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.

Several of my questions can be summarized as "I was trying to do A but the closest I can come is B. Is A even possible? If so how?"

The usual response to this is a few people telling me to do B or something very similar to it. I never get anything that says I can't do A and should do B just that I can do B which I already knew. I'll reply saying something like I'm looking for A not B and then after a matter of hours the responses stop all together. Sometimes people will vote for the answer telling me to do B but I don't usually accept the answer as my question hasn't actually been answered.

I usually end up sticking with B but hoping someone will post something that will help me do A someday. If I accept any of these "answers" then I'm not likely to get a answer about A. Once I tried putting a bounty on the question which resulted in no new answers and forced me to mark the question as answered even though it wasn't.

My question is when, if ever, should I give up and accept the lack of someone saying A is possible as proof that it is not and how should I "answer" the question? Should I mark one of the answers telling me to do what I'm already doing as the accepted answer? Should I post my own answer saying that it appears that it can't be done? Should I leave it without an accepted answer?

share|improve this question
1  
You should associate your accounts; that will give you 100 reputation. –  SLaks Apr 19 '10 at 19:20
    
Thanks! Have you always been able to do that? I thought I tried to a million years ago when I first created my meta account. –  drs9222 Apr 19 '10 at 20:15

3 Answers 3

Don't ask if it's possible, just ask how to do it. Also, don't answer your own question by providing the B alternative right away. Give people a chance to ponder A for a while first. If someone else comes up with B independently, then odds are improved that it's the best way to proceed.

share|improve this answer
1  
I guess I try to make it clear that I know B is possible and I don't want it so I don't have people tell me if I googled it I would find B. –  drs9222 Apr 19 '10 at 20:21
1  
@drs9222: There are definitely certain types of questions where you want to mention up front that you've already considered and discarded B for whatever reason (the whole "you should be using jQuery" meme springs to mind). I think in those cases it's important to present a good reason why B isn't what you're looking for. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 19 '10 at 21:01

The only way that "no, that's not possible" is a valid answer is if it can be proven to be impossible. Otherwise, it's really "that's not easy to do", or "no one has done that yet", etc.

share|improve this answer
1  
Exactly. That is why I currently let them hang without accepting an answer. –  drs9222 Apr 19 '10 at 20:17
    
Yep, I do the same. –  retracile Apr 19 '10 at 20:27

Bill's Advice sounds good.

However, if it gets lots of views and nobody knew how to do what you really wanted, then there is a good chance someone who was trying to do the same thing found that question. If they ever figure it out and have a stackoverflow account, they can still post the answer and you envelope icon will turn red :-)

I think the chances of that are good because if it is obscure and hard, if someone figures it out they will probably look for at least one person who cares.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

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