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I frequently ask questions about algorithms, data structures or low-level stuff on SO and I've noticed that most people specify the language they're working in when asking these kinds of questions. I don't and my rationale is as follows:

  1. If you really understand the solution to a generic problem, you should be able to explain it in a language-agnostic way, and if you're a good programmer you should be able to understand an outline of a solution written in a different language than the one you're used to, or in plain English or pseudocode.
  2. I am interested in input from people who may use different languages than I do.
  3. I primarily program in D, which is bleeding edge enough that there aren't very many canned libraries and not many people know it.
  4. I usually want to understand the solution at a conceptual level rather than just getting a black-box code snippet.

Is there any counter-argument to this? Why should you make your question non-language-agnostic if it isn't inextricably tied to a single language?

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Other than that, someone who knows algorithms may not even see such questions if that language is in his ignored tags, which he hides. –  Pavel Shved Mar 5 '10 at 16:52
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Alternately, why do people ask language-specific questions while tagging them language-agnostic? –  David Thornley Mar 5 '10 at 21:35

6 Answers 6

Certain languages might have built-in features that simplify the intended goal. By explicitly stating your language of choice, it might enable knowledgeable language users to point out these features. So, strictly algorithmically, I think you're correct, but there still might be practical consequences in some cases.

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Because sometimes the particular language you happen to be working in has a neat built-in way to solve whatever problem it is you're trying to solve. In terms of questions about algorithms for example, Python has zip and map etc, which may make your life easier.

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Perl v5 has map, while Perl v6 has both. –  Brad Gilbert Mar 5 '10 at 17:24

Personally, I think it's because that they're looking for some frame of reference with which to bounce answers off of.

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Another reason which hasn't been said yet is that it is a way to get your question seen. A lot of people browse questions by their 'interested tags'. If you add a popular tag to your question your chances of it being seen are that much higher.

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People express themselves the way they can. If they're deep down into some languages, it is likely it leaves impression on their thought patterns. Or it is simply the language they speak.

Don't think much of it. Who can, asks a question in the language-agnostic manner.

As far as answering goes, sometimes it may help if you make your answer also language-specific. Some beginner folks may not be able to translate it into their language.

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Programming, which is the focus of SO, requires you write code. The code is language specific.

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