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I ask this because I am really annoyed by the behavior on superuser. I am a guy with questions, and I love technical details. If I have a problem I want not only to solve my problem, but to understand the underlying details on why the problem happens in the first place. I am curious, and my knowledge arises from this.

Now, the assumption is that SO/SU are for these kind of question: Hard questions that ask for the gory details, that are for technical people, those who sit on their attributes how big they are (and I am sure we are all well endowed, but in different fields). I don't necessarily expect a helpdesk, where I have a problem, and I get an answer that solves my problem, and that's it. I want to know more.

It appears that the first kind of questions is frowned upon on SuperUser. Specifically, I am having a problem with a printer, I asked why printers still suck, explaining my specific problem. My question is not a request for opinions. It's a request for technical details on why these things still happen. I'm not asking opinions, I'm not asking discussion. I am asking a complete, in-depth explanation why these problems still occur.

Now, you may counter with the FAQ, that the question should be specific (in my opinion it is), reasonably scoped (ok, it may open a can of worms, but I don't expect it... I expect the problem being in the nature of USB, the drivers, or the protocol). Fair enough. So, the question of this meta post is: where should I ask questions such as this? Because this tendency of SO/SE to pretend only to be a helpdesk is, in my opinion, damaging the qualitative and "in-depthness" level of notions that travel on it.

And if I attacked your business model, I apologize.

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These should be on topic for Super User (from my understanding anyway). Which question(s) is(are) causing issues? –  ChrisF Oct 28 '11 at 8:00
    
I agree with Chris, this sounds like a question for SU. That there are fewer people able to answer an in-depth question than there are people to answer a "support request" probably is just a fact of life, not something specific to SO/SE –  Pëkka Oct 28 '11 at 8:03
    
@Pekka I posted the original question below. –  slhck Oct 28 '11 at 8:05
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I don't think this is a good question for the SE Q&A format. If it were a specific one like "Why does problem x still happen with modern laser printers?" you might have a case. But "Why do printers suck so much?" I don't think that will work. Why do Computers still suck so much? –  Pëkka Oct 28 '11 at 8:10
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@Pekka: The more interesting question is (though off-topic): Why do vacuum cleaners suck so much? –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 28 '11 at 8:24
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However, after seeing the question, I fully agree with the decision to close it. There are two problems with the question, a) it's too broad and b) it's a rant. If it were just "why does my printer (model X) not print pdfs correctly?" then it would be on topic and (potentially) answerable. –  ChrisF Oct 28 '11 at 8:26
    
@ChrisF: When I asked on StackOverflow Why is java considered to be slow, I generated the same amount of crap you are generating right now. stackoverflow.com/questions/2163411/… . The question now has 79 votes, 41 stars, and the highest answer has 90 votes and it's a jewel, and yet there's some moron who closed it as non-constructive.. Stop being so helpdesk. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 8:34
    
@Stefano I don't think you can compare "why do printers suck" with that question. You're not even specifying what kind of printer. –  Pëkka Oct 28 '11 at 8:37
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> All printers share the same protocol, the same bus – that is not true. > I frequently encounter these problems – so you have the exact same problem with different models? Aren't printer problems more diverse than that? –  slhck Oct 28 '11 at 8:43
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Well, USB, yes – but what about network printers? Network protocols for printing? I definitely see where you're going, but the whole "why do printers suck" has a very negative connotation, and if you asked "What are the technical reasons for common printer problems?" that might have been less of an issue. –  slhck Oct 28 '11 at 8:48
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No matter what we say, the fact that your very broad question was not accepted and closed is unacceptable to you and every reason we give you will counter with another. We therefore have a stalemate. I apologize that you feel your being treated unfairly, but general consensus so far has been that the moderators and community handled the question within the boundaries of the FAQ and guidelines set out for the site. I apologize that it has offended you. What will you consider an acceptable solution to this? Should we re-open the original question and leave it for the community to handle? –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 8:59
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Also based on your last comment, I think you miss the point of SE. It is about I have problem X and how do I solve it. It has always been. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:00
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There's a difference between extremely advanced topics and too broad questions. You can ask extremely complicated questions and receive answers to it. The problem is that you need to have an actual question. And your example isn't so far from your printer question: I have problem X? Can you help me solve it? and I have problem X? Why is that? are very very similar in the end. At the moment this discussion is fixed around your Printer-Question...do you have any other examples? –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 28 '11 at 9:02
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I am not going to repeat my comment on my answer, but as I previously mentioned, you may be looking for Yahoo Answer, Quora or a multitude of traditional forums out there that will happily help you find an answer to Why. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:06
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@StefanoBorini Looking at some of the content on the SE network, if you consider all those valid open questions helpdesk type questions, then we do have a serious problem. Thankfully, however, a lot of people don't, and more then a 2K questions a day does proves it is not just helpdesk type questions being kept. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:14

