Many of the low quality questions on Stack Overflow involve simply posting code and when in luck stating the exact error people are getting.
A simple search for error messages highlights this problem. Two recent examples of 'error' type questions I encountered.
- "cannot be applied to operands"
- "does not contain a definition for"
- "the type or namespace name could not be found"
In a way I often feel those questions should be closed as 'too localized' since it's very unlikely they will help anyone else in the future. Additionally, helping out by solving the exact scenario where they encountered the error isn't even helping out the OP that much. Will they know how to solve the problem next time they encounter the same error?
Their actual questions often reflect a clear lack of understanding of the error message, and thus the actual question they should be asking is: "What does this error mean?"
- Having one “perfect” form of a question that contains every possible answer to every slight variation of that question is a myth at best and actively harmful at worst.
- Having dozens and dozens of variations of the same question is clearly bad.
- What we want is on the order of 4 or 5 similar-but-not-quite-the-same duplicates to cover all possible search terms and common permutations of the question. It is also OK for these duplicates to have their own answers so people who find them don’t have to click yet again to get to a good answer.
I argue there is too much duplication going on with these types of questions, and when the question is actually implying "What does this error mean?" it is one of these rare cases where it is an exact duplicate.
While searching for questions in order to close as duplicate I unfortunately didn't seem to find any of these generalized questions.
This is a call to arms to:
- Create these generalized questions asking what the error actually means. This is either possible by rephrasing new incoming questions into a general form, or possibly even by asking them yourself. (Be prepared for down votes! :))
- Closing these questions as duplicates instead of answering them, closing them for some other reason, or bashing on the OP.
In order to:
- More easily answer low-quality questions.
- Actually teaching the OP something when answering their question, possibly reducing further similar low-quality questions from them.