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It seems to me that the subject category comprehends not only "understanding of the problem" but also "effort to solve". These both seem like valid reasons to close, but it seems odd to bundle them and even odder to bundle them under a bold-formatted name (i.e. minimum understanding of the problem) that comprehends only one element.

The situation is further muddied by the fact that people seem to also use this category for situations where they feel the poster has not demonstrated sufficient competence in their efforts to solve the problem.

Perhaps the people who wrote this category are thinking of "problem" in the broader sense of "problem and the associated solution space"?

In any event, my question is whether this category (including the bolding) should:

  1. Remain as is?
  2. Be reworded/rebolded to more accurately reflect the existing scope?
  3. Be otherwise refactored?

Update in response to close votes: This question is different than Close reason emphasis is wrong because the latter only addresses the question of emphasis/bolding whereas this question raises questions of wording/semantics and whether to refactor the category (e.g. split out some of the content into other categories).

For example, this question also covers:

  • What is meant by "problem" in the phrase "understanding the problem"? Does it refer to just surface level symptoms, what's causing the symptoms, what's required to address the cause? Should we use more specific language?emphasized text
  • Which, if any, of these things is really a requirement given the de facto standard or what is acceptable on SO, where one or more of these things is commonly absent in unclosed questions.
  • Should demonstrated understanding/competence in the solution space be in a separate category from demonstrated understanding of the symptoms and/or causes of those symptoms (i.e. what I would consider "the problem")?
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marked as duplicate by Cody Gray, Tobias Kienzler, Martijn Pieters, Lance Roberts, РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ Aug 17 '13 at 18:47

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.

    
Fair question, but the two issues you bring up have already been discussed separately: Shouldn't "off-topic" be only about... off-topic? and Close reason emphasis is wrong –  Cody Gray Aug 17 '13 at 5:19
    
@CodyGray: I don't see what the first one has to do with this, and the second one is fretting about where to put the bolding. Really? –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 5:28
    
That is exactly what this question is about: "My question is whether this category (including the bolding) should: ..." @robert –  Cody Gray Aug 17 '13 at 5:41
    
Why the f8ck are we worried about the bolding? Well, I answered the question in the title. Talking about the bolding is angels dancing on the head of a pin, just like discussing the "off-topic" wording. –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 5:42
1  
Bold == emphasis, and I think it is emphasizing the wrong thing. I agree with your answer, that this phrasing is just a rewording of "what have you tried" and primarily intended to weed out the icanhazcodez folks. But that's not the impression it conveys to me or most people I've talked to. Taken literally, the overwhelming majority of questions could be closed because they demonstrate a complete void of understanding of the problem being solved—that's why they're being asked. That misunderstanding leads to confusion. The whole point of revamping the close reasons is to make them clearer. –  Cody Gray Aug 17 '13 at 5:45
2  
If we don't care about that, let's just get "not a real question" back. That was my all-time favorite. –  Cody Gray Aug 17 '13 at 5:46
    
@CodyGray: In your heart of hearts, do you honestly think that users are having difficulty using the site because of bolding in a close reason, or the way we use the words "off-topic?" –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 5:47
4  
@Robert Yes. I have trouble selecting that reason nearly every time I want to use it. It's hard to justify to myself that a question about programming is really "off topic", and that the real issue is anything to do with a failure to demonstrate minimal understanding. As long as my name is attached to the reason, I take its selection pretty seriously. And if that's not enough, I've communicated with many well-meaning users in comments who failed to understand why their question was closed after reading this particular reason. They didn't have your answer or experience to help them. –  Cody Gray Aug 17 '13 at 5:54
2  
@RobertHarvey Please take Cody's last response to heart. He has 41k rep here on MSO and who knows how much rep elsewhere. He said I have trouble selecting that reason nearly every time I want to use it. It's hard to justify to myself that a question about programming is really "off topic", and that the real issue is anything to do with a failure to demonstrate minimal understanding. That's a 41k user. This is not about knowledge of the categories. This is about a conflict between language and reality and forcing people to state things they know are not true. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 12:59
    
@CodyGray Thanks for the reference to (or at least writing) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/192730/… –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 13:14
    
@CodyGray In response to your first comment in this thread, note that I'm not just asking about emphasis and where this question is categorized, I'm asking about language (e.g. meaning of "problem") and bundling together of the elements within this close reason (e.g. understanding and effort). –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 13:18
1  
@CodyGray You're kidding about the alternative of getting the "not a real question" back, right? Perhaps you meant "all time favorite abuse of the English language"? –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 13:22
    
@CodyGray: I've communicated with many well-meaning users in comments who failed to understand why their question was closed after reading this particular reason -- Not in the last two weeks, you haven't. Do you have a link or two to illustrate? –  Robert Harvey Aug 18 '13 at 0:14
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@Robert I don't know what to say to that. No. Should I really? I mean, had I known you'd think I was a liar, I might have written it down. –  Cody Gray Aug 18 '13 at 8:31

1 Answer 1

Let's look at the entire close reason, not just some specific wording out of context:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist.

OK, now let's break it down.

  1. Asking for code

    This phrase was added by SE after they identified certain patterns of mis-use. It was not vetted by the community, but given the nature of the site (by coders, for coders), it seems logical to include this caveat. The close reason is about asking for code, not about asking for other things.

  2. must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved

    This phrase is a proxy for "What have you tried?" As the Help Center states, "Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!"

    This weeds out theicanhazcodez folks, because people who just ask for code without stating what they have tried do not demonstrate an understanding of the problem they are trying to solve.

  3. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results

    Many times, we just get "It didn't work." That doesn't tell us anything. We need to know what they tried, the results they got, and the results they actually want. This is basically the minimum information we need from anyone to formulate a relevant answer.

  4. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

    This is Jon Skeet's excellent guidance on how to write a good question. Everything that a user needs to know to make their questions work is there.

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I'm a little confused by your response in the sense that I was asking about bundling, language and the emphasis. I said in the question that I understand and support each of the elemental close reasons in this category, yet you chose to enumerate and defend them. I gather from your comments on the question that you think emphasis is dancing on the head of a pin, but how about the other elements of the question? Do you, for example, think that "understanding of the problem" comprehends as well "understanding how to solve the problem with technology"? –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 13:09
    
Peter: I was responding to the title of your question. In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine that your question really was about bolding. –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 23:34
    
As I said, the question was about bundling (scope), language (wording) and emphasis (bolding). None of those things involve the validity or meaning of the component parts, which is what your response seems to have been about. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 23:40
    
@PeterAlfvin: Then my answer appears to be both relevant and comprehensive. Did you mean to make this a feature request? Still not sure why people are confused. I think y'all are deliberately being confused. –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 23:42
    
Our level of understanding of what each other is saying seems to be degenerating, so I guess I'll stop. If I can find someone willing to act as an interpreter, perhaps I'll re-engage. –  Peter Alfvin Aug 17 '13 at 23:45
    
@PeterAlfvin: My thoughts exactly. –  Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 23:53

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