2 Answers 2

Let's just look at your original question:

why printers suck so much?

Ok, here is the point. We are in 2011, and I just wasted 50 pages because I tried to print a PDF and the printer stops after 5 lines, spits out the paper sheet, and continues on the next paper sheet. Clicking "delete" on the printing queue does not do anything. Occasionally, when I send stuff to print, the printer is "not online", while it clearly is. Deleting the printing queue and then resubmitting magically works.

Now, I am not asking why these things happen and how can I solve them. What I am asking is a technical reason behind the fact that in 2011 printers still suck and are a spawn of hell.


Why "these things happen" … have you ever heard of the term "bug"? Bugs exist everywhere, in software, and in hardware. The point of Super User here is to help you solve your hardware problem with this specific model. Because, no other printer is probably giving you the same issue. So, an in-depth technical question about your printer problem would be fine, because it might have one definitive answer. But all printers?

This is like asking, "Why does software suck so much?", just because one program you use likes to crash a lot.

You want the technical details / reasons? Here they are:

  • underpaid programmers writing drivers or embedded software for thousands of printer models
  • manufacturers that have no time to check for hardware bugs

What else did you expect? How would somebody really know what the problem with every printer on the world is?

By the way: I love my printer and it has never ever let me down in the last four years.

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You missed possible hardware malfunctions, broken plugs or cables, issues with the drivers, with the kernel of the Operating System itself, incompatibility between installed libraries, possible bugs in the used software which generates the printing job...oh boy, I could do this the whole day! –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 28 '11 at 8:21
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Your answer is completely out of scope, and a quick way to close it without actually answering. You can say the same for any software, yet my firefox don't crash all day long. On the other hand, I always hear situations like the one I am facing. I believe there's a technical reason behind it, not a human/business one, or at least there are technical issues that are made more evident by sloppy development practices. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 8:37
    
@Asylum: then please take a whole day and write them down. This is what these sites are for. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 8:40
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> You can say the same for any software, yet my firefox don't crash all day long – yes, and my printer also works flawlessly. Of course there are many people with printer problems, but the whole thing with ranting about printers has become very popular, and I don't think there are more printer issues than other computer issues. The whole technical reason behind all those problems is that bugs manifest in all kinds of ways, and as @Asylum said, they can occur anywhere. That's the technical reason why some printers suck. –  slhck Oct 28 '11 at 8:41
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@StefanoBorini: if you want an extensive list of why software sometimes fails, browse StackOverflow. There's about 2 million examples there. –  Mat Oct 28 '11 at 8:45
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@StefanoBorini: No, that's not what Stack Exchange is for...SE is for questions about actual problems with a definite answer. Didn't you wonder why all the list of X questions are getting closed lately? –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 28 '11 at 8:48
    
@asylum: and that's exactly what I am objecting. In addition, "Why is java reputed to be slow" is not a list, it has definite answer, yet it caused the same stirrup. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 8:58
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@StefanoBorini: Because it can not be answered. Java is not necessarily slow...it runs on a VM, so what VM are we talking about? What compiler was used? What's in the application? What graphical frontend? What if the application touches the disk? What hardware? What do you perceive as slow? Additionally Why did java have the **reputation** of being slow? is a social question with not necessarily technical background (Trolls etc.). –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 28 '11 at 9:10
    
