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.

I generally don't participate much on SO or Meta. This is not a new case but I can't just prevent myself from posting this.

Let's look at this question:

PHP CURL not loading in WAMP after upgrading PHP from 5.3.4 to 5.3.22 by a new user

The OP of the question appears to have done his research, and tried several things before posting here. Instead of the help he was expecting, he received two comments; one advising to post it on Server Fault and another to post it on Super User.

After some time the question was closed, stating the reason as off-topic. But I am unsure many similar questions like PHP CURL not working - WAMP on Windows 7 64 bit manage to be on-topic, although both of them are not programming related questions. Also, remember that the similar question with upvotes inspired user to post it here.

Let's look at the advice given to the user:

put on hold as off-topic by arkascha, M42, zero323, halfer, rene 2 days ago This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

"Questions on professional server, networking, or related infrastructure administration are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve programming or programming tools. You may be able to get help on Server Fault." – halfer, rene

"Questions about general computing hardware and software are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve tools used primarily for programming. You may be able to get help on Super User." – arkascha, M42, zero323

The close reasons advise the user to post it on two different sites. From this, we can see that even old SO users are confused as to which is the correct place to post this between Server Fault and Super User....so how can you expect a new user who has just joined today to understand this very well?

Then, I waited for 2 days to see if the OP will post it on a different SE site or not. The result was No. The user didn't post it again on a different SE site.

Well, this is one of the numerous cases in which new users are unwelcomed here, and many eventually never return to this site. So, my request is that we should help new users to understand this site and not just create a pile of downvotes or closing their questions without helping them.

P.S. Can anyone explain while PHP CURL not loading in WAMP after upgrading PHP from 5.3.4 to 5.3.22 was off-topic why PHP cURL not working - WAMP on Windows 7 64 bit is on-topic?


My intention by sharing this question was neither to limit this discussion to this question nor to start a debate about WAMP questions. The linked question was not downvoted but there are lot of questions who get lot of downvotes without reason written. Also, here extra helpful means spending extra efforts helping new users understand the site. I have also included an answer with my suggestions but it is somehow downvoted.

share|improve this question
There is a difference between a question asking for an outside resource and one asking about a problem without expectation of what the solution may be. –  Oded Nov 19 '13 at 15:26
Sorry, but not sure what you suggest instead. There were no downvotes involved. No rude comments. It looks just fine and polite to me. –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 15:27
Possibly related: How to discourage people encouraging reposting? –  MichaelT Nov 19 '13 at 15:27
Consider also the possibility that the user needed the answer now and an answer the next day (or reasking on another site) isn't helpful... or they discovered the solution and didn't post an answer for it themselves. –  MichaelT Nov 19 '13 at 15:30
A well researched question, where multiple attempts had been, about building a rocking chair would likely get the same response. –  JDB Nov 19 '13 at 15:30
@MichaelT If they needed an answer now they should have been following the question and the responses to it, rather than waiting a day to find out that they posted on the wrong site. If they realized their mistake and reposted when they got their first comment, they would have lost very little time. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 15:31
It might help to refocus this question on what difference there is between the closed and the open questions. Closing questions is not "inappropriate behavior", there is no "pile of downvotes," and it has nothing to do with the user being new, so I think those distract from a worthwhile question. –  David Robinson Nov 19 '13 at 15:37
We really need to find a name for the endless arguments "If this is on topic why this isn't"... it all boils down to the fact Stack Overflow changed over time plus it consists of variety of programmers, each with his own personal opinions. Nothing we can do but contribute our own small part. –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 15:46
OK... the most likely answer to your 'PS' is that if both questions are off topic (putting aside the question about whether they really are or not for now) then the most likely result of you drawing attention to the old one is that both will end up being closed. This isn't "discrimination" (as you used the term in your answer below), just simply an imperfect moderation system that sometimes misses old questions. –  RobM Nov 19 '13 at 15:46
The user didn't post it again on a different SE site. and you're saying that is our fault? –  Pëkka Nov 19 '13 at 15:47
@VarunAgw The users sincerely felt that the question belonged on another side, and their comments were polite and clear. If they made an honest mistake in their determination of the site the question belongs in then you simply need to comment with your own polite and helpful comment providing your thoughts on where the question belongs and why. There is no need to call out these users as you have done, as their actions are not at all inappropriate, abusive, insulting, or anything like that. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 15:54
@rene: the problem is, this isn't about a production Apache or PHP installation; it's specifically concerned with a prepackaged development environment based on those tools. SF is generally resistant to such questions, as both the baseline knowledge and desired goals are very different. –  Shog9 Nov 19 '13 at 15:56
@rene I'm commenting as a SF reg -- we generally regard WAMP and LAMP posts badly as they tend to make for bad questions and quite often end up off-topic. –  RobM Nov 19 '13 at 15:59
@shawiz - Sounds a lot like this girl. The issue is that many people want the world to consist of logical imperatives. They see a "rule" or "policy" on our site and then immediately see examples where this imperative was inconsistently acted upon. "Close all off-topic questions" followed by two nearly identical questions treated very differently - there's no consistency, violating the logic of the imperatives. –  JDB Nov 19 '13 at 17:21
@ShaWiz - as to what to call such posts, it is in essence a call to develop more logical imperatives ("policies", "rules", etc.). Since it sounds so much like the whining of a preadolescent child, we could call it a "tween imperative". That's a bit mean, though, since sometimes there is a legitimate mismatch between policy and practice. –  JDB Nov 19 '13 at 17:32

