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There seems to be a growing number of "questions" which aren't really questions, but simply requirements specifications. This often happens with regular expressions, but I have seen requests for small but complete Java applications to be written as well.

I would like to hear community's opinion on the handling of such "questions".

I think they substantially decrease the level of discourse on Stack Overflow, so I lean towards closing them as "not a real question", but it'd be clearer that this is the right thing to do if the rent-a-coder "questions" were explicitly mentioned.

Also, it seems to me that adding them explicitly to the "not a real question" category is a more effective way of dealing with them than previously suggested additions to the FAQ. Basic answer to those suggestions was that the offenders usually don't read the FAQ and even if they did, they would ignore it.

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I often VTC these as "too localized" –  Martin Smith Dec 17 '11 at 13:01
    
Can you link to some examples? –  Bill the Lizard Dec 17 '11 at 13:04
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@BilltheLizard Two examples: stackoverflow.com/questions/8541700/…, stackoverflow.com/questions/8544337/… –  Adam Zalcman Dec 17 '11 at 13:07
    
Here is also the meta post I alluded to in closing: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/20120/… –  Adam Zalcman Dec 17 '11 at 13:11
    
How about pointing them to Careers before/after closing it ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Dec 17 '11 at 13:43
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I vote them to be closed as Not a real question because, well... it isn't a question. –  Goran Jovic Dec 17 '11 at 14:37
    
Regex is answerable and it's often hard to find the exact regex one needs for a given condition. It's perfectly possible to answer a regex question in a way that not only helps solve the problem but also shows why the regex must be structured as it was. –  Ben Brocka Dec 17 '11 at 15:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It would be hard to define what falls into the category of "rent-a-coder" questions. The two examples you gave both seem like borderline bad questions to me, but neither one is a full project specification.

Search strings for pattern-matching seems like a typical regular expression question, only the OP displayed no effort at all to solve it (hence the downvotes). questions have always been sort of a special case. You could argue that 99% of them are too localized, but we allow them anyway since most of them are quite answerable questions.

Join two csv files into one in java is about halfway between a homework question and a contract posting. The problem with this one is the same as the first. The OP didn't show any effort in solving a fairly easy problem, but it is an answerable question.

If we were going to have a "belongs on rent-a-coder" close reason, I think it should be reserved for questions that are asking for complete solutions to problems like "My company needs a new iPhone app" or "I'm building the next Facebook and just need someone to write the code." These can already be closed as "not a real question" though, since that includes questions that are overly broad.

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"Not a real question" reason for closing doesn't seem to apply to that kind of questions; the description for that closing reason is:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

You understood that the question is asking about hiring a coder; therefore, it's not true that it is difficult to tell what is being asked. You could argue that is overly broad if the question is asking for a PHP coder without specifying more, but it could be that is the only requirement (although, a description of the task assigned to the coder, or at least the first one, could help).

I would close those questions as "not constructive" as the (subjective) answers are equally valid. The question doesn't involve a specific expertise (Is there an expert in suggesting the developer to hire for a specific task?), and it doesn't involve facts (How do you measure the capacity of a developer to be helpful for a specific job?).

Actually, those questions are also too localized: They are localized because the coder I could hire in Italy is not the same you can hire in USA, and because the availability of a coder can change basing on when the task should be done (i.e. the coder could be already busy with another job, but be available 3 months later, when it is too late to start the task for which he would be hired).

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As Martin said, if the question is too localized, mark it that way.

This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

If the question does not actually fit this description, and sometimes even if it does, I answer it, but that's just me.

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