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So many interesting questions get asked on Stack Overflow and then immediately closed (or worse yet, closed and re-opened for days on end) because they're subjective, argumentative, and fundamentally unanswerable due to our lack of omniscience: without the ability to see into the future and/or know the secret motivations of companies and their developers, we are left to make wildly varying (un)informed guesses.

The obvious solution to this is to add a built-in clairvoyant feature to the Ask a Question page. Similar to the current "Related Questions" feature, this could be used to answer otherwise-unanswerable questions before they're asked, thus saving everyone time and frustration.

I propose a simple system whereby a web cam is aimed at an ordinary Mattel Magic 8-Ball device, long recognized as one of the most accessible and accurate fortune-telling mechanisms available to modern society. A simple vibrating pad could be placed under this rig and triggered in response to the user's typing. Once focus leaves the Title input field, a short delay will be triggered, followed by a bit of logic to capture the 8-ball's result and feed it through a simple OCR routine to produce the result.

So far as I'm aware, SO would be the first major Q&A site to implement such a feature...


...another UV resurrection...

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seems like a good idea for 4/1/2010 – Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '09 at 4:25
I'm speechless . – Ian Elliott Jul 2 '09 at 4:27
Ok, is the "Why did my wife divorce me?" really a question? It returns not found for me. Upvote to the first answer with a screen shot of it. – toast Jul 4 '09 at 0:04
@toast: – Shog9 Jul 4 '09 at 0:12
@Shog9: That's hilarious, but I've already upvoted and favorited this question so my blatant selling of rep has failed. – toast Jul 4 '09 at 1:06
"Outlook not so good" -- Yeah, I knew that already. That's why I use Thunderbird. – mmyers Aug 1 '09 at 17:26
A Magic 8 ball won't help. Usually, the answer is 42. – takrl Sep 8 '11 at 12:43
@Shog9 It seems the built-in clairvoyant link is broken. I get a 404 when I try to open it – Walker Nov 26 '13 at 13:51
if /why/ then return 'because.' – Andrew Cheong Nov 26 '13 at 13:56
@Tijesunimi see now. :) – Shadow Wizard Nov 26 '13 at 14:06
@ShaWizDowArd Thanks!!! :) – Walker Nov 26 '13 at 14:10
related: Rolling question rate limits are now network-wide "Additional just-in-time help (triggered while writing a question) is in the works..." – gnat Jan 22 '15 at 18:22
up vote 38 down vote

I got a magic 8-ball once from CDW with answers like "Try rebooting", "Reinstall", and "It's a bug".

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Wow, swag that's actually useful and clever! – Ether Nov 26 '09 at 1:41
Oh, gettin' me one of those – womble Nov 26 '09 at 18:19
lemme guess. one of the other answers is "it's a feature", right? – quack quixote Dec 11 '09 at 5:34

How about a close option for "Magic 8-Ball Question", and then if it closed with that reason, the image appears (or even a random image from a set of images, in true Magic 8-Ball fashion)?

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To heck with the OCR, dudes, just give us the image!

And hey, I kind of liked that OCaml question :-)

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SHA-0 (but not SHA-1) also has strong clairvoyant properties. Simply hash the question, and count the number of alphabet (non-numeric) characters in the output. If it is odd, the answer is yes. If it is even, the answer is no.

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You could code a simple program to post here and parse the html of the result to display it on SO... a simple GraseMonkey script could do it.

The page posts to itself passing the question in a field of name query

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