4 Answers 4

They politely told the user that the question is offtopic and where to go to get help. If the user decided that getting an answer to their question wasn't worth posting it on the appropriate site, that is their decision to make.

There were no downvotes (despite rather good reason for doing so) there were no rude comments, and the user was pointed to the correct place. I don't see what could possibly have been done better.

share|improve this answer
+1 When clicking on this question I was expecting horrible comments, instead I saw a perfectly fine handling of the question. –  Stijn Nov 19 '13 at 15:30
What I'm wondering about is why the original question, which the poster explicitly states is the same problem, is not considered OT and in fact has >100 upvotes. –  mikeTheLiar Nov 19 '13 at 15:33
@Stijn I actually wasn't surprised. If there were really rude comments to the author I would have expected Varun to mention them in this meta post. The fact that he chose to quite two comments, and those comments were entirely appropriate, I was not surprised to see only more helpful comments on the actual question. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 15:33
@mikeTheLiar 1) That a question doesn't get closed doesn't mean it's on topic 2) Sometimes exceptions are made, and a borderline or slightly offtopic post is allowed to stay if it has sufficiently valuable content 3) standards change over time, usually narrowing, not expanding. Regardless, it's not my area of expertise, so I leave it to others to consider whether it should be closed or not. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 15:35

First off, SU and SF are generally not great places for WAMP questions... Particularly when asked on SO, these nearly always involve someone working with their development or testing setup (rather than, say, a home or production server environment). If you see someone recommending SF or SU for such questions, politely correct them.

Second, if you're concerned about a question or the advice given to its asker don't sit on your hands for two days - try to fix it! It took me just a few minutes to leave polite comments correcting those who recommended SF and SU, and a minute more to edit the question to clarify the title and fix the multiple formatting issues that plagued it. I then voted to reopen it.

As a low-reputation user on Stack Overflow, there's a limit to how much you can accomplish - but you do have the privilege to comment everywhere, and you can suggest edits that improve the clarity of any post. Use these privileges when you see something wrong.

share|improve this answer
Well said, but looks like some user(s) on SO still don't agree with you and trying to close the question again. (Wait.. did you clear the close votes?) –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 15:43
@ShaWizDowArd I've removed my comment and retracted my vote and am now typing up a separate Meta question. –  Stijn Nov 19 '13 at 15:47
@Stijn fair enough. Thanks for clarifying! –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 15:50

I may be reiterating some of the points already made, but since my name has been taken in vain ;), I feel entitled to make a couple of points on this case.

