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Should we close ‘fix my program’ questions

I find there are lots of questions on SO of the form 'Here is this piece of code and it's not working. Can you tell me why?'. These are usually fragments of javascript code, or issues with CSS, or misadventgures in C++ or similar.

While this obviously helps the poster (which, in most cases, is usually an inexperienced programmer or a student) to fix his immediate problem, I think this kind of questions does not really benefit anyone else, cannot be used for reference because they don't show up in google because of the way they're formulated, and are no better than the 'homework' kind of questions.

Should this kind of Q&A be discouraged in SO?

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marked as duplicate by Shogging through the snow, fretje, Ether, John Saunders, random Mar 6 '10 at 5:28

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.

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as long as I suspect they've made some kind of effort, I'm fine with it. The ones where the question is just "make a linked list in C++, due tomorrow plz hurry" are the problem. –  Jimmy Mar 5 '10 at 8:21
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Shog9: right, looks like an exact dupe. –  axel_c Mar 5 '10 at 9:55

4 Answers 4

Fixing someone's immediate problem is part of the reason for SO. Sure, some questions will be more useful in the long term than others - but if it only stops someone from banging their head against a brick wall for a while, that's fine by me. It's even better if they also learn from their mistake :)

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I agree. But maybe it should be encouraged that these 'help me' questions be given a title that is useful for searches etc? eg. instead of 'OMG why is this div ignoring the padding, help!' use something like 'Proper way to specify padding for divs in IE7'. I think that would solve the poster's immediate problem AND maybe help someone else with the same problem in the future. –  axel_c Mar 5 '10 at 9:21
    
@axel_c, If you have sufficient rep you can always edit the title to something more suitable. –  Michael Kristofik Mar 5 '10 at 17:39
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Especially if you are on your own it can be impossible to get past a small error that someone else will spot in a second. I'm prepared to put in a few minutes answering them, enough people have helped me in the past –  Martin Beckett Mar 5 '10 at 18:31
    
@mgb - That is very true. Sometimes all it takes is another pair of eyes to look at your code. –  Heather Mar 5 '10 at 21:54

I find that addressing questions like that cause me to scratch my own head from time to time, open up jsbin, and start plugging around some ideas. I benefit a great deal from other people's problems :) In fact, just a few minutes ago somebody asked a rather specific PHP question, which caused me to open up my IDE, and start writing some regular expressions. Within a few minutes, I had the solution, and I felt as though I accomplished something (considering I'm not a massive regex-guru).

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Actually, more than once, when banging my head against a brick, googling for salvation led me to a SO question like: "What's wrong with my code?", which somehow helped me: while my problem was different than the asker's, answers contained links, running examples or good advice.

Of course, this happens more often with certain languages that others: c syntax is simply impossible to google, but when my code doesn't work and don't know why, I google the name of the method, or class, or whatever, and SO is a resource.

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As long as they are stating what their problem is in the question, I see no problem with those type of questions.

Of course it help if you see they have taken time to write out their question.

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