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I'm just re-reading my comments on this question. Bearing in mind we're all supposed to put some effort into being nice 'round these parts, I was wondering if my comments were a little harsh:

Are you asking us how to write a compiler from scratch? That is an incredibly big topic! If you have a specific problem, we can try to help but we can't do a project for you – Basic

what's the polite way of saying "No we won't write your system for you from scratch"

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Nothing wrong with "No we won't write your system for you from scratch" –  ChrisF Sep 6 '12 at 11:53
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As a short note, it might be easier to just walk away before starting a discussion about such stuff. Also, if such discussion arouse, it just keeps getting uglier. –  Time Traveling Bobby Sep 6 '12 at 11:58
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If you would have actually said "no we won't write your system from scratch", I might have commented on tone (though it's not even close to the worst comments I've seen, so I probably wouldn't have). You actually go beyond that though and are quite helpful. Not in the way the OP would have liked most probably, but nothing offensive in my opinion. –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 11:58
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Nice example of clear communication. –  Toon Krijthe Sep 6 '12 at 12:01
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@UnicornifiedBobby Look at the discussion Basic has linked to. It's not ugly at all. Once the OP understands that building a compiler is very complicated, he says "thanks, sorry, I am a noob". It's a perfect example of a brief, useful, exchange in a comment thread. –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:17
    
@MarkJ: Yes, absolutely. I just wanted to leave a note for those cases where the OP starts arguing and tries to drag people into a discussion why such questions are bad. –  Time Traveling Bobby Sep 6 '12 at 12:19
    
When in doubt, just add a smiley face to it :) It will give the person reading the comment the impression that you're saying it with a friendly smile instead of a grouchy scowl –  Rachel Sep 6 '12 at 13:25
    
This seems like an entirely thoughtful way to make convey that the question is unreasonable, while still making clear that help and support are available for more manageable requests. This comment would be welcome at the Summer of Love Festival and Campground(TM). –  Jaydles Sep 6 '12 at 13:34
    
Thank you all for your feedback, much appreciated –  Basic Sep 6 '12 at 14:01
    

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

No, that's not too harsh, and likely contained more softening agents than I would have employed.

Once I'd stopped laughing, I likely would have said something along the lines of:

You're essentially asking us to build a compiler; this is a large, involved project. If you have specific questions, please ask a new question; this is too broad as worded.

This also tells the OP the current question is too broad (it doesn't explicitly state that's a reason it may be closed, perhaps it should), and prods them to ask new, specific questions.

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+1 Of course, your suggested comment is essentially identical to Basic's first comment Are you asking us how to write a compiler from scratch? That is an incredibly big topic! If you have a specific problem, we can try to help but we can't do a project for you. And once the OP understood, they posted back to say thanks very much. I think Basic's comments were perfect. –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:13
    
@MarkJ It also explains how SO works and why the question isn't appropriate at worded. IMO it's important to include that. –  Dave Newton Sep 6 '12 at 12:17
    
@MarkJ It is similar, but not identical. It provides a process (ask a new question) and specifically states the question is poorly-formed (too broad as worded). I'm not sure what your goal is in pursuing this. I like my response better, I think it's more informative, a tad less incredulous, and more actionable. If you disagree, cool. –  Dave Newton Sep 6 '12 at 12:26
    
@DaveNewton Since the OP of the mentioned question doesn't seem to be able to speak English very well, I would personally try to be less formal, and use mostly common words in the explanation: You are asking us to build an entire compiler from scratch. This is a too big project to ask for. You should try starting the project yourself, and then ask if you have more specific questions. Also, see [ask] for help on asking in the future. or something like that. I'm not a native English speaker myself and I know how annoying it is to constantly look up words to know what people say. –  Aske B. Sep 6 '12 at 12:44

The way in which I personally approach question like that is the following:

Instead of

No we won't write your system for you from scratch

I would say something like

Instead of asking us to do your work for you, tell us what you have tried so far. Where exactly are you stuck? What is the practical problem you face? That is something we could help you with. If you have tried nothing yet, please go ahead and do so. Come back once you're stuck on a practical issue and we would be more than glad to help you out.

That's the most I would personally say. And from your comments on that question, it's more or less what you've done. So well done I'd say.

Beyond that I would simply walk away. Any further discussion/debate would never go well.

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I prefer the one liner to beating around the bush with 10 questions ;) –  Anirudh Ramanathan Sep 6 '12 at 12:04
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The one-liner is what I think. The alternative is what I write. The latter contains more information. I would hope it pushes the OP into understanding what the site is about and hopefully adapting to it. –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 12:06
    
@MarkJ You're starting to repeat yourself here. And though your comment is valid with regards to this particular question, my answer is meant to be applicable to a more general scenario. It's not merely an answer for the OP here, but for others who will happen upon this question later as well. At no point did I argue that the OP handled this situation poorly. In fact, I argued he did so perfectly. –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 12:22
    
@MarkJ Read my answer. It has stated since the beginning "And from your comments on that question, it's more or less what you've done. So well done I'd say." –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 12:23
    
OK, I'll delete the comments on this answer. –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:25

Why waste time commenting even? Just press that arrow already.

Btw, must have learnt lots from this

Update: After reviewing more activity of said user, I remain even more committed to my answer.

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Downvoting the question might be a valid response. Though sometimes it's good to explain to an OP why a question is not particularly suitable for SO or any Q&A for that matter. –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 12:17
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No. Look at the discussion Basic has linked to. It's not ugly at all. Once the OP understands that building a compiler is very complicated, he says "thanks, sorry, I am a noob". It's a perfect example of a brief, useful, exchange in a comment thread. So I'm pressing the arrow on this answer –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:17
    
It's also the same kind of discussion that can often lead to help vampires. How hard is it to read up on compilers on google? –  prusswan Sep 6 '12 at 12:22
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Informing the OP of that question that his question is not a good fit for SO because he's simply asking us to do a lot of work for him, does not at all lead to help-vampirsm. That is entirely beyond the point. If anything one would hope it could prevent that from happening. That this might not have worked in the case of that particular user, is not due to such comments as made by @Basic. –  Bart Sep 6 '12 at 12:29
    
Commenting is only going to encourage more careless questions especially for a repeat offender. Best to just trigger the question-ban which may actually do more good in the long term. –  prusswan Sep 6 '12 at 12:41

"Please show more effort in describing your desired result and current progress"

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Not very helpful for the OP. Basic told the OP that it was incredibly hard to write a compiler from scratch, and once the OP had understood that, they said thanks. –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:14
    
Good point. Then walking away is the best answer. –  Tina CG Hoehr Sep 6 '12 at 12:16
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No. Look at the discussion Basic has linked to. It's a perfect example of a brief, useful, exchange in a comment thread. Once the OP understands that building a compiler is very complicated, he says "thanks, sorry, I am a noob". The best answer is to post helpful comments, just like Basic did. –  MarkJ Sep 6 '12 at 12:18

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