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I spent a frustrating hour trying to phrase a question that would meet the guidelines and not trigger any "title police", but was told "help" is not an acceptable word to include in the title. I may eventually work out the full list of words that cannot be entered in the title field, but why bother?

My initial experiences with Stack Overflow were positive. I asked questions and they were answered.

Then I asked this question:

Where is a good forum for help on understanding Python?

(The question body explained that I'm interested in the WHY as opposed to WHAT, and cited example assignment statements involving lists, which IMHO do not behave like classical assignments but more like pseudo identities).

I was simply asking for links to other forums. After a few snarky and patronizing comments and answers my question was quickly closed. I still did not get an answer.

From this I get the impression that this forum is only interested in helping insiders. Fair enough. Except the site makes a big deal about how anyone can ask, and anyone can answer questions.

Anyone can ask, as long as you speak the right language.

Other forums are supportive of new users. This site is strikingly different.

Why does Stack Overflow claim anyone can ask questions?

And given they don't encourage newbies with broad questions, why do they come so high in Google searches?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Wooble, Emrakul, Aziz Shaikh, Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt, Shadow Wizard Nov 26 '13 at 8:37

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
It might help if we had a link to the question. –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 15 '13 at 4:44
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Hey RFlack, I know you're probably frustrated, but ranting at the community is usually a one-way ticket to a lot of downvotes and more frustration. It is really hard to follow what you're asking. You were unable to post a question due to the title? If so, what was the error message? If you edit your post to be clear about those, and remove some of the attitude, you will probably get useful help here. –  jmac Nov 15 '13 at 4:44
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Stack Overflow is not just for insiders, but it doesn't allow any question that happens to have to do with programming. The help center has good info on what is regarded on-topic and what isn't. It says for example: Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it. That's very likely why your question was closed. –  Pëkka Nov 15 '13 at 4:45
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asking for resources is a definite no-no on SO. It attracts spam and it's really hard to moderate. –  Jan Dvorak Nov 15 '13 at 4:45
    
May we please see the copy of the question and title you were trying to post? We can give feedback on that, and help you with your question. –  Emrakul Nov 15 '13 at 4:47
    
@Emrakul it's in the question –  Pëkka Nov 15 '13 at 4:47
    
@prob The actual copy is not in the question. –  Emrakul Nov 15 '13 at 4:48
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Looking at his post history on SO, it looks like he wasn't able to post the question, so unless he has a local copy or it's open in another tab, we probably can't see it. –  jmac Nov 15 '13 at 4:48
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@Emrakul I assume it is "Where is a good forum for help on understanding Python?" from the final paragraph. –  MichaelT Nov 15 '13 at 4:49
    
@Michael I'm looking for the full copy, not just the title. I suppose the question has already been answered, though. –  Emrakul Nov 15 '13 at 4:50
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He says "I somehow stumbled into a place where my question had somehow been "posted", along with a couple of snotty answers" which implies that the question was, indeed, posted -- but I can't find it. What happened to it? –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 15 '13 at 4:50
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"seems to me 90%of people posting there are looking for help." — which is exactly why including it in the title is redundant. –  Lorem Ipsum Nov 15 '13 at 4:50
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For clarity it was posted or held I'm not sure which in some sort of quarantined place, and also marked closed I think because my question is out of scope. Don't worry about it, I'll look elsewhere. Nb. One corollary of this is that I'm unlikely to contribute to this site either. I may be new to Python but certainly not new to programming, but my tolerance for bureaucracy is fairly low. –  RFlack Nov 15 '13 at 5:53
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All questions asking for recommendations (as opposed to how to do something) are out of scope. We're not biased against new users though; I recently closed a question from a user with 10,000 reputation for the same reason –  Richard Tingle Nov 15 '13 at 8:04

4 Answers 4

Where is a good forum to get help understanding the WHY ( as opposed to WHAT) of some of the more "interesting" features of Python.

That's not a good question for Stack Overflow. While everyone can ask questions here, it doesn't mean the community allows any question that happens to have to do with programming. In fact, there is a very strict, almost anal, set of rules that has developed over time. The help center has good info on what is regarded on-topic and what isn't. You probably ran afoul of

Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.`

That's very likely why your question was closed.

But, I spent almost an hour trying to come up with a title that would get past the "title police". For example it spurns anything with the word "Help" in it. Seems to me 90%of people posting there are looking for help.

I hate automated filters as much as you do, I really do. However, experience has shown that titles with that word in it tend to be 1) poor titles, 2) symptoms of poor quality questions, or 3) both. It's a controversial feature and not everyone in the community is happy about it, but there is a reason why it's in place.