@Asylum: that's not true. We got incredibly good answers on that, and it's highly voted and starred. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 9:15
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@StefanoBorini Popularity != Quality. We do not look at how popular questions are based on votes or stars when we close. We look at quality, purpose and does it meet the standard set in the FAQ. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:17
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Please don't start digging out random two-year old questions. SE used to be different, yes, but now the FAQs are pretty clear about what they don't want. –  slhck Oct 28 '11 at 9:20
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@Diago: congratulations. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 9:24
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@StefanoBorini No, thank you. You bringing those questions to the front is a huge assistance to the current clean up effort underway, and without you spending time finding them, we would never have known about them, or would never have been able to close them or send them to the correct place. Your assistance is appreciated. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:27
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@StefanoBorini I am more then happy for you to call me dumb, but calling the whole community that is maybe not going to help your case going forward. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:34
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@StefanoBorini I do realize what the community is doing. We are keeping the system clean and on topic. Everyone is allowed an opinion, and I am sure your not alone in your feeling on this, however the majority of the community made a decision, and the last time I checked this was a democracy. If the majority is wrong, it is a matter of opinion, however it is what the majority wants. You are however, more then welcome to question this, as you did, and more then welcome to come up with an argument to sway the majority to your viewpoint. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:49

Update

I have to apologize to the OP. We misread his original question and answered the wrong question. Since he already posted a new question here which does answer his original question, I am leaving this answer intact.

Detailed Timeline TL;DR

Thank you for raising this issue on Meta, and I do apologize for you being annoyed by the events that followed. slhck already looked at your original question and I want to just take the whole timeline further so everyone is aware what happened before taking out there pitchforks and blaming the SU moderators and community for not accepting what they would could consider a valid question based on your description.

Your original question was posted, and after reading it I closed it as not constructive. The following comments was made thereafter:

  • Please review the what not to ask here section of the FAQ Diago♦ 1h ago
  • @Diago: so where should I ask it ? I still want an answer, you know? An answer that enters into explanation of either USB, drivers, protocol or stuff like this. Stefano Borini 1h ago
  • None of the sites on SE accept questions that solicit opinion or debate, and adding the words technical reasons does not make it a question that won't. You might consider Quora or Yahoo answers. Diago♦ 1h ago
  • My printer is awesome and I love it! slhck 1h ago 53m ago
  • @Diago : this is not a debate, nor an opinion, and if you don't understand it, re-read the question. Stefano Borini
  • @Diago: prefer this ? http://superuser.com/questions/351485/why-my-printer-did-not-work . Still the same question you know... Stefano Borini
  • You should edit this question and have it reopened. The new one is much better. It's not the same question, you left out the opinion part. slhck 56m ago
  • @StefanoBorini And you couldn't just edit this question to that and make it technical? Seriously? Do you enjoy wasting people's time? Diago♦ 56m ago
  • @Stefano borini: Not work != suck. Suck is subjective, like a suck question. A not working question isn't a question, like this sentence. surfasb 56m ago
  • @Diago : and you ? do you enjoy wasting mine ? I don't reedit a question which has been slapped to -3. Nobody will read it. Stefano Borini

The section I was referring to was the following:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use __ for __, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if __ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Emphasis mine. The last line is why your question was closed. You then posted the following question:

Why does my printer stop printing when trying to print a PDF file?

Why does my HP DeskJet 1000 printer stop after 5 lines?

I just wasted 50 pages because I tried to print a PDF and the printer stops after 5 lines, spits out the paper sheet, and continues on the next paper sheet. Clicking "delete" on the printing queue does not do anything.

Occasionally, when I send stuff to print, the printer is "not online", while it clearly is. Deleting the printing queue and then resubmitting magically works. MacOSX, printer is HP deskjet 1000.

Why ?

This question was merged with the close question and edited as follows by myself:

Why does my HP DeskJet 1000 printer stop after 5 lines?

I just wasted 50 pages because I tried to print a PDF and the printer stops after 5 lines, spits out the paper sheet, and continues on the next paper sheet.

Clicking "delete" on the printing queue does not do anything. Occasionally, when I send stuff to print, the printer is "not online", while it clearly is. Deleting the printing queue and then resubmitting magically works.

Using MacOSX with a HP DeskJet 1000 printer.

The comments then followed:

  • Comments removed since it refers to an old version of the question. Diago♦ 1h ago
  • @Diago: This is not what I asked. I don't want a solution to my problem. I want to know the technical details why these problems happen in the first place. Stefano Borini

The latter question was re-opened and went from -3 to +1 and was then deleted by yourself.

