On StackOverflow, there are lots of questions being asked in the form "Is there a way to do X? What library/tool can I use?"
Such questions usually have certain common traits:
- they don't contain code;
- they don't contain any indication of the research done by the asker (they may write "I've searched for that on Google with no luck", but even this is usually not the case);
- sometimes, the asker doesn't even care to specify the language to be used;
- obviously, the asker hasn't tried anything (because they don't know how to start).
A lot of such questions seem to deserve a close vote (especially when the 3rd point is present). I'd like some guidance here, though.
- Are such questions on topic? I.e., do they qualify as "related to a specific programming problem"?
- Am I right in my feeling that if no language is specified, then it's probably not a real question?
To sum up, how do I decide if I should vote to close, and what reason should I specify?
There basically are two ways to answer such questions:
- Post a name of/link to a library/function/tool that solves the problem (basically, a link-only answer that, as such, is subject to deletion)
- Post a full solution. This is fine, but looks like doing all the work for the OP.
Clarification: I know that I shouldn't vote-to-close all such questions. The decision has to depend on the question quality. I'm asking how I can evaluate the quality of such questions.
From the answers given so far I gather the following:
- try to see how much effort was put in the question;
- try to see if the user seems capable to solve their problem (a very arguable point, in my opinion);
- consider the scope of the problem. This is a good point, and obviously there are certain limits (too localized and overly broad close reasons), but I'm mostly asking about the middle ones. Let's say, reasonably scoped.
All right, my first attempt at generalization of the thoughts from the answers and comments would be the following:
When in doubt, think about how a hypothetical answer to the question would look, or what answer does the OP expect, or maybe what answer would help the OP the most. If the OP's question can be fully answered in a post of reasonable length, it probably can live. If one can either post a whole computer science course or a link only, then it's not a suitable question.
This may be helpful, and it also agrees quite well with the general approach to closing, I think. Can anyone comment on this interpretation or add anything?
I can say that I know of at least a couple of exceptions, i.e. questions that are a basically a collection of links (with very brief descriptions) that gain a lot of views and upvotes and generally very useful for people. I guess it's because they are non-trivial. Here's an example. The question is not that short and obviously shows that some research has been done, though.