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Wow a lot of comments. Ty. Sorry if my post here came off as a rant, actually I took the time to try and calm down and thought I had de-ranted it. Apologies if I failed. The "error message" was simply a maroon pop-up, and sorry but I don't recall the exact text beyond an admonishment for not using proper grammar (which beg a ton of questions, but let's move on) and not to use words like "help". –  RFlack Nov 15 '13 at 5:14
    
Grrrrr. "Comments may only be edited for 5 minutes." So thoughtfulness is not encourages? Also, typing 1 char at a time on an iPad is slow. So.. I'll have to do this in instalments. –  RFlack Nov 15 '13 at 5:27
    
You guys seem it like short specific questions, so here we go: a) how do I do a new line char in this comment editor, b) in 30 words or less what is the purpose of SO. c) (repetition warning) what's a good forum for understanding the rationale of Python features? –  RFlack Nov 15 '13 at 5:29
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@RFlack: a) You can't. b) To collectively increase the sum total of good programming knowledge in the world. c) Not anywhere on Stack Exchange, as far as I'm aware. –  Michael Petrotta Nov 15 '13 at 5:38
    
Michael, thank you. Not sure why I don't qualify under (b), given that I am in the world, but no matter. Evidently SO is not for me, or perhaps vice versa. Pity. –  RFlack Nov 15 '13 at 6:21
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@RFlack The community decided to stop allowing resource recommendation questions (including site recommendations) a bit more than a year ago. They became a major problem, because: (a) people would just post all their favourite links, (b) the votes would be a popularity contest, not which site was actually most useful for the particular asker, (c) since the answers were nothing more than links, forums would go offline and links would break and answers would become out of date or useless within months, (d) probably other reasons I'm unaware of. –  doppelgreener Nov 15 '13 at 6:53
    
It would be nice to be able to ask those kinds of questions here, but they just... break down on the Stack Exchange Q&A engine, so we can't field them. –  doppelgreener Nov 15 '13 at 6:54
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"Comments may only be edited for 5 minutes." So thoughtfulness is not encourages? @RFlack Actually, the point of this is to encourage thoughtfulness by having you think about your comment ahead of time, and not facilitate a free-wheeling discussion forum. Stack Exchange is not a forum; that's just not what we do. –  Ben Collins Nov 15 '13 at 7:13

"Message in a Title" by The Title Police

So I assume you got a message like this:

This Image Will Self-Destruct in 30 Seconds

And you're probably thinking, "Oh God, why?! The Humanity! Censorship! #IBlameTimPost"

If you follow the nice link, it will lead you here:

How do I write a good title?

Now there's a very simple reason that there are rules about question titles. It isn't censorship, it is to make sure that questions on SO are not disposable and frequently asked, but to make a good question with a good answer easy to find through search engines. That doesn't work so well if the title is something like:

Actual Forum Post Title

I'm sure you're thinking, "Yeah, but I wasn't planning on doing that!" and I'm sure you weren't. And it's a shame you got caught by it. But if we take away the filter on "Help" titles, then we will get a lot more bad questions. We hope that as a community, people put time and effort in to their questions, and that means reading through the error message and the linked post and figuring out what the issue is and fixing it.

And all is better for that. Did you come here through Google? If so, don't you think that you may have skipped the link if it said, "[[URGENCY]] HELP! -- PLEASE!!!"?

Dedicated Volunteer Community

We are all volunteers. We are not out to get you, we are out to help people. And while you may think that your problem today is more urgent than the 10,000 people who will come to that question in the future, many of the things in the Stack Exchange design are to make sure that Stack Exchange is focused on the long-term solution (while still helping you with your problem today). This is a balance. It's a hard balance. And it isn't perfect. And that's why we let people post here to try to get their issues solved.

Just remember that we're all volunteers! There is no Stack Exchange Clique. There is no inner circle. There are just a bunch of people who want to help and want to keep a healthy community long-term. We would love to have you work with us to build that, but that means learning the guidelines, and using the guidelines to help build a better resource. It takes an investment, but nothing is life is truly free. Be grateful that all we ask is learning and consideration.

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The overall impression is of a forum that is only interested in helping "insiders". Which is fair enough. Except that they make a big deal about ANYONE can ask, and ANYONE can answer questions.

Stack Overflow (and Stack Exchange) is not a forum. It is a Q&A engine. I suggest you read that link.

After battling the robot policing the title line I somehow stumbled into a place where my question had somehow been "posted", along with a couple of snotty answers - which in fact did not answer the actual question (where's a good forum) but instead in rather patronizing fashion picked apart the part of my msg which was an example of why I as seeking such a forum). And then the question was closed so I had no way of actually getting an answer.

We would probably be interested in actually seeing those.

It is not a surprise the question was closed, however - it's off topic. Stack Overflow has some strict requirements for questions, and our help pages include a What topics can I ask about here? page. One of the things listed there as off-topic is questions asking for off-site resources. You might want to know what resources are available, but... this isn't the place to ask for it.

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For example it spurns anything with the word "Help" in it. Seems to me 90%of people posting there are looking for help.

Which is exactly why including it in the title is redundant.

why does SO claim anyone can ask questions?

They didn't say you could ask any question...

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