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Stack Overflow is an incredible resource for asking questions and receiving prompt answers from the users.

However sometimes (and I know we have seen it) we get questions which seem insidiously stupid and obvious that the person hasn't put in the research.

Other times I, personally (maybe you too) have noticed that a question will be asked in such a way that the user indicates that he has no familiarity with the subject whatsoever.

For example, "How can you do..."

Answer: "There's absolutely no way and you clearly don't get what you're asking"

And these questions are nearly always closed under the heading "Not A Real Question".

However, this ends up leaving the user confused when he could have been helped by someone explaining instead why the question couldn't be solved.

This happened to me with an old question of mine:

Mutidimensional Array Of Checkboxes?

And though now I clearly understand why that wouldn't work at the time the reason was not apparent and the question was closed before anyone could tell me so.

I'm not saying that we should close vague questions but instead maybe adopt a policy of leniency or try to explain why particular questions were closed

Brilliant Stack Overflow Community!!

Well, you reopened my question above and thanks to you, I in fact did get a very interesting answer to it.

Again, I reiterate that at the time my concepts were flawed, and I should have done a little more research before I posted. (And maybe it deserved closure over an exact duplicate. As said by @ircmaxell.)

However

But saying that I still believe that often when a question is declared to be ambiguous or vague the tagline itself is rather vague to a user that has a genuine question but unfortunately completely misunderstands the concept.

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9  
As stated elsewhere - I don't remember which question - the SO community has taken the unfortunate stance that questions that are too trivial or too "beginner" are unwelcome. What people seem to forget is that we're all beginners some time, and that SO is one of the major players in code knowledge these days. –  J. Steen Dec 14 '12 at 14:31
    
Here, here! A brief explanation (or even a quickie link to a resource or phrasing) of why a question is bad would be very helpful for those of us who are in need of guidance. –  Jaime Dec 14 '12 at 14:41
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The FAQ says SO is for 'professional and enthusiast programmers' - Both of those require a high degree of interest in the field and (imho) preclude the type of people who are confused about why their simple question was closed. Those who seek an answer and not to understand are neither a professional or enthusiast –  Mike B Dec 14 '12 at 14:57
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@J.Steen I disagree. Simple, basic, beginner questions can still be asked well, and are received well when they are asked. It just so happens that there are a lot of people asking very poor questions who happen to be beginners. When those questions are closed it gives the (false) impression that the site closes questions because they cover simple beginner concepts. –  Servy Dec 14 '12 at 15:04
    
It sounds like you got your answer in the comments, "no it's not possible, at least not from any automatic built in functionality, you'd need to do it yourself". –  Servy Dec 14 '12 at 15:06
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@J.Steen: that is patently false. You just need to put in a little effort. –  user7116 Dec 14 '12 at 15:22
    
While beginner concepts are often cleared up quickly. Note the word 'concepts'. Often if the user misunderstands the concept in question the question is shut down with the vague 'This question is ambiguous..' tagline. Which in itself paradoxically IS VAGUE to the beginner who doesn't understand. –  Carl Saldanha Dec 14 '12 at 15:56
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Please search for duplicates first. I can not stretch that enough. You do the whole site a favor including yourself. Another nice example I just stumbled over: stackoverflow.com/questions/13877007/… –  hakre Dec 14 '12 at 16:17
    
@sixlettervariables Any "rule" has plenty of "exceptions". But yes. There are beginner questions that are asked well, with thorough research done first, that are welcomed by the community. –  J. Steen Dec 14 '12 at 16:56
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@Servy First impressions are everything, and while my comment was rather black and white I still hold that the impression of SO is that it's getting more and more unfriendly. –  J. Steen Dec 14 '12 at 16:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 27 down vote accepted

My stance on this issue is simple. To understand it, let's look at the question you linked and break it down:

  1. Is it possible to implement a multidimensional array of checkboxes?

    This is how the question starts off. A simple yes or no question. A simple Is it possible question. To me this says two things: first, that the author doesn't really understand what he's asking about (which isn't a sin). But more importantly it shows that the author put very little effort into researching the question as possible.

    To demonstrate this, let's try putting the exact title into google. For me, here are the first 4 results:

    1. Sitepoint
    2. DevShed
    3. StackOverflow
    4. StackOverflow

    So the LITERAL title of the offending post, when put into google, answers the first question. This, to me, shows a complete lack of effort on the question asker's part. Even if you don't know how to interpret the results (because you're a beginner), you should realize that it's possible.

    So we're off to a great start!

  2. The Code Block:

    <input type='checkbox' name='question[0][]' value='0'>
    <input type='checkbox' name='question[0][]' value='1'>
    <input type='checkbox' name='question[0][]' value='2'>
    

    While this does give some context, it doesn't really provide much. But at this point, this isn't bad. At least there's an example of what the asker is asking about...

  3. If this is possible how would you pick up whether the checkboxes are checked or not in javascript?

    Again, this shows little to no effort on the asker's part. All it askes is "how would you pick up". It doesn't say why or what they are trying to do with it. All it asks is how to pick up that there are checked boxes.

