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Howto good question says: give context and detail. Linking etiquette prescribes quoting the target, yet when posting just three smallish paragraphs plus two links with quotes that despite proper formatting do not require any scrolling to read to completion one gets accused of "wall of text"? So how much text, context and detail is too much before the attention deficit usually kicks in here?

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The Wall of Text

The (official?) definition of a Wall of Text as per Wikipedia is as follows:

A wall of text is an excessively long post to a noticeboard or talk page discussion, which can often be so long that some don't read it.

However, I tend to prefer this definition as it incorporates "paragraph breaks" as, I believe this is key over the actual length of the post.

A large and intimidating piece of writing, particularly one with few or no paragraph breaks.

For example, using your question as an example:

do not require any scrolling to read to completion one gets accused of "wall of text"? So how much text, context and detail is too much before the attention deficit usually kicks in here?

Could be considered a wall of text due to the no paragraph breaks. A single carriage return drastically increases the readability:

....do not require any scrolling to read to completion one gets accused of "wall of text"?

So how much text, context and detail is too much before the attention deficit usually kicks in here?

Questions with relevant context

Speaking only for myself, one of the things that makes questions difficult to answer is the long and drawn out narrative before getting to the problem:

So, one sunny day, I bought a MacBook Pro that I use for surfing the web and responding to online trolls, my co-worker who only uses Windows but has shown some interest in my iPhone decides to borrow my Mac to check my email. All of a sudden my battery won't hold a charge. I plug in my charger and I get a green light, then an amber light, and then it never goes green. But if I unplug it, it's green again. What could he have possibly done and is there a command that I can issue that can restore the battery capacity.

Yeah. I probably lost your attention there. Questions like this, I lose focus about 2 lines in.

So, how much is "too much?" When you're outside of describing:

  • the problem (battery won't hold a charge)
  • what you tried (plugging in charger)
  • what solution you're looking for.

The important takeaway from this should be: Be succinct. Focus on the problem and provide some context. What you did is more important than why you did it. And if we need clarification, we will always ask via comments.