The suggestion that I have made a new user feel unwelcome is a little frustrating, especially since I frequently come down on the side of that particular debate as "let's be more civil to new users". That can easily be checked from my posting history here and on SO.

I voted to close this question and recommended Server Fault, but have since been informed that the question would not be welcome there anyway. I would still be minded to regard it as off-topic for Stack Overflow, except that more experienced users have voted to reopen it; I shall therefore try to remember that this particular item of server software is regarded as a programming tool, and will refrain from closing such topics in future.

Your sentiment that we should be more welcoming generally of new users is fine in theory, but try commenting on 1-rep user questions for a couple of years, and you'll soon change your mind. Me, I'm a sucker for punishment, as I frequently comment on off-topic questions and, of first-time posts, I'd estimate that 95%+ don't bother replying to my gentle advice. I am not sure there is much more I can do, in all honesty.

For what it's worth, I think Stack Overflow (at least the tags I primarily spend time in) is mainly striking the correct balance. The community certainly should be remaining civil, but challenging lazy help vampirism on the web is also a worthwhile aim, and I've not heard of any other site that is dealing with it as effectively.

Now, if you find comments or answers that are being hostile to new users then report them using the flag system (even if those comments come from high-rep members). I frequently make such reports, and sometimes will additionally comment to assuage some hurt feelings (even if the OP is then disinclined to reply). You can do the same too, if you would like to help new users in the tags you most read.

share|improve this answer
Interesting point, halfer: "...of first-time posts, I'd estimate that 95%+ don't bother replying to my gentle advice..." In the past 24-hours, I ran into 2 migrated questions, where the question was migrated, but the user's logon was not "migrated" or setup on the new site... and the user has not replied/participated since. I was starting to wonder if MIGRATION itself causes any technical difficulties, with a user being able to post comments / reply / edit question, etc., on their own question. (If you see that as a real concern, I can post it as a new Meta question.) –  Doug_Ivison Nov 20 '13 at 13:33
P.S. The 2 example questions I am referring to, are dba.stackexchange.com/questions/53579/…, and stackoverflow.com/questions/20077340/ssrs-report-timeout. For both, the OP on the question appears grayed out, and is not clickable. –  Doug_Ivison Nov 20 '13 at 13:34
My point was referring specifically to people who have a Stack Overflow account, and whose question was put on hold rather than migrated. There would be no reason for their not replying other than (a) they never log on again, or (b) they lose interest and choose not to reply. Both cases are probably part of the something-for-nothing crowd that we are best not trying to cater for, imo. –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 14:44
In terms of those DBA examples, it seems that everything went as well as one could ask for; they were off-topic for SO and were successfully migrated to another SE site (i.e. they are presented to an audience that is better placed to answer them). If the user logs onto SE and clicks on these questions, they will be asked if they want a DBA account created automatically. If they can't or won't do that, again there's not much we can do. –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 14:46
Thx: you answered my technical question, with: "If the user logs onto SE and clicks on these questions, they will be asked if they want a DBA account created automatically..." The SO question that was migrated from dba TO stackoverflow could be from the "something for nothing" crowd (little effort in the question); but the question that was migrated to dba FROM stackoverflow reflects effort, both in their question, and in their work before coming here... which leaves me wondering how "extra helpful to new users" ;) the account auto-creation is. Thx in any case, for the reply. –  Doug_Ivison Nov 20 '13 at 15:39
Ah sorry, I didn't see that the second item was migrated to Stack Overflow. Yes, no effort has been demonstrated in the question, and readers even have to click on a third-party link to read the code. That should not have been migrated in my view, but then one of the key topics here is that even experienced mods/readers make non-ideal migration decisions :-). –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 15:52
I've made some comments on that question, and voted to put on hold. –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 15:56
Good comments -- upvoted them. Question: are there design-reasons why searching SO for migrated:yes answers:1 returns zero results? I searched on that after noticing migrated:yes was returning unanswered only, (and was starting to wonder, again, if migration introduced tech difficulties for the OP). –  Doug_Ivison Nov 20 '13 at 19:21
I don't know, to be honest - I can't imagine there are no migrated (to Stack Overflow) questions that don't have exactly one answer. You could ask a question in chat somewhere (MSO chat, if it exists) or start a new post here on MSO. I've not tried it, myself. –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 19:27
FYI I posted it as a new question, here –  Doug_Ivison Nov 20 '13 at 20:33

From what I feel that should be done in this case should be:

A) Actively migration to a different SE site by community: If the question belongs to a different SE site why don't community migrate it rather closing it.