    Now, let's try the google trick again. This time, let's search for the literal title, but adding javascript after: google search. This time, here's the very first result:

    StackOverflow: fetching checkbox multidimensional array in javascript

    Again, no research. No effort. Just blindly asking very poorly worded questions.

At best, this question should be closed as a duplicate. But it's also very low quality. Even more so, I see this type of question as damaging to the community. The reason is that it's blatantly abusing the system... If the author put in a little bit of effort, and actually said "I found this SO answer which is very similar, but x, y and z don't make sense to me", then that would be productive, because it would fill a gap. But as the question stands now, it's just asking people to do the searching for them (or just constantly re-answer questions over and over again).

Closing is the right action IMHO...

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The funny part is this would have been a perfect question for chat –  Mike B Dec 14 '12 at 16:07
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I did in fact check google right now. And you're right, looking back the question was lazy but the discussion I feel is more about the occasional vagueness of closing questions on SO, while often deserved, it can be confusing to a new programmer –  Carl Saldanha Dec 14 '12 at 16:10
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@CarlSaldanha: A lot of those confusing cases can be distilled like this in my experience. If you have another example that wouldn't fit this paradigm (where the beginner put little to no effort into the question), then by all means post it and we can try to see what happened... –  ircmaxell Dec 14 '12 at 16:30

The line between a genuine question and a "develop it for me" question is very thin.

The reason is that paradox: How the person that declares with a question that is not known, to give some signs that in fact is know something.

From my point of view, if we see it like a road, where we have at the start the question, at the end the answer, the person that really know the answer have been walk that road, and understand how far the person that start walk the road have been go.

So if the persons that know the answer, or know how to reach an answer, recognize that the person is make the question is not walk enough then they vote for close.

Of course this general speaking because if some one wish/love/have mood can fully answer anything.

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What are you trying to say here? That questions are closed out of spite because those who know recognize that a user is not up to their level yet? Or that they are justifiably closed because they are aware that users have not put in the required amount of effort? –  Bart Dec 14 '12 at 16:15
    
@Bart of course the second, not have put the required amount of effort. Some time there are also answers that is easy to answer, but difficult to spot them on google. I also understand that they try but fail to locate a solution... –  Aristos Dec 14 '12 at 16:19
    
@Bart When I say the paradox, I mean that I do not expect from the user to know the answer, nether to be in a high level, nether understand anything at all - but at least to show that is start moving and try for the answer. –  Aristos Dec 14 '12 at 16:24

This is a difficult problem. My general philosophy on such questions is to only vote to close them if they meet one of the following:

  1. The question is very unclear, it is very difficult to tell what is being asked, if anything.
  2. The user is clear what they want, but are asking for something very complex, with absolutely nothing shown as to what they want.

Even the last one can be waived, but the right answer is only to point them to the right direction, not to write hundreds of lines of code for them.

Bottom line is, I feel that if a question is asked well, even if it is a basic question, it should be fine. It can be very difficult sometimes to tell what a basic question is, and I have no doubt that I've recently asked a question or two that was quite basic.

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I personally see no problem with your question and I wouldn't have voted to close it (I don't know javascript so I can't comment on the triviality of it) Sometimes the effort put into writing the question in terms of formatting, tagging and title ect can't have just as large an impact as the question itself. I think you were just unlucky with that one.

Edit: Seems your post had a positive effect and the question is now re-opened but it does seem to divide opinion as it also have 2 close votes.

Some users are too quick to tear apart a question and vote to close instead either editing the question to improve clarity or comment with suggestions. This goes against the community spirit in my opinion.

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I do not even vote for close, but I see in the question that is throw an idea, a very specific idea for his needs and ask from other to develop it. No effort have been made or sample javascript code by the user. This is show that is asking for that - asking from other to made it for him. –  Aristos Dec 14 '12 at 14:46
    
True thought that maybe it's not relevant here, asking for a script to do X,Y,Z asap is a sure fire way of getting closed pretty quick. I don't use the "too localized" flag too often as I find it very subjective. –  iiSeymour Dec 14 '12 at 14:52
    
Reading back and doing some research I too find that my question is a little vague and a patent copy of some questions on SO. So, yeah I kinda deserve it. However at the time I did not understand the reason for its vagueness which makes me inclined to agree with your 'against community spirit' opinion –  Carl Saldanha Dec 14 '12 at 16:13
    
There is not so much wrong with rapid closure. It's unfortunate however that many users subsequently consider their question to be dead, which is not at all the case. –  Bart Dec 14 '12 at 16:16
    
Yes I think that assumption is often made that a closed question is a dead question. I feel I have saved multiple questions that were certain too be closed by editing just after they have been posted. The impact of this is surely more inline with the community spirit than stamping a big wrong, closed! sticker all over it. That being said I do vote to close my fair share but might do some good if more users stoped and thought a small edit could save this question from closure. –  iiSeymour Dec 14 '12 at 16:22

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