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I have done a lot of programming and I know that I can solve almost any problem just by reading the manual or googling enough. Sometimes asking speeds up the process.

Now I have noticed that my questions "How should I do X?" or "Is Y possible?" are getting a lot of negative attention (rude answers, "why do you want to do this?", "read the FAQ"). Why?

Is it that the answer is not going to be a block of code? But a programming pattern or pseudo code?

Should programming pattern questions be asked in "programmers" and stack overflow is just for code?

Or is it that I am just asking it in a wrong way?

Example 1: How to protect python class variables from an evil programmer?

share|improve this question
Are you referring to this question:… ? – Mat Apr 24 '12 at 13:14
yes, and a few earlier ones... – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:17
What's wrong with this one? – Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 13:22
@RobertHarvey Hmm, some of the first comments have be removed. The first answers very a bit rough. – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:29
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The specific question that @Mat linked to is simply too broad in scope.

As for questions like:

  • How should I do X?

    These tend to be seen as too vague and don't have definite answers (every programmer will have their own solution, or several solutions).

  • Is Y possible?

    The only possible answers to such a question are Yes or No.

We expect StackOverflow users to put some effort into their questions and research before asking. The FAQ states:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

(emphasis mine)

Also see Stack Overflow is not your personal research assistant.

In regards to comments to the tune of "why would you want to do that":

When seasoned programmers see you asking about something that is far from ordinary, it is legitimate to want to get some more context. Getting that context will help in giving good answers, or steering you in the right direction.

share|improve this answer
Ok, so how would you improve the question? Making a sort-of-working code and asking improvements or "this is not fast enough, how to fix it"? – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:35
@Juha - That specific question? It is not a suitable question for SO. And even "this is not fast enough, how to fix it" is not a good match. You need to ask specific, small scope questions about your actual code and problems with it. – Oded Apr 24 '12 at 13:38
@Oded Ok, I am starting to see the problem here. Would this be suitable question (with initial code) for – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:44
@Juha - A large block of code that you want reviewed? Yes, so long as you can post context. – Oded Apr 24 '12 at 13:52

I think the problem here is that the only way to answer the question definitively is to set up what is asked for in an IDE and see if it works, something that you have the capability to do yourself.

share|improve this answer
Ok, so if I would have posted my first try as an example and asked "How can I make this faster?" it would have been better? – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:32
"How can I make this faster" can almost always be answered in the general sense: "Profile it." – Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 13:34
So, better question would be "This line of code is too slow. How can I make it faster?" – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:37
Probably. If you can isolate it to a single line of code, the question probably answers itself, doesn't it? See also – Robert Harvey Apr 24 '12 at 13:51

Is it that the answer is not going to be a block of code?

I'd say that the problem is that the asker is very likely asking for exactly that - a block of code. Questions like this tend to fall into one of a few categories:

  • Plz send the codez
  • Asking us to do their work for them
  • Would likely invite discussion or argument
  • Likely there has been no research done to help themselves - why else are you asking how to do something?

All these types of question are rightly unwelcome on SO and at the very least will attract downvotes and in many cases will be flagged and/or closed.

Telling an asker to read the FAQ is not rude, asking for context (why are you doing this) is not rude. It is the community trying to get the asker to improve the question before it is flagged.

share|improve this answer
Likely there has been no research done to help themselves - why else are you asking how to do something? I don't understand this point, all questions fall into this category. And I disagree about "read the FAQ" if you don't tell why. Its rude to say that you are wrong and not to explain why. – Juha Apr 24 '12 at 13:25
The problem isn't the asking a question part - "How do I do this" questions tend not to demonstrate any attempt to help themselves other than expecting SO to fix it for them. If people are saying "Read the FAQ", it's because they believe the question is not a good fit and are giving you a chance to edit it. You may be right that your question may be better for programmers - that's why the FAQ is there, it will tell you what is appropriate for the site you are posting on. – RivieraKid Apr 24 '12 at 13:38

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