What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

Possible Duplicate:
Add a “do not ask canihaztehcodez questions” admonition to the FAQ

This is a follow up question to Encouraging Users to Try Something Before Asking "Write Me Code that..." Questions on SO.

The accepted answer for the above question suggests that users will have read enough guidelines by the time they post a question that they should infer a question that directly asks for code is inappropriate.

While I agree that most sane, pleasant users will reach that conclusion, I dislike that any degree of inference is required. I believe the Stack Overflow FAQ should specifically mention this issue in the What kind of questions should I not ask here? section. Some suggested text:

Questions that merely state a problem and request code to solve it are likely to be closed. Stack Overflow users are friendly, helpful people but they are not free contract programmers!

I would very much appreciate having a clear-cut message in the FAQ I can point new users at. This issue arises often on Stack Overflow.

Note: I'm not suggesting the absence of code is a guaranteed feature of such questions. Amongst the worst offenders are questions with piles of source code that request modification by Stack Overflow users.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Some Helpful Commenter, Austin Henley, Lance Roberts, hims056, animuson Jan 31 '13 at 20:24

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

It's not just on SO that this problem arises. I know of plenty of other Stack Exchange sites where questions are asked that are basically "I haven't done any research or tried anything, can you just do my work for me". –  JonW Jan 31 '13 at 15:11
Questions that merely state a problem and request code to solve it are likely to be closed. Really? When did this become a thing? –  Some Helpful Commenter Jan 31 '13 at 17:00
@SomeHelpfulCommenter Do you think the general gist is correct, but my wording is poorly chosen? –  Duncan Jan 31 '13 at 17:16
@DuncanJones well I haven't seen any faq question that prohibits stating a problem w/o a code sample. I also don't know if anyone has published a thorough analysis of closed questions, so I'm not sure how you know that its likely this would happen. Basically I'm questioning your premise. Not that I know it's wrong. –  Some Helpful Commenter Jan 31 '13 at 17:32
This may be of some use: Is it OK to leave What Have You Tried Comments? –  Cole Johnson Jan 31 '13 at 17:37
Take a look at this: Is it OK to leave "What have you tried?" comments? Its not a duplicate, but it is relevant. –  Cole Johnson Jan 31 '13 at 17:39
@ColeJohnson that's not a faq question so I'm not sure it's more than just an opinion. Also the accepted answer equivocates. "If there's no effort to improve the post then it's the mark of a question that can be closed" –  Some Helpful Commenter Jan 31 '13 at 17:55
@SomeHelpfulCommenter The questions I'm referring to may indeed include source code, so that's not the test I would employ. Some of the worst examples are the "Here's some code I clearly copied from elsewhere on the web, please adjust it so it performs this significantly different function." I've edited my question to clarify. Perhaps these questions will be more difficult to describe than I realise. –  Duncan Jan 31 '13 at 17:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I don't think the FAQ being any stronger will actively help the problem. If you prompt them to show their code, the response is to dump the entire class/method/procedure/application in question into the question with no additional context. Anything to avoid putting in effort, it would seem.

The people asking questions of this nature on the whole just don't care. If they cared sufficiently to read the FAQ, they would already know their questions are unlikely to be answered. The difference between people that are trying to get specific questions answered and those that just want their problems solved as easily as possible, is as day and night.

In all the cases I have seen questions like this asked where helpful members ask for clarification, suggest ways the question could be modified to make it answerable, I've never seen the question updated by the asker into a useful question.

Because the people asking in this manner don't demonstrate any willingness to read information, I would suggest the answer needs to be stronger than a change to the FAQ, and actually make this a selectable reason to close a question.

I've found the wording of "Not a real question" to be a bit difficult to parse, because it doesn't clarify exactly what the user did wrong:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

I would like some option to choose from that indicated more precisely the reasons their question was closed, not so much as a "how you can fix this question", but more as a "please don't ask questions like this again, you're wasting everybody's time, including your own".

I propose a "Too general" category of close status:

The question being asked is too general. Questions are expected to be about a specific problem you have encountered, where you can show you have tried to find a solution yourself. Questions asking for a general solution are not suitable for StackOverflow.

share|improve this answer
I have seen people edit their question, but I'd say it's the exception not the rule. I agree we need a better worded close reason for those. –  Lance Roberts Jan 31 '13 at 15:37
I've seen many questions be edited so they were answerable, but they were always half-way there to begin with. Never have I seen an "I want to achieve X, please give me a library" question change, because the asker is fundamentally ignorant that SO doesn't provide solutions to general problems. –  Tragedian Jan 31 '13 at 16:29
I like the idea about the "Too General" but I think you should reword it so questions about things closer to theory that are still answerable still get asked. A question that asks for a solution that can be used under multiple situations could be considered closable under this new idea of yours. –  Linuxios Feb 1 '13 at 14:52

We should probably note that the close reason will probably be not a real question; just insert that after the word closed.

share|improve this answer
Yes, good idea. That would also help guide those casting the close votes in the right direction. –  Duncan Jan 31 '13 at 14:54

I agree. Although most people who want to become real users of the site will probably infer it, people just looking for a quick and dirty answer who barely even read the FAQ or About page should have it much more in their face so that their noticie it. Especially considering that we already go to such lengths to show the differences between SE and a forum, this is just one more we need to make clear.

share|improve this answer

I... actually don't think closing is the right response to these in any case. I mean, what's the danger here? Closing prevents answers - the biggest problem with these questions is that, at least in the worst cases, no one wants to answer them.

So... why waste time closing something that'll probably just end up ignored and deleted? If it's that lazy, down-vote it - if the asker continues asking lazy, useless questions he'll end up unable to ask new ones.

For what it's worth, the FAQ already states:

We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …


Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

Which I believe covers the worst offenders. Beyond that, if someone's asking a reasonably-scoped question about a specific problem, then demanding they throw code into it can be counter-productive; if the asker actually has done enough research to know specifically what they need to do, but hasn't been able to figure out how then a code dump of their project with a comment reading /* then a miracle occurs */ smack-dab in the middle of it doesn't really help much.

See also: Why is this "here are requirements, give me something" question allowed to remain open on SO?

share|improve this answer
Are you saying that we shouldn't close such questions? Or that we should down-vote them in addition to closing them? –  Jack Jan 31 '13 at 18:01
@Jack: I'm saying if it's a specific (not book-sized broad), detailed question about programming something, closing is kinda fixing a problem that didn't exist - heck, we could easily close boring questions automatically, but why when we already delete questions no one wants to answer? Down-voting when the question shows no effort should suffice. If someone wants to answer it, more power to 'em. –  Shog9 Jan 31 '13 at 18:05
OK fair enough, somehow I got the impression from the OP that he was talking about "give me de codez" type questions which are generally overly broad and therefore "not a real question". –  Jack Jan 31 '13 at 18:10
As I noted, those are already in the FAQ, @Jack –  Shog9 Jan 31 '13 at 18:12

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .