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I'm wondering if a question like that would ever be considered constructive on SO.

While I understand that one-liners like "Please tell me how Firefox works!" are terrible, can a well-phrased question be considered constructive and on-topic? Let me try to compose a sample question:

How does C++ memory management work?

I've been wondering what happens after i use operator new. I know that the OS somehow looks for available memory of the needed size and then allocates it for my application. But I fail to understand what does it do under the hood! Is it the implementation of the operator new that does it, or is it an external memory manager? A short piece of pseudo-code would be great!

For some reason I believe that questions like that would be downvoted/closed rather fast (I fail to find a good example of an actual question, sorry). However, I don't think it violates the FAQ, it covers "a software algorithm" and a "practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession" (which are valid question types in the FAQ).

On the first look the question may seem to violate the following part of the FAQ:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

But if you think about it, it doesn't. A good, practical and informative answer would be a piece of pseudocode describing the main steps of "how it works", no longer than one's normal answer to a normal SO question.

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Possible duplicate of since you're pseudo-question only talks about memory allocation. What operator new does on top of that:… – Mat Oct 26 '12 at 8:48
"How does C++ memory management work?" still too broad. Your sample needs a more specific title. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 26 '12 at 8:50
@Mat: It's not a duplicate of those though, they're related. – Madara Uchiha Oct 26 '12 at 8:50
@Mat that question is just a pure example, not like I wanted to ask exactly it on SO ;) – SingerOfTheFall Oct 26 '12 at 8:50
That's the point. Such questions can be asked if they're reasonably scoped/well asked. @Madara: not exact dupes but the answers answer the example question – Mat Oct 26 '12 at 8:51
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The main difference between "How does Firefox work" and "How does C++ memory management work", is the scope of the question.

In the case of Firefox, I would easily vote to close as either Not a real Question (overly broad), or as Not Constructive.

In the second case, we're:

  1. Talking about a more specific subject
  2. OP stated what he has researched, and where his understanding came to a halt.

In this case, I would happily answer the question, as well as upvote it for his well researched and well formed question. (Even if I'd rather the OP used a more specific title)

So yes, in these cases, I think that's OK. Sadly though, on most cases the questions are not well formatted nor well written.

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