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Something I see a lot of on SO are questions from folks that are looking for direction in an area that they are not familiar with, or are in such unfamiliar turf they just don't know how to properly ask the question. I don't mean questions like "what's wrong with this..." or "how do I write code....", but questions like "What's the best approach to...." or "Has anyone ever...." I'm referring those that are looking for advice, or general guidance with something they don't understand. So often, I see them get beat up with down-votes and reprimanding comments, I'm surprised they'd ever come back. (Reminds me of asking the teacher how to spell *Ph*armacy and being told to look it up in the dictionary, then start looking from F )

I understand completely why they're flagged as too vague, because they are, but I'd like to know if there IS a proper place to send these kinds of questions - for mentoring, or advice. When I see that kind of confusion with someone, I try to help get them on track to understanding. I've often received reputation and lost reputation in answers that I've given, and then then next day it's voted as closed. Again, I get it, but my point is that someone came looking for an answer, was helped them with it (often supported by others) and the whole effort becomes a waste because it's been ruled as irrelevant.

This question itself might be an example. I've search the site, found a few references, but not so many to know if I'm asking it correctly or not. Will be happy to delete it myself if I'm off base.

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Those questions should PROBABLY go to Programmers Exchange, I thought programmers was for asking advice and discussing ideas and that SO was for code based questions, but I'm sure someone will correct me. –  Event_Horizon Jun 12 '12 at 18:41
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Sounds about right, and sure enough, appears to be what I'd expect to hear. Since google searches are riddled with SO answers, is there a way to move them (when applicable) to PE? –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 18:45
    
@yannis - Perfect, and it all makes sense when you know it's there. As just mentioned, SO is in all the Google results, so that seems to be where everyone gets started. I'm wondering if would make more sense to redirect the appropriate question there, rather than beat them up and tell them to come back when "they know how to behave", lol. I;ve been on SO for awhile, and don't think I've ever seen PE mentioned. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 18:48
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You'll have to give me a link to the question, your description is a bit vague (ironically ;) –  Yannis Jun 12 '12 at 18:49
    
depends on each user perception? :-/ –  Dave Jun 12 '12 at 18:50
    
I have no particular question as a case in point, (besides, the ones to which I refer have been closed, lol). I'm asking about "policy" or general approach. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 18:52
    
@Dave, you're right, it does, and I tend to agree with that. I guess what I'm saying is that it takes 5 votes to close a question, why not move the question to the forum in which it belongs (when it DOES belong there) instead of beating up a new user who isn't familiar with the workings of things. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 18:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Ask the Duck first.

enter image description here

Seriously. If you can ask the duck, and the duck doesn't go "WTF are you talking about?", then it's probably an acceptable question.

Poor questions

How do you foo a bar? How many ways can you foo a bar? Have you ever fooed a bar before? Can you provide me a link to a tutorial or plugin that shows me how to foo a bar?

Better question

I enjoy the Foo feature of language Bar, but I don't understand how the Baz part of Foo works. Could you explain how Baz relates to Foo, and provide a small bit of sample code describing how it works?

See Also
QA is Hard, Let's Go Shopping!
Real Questions Have Answers

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Good examples of a perfect world, but what about questions like "I'm about to start a jquery shopping cart, does anyone know of any plugins that might be useful?" On SO, this poor visitor is liable to leave the bloodied and bruised, when all they're doing is looking for some advice from somebody that 's been there and done that. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:02
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@GregP blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping (in short: we love solving problems, we don't care at all about doing your homework. If the plugin the OP is looking for is a google search away, there will be blood) –  Yannis Jun 12 '12 at 19:03
    
It was all fine when you said to ask the duck; you lost me with the Bar::Foo::Baz part. ;) –  kiamlaluno Jun 12 '12 at 19:06
    
Fair enough, but the question was advice about plugins, not "How do I build a shopping cart". Again, I don't think every vague question deserves undivided attention, but when somebody is seeking some advice about something they don't understand I don't think shutting them down because they aren't specific enough is always the way to go. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:07
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@GregP You can use the blog post in my earlier comment, and the Real Questions Have Answers to help the OP make the question a bit more specific. Closed questions can still be edited, and re-opened or migrated if brought to shape. –  Yannis Jun 12 '12 at 19:11
    
Okay - think my question has been answered. –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:14
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@GregP If you happen to find closed SO questions that you think should be migrated to Programmers (after reading the Programmers FAQ thoroughly), please follow the process outlined here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135235/… - as Programmers was recently removed as a migration target. –  Yannis Jun 12 '12 at 19:15
    
@Yannis - thanks for that.... –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:19
    
One last question, on SO, if you phrase a question a certain way, it will warn you that it will likely be closed....Assuming the logic is determnining that it vague/subjective, could PE not be suggested instead? –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:20
    
No. Programmers.SE is not a catch-all for subjective questions; it is its own site, with its own topic areas. "Conceptual" is just one criteria that characterizes Programmers.SE questions. See programmers.stackexchange.com/faq –  Robert Harvey Jun 12 '12 at 19:22
    
@robert Ah, gotcha –  Greg P Jun 12 '12 at 19:23

I 100% agree with you -- there needs to be a better way of routing new programmers to good sources on program design / implementation.

I'm a new programmer, and SO has helped a lot. I was pretty discouraged after one of my first posts was closed as "non-construcive" and no one bothered to let me know there was such a thing as the Programmers forum.

Most of my knowledge about how to design / implement (how to set up testing, when to use client side vs server side) has come from talking to friends, but not everyone is lucky enough to know other programmers!

Another example of a question in the style I'm thinking that might have been good to re-route: How to plan and manage large software projects,

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