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A couple of my questions like this were closed as non-constructive. Look at the question behind the link: I ask "why init.d is called like this?" A guy answers exactly and I accept his answer. Then come five high-reputation guys and mark my question as non-constructive.

What's wrong with this? If I say "why tmp is called tmp?" and someone answers me "it means temporary", will these guys also come and shoot my question down?

I didn't mean this question to be discussion. I want an exact answer, of course. Or an acceptable. After all, the guys who ask to write code for them get the most-acceptable, not an exact answer. Should I go ahead and state this: "this is not a discussion, please write an exact answer"? "Don't put your cat in the microwave."

Off-topic, but let me say this: I more often see the dumb-down trend in Stack Overflow projects:

  • asking to do your job for you is fine and this kind of requests are done thousands a day, and are the most vote-yielding ones. (Probably this is why high-ranked guys think this way?)
  • if you want to do your job alone and ask things to look at (recommend a configuration for X), the question will be closed (DISCUSSION!)
  • if you ask what something means, it will be closed (it can be opinion-based, DISCUSSION!)

So, anything that can provoke a discussion is effectively off-topic and should be closed. This is dumbing down, like choice-based tests and don't-put-the-plastic-bag-on-your-head messages.

Someone asked for a recommendation of keyboard layout, and my answer with some valuable experience on Dvorak gets more and more votes, but the question is closed as non-constructive. Hey, if not this non-constructive question, you wouldn't have my answer there. How should it have been asked?!

Addition: I was driven to Stack Overflow, because it was a much healthier place than forums, where oftentimes, before getting any piece of knowledge, you're told you're dumb/idiot in a (not) subtle way. This is called elitism. Now, this elitism seems to get traction on Stack Exchange: the only accepted way of communication is "do the job for me". Those who make their ranks with this, start telling others how to behave.

share|improve this question
What was the problem that needed fixing in that init.d question? Same with the question about how to look up a glossary – random Nov 21 '11 at 18:13
Its not elitism, its moderation. If the site gets spammed with a ton of easily google-able questions, or questions that don't have an actual problem to be solved, it dilutes the other questions that people need actual help with. – Kyle Trauberman Nov 21 '11 at 18:18
Kyle Trauberman, I did google before asking that. Please look at that question. It has exactly 1 answer, nobody else has spent effort, nobody has got less attention. – culebrón Nov 21 '11 at 18:22
I wasn't calling out your question in particular, just providing examples. If people answer or not is irrelevant, a bad question may have answers (especially if its an easy question to answer), but that alone does not make it a good fit for the site. Either way, you got your answer, and the close doesn't penalize you, so why worry? – Kyle Trauberman Nov 21 '11 at 18:26
@culebrón: The problem with "why is X done this way?" type questions is that, as a rule, nobody can answer them except for those who designed it that way. Yes, you can try to answer it, and sometimes you will have some evidence to back them up (such as RFCs and the such). But the vast majority of answers for these type questions are speculation or based on opinion rather than fact. That's why they are often closed as not constructive. They solve no real problem, invite debate, etc. – Won't Nov 21 '11 at 18:29
up vote 9 down vote accepted

You should ask on Meta Super User rather than Meta Stack Overflow since your meta question is specifically about Super User's moderation policy. In general, Super User does not like non-technical questions, and your question is not strictly speaking about computer software or computer hardware but about the history of computer software.

If your question fits within its purview, you may be interested in Unix & Linux, which is more open to “why” questions than Super User.

share|improve this answer
Is there a separate meta for that? – culebrón Nov 21 '11 at 19:49

There are lots of reasons why a question doesn't fit the site. It is true that one of them is "not a real question" and a subset of "not a real question" is "an exact answer isn't possible". The converse isn't true though: just because something has an exact answer doesn't mean it is a good fit for the site.

For example, I am a developer and some people have heard of me. If you asked "what is Kate Gregory's middle name and why was it chosen?" you might get an exact answer (if my mother signed up for the site and answered you.) And it's related to a programmer, if not to programming. But it's a horrible fit for the site. You object to "help me do my job" questions, but those are the bread and butter of the site. Simple, clear questions with an exact answer available, on a specific programming problem such as understanding an error message, figuring out what function in an API to call, fixing how an app looks on screen, and so on.

The reasons for historical decisions, especially ones as arbitrary as naming, are not on topic for stack overflow. Just because you want to know something doesn't automatically make it on topic.

share|improve this answer
I don't like playing formalism and checking the rules literally. We humans are better than that. – culebrón Nov 21 '11 at 19:50

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