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The "not constructive" close message reads as follows:

"Not constructive" close message

I'd like to propose a wording change that I feel better explains what Stack Overflow is not:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. Alternatively, it is not a question about a programming language, but a request for mentoring/debugging assistance, and as such would be better suited to a forum or chatroom. See the FAQ.


Edit

The reason for this?

Some "requests for mentoring" (i.e. "can you help me figure this out please?", and then iterative questions in comments to solve various code problems one at a time) can be quite well-written, and some contributors tend to get very rude when such a post receives closevotes/downvotes ("why won't you HELP? This is a site for HELPing").

In fact, in my view, this is not a site for helping at all, but a Q&A about programming. That the answers will help people is — albeit by design — a side-effect of that categorisation. By this I mean that we don't just throw its format away when we might be able to HELP someone some other way.

"Not constructive", "too localised" and "not a real question" can at times be a near match to reasons the system offers us to close the questions; I reckon "not constructive" is the best match to questions that are not questions (and, no, "can you help me?" and "plz help" do not count as questions about programming languages), but its description doesn't really match this rationale at present.

An argument against this might be "well, if it doesn't say that, then your view on SO is wrong". However, I don't think that it is, and from what I've seen I'm far from alone.

It's time to take SO back. It's a Q&A site and I'm sick of having to explain this to people who are looking for an IRC channel to take them through an iterative process of debugging, tutoring and explanation. That is not what this site is for.

Perhaps making this clearer will help. At the very least, it means I won't have to write out explanations like this any more...

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I don't see any reference to the FAQ in the not constructive close message (Meta & SO). Shouldn't we just add that, and ensure that your suggested wording is in the FAQ? –  slugster Jan 10 '12 at 12:36
    
    
Ahh, it wasn't immediately obvious from your question that you meant the message on the already closed questions - I had to follow the link to the other meta question and actually read it... –  slugster Jan 10 '12 at 12:39
    
@Slugster: Right, sorry :) Hopefully this image will make my proposal clearer. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 12:40
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I thought that's what the too localized close reason is for? –  Time Traveling Bobby Jan 10 '12 at 13:04
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@Bobby: Mentoring questions kind of straggle three close reasons, I think. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 13:30
    

2 Answers 2

In all honesty, both not constructive and not a real question close reasons—as they are worded now—are both applicable (emphasis mine):

not constructive

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. See the FAQ.

not a real question

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. See the FAQ.

The FAQ link is key: close reasons are not meant to enumerate everything that's wrong with the question, but to give a general idea of why the question was closed with a link to the FAQ, where it's explained in better detail. In this particular case, under What kind of questions should I not ask here?

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

So I don't think it's necessary to add another line to the not constructive close reason just to call out a specific type of overly broad question that can't be answered in the Stack Exchange Q&A format: it's already covered.

I don't agree that it's not enforced, but I admit Stack Overflow is a very active place and perhaps you're seeing a lot more than me, or others. The problem then is that perhaps it's not as enforced as much as you would like: changing the close reason isn't going to fix that.

Instead, I think the most effective way to effect change in community moderation is to lead by example: down-vote, vote to close, point out the issue on meta, and in the really egregious cases, flag for moderator review.

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You're not wrong; I'd just like to see it worded more thoroughly because I almost always get asked "why is this not constructive? :(" Many newcomers seem unable to parse the messages the way that you have in your answer, even though I agree that a strict analysis indicates they do cover the rules. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 14:43

We recently had a meta discussion on Programmers on the wording of the not constructive notification. There's a comment by Jeff Atwood in this answer that reads (emphasis mine):

it is also better if we standardize network-wide; remember that the programmers not constructive close reason predates the change to bring us the "not constructive" network-wide reason. Prior to this as I recall it was "subjective and argumentative".

As your alternative is specific to SO, I don't really think it'll fly.


Some "requests for mentoring" (i.e. "can you help me figure this out please?", and then iterative questions in comments to solve various code problems one at a time) can be quite well-written

Down vote them to oblivion. Flag the comments.

"Not constructive", "too localised" and "not a real question" can at times be a near match to reasons the system offers us to close the questions

Closing a bad question is more important than the close reason itself.

It's a Q&A site and I'm sick of having to explain this to people who are looking for an IRC channel to take them through an iterative process of debugging, tutoring and explanation.

Don't bother explaining! Down vote, flag inappropriate comments. Plain and simple.

This may seem harsh, but it's not. Concentrate on writing great answers and interesting on topic questions, everything else is secondary. If it bothers you that much, there's no reason at all to waste any time and effort. Do the bare minimum whenever you see a bad post, vote to close and/or down vote and/or flag. Or don't even do that, your time is as valuable as everyone else, invest it where it matters most.

As for the alternate wording: If it's only to better guide people who won't bother reading the faq and the how to ask guidelines, it won't do any good, as they'll probably fail to read it or refuse to understand it as well.

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That's all well and good, but trying to pretend that all the sites are the same -- when they are not -- is nonsense. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 13:30
    
You tagged the question as feature-request, and I thought it be useful to share the "official" stance (as official as a comment can be). Retag as discussion, and we can talk nonsense for hours :P –  Yannis Jan 10 '12 at 13:34
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Oh, your response wasn't nonsense. I was referring to Jeff's stance! –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 13:36
    
No worries, I got that. But as is, I think the question will get a status-declined very soon... A discussion might survive a little bit longer (or not?). –  Yannis Jan 10 '12 at 13:41
    
You're right. It should be a discussion. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 13:44

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