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I asked a question about how PHP's mail function works. I received one helpful answer, from Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams, but the rest of the comments and answers didn't address the question, instead commenting on PHP's mail function itself.

The original question:

How does PHP's mail work?

PHP's mail function seems to be incredibly reliable in getting mail into somebody's inbox, or at least their spam folder. How does it work so reliably, with no apparent configuration done by the webmaster?

The question received several comments, one questioning the appropriateness of webmasters configuring systems, one claiming that I asked the wrong question and should instead ask how to avoid the spam folder, and one saying that the question does not belong on SO. (I have purposefully left out names of these people)

All of these comments missed the main point of the question: I did not ask how to avoid the spam folder, or how to configure it. I asked "How does PHP's mail work?"

The question was then closed as "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. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

I don't think it's difficult to tell what's being asked at all. The title of the question is really all you need: "How does PHP's mail work?" It is not ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical. It can be reasonably answered in its current form, which is why it was answered.

I later edited it to try to remove some of the comments about it being "reliable" since this was the main criticism of the question (as far as I can tell), but continued receiving downvotes, and even two votes to delete the question.

I tried asking on the PHP web chat:

Sorry if this isn't the right place to ask, normally I see a "vote to close" or similar room, but can't find one today.

My question about how PHP's mail function works was closed: stackoverflow.com/questions/…

I understand that some people think using mail is wrong, or that it is better to use something like SES, but shouldn't have bearing on whether my question is downvoted or closed.

The close reason says "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here." but I disagree.

The clue is in the title: "How does PHP's mail work?"

From the FAQ: "However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain __ to me”, then you are probably OK."

I see no reason why my question doesn't fall within the scope of the SO FAQ.

It is not ambiguous or unclear at all.

I didn't receive any response from the moderators who closed the question, even though I flagged it for their attention. I don't know where else to look for help. I tried following the FAQ and asking a real, unambiguous question, but it was still downvoted heavily (to -6) and closed, with two votes for deletion. I don't understand how this question violates the FAQ.

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closed as too localized by kiamlaluno, jonsca, Martijn Pieters, Toon Krijthe, Pops Aug 6 '12 at 15:53

This question is unlikely to 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. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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your question was not closed by moderators but by users. It has been reopened now. –  hakre Aug 4 '12 at 23:09
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You put more effort into the meta question than the question itself. Maybe if you elaborated more on your original question it wouldn't have been closed as NARQ; vague/no clear research effort is usually the problem which gets posts closed as NARQ –  Ben Brocka Aug 5 '12 at 3:31
    
@BenBrocka I don't think the original question was vague at all. What makes you think it is? –  Tom Marthenal Aug 5 '12 at 4:08
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It's NARQ because it's easily searchable, and a trivia question. (As proved by you accepting a two-liner answer no less). Brief but broad inquiries commonly fail the communities question quality expectations. Avoid those. –  mario Aug 5 '12 at 12:26

1 Answer 1

I've already answered you in chat, but here it goes:

lemme check the question :-)
Well... Your original question was a bit vague @TomMarthenal hence the reason it probably got closed as NARQ: "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. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ."

@TomMarthenal The question (in the current state) was edited after the close votes

Go go Gadget transcript.

In your original question you stated:

How does it work so reliably, with no apparent configuration done by the webmaster?

The fact that you ask how it works so reliably (may be subjective) is a bit of a vague topic to answer. Your edit is much better for the community to provide you a better answer.

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I understand the confusion here. By "reliably" I meant in the sense that it seems to always work with no configuration (this is why I also specified "or at least to the spam folder"). I think others thought I meant reliably as in "to the inbox" (i.e. avoiding spam filters). –  Tom Marthenal Aug 4 '12 at 23:39

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