B) Have common policy about closing question: One question shouldn't receive 100's of upvotes while other closed as off-topic while both are similar. Isn't this discrimination? Remember that a question with upvotes (even if it off-topic but not closed) inspire user to post similar questions without them being aware that such questions are off-topic

C) Avoid providing different advice about migrating to a different SE site: In this case while some advise to post on Server Fault other advise to post on Super User. This create a confusion in user minds if the question will be welcomed in any of these sites or not. Should I post it on any of the sites or not?

share|improve this answer
The problem with automatic migration is that stuff can be migrated wrongly. ServerFault would point out that WAMP stacks are typically dev tools rather than production, & that the question actually belonged here on SO after all. The issue with "common policy" isn't about whether or not to have one but that anyone with enough reputation can already vote to close or migrate a question anyway, & those people who use that power but don't invest time in reading the appropriate FAQs & meta for the site they're on are likely to get it wrong no matter what size font we write the policy down with. –  RobM Nov 19 '13 at 15:42
A) Migration is a big deal and generally requires a moderator (you can flag a question if you'd like to see it migrated). That said, it wasn't a good fit for those other sites either, as explained by Shog. B) Policy cannot prevent users from voting. In fact, there's no force devised by man powerful enough to prevent people from exercising their right to choose. There are many questions which have garnered high vote counts despite dubious adherence to "policy". –  JDB Nov 19 '13 at 15:50
There's no "automatic migration" but rather migration done by five high rep users or one mod. Please make it more clear in your post. (Maybe some downvotes are due to this) –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 15:55
@ShaWizDowArd I assumed varunagw was talking about the migration that took place after a few votes in my comments, but you raise a good point actually... –  RobM Nov 19 '13 at 16:00
@RobM yes, I was about to click the downvote too then read little further to see "why don't community migrate" which hints on the real meaning. :) –  Shadow Wizard Nov 19 '13 at 16:06
Of note, ServerFault is not one of the default migration targets (history of the community doing a poor job of selecting questions to migrate there). Thus, the only way to migrate a question there is to flag it for migration and let a moderator handle it. –  MichaelT Nov 19 '13 at 17:18
@MichaelT Interestingly enough, this question is yet another great example of why SF isn't one of the migration options; most SO users don't know what's in scope there. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 17:21
I have edited this answer to make it more clear. Is there any reason for downvotes still? –  VarunAgw Nov 19 '13 at 19:56
@VarunAgw I'm fairly sure people disagree with what you are saying. The comments above should help you understand that. (But please note that just because someone commented with their disagreement does not mean they necessarily down voted) –  Andrew Barber Nov 19 '13 at 20:04
@AndrewBarber Ok, Thanks for reply –  VarunAgw Nov 19 '13 at 20:10
To your last point, how do you plan to address that. If two different people feel that different actions should be taken what do you plan to do? Silence whoever isn't first, remove all previous votes when someone voices a new opinion? What if the problems each user points out aren't contradictory? If there are several problems it's generally nice to know what they all are, so that fixing one doesn't just result in closure for a different reason. The only real way to avoid that problem is to remove community moderator entirely, which would cause way more harm than good. –  Servy Nov 19 '13 at 22:05
As noted in comments on the question here, a SO question being open does not make it automatically on-topic. This is noted in the Help section and frequently mentioned on MSO. Once you get the rep to do so, you can if you wish cast close votes for all the questions you think ought to be closed based on the current guidelines (though that may not be helpful given the size of the close queue!). Suffice it to say that rules change over time, and sometimes edge-cases will be given the benefit of the doubt. –  halfer Nov 20 '13 at 0:01

You must log in to answer this question.

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