I have observed on various occasions that a question which is simple, in the sense that it might be:

The question itself is simple OR the question is in a simple manner using words that people new to the topics find themselves familiar with (but the question itself might be about a high level concept not (easily)understood by newcomers).

Such type of questions gather more views opposed to questions which contain unfamiliar terms.

So, should a complex question be written so that it appears to be simple, containing familiar words or does doing such a thing (simplifying a complex question) prove detrimental to the level (complexity or sophistication) of question asked and the level of answer expected?

OR is it just a matter of getting more views per question?

Sorry, I cannot provide a concrete example at this point of time.

EDIT: related question here.

2 Answers 2


Well, the question will be asked at the level that the questioner best understands. Hopefully, they will put enough effort into the question to ensure that it is, at whatever level, unambiguous and reasonably comprehensive.

That much is really beyond our control.

What is within the communities' control is the ability to edit the question to draw out the essence of the issue, or refine the point of the question, providing that doesn't substantially alter the original intent.

If it is apparent that the questioner's level of understanding of the problem is sufficiently constrained that only a radical rewrite of the question would adequately expose the actual issue in a way that would support meaningful and helpful answers, I would propose closing the question ("Unclear what you are asking" or "Too broad") and leaving a comment explaining that the question needs to be significantly reworked and why.

Should the OP take up the offer to rewrite the question, their initial efforts could then be edited by others. Should they decline, the question could be deleted with no real loss to the wiki.

If the original (obscured) issue was something that did merit its own question, anyone involved in the aforementioned exchange could write it up.

Note that I haven't addressed the issue of the number of views; I don't consider that an end in itself, but a byproduct of interesting questions, or those that just happen to strike a chord with people here. Playing to the crowd is a short term strategy, and one that has its own peculiar risks.

Lots of popular questions will have a superficial appeal, but are unlikely to sustain the interest of the sorts of diverse specialist knowledge that this community is very fortunate to enjoy. We should be working to maintain a diverse *nix knowledge ecosystem, not the neckbeard linkbait-y equivalent of Gawker.


Simple vs. complex is a false dichotomy. Neither is to be preferred, it simply is not a useful metric. Questions are as simple or complex as the problems they involve. Without knowing the solution, you won't always even know if your question is a simple or complex one. Only an expert in the matter will even know how simple or complex something really is. Which brings us to the real issue:

This site, like all Stack Exchange sites, is primarily targeted at experts in the field. We are not trying to drum up more views for questions per-se. If we were, the best way to do that would be to focus on bike-shed questions. Debate over how to handle these has a long an venerable history on SE but it is generally agreed that we're not here for those.

Here are some tips to think about rather than "simple vs complex":

  • Neither simplicity nor brevity are themselves an end-goal. They are only a means to an end. The real goals to have in mind when composing posts here should be clarity and accuracy. Use as much space as you need to explain the problem or solution clearly and accurately. Unnaturally short and it won't communicate the details it needs to. Unnecessarily long and you might just confuse the issue.
  • Use the most technically accurate terminology you can command. This doesn't mean you should throw in all the jargon you can think of just to sound nerdy. This means make the most efficient use of language that you can. This is especially true of asking questions.

    Who do you want answering your questions? The droves of Linux newbies that drift through here after Googling for some problem they had? Or an expert who really understands your problem and is going to know the right solution? If the latter, then go ahead and ask it in a way that is going to interest them rather than cause them to roll their eyes.

Your goal should be to explain your problem effectively in a way that those best qualified to answer you will appreciate. Optimizing for more views won't do this. Make your questions as clear as you can. Use whatever technical proficiency you have to make that happen. Especially when asking don't worry about going over the heads of people that won't be able to help anyway, but don't obscure your problem by using jargon that doesn't add to either clarity or accuracy either.

Part of what makes experts experts in the Stack Exchange ecosystem is their ability to break up complex problems into simple parts and communicate the results of their problem solving clearly and accurately. Angle for the attention of those people by imitating those qualities.

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