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Should questions where a problem arose from a typo be closed?

Here is a recent example:

Google Analytics Javacript event tracker code not tracking events

The problem was a misspelled _gaq (written as _gat).

  • Should these be closed? Surely they're of no use to anyone once the OP recognizes the mistake.

  • If so, what justification should be given? Not a real question? Too localized?


Just to be clear, the question linked above actually was not broken due to a typo. This was my mistake, and raises some other interesting questions. See the discussion below.

If anyone feels like editing this question with examples of actual typo questions, go for it.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, hims056, Martijn Pieters, Toon Krijthe, Rory Apr 14 '13 at 16:44

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

24  
I think "too localized" would be appropriate here... –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 7:46
    
While your question here is valid - I believe that the example you gave does not fall under this category - see this answer on that post. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:01
    
@Lix hmm, you're right, I just tested it out and apparently _gat is a thing once the google analytics stuff is injected. In fact I think I actually knew _gat was a thing at some point and forgot. I don't suppose there's any way to remove my premature flag? ;) –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 9:09
    
No - I'm afraid not. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:11
    
Hmm, that's silly. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 9:13
    
I think that it is better to miss flag a question rather than un-flag a possibly bad question. If most of your flags are valid I do not believe that this should have any negative effect - your flag will just be ignored. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:15
    
I don't see why the flagger shouldn't be able to unflag after realizing the flag was invalid. I imagine there could be plenty of cases where someone flags something and then either realizes they misunderstood something, or some conversation unfolds that indicates things weren't as they seemed, or whatever. Lack of negative effect doesn't necessarily make nonunflagability preferable to unflagability. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 9:21
    
I agree with you there - perhaps one should reconsider your usage of flags - maybe raise the bar for flaggable posts. Perhaps wait to see if the OP makes some edits that would improve the post. In any case, as long as your helpful flags count is high and you don't have many rejected flags then the user acting on the flag will realize that it was a mistakenly flagged. Unless this happens a lot I don't think it is such an issue. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:25
    
I'm more worried about the moderator not necessarily knowing enough about the subject matter to realize the flag was bad, and closing it with improper justification. Not to imply that moderators don't know their stuff, but not everyone is an expert at everything. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 9:30
    
If they are not sure they will not act on it - they will leave it for another mod or leave it for the community to handle... No one would make judgments on a subject that they are not sure of. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:35
1  
@Lix, optimistic but good point none the less :) –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 9:39
    
I don't think there would be any examples to post because they're all closed/deleted questions ;) –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:46
1  
With all the possible typos one could make for the same code snippet, imagine how much questions we could have, if those questions would not be closed as too localized. –  kiamlaluno Feb 28 '12 at 11:00
1  
@kiamlaluno yeah, I gather by comparing the score of the Q and top A that this is assumed to be fairly obvious / common knowledge. I just wanted to be sure. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 11:07
    

3 Answers 3

up vote 30 down vote accepted

I think "too localized" would be appropriate in such a case... A simple proof-read of the code by the OP would have prevented the issue - point it out to them and VTC.

It is possible however that this one small spelling mistake is not the only problem with the code - one should also consider the same code without the mistake and try to see if a problem still exists. Sometimes the error could have been caused by the OP rushing to post the question.

The only reason I can see for leaving a post like that open is that other people can see how embarrassed the OP was and they'll make an effort to proof-read their own code before posting :)


An important thing to note is that these posts should not be edited to fix the typo!

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3  
Proof reading aside, this guy's obviously not even looking at any log output, or he'd have his problem pinpointed immediately. Every typo question I've seen has been like that. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 8:00
    
Perhaps a comment regarding debugging advice would be appropriate as well. But you are right - these types of posts should not be here - If the OP took a little bit more care they could have been prevented. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 8:02
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I think a downvote would be appropriate, too. Seeing that such questions are the embodiment of the downvote-tooltip. –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 28 '12 at 9:30
    
Very true, @B - Also not to forget to undownvote after the user corrects the issue - if it validates it ;) –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 9:34
2  
This is the optimal solution; I honor most too-localized flags raised based on typos, especially on old questions, as soon as I see them. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 28 '12 at 18:20
    
@TheCommunity often this is true, but sometimes typos can lead to cryptic error messages. –  Jeff Dec 12 '12 at 22:39
1  
Since the close system was overhauled, "too localized" isn't an option anymore. –  Kendall Frey Oct 11 '13 at 16:01

Yes, spelling mistakes and tiny syntax errors are frequently closed a too localized. Usually the people who posted answers will not vote-to-close out of fear for losing the reputation they gained. I almost always have to flag these for moderators because no one else votes them. I think the general majority just don't look hard enough to see when questions are too localized or not.

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1  
Yeah, I can't VTC anyway so I've just been flagging away =/ –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 8:04

There is one instance where they should not be closed - if they are exceptionally well documented, including the specific error that the typo gave them. Others will have similar problems in the future, look up the error issued, and have one more thing to check when nothing else helps because they'll keep overlooking the spelling issue.

I don't believe we need a community policy to close such questions, mostly because some users will close them blindly without taking into account that some of them will still be worthwhile.

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I do not agree - if a question is too localized, it does not matter how much effort was put into the post and documenting the errors. I fail to see how one person's spelling mistake will be beneficial. –  Lix Feb 28 '12 at 14:25
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Actually, I sort of agree, on the condition that the correct version for the typo'd thing is especially confusing/misleading, like for instance the "correct" version itself is actually misspelled (think HTTP REFERER, also seen it happen in some private APIs). –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 14:38
    
Apparently at least some mods agree with this. I custom flagged a typo question and it was rejected with "This is declined because while they did make a typo, they include code, the error, and a lot of good stuff people can google for if they have that problem." –  ThisSuitIsBlackNot Dec 17 '13 at 19:54

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