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From time to time, people come asking questions which are unsolvable, either because a) they are fundamentally impossible, or b) because there's no sufficiently advanced technology, or c) because of limitations imposed by the environment. Examples:

  • reverse a hash (not "find a preimage" - class A)
  • universal translator (whose translations make sense - class B)
  • show an image on a website, but prevent people from copying it (class C)

The questions usually get answered with "that is not possible", possibly "but there's this approximation", and "you are probably trying to reach a slightly different goal, which is feasible"; so far, so good.

However, there are users who, upon receiving the "no can do" response, go into "paranoid PHB mode", and starts flaming, thinking that

  • anything is possible, if you want it badly enough
  • it's possible, but the SO users don't want to give me the Good Solution

If this behavior persists, the question gets flagged into oblivion (e.g. a likely fate of this question - now deleted, only visible for 10k+ users). Because the question is not visible any more, in two weeks PHB2 comes along and ... Redo from Start

I'm aware that trolls will be trolls (and that's a very different matter), but is it worth keeping a reference of unsolvable questions for honestly clueless askers? In other word, is there anything we could do with this cycle of "Can't do that -> I don't care, show me how to do that -> delete -> repeat in an infinitesimally different setting"?

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::follows link:: Uhg. A bad example. I'm thankful that we're dealing with this behavior through a standoff interface. – dmckee Sep 10 '10 at 9:14
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I don't think we can do anything about it.

Apart from the existing flagging mechanism, as well as the bad question filters, if the user becomes a problem we can deal with the user, however all of us at some point ask something we would want to believe will work and can be done.

If the question is asked again, have it closed as duplicate. If the user does not get it then flag the question for moderator attention and it can be taken up offline with the user.

Other then that, the existing process seems to be handling this well actually. Also, you don't need to deal with every question like this, it's what the moderators are there for. Sometimes it is better to just walk away from a specific question or user.

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Good points, thank you. I guess I'm taking this way too personally ;) – Piskvor Sep 10 '10 at 9:02

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