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Are questions of the following form acceptable on SO ?

Is book x an accurate reference/guide/tutorial guide for language y ?

Notice accurate ^^

Is book x valid and accurate for newer version 'a' of x although it was written for version 'b' ?

I personally think :

  • This is not a subjective question as the question asks about the technical accuracy of a book and should be acceptable.

  • This is a real question as it does deal with a specific issue that is an answerable problem unique to the programming profession. [Rather weak argument, i know] Primarily because newer versions of software come out faster than updated books

Yes this is probably almost near/crossing the line for acceptable questions, hence i thought it appropriate to ask here.

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3 Answers 3

Is book x an accurate reference/guide/tutorial guide for language y ?

No, I don't think that's an objective question. What do you mean by accurate? Are you just asking if that's a good book to learn language y? That's what it sounds like.

Is book x valid and accurate for newer version 'a' of x although it was written for version 'b' ?

That's a little bit more specific, but it still suffers from the same problem as the first question.

If you want to know about a specific programming book, you'd be better off looking at its reviews on Amazon.

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In my specific case, i only realised there could be problems when a book mentioned certain problems in a piece of code then went on to explain drawbacks regarding it, and then suggested solutions etc, all of which i found rather disconcerting as i was sure that the initial drawbacks/problems mentioned do not happen. Hence, my question regarding questions. –  AsheeshR Jan 8 '13 at 15:48
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@AshRj If you posted the specific code example from the book and asked if the problem illustrated was fixed in a later version of the language (the specific version you're using, preferably), I think it would probably be okay. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 8 '13 at 15:53

They wouldn't be on-topic on StackOverflow, or may of the other SE sites either. What you're basically asking is for a review of a book. This is no different from asking for reviews of applications / products, and therefore strays into the "What is better, X or Y?" territory.

StackExchange sites are for practical, answerable questions, not for reviewing products, regardless of how related to the site that product is.

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Review would imply : what do you think of product a ? I am asking whether product a does function b correctly or not. Not exactly a review. Although, yes, i see your point. –  AsheeshR Jan 8 '13 at 15:47
    
@AshRj: I imagine there is a correlation between whether a book is good and whether it is accurate. It's unlikely a book that is very inaccurate would get a good review. And conversely, any book that is highly accurate is very likely to get a good review. –  JonW Jan 8 '13 at 15:49
    
A book accurate sometime in the past would get high reviews in the past. Those ratings would stay well into the future. However, that does not mean it is still valid and accurate now. –  AsheeshR Jan 8 '13 at 15:51
    
@AshRj: Very true, which is why such questions wouldn't be suitable here either - the advice on here would also become out of date. The question and answers remain long after they have been posted. –  JonW Jan 8 '13 at 15:53
    
That is valid for almost any language feature question that comes up, other than absolute basic ones and, such questions are permissible. –  AsheeshR Jan 8 '13 at 16:01
    
I don't think the question would be off topic, more that it's just to vague. Asking if the whole book is accurate is too broad. Asking about a specific passage in a book though is narrow enough that it's within the scope of SO to evaluate it's accuracy. –  Servy Jan 8 '13 at 16:08
    
@Servy: Well then the question is something else, it's not 'is this book good for this particular situation' the question would be "Is {this} the correct way to implement this feature, as was found in book X" –  JonW Jan 8 '13 at 16:11

This is not a subjective question as the question asks about the technical accuracy of a book and should be acceptable

They are. It's not hard to find perfectly good questions on Stack Overflow regarding the technical accuracy of something presented as fact in a book.

However, attempting to bite off an entire book in one question is going to be a bit broad. Even if the book is "Mr. Bunny's Guide to ActiveX*".

As Bill stated:

If you posted the specific code example from the book and asked if the problem illustrated was fixed in a later version of the language (the specific version you're using, preferably), I think it would probably be okay.

(emphasis mine)

To understand why trying to tackle the question of an entire book's accuracy in one go is a bit sketchy, imagine that the sort of question Bill outlined will attract a really good answer. Now imagine that the small book you're interested in has only 5 chapters, with only 3 code samples in each chapter. A decent answer now needs to cover the accuracy of 15 different bits of code, preferably with references, explanations and such.

Even assuming you catch the eye of someone who reviewed the book prior to publication, and they still have all their old notes... This is a fair bit of work to be asking for. And we're not even getting into the actual text of this small book yet!

So let's be honest: what you're gonna get is at best an ad-hoc collection of errata that folks observe while reading the book.

*The only book you should ever buy on ActiveX, or bunnies.

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