Summary - Non TL;DR

You explain you asked a technical question, yet your question was according to the current SU FAQ considered it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”. It was closed.

You then posted a new question, which was merged with the original and the question was edited and re-opened to meet the SU FAQ, and this still did not satisfy you, and you deleted the question.

Personally, apart from you deleting the question, I think this is one of the more successfully handled questions on SU, it was closed, discussed and revised and re-opened. You could still get a technical reason for why your printer stopped working, and find out how to fix it without it being not constructive.

Furthermore, you insist you expected answer containing references to protocols and ports and standards, yet nowhere in your question you mention this or even give an indication it is what you expect. We magically need to figure this out after spending 2 minutes reading your rant and history lesson.

So in response to you, where is the actual technically difficult question you wanted to ask?

I admit I lost my cool during this whole exchange and came across as rude. For that I do apologize

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Ok, so I see the "sucks", but I don't see the "am I right". I see a "please explain what are the reasons", with the highest level of technicality you can get. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 8:48
    
I am asking why, as I asked it with the Java question. Yet I got precious answers after the same flow of negative votes I was given in this case. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 9:00
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@StefanoBorini I am trying to be respectful here, however, how do you fail to see that the goal of SE is not to answer Why? It's to answer questions that solve problems. If you want to ask why, there is still a huge amount of traditional forums and Q&A sites that will happily accept your question, and even encourage it. Some even started after SE because SE has been so clear on what is acceptable. SE is trying to meet a different goal, and has made it clear that not every question has a place here. –  Diago Oct 28 '11 at 9:04
    
there used to be a time where "why" was a part of SE, and we got good questions and answers out of it. Again, stop being so helpdesk. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 9:06
    
@StefanoBorini - Please just take those questions elsewhere. If you don't like the service offered on this FREE SITE please go start your own and stop bothering everyone here who likes how the current system works. –  JNK Oct 28 '11 at 13:39
    
@JNK: excuse me..! I contributed to make this site as well, and way before you joined. Can I have a say in how I feel about it ? –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 13:56
    
@StefanoBorini - Well if you joined first you MUST be right. Please continue railing against the system. You should tell Jeff and Joel how long you have been here too, they will probably change the rules for you. –  JNK Oct 28 '11 at 14:03
    
@JNK: I joined when those kind of questions were allowed and encouraged, and formed a very important backbone of the community and culture on SO. If this has changed, I still claim this transformed the site in a helpdesk. Useful to solve a problem, useless to learn something deeper. I am happy to use it as a helpdesk, but it's clear that to learn more deeper and advanced knowledge on general topics this place has unfortunately run its course. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 14:06
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Let's not get into some crazy dicey argument here about who is or is not allowed to give feedback on a feedback site, please. –  Grace Note Oct 28 '11 at 14:09
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Earlier scope of the network was still being worked out. That those campfire questions survived was a part of the culture of working out what fits and what doesn't. They no longer do and have not for the longest time. @ste –  random Oct 28 '11 at 14:11
    
@StefanoBorini - that has changed, and there have been a lot of posts about it on meta. They also have tagged a lot of those old questions to let newer users know that they don't represent what is now considered acceptable. You can have more in-depth information still, but completely open ended questions like "Why do printers suck" don't really count. –  JNK Oct 28 '11 at 14:11
    
@Grace : I'm tired of this stuff. I will delete the question in a few minutes, and that's it. Apparently the whole community is happy with a helpdesk. I am too and I will consider it as such, but as I said, for deeper questions on a more general, high-level view SO won't be my reference site anymore. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 14:13
    
@random: and I say this transformed the site in a helpdesk, bludgeoning interesting questions to nothing and removing important knowledge from it. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 14:15
    
A rant rarely imparts anything close to important knowledge for anyone other than a therapist @ste –  random Oct 28 '11 at 14:16
    
@random and again, it was not a rant. it was a question aimed at understanding what are the potentially deep technical causes behind such unpredictable behavior. It's easy to say "driver bug", but if there were deeper causes relative to the protocol, or backward compatibility issues, I would have gladly learned them from someone more experienced. This was the aim and goal of my question. It may have been badly expressed, but I was not ranting and that's it. I wanted a technical, in-depth answer, which was not given. –  Stefano Borini Oct 28 '11 at 14:38

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