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After years of consuming awesome solutions on stackoverflow I decided to start answering questions in my spare time. It's a lot of fun and I learn a lot by just digging into the different questions.

I am trying to answer questions under the aspect that the answer would be useful for other people having a similar, yet not equal problem.

Now there are very specific questions which are easier to answer with explained or commented or self-explanatory code.

It happens, that after writing a piece of code, the OP just comments "doesn't work". That's kind of frustrating because that usually means, the OP actually simply pasted the code without even trying to understand the offered solution.

How do you write answers or suggest to write answers, to avoid a copy-paste? I think it's not helpful to do the OPs work.

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Check this question How do I write a good answer to a question? – iDev Dec 28 '12 at 1:57
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I wouldn't say the question is too localized simply because the asker says "it doesn't work". The FAQ makes it clear that questions should be about a real, actual problem that you're facing. The problem should of course be something that a wider audience should also experience, but a comment doesn't make a post too localized, as too localized is for questions that are so rare that no one else will be helped by it.

With that said, the user is trying to draw you in to help you solve the actual integration of your answer, which is too localized, but that doesn't make the original question too localized. Read on...

In this case, the problem is that the asker is looking for a cut and paste solution, which again isn't a problem with the question but instead is a problem with the asker. What you're dealing with in these situations is a help vampire, and this type of help vampire preys on you by posting what looks like a nice question. However, instead of actually using your answer to help that person get past a blocker he/she is facing, he/she instead tries to get you to do his/her work by reeling you in to actually help him or her implement the solution.

Unlike Amy Hoy, I use he or she because I've seen plenty of female help vampires as well! They do exist Amy! :)

In this situation, you might help the vampire, er user, with maybe a follow up question and a clarifying edit to your answer, but if that person keeps saying "I tried to put in that semicolon as you suggested, but it's still not working, then say something like this:

The code I provided you will establish video using WebRTC, and it answers your original question about how to get the ICE candidates to avoid throwing the DOM Exceptions; however, you're now at the point where you just need to take the solution I've provided and use your debugger to get past the more common errors that we all encounter when integrating code. You can do this! Be sure to let us know how this works out. Good luck! :)

By being encouraging and positive, you can escape the help vampire while also encouraging this person to be more self-reliant, which helps create better Stack Overflow users.

To be clear, this type of help vampire doesn't know he/she is being a help vampire, and may actually be a good programmer most of the time, but is maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed. Encouragement and positivity is the cure for this form of help vampirism!

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Well, I confess that once I've diagnosed a help vampire infestation, I reach for the 'too localized' button, on the grounds that HV's tend to keep trying to lure you into solving their completely idiosyncratic problem, and refuse to learn any general principles from any answer. However, I can't precisely disagree with any of this. – Rosinante Dec 28 '12 at 2:57
Hi @Rosinante, help vampires can certainly ask questions that are too localized, but I also see them ask great questions and get great answers, but they don't realize how great the answers are, so they try to dig deeper and get one of the answerers to provide more and more details, which can turn the question into a step by step too localized scenario. By politely saying "enough", we can keep a great question/answer combo from turning into something that's all about a semicolon. – jmort253 Dec 28 '12 at 4:01
With that said, I see where you're coming from, and I've seen the types of "why doesn't this compile" type questions that are about a semicolon from the very beginning. ;) – jmort253 Dec 28 '12 at 4:01
You caused loud laughter this morning. After reading this and Amys blog, I feel confident to cure vampires :) Thanks for taking time. – Michel Feldheim Dec 28 '12 at 10:21

When the OP gives the response 'didn't work,' it is sadly a very strong (if not universal or perfect) indication that the question should be closed as 'too localized'.

In these cases, the 'didn't work' is a message, "I have some very specific problem here, and I didn't tell you all about it, and you didn't solve". When that's the case, it means that the question is very specific to one person's (mysterious) circumstances.

When you get this response, you need to look closely at the question and your answer, and maybe even engage with the user for one round to see if, indeed, the problem is that they are wearing an opera cloak and talking with a middle-european accent (*), or whether there is just an honest misunderstanding between you and them.

If you can't work it out, then don't stress. If you provide a good answer to the apparent question of general interest, your peers will reward you with upvotes, even if the OP never accepts your answer or anyone else's.

It's generally a good idea to read questions carefully for evidence of 'too localized'. These questions are one of the stock outputs of help vampires; trying to answer their questions is usually an exercise in frustration.

(*) i.e. they are a help vampire.

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I dont think its right to close a question as too localized if the OP is not able to change a solution to cater to his exact set of problems. If the question itself is not too localized, then a comment most certainly should not make it so. – AsheeshR Dec 28 '12 at 2:57
In my experience, those responses can be a symptom. I didn't write, 'close all questions as 'too localized' upon receipt of that response. The net is 'watch out for ...' – Rosinante Dec 28 '12 at 2:59
I get your point, but your answer is strongly worded to say ''close all questions as 'too localized' and not 'watch out for ..', as i see it. – AsheeshR Dec 28 '12 at 3:03
I see this is a hot topic. Apparently Stackoverflow does a lot to fight "bad" answers as well as "bad" questions. I'd say that's one of the keys to the success of this community. Thanks for your answer. – Michel Feldheim Dec 28 '12 at 10:36

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