I read this question today and the top voted answer said this:
I understand now. You've mistaken Stack Overflow for a help site.
Stack Overflow is a knowledge database that uses the question and answer format as a means of categorizing knowledge. If you ask a question, it's likely that someone else will ask something similar enough to it that Google will lead them to that question. And therefore, they will be lead to the answer. Thus, knowledge will be properly transmitted.
That got me thinking about some questions I've read / helped with recently. For example, this question. The question is not phrased in a way that will ever be useful to a future user. Additionally, someone who is having a similar problem will not find it via a Google or a Stack Overflow search. For example:
- Search for "max value not in range [java]"
- Search for "if statements range [java]"
- Search for "max within a range [java]"
- Search for "return larger value [java]"
As an exercise to yourself, see if you can make that question come up without typing "codingbat" or the numbers 10 or 20. I was able to do it, but only by copying and pasting a portion of the question: "positive int values, return the larger value [java]"... and it was the 12th result. If you add "Given the" it becomes the first result, but my point still holds, such a question is nearly useless to future users, unless they're doing THAT CodingBat question. So really the question should be closed as "too localized"... except it's not really, because it could be useful if it was tagged / phrased in a more productive way.
So, what should be done? Some options:
- Do nothing: If people want to help a user with a question that probably won't help any future users, go ahead, even though it isn't the main focus of Stack Overflow
- Change the goal: Redefine Stack Overflow as a help site as part of it's mission statement
- Add a new Stack Exchange site: One for people asking for help for too localized questions but aren't complete enough for the Code Review SE
- Increase enforcement: Somehow change the culture to start policing these kinds of questions more?
I put do nothing first, because I understand that I might be seeing a problem where there isn't one. Am I seeing ghosts, or is there actually something haunted in the closet?