tags. Press enter or space to insert the currently selected tag into the box.

Remove a tag that has been inserted by clicking on the small “x” icon at the right side of the tag.

Tags in titles

You should not force a tag into your title. Because the tags appear below the question and tags are indexed by our product’s search engine along with the content of your question, you can trust that other people will be able to find your question based on tags they follow or search for. Additionally, tags appear on the question page, so other people will take them into account when answering your question.

The only time you should use tags in your title is when they are organic to the conversational tone of the title. Avoid inserting tags into titles when they do not help to form a complete sentence.

Create a new tag

A tag cannot exist without at least one question where it can be applied, so the first step is making sure there is a question that covers the topic. Create new tags when you feel you can make a strong case that your question does cover a new topic that nobody else has asked about before, such as a new technology that was recently released. Don't create tags for the sake of creating tags, though. Strive to use existing tags as much as possible.

There are two methods for creating tags in Stack Overflow for Teams. The first is available to all users, and the second is a tag administration page accessible by Admins on a Team.

When asking a question, any user can enter a tag into the tags box the same as any other tag. Make sure to hit space to ensure it gets formatted correctly as a tag on the edit screen. Once the question is submitted, the tag will automatically be created. When creating a new tag, keep in mind that the maximum tag length is 35 characters, and tags must use the following character set: a-z, 0-9, +, #, -, and .

How to set up Notifications

Watching and ignoring tags have some benefits to viewers. A watched tag will appear highlighted in your list of questions to make them stand out from the rest. An ignored tag will be faded in your list of questions so they are less visible.

In addition to highlighting questions in tags you've watched, you can also receive notifications of new questions which use a watched tag, every fifteen minutes or every day. Those notifications will be sent to your current verified email address, which can be changed in your email settings.

There are multiple ways you can watch or ignore a tag:

  • When viewing a list of questions, there will be boxes for watched and ignored tags in the right sidebar. Use the buttons there to manually add a tag to either list.
  • If you've just stumbled across a tag you'd like to watch or ignore, you can hover over the tag to view the popup or click on the tag to visit the tag page. Use the corresponding button to watch or ignore the tag from there.
  • While editing your profile, you can view a list of all your watched and ignored tags across all your teams and the public site by clicking on Tag watching & ignoring under Email settings.

You can also choose to stop receiving notifications for all tags in your profile settings. Look for this setting:

When to use Articles vs Q&A

Articles is a long-form content solution within Teams. In addition to questions and answers, users will now be able to create an Article to proactively share knowledge with fellow team members. Articles will show up in search results along with Q&A content.

A good rule of thumb when deciding if something should be an Article or Question: If it’s something that won’t change and you are giving proactive information, that’s an Article. If you are requesting the team provide inputs on a problem you are trying to solve, that’s a question.

Examples of an Article are things like:

  • Project documentation
  • History of your product
  • How-to guides for new team members

When to use Collections

Use collections to group together questions within your team and display them in a list for easier viewing. Collections are designed to work alongside tags. While tags tend to identify a broader topic, collections can span multiple topics. For example, you might group all the on-boarding documentation for a particular position into one collection so that all of the questions are easy to find in one place, rather than creating tags for each position.

Why SME tags are important

We believe it’s important to acknowledge those with special skills or knowledge in a particular topic. Subject matter experts are a wealth of knowledge, and by assigning an SME tag to a question or Article, you’re ensuring that your company’s SMEs are alerted and can respond quickly to new content.

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