  • This Q was formatted deliberately to be as short as possible. With my screen setting I arrive at 4 lines in one paragraph. This is neither 'a lot' nor a wall in my eyes. Adding paragrphs would indeed increase readilbility and I would have done so, if it weren't for the accusation I faced. That's also why I left out the mainQ that prompted this (cf nohillside's answer and the previous edits on main: adding those would have elongated the above as well again…) – LаngLаngС Feb 28 at 21:08
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    With my screen setting... That's the problem. Most likely very few people have your screen settings. I read these Q/As on many devices from iPhones, iPads to 13" laptops and 27" screens; it looks different on all. Without proper formatting, attention deficit kicks in rather quickly especially on smaller devices. In your eyes, it may not be a WoT, but you're not writing a Q or A for your eyes. You're writing it for others to read, and hopefully provide you an answer. – Allan Feb 28 at 21:12
  • It's still just four lines and a single paragraph, less than 400 characters total. How can that be excessively long, or intimidating? The built in hard-limit on SE is 30000? Most comments are longer. Yours is 342 for content. And virtually all top-voted questions across the network I see are longer as well. Take it as given that I know and usually add more reader-friendly para-breaks. That's not the issue. Writing better Qs that are as short as meaningfully poossible but do not require too much clarification comments is. Help center says add context. Users here say "too long, my eyes" – LаngLаngС Feb 28 at 21:22
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    Ok...to make it short and succinct with respect to the linked question: You could have said, I installed AnySearch via the Safari Gallery but Malware Bytes says it's the Anysearch Virus. Is Malware Bytes mistakenly identifying this as a threat or is this valid? None of the extraneous "I found it handy," or "this is from Apple" narrative would have been necessary. – Allan Feb 28 at 21:28
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    @langlangc One of the problems with your original question is that it doesn‘t ask what you wanted to know. It reads like comparing two extensions with the same name, with a lot of detailed information, and then asking whether they are the same or not. All this information is fairly irrelevant for your actual question (is this extension from the gallery malware?). So one had to read a lot of stuff which didn’t help in understanding the real question. – nohillside Feb 28 at 21:32
  • Your ultrashort version can only be read as valid after knowing the answer, as it is devoid of context, doesn't document what I tried to solve this etc. Specifically it leaves out that googling this, one is also led to believe it's malicious by skimming the top hits there. Are you sure you wouldn't have asked for clarification? Short: from all I read on meta so far, and help center in particular I concluded to write the Q to the best of my knowledge. Your suggestion would contradict that IMO. Would that have been still WoT if no-quotes at all? – LаngLаngС Feb 28 at 21:47
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    @langlangc The quotes added nothing to the question of whether the extension you‘ve downloaded from the gallery is malware, they rather distracted from the key message. – nohillside Feb 28 at 21:56
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    Ok. You could have added Doing a Google search brings up a number of links that indicate it's a virus. and still gotten your point across. I get the feeling you want to make the argument that your extensive research and writing should be validate because you deem it critical or necessary; what's critical and necessary is communicating to your audience. What I think you're forgetting is that we're not reviewing academic papers here, we're attempting to solve problems. – Allan Feb 28 at 21:58
  • Also...I didn't know the answer going in. I initially (before the major edit) read your question, asked "huh?", read it again, gave up and moved on. I still have no idea what the "answer" is. – Allan Feb 28 at 22:00
  • Not me alone, also the texts I quoted say 'give context'. Without the quotes it's a bare link and readers will have no clue what's this about without evaluating two links (or read two short quotes in place). If someone sees a WoT, he may move on. But here the downvoters are still not content with the lack of content. This meta is not even about that specific Q, that never had "a sunny day" (in it) and wasn't 'excessive? The DVs now say "still a WoT". The argument: a better guideline (What is WoT, how much is necessary content, in general, is needed. Contradictions: this Q 2short? – LаngLаngС Feb 28 at 22:55
  • Oy vey. I literally answered all of that in my answer to this Q. People vote for whatever reason including if a Q is unclear. Me? I vote to close if I can't edit it. I can't and won't argue the point on what is "enough" as it's not an objective measurement. You need to apply your own judgement and determine if others will be able to read and understand your Q. You seem to have a very negative reaction when people give you feedback that your Q is not what you think it is. Don't. Just go with it and give the people what they say works for them. – Allan Feb 28 at 23:16
  • @LangLangC personally, I don't think your latest revision was a "wall of text", but I agree that the quote regarding the official extension is not too relevant because I don't find any useful information to answer the question (you could just put a link to the extension and mention the author to show which extension you're talking about). The second quotation was useful enough to make the question standalone. As for the opening paragraph "context", the only useful info is that "this is an old extension", which mean it's not updated anymore but detected (false-positively) by MalwareBytes. – Andrew T. Mar 1 at 2:52
  • @LangLangC Most downvoters usually don't come back to change their votes even after a post has been edited. And as usual: nobody knows for sure why you got downvotes (I had a suspicion and acted on it, but one or the other of the downvoters may just have had a bad day). – nohillside Mar 1 at 6:54
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Writing good questions is hard, probably even harder than writing good answers. So thanks for bringing this up on Meta.

For me a „wall of text“ question is a post which requires me to read a lot text without me knowing why I‘m reading it and how it relates to the question. Typically such questions miss a clear problem statement, provide a lot of potentially irrelevant detail, and come to the point/the question only at the end. This means that one has to read the text at least twice (once to see what the question is, the second time to look for the relevant facts among all the details).

Specifically I assume you talk about Is AnySearch browser extension from Apple's Extension Gallery malware?. Have you compared your initial version with my (rather big) edit? Is there anything missing in the edited version which you consider essential for answering the question? Or is this an edit which helps to show the difference between a wall-of-text and a focused question?

  • That Q's the inspiration, and since this meta has no guidance for "wall-of-text"… I specifically wonder why people don't read the title and skim over the quotes, that are only there in case of link-rot, and also per recommendation of various help center texts. The edit mainly cuts out the quotes, requiring readers to click the links, for as long as those are still up, at that location. (& "similar-named" is almost proleptic answering; they look identical) Sure, trimming some fat is often possible somehow. But here I find WoT a dishonest assessment, and frankly don't believe it to be true. – LаngLаngС Feb 28 at 21:28
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    +1 for this sentence alone: Is there anything missing in the edited version which you think essential for answering the question? – Allan Feb 28 at 21:33
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    @langlangc Allan has a good point in his answer: one gets lost after reading a few lines, attention wanders off and one ignores the question, downvotes, and/or votes to close. It‘s up to the question writer to write a question in a fashion which keeps readers involved. I don‘t want to argue about what your intention was, all I can tell you is how I think your question could be improved. – nohillside Feb 28 at 21:37

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