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I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask this or discuss this.

When I'm looking for help, sometimes I want advice, either in the form of a solution or in the form of a strategic suggestion, even one that approximates a solution. It can be helpful to approach the problem in a different way, or to have someone help me uncover the root of the issue.

Sometimes, due to outside forces, I cannot accept approximations or new ways to tackle the problem. The root issue is not at hand in these circumstances. In my work, this happens all the time with customer requests. If my customer wants it painted green with a red teddy bear holding a pink balloon on the side, any advice on picking better color schemes or using more professional themes is irrelevant.

In an effort to cut to the chase on questions requiring direct answers, and also to signify that advice is welcome on advice type questions, I'm wondering if there is a standard phrase, tag, or acronym that could be mentioned at the top of these questions. Perhaps it's something you type in the first line of the text box, before you ask your question.

The only other way to do this is to completely explain your position every time you ask a question, else you may face the wrath of people who are quick to offer solutions that do not fit the bill. Many times, these people are also quick to tell you you're doing it wrong. It can be a waste of time for both parties.

This would also be helpful to me as a responder. If I see that the OP is asking for a response that answers the original question and I am unable to do so, I don't have to waste my time coming up with alternate solutions. Not only that, I won't have any basis for disappointment when I don't receive any points for my thoughtful, well-reasoned answer.

Similarly, if the OP is asking for advice (or any kind of answer), they can signal that and I might be more likely to jump in and participate.

As I'm imagining it, this type of phrase, tag, or acronym could save so much time. Perhaps, though, this is too much wishful thinking.

Perhaps, in a future version of the software, it's just a checkbox.

[ ] I only want direct answers.

Unchecked means you're open to all types of responses. Checking it displays some kind of visual indicator. Not a warning. Just a nice friendly visual. It's not meant to be a "Experts Only; Go Away!" type of thing. Just a suggestion to indicate the type of response the OP is looking for.

Does that make sense? Is this already being done and I'm missing it?

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I once asked a question like this from the answerer perspective, to which Bill the Lizard replied, "If the OP wants to specifically exclude common libraries, then they need to specify that in their question." There's also a school of thought that says you should answer "Don't do it because of A, B and C. But if you decide to do it anyway, I would follow this approach:..." so that future readers of your question, who may not have your limitations, are protected. –  Pops Nov 22 '11 at 19:27
    
Also, depending on exactly what restriction you're asking for, you may get some answers you don't like. –  Pops Nov 22 '11 at 19:38
    
This seems like it should be rephrased as a feature request. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 22 '11 at 19:42
    
"advice type questions" sounds to me like borderline "not constructive", and there is a title suffix for that: [closed]. Though there is some grey area there. –  Jason Plank Nov 23 '11 at 3:34

2 Answers 2

Is this supposed to be one of those types of questions? If so, you're not going to like my answer :)

Answers are not just for the OP, but for the world-wide audience of the Internet as well. Questions and answers are ideally as searchable, complete, and generally applicable as they can be while still serving the purpose of answering the question for the author of the question.

The "wasted details" of signifying which options you'll accept is an essential part of your question. If you skip it, you are wasting everyone else's time reading your question and formulating replies that won't be useful. You're under-specifying your question.

The highest vote count signifies the community accepted answer. The accepted answer signifies the OP accepted answer. Just because an answer is not useful for you does not mean that it won't be useful for someone else. Simply don't upvote/accept the answer.

But I totally understand where you're coming from. Many of my questions I came back and revised because the answers I was getting weren't helpful to me. And quite a few times I wish I hadn't given a concrete example as people focused on that instead of the question. But ultimately the way people answer depends on the question you asked. You'll need to give directions and rationale in your question if you intend to exclude categories of answers. Directions for answerers, rationale both for answerers and people with the same question.

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Yes, sometimes the side discussions and alternate solutions add value to the world. And if I could tag this question as open-ended or closed, I would say open. I want to explore whether or not something like this would save time, headaches, and limit the un-related meta discussions which do not add Quality. I'm not sure I fully appreciate the mixed-purpose, mixed-point system. There are times when it works and times when it really falls down. –  harrylove Nov 22 '11 at 20:32
    
OT: As an example of when it falls down, my post has been downvoted anonymously. That signals to me a couple things, all or none of which may be true: 1) We don't like your question/suggestion, 2) We don't want to discuss this, 3) You are a fool for asking. Regardless of the intent, my kneejerk reaction is to stop participating. Being upvoted feels like a million dollars. Being downvoted feels like rejection as a human being. Of course, I am still participating, but it no longer feels like dialectic. –  harrylove Nov 22 '11 at 20:54
    
OT: I didn't down vote you. I have very very few down votes to my name on SO. I went through the exact same thing you're going through last night - See comments on this question. Everything about DVs, being closed as a dupe (tho it isn't a dupe), people actively joking around etc. Quite a different world, meta is. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Nov 22 '11 at 21:11
    
I appreciate your response. And thanks for not downvoting me. –  harrylove Nov 22 '11 at 21:37

I've never seen such an acronym "in the wild." I guess you could try to start one, but I imagine it'd be hard, and I don't really see the need.

On one hand, such an acronym could save a little typing. On the other, for non-trivial questions, an author would probably still have to specify which areas had limitations and which didn't, or other details. Also, this situation doesn't come up very often to begin with, so the cost-benefit analysis just seems off to me.

See my comment for existing related discussions.

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Thanks for the links. And I agree, it's difficult to start such a practice and difficult to specify for all variables. It may be impossible or even desired. It seems like one of those mechanisms that should be there and should also not be there at the same time. –  harrylove Nov 22 '11 at 20:23

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