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I have this internal debate: what if a question would only really be asked in the context of programming, but not be purely about programming? Does that make it or not a "a specific programming problem"?

Yes, this is about my question having been closed. I know it's not the greatest question, but still, I try to see it negatively, and I still fail to find ground for closing it as "off-topic".

Just like so many other bad questions will never get noticed as badly needing closing (for example duplicates with less followed tags), I can only feel like my question was a tad too swiftly close.

I hope this question is not "off-topic" for meta-stackoverflow.


While I did feel a bit of frustration when I saw that my question was closed this morning, I'll get over it. I'd be interested to know really what makes an SO question off-topic.

share|improve this question
Seems like your question was wrongfully closed, as it was reopened approx 25 minutes ago. You did very well in posting it here. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 8:42
@MadaraUchiha The fact that it was re-opened, doesn't necessarily mean it was wrongfully closed, it could also mean that it was wrongfully re-opened. (just saying...) –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 8:53
@YannisRizos: That's why I said "Seems like", it's generally a much "harder" process to reopen a question than it is to close it, most of us actually read a question before we re-open it. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 8:54
@MadaraUchiha Re-opening might have been a little harder than closing, but it's not anymore, the re-open review queue took care of that. Also, all the re-open votes came after the question was brought up on Meta, and although I don't have any reason to believe they weren't honest, I don't have any reason to believe they were either. That said, personally I feel the question is a bit problematic (for the reasons you explain in your answer), but all its problems could have been addressed in comments, the closing was a bit harsh. –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 8:56
In any case @Ludo, the system works. Closure is not the end of life for a question, we can always discuss and re-open every question. –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 8:59
@YannisRizos An unnecessary burden, although the new "vote to reopen" system helps. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 3 '12 at 9:01
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ Actually, I'm a firm believer in "close early, close often", and the process is working (not flawlessly, but working) on smaller traffic sites. SO is a whole different story, though, some of your tag ghettos are larger than Programmers, for example, it's not that easy to be consistent (and consistently helpful) when there are all these little (but not really little) sub communities and each one has a very different idea of what goes where. –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 9:04
I think your original question was OK, but your later edits are vandalism. –  CodesInChaos Nov 3 '12 at 14:58
@CodesInChaos look I don't really care; what I'm keeping from this is that I should stick to specific forums, and googling for the rest. I find it increasingly difficult to ask questions on SO. What's the point of asking question if the default reaction to expect is not an actual answer? –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 15:00

1 Answer 1

That question was seemingly wrongfully closed, as evident by its reopening. However, note the following points when asking questions:

  • We expect you to tell us what you've tried, and where you've looked
  • We expect you to give us some context of the problem.
  • We expect you to ask programmatic question, with regarding to a specific language.

This question is pretty much on the very edge of off-topic. I would reword it to include what I currently have, what I'm trying to do and how. Otherwise it might be closed once more.

From the FAQ:

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it. We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

… then you're in the right place to ask your question!

Your question is on the very edge of the fourth. Is it unique to the programming profession? Maybe, maybe not. You should rephrase your question to comply to these conditions. That's what defines an on-topic question.

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Where did you find those 3 criteria? –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 8:48
@Ludo: I'm actually speaking from experience. Questions lacking one or more of these criteria often gets closed, and with my help most of the time. There are more criteria, such as well formatted, well written and thought out questions, etc. But these are the relevant ones. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 8:49
Well then while I agree with some of what you are saying, I will still strongly dispute "with regarding to a specific language". –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 8:50
@Ludo stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-ask –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 8:50
@Ludo Yes, not all questions should be specific to a language. But specifying the language(s) you are working with is helpful, your question (not this one, in general) might get different answers per language. –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 8:51
@Ludo: I don't mean that all of your question must be on practical code with a specific language (though most of us would probably prefer it that way!), what I meant is that you should show at least an approach, or if you lack that, ask for the approach. The approach normally includes some sort of pseudo-code or language-specific theoretical code example. Your question for example, should have included the language you're planning to use. Maybe there are language specific APIs you didn't know about. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 8:52
I appreciate this informative answer as to why my SO question is not so great (which as I mentioned already I am aware of). On the other hand, I am really interested here as to how a question is or is not off-topic. I know we all have this tendency to "take sides", but I was hoping for answers such as "Your question is indeed off-topic because such and such." –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 8:58
@Ludo: I have edited my answer. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 9:02
Yep, that's where I'd like to get the discussion going. Great. Now, I have to counter that it's not about covering the four points, and that my question fits quite nicely in the first point. –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 9:04
@Ludo: Not exactly. Whether or not a DVD has a unique identifier doesn't really fit in as a "programming" issue. There may be other users for the ID rather than a programming one. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 9:10
The UDF filesystem, not DVDs. Also, isn't it possible that I'll need to write code to get that value? Use some API? –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 9:13
@Ludo: It is possible that you'll need to write code, but it's also possible that you won't need to. That alone makes it not a very specific programming problem. –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 9:15
I don't agree. I think this can be answered as a specific programming problem, even if it's OS/language agnostic. For example, I could've put some python code in my question reading the creation datetime of the root directory of the FS, and it would probably not have been closed. But the essence of the question would have been perhaps lost. I elected to ask my question more generically, and now I see what happens. –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 9:20
@Ludo: I'm not really an expert in this field, so I wouldn't exactly know what other possible uses it may have. Another, more proficient user may be able to have a more productive discussion with you, sorry :) –  Madara Uchiha Nov 3 '12 at 9:23
Sure no problem, I enjoyed this discussion, really. Have a nice day! –  user165950 Nov 3 '12 at 9:25

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