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Let me apologize if this has been brought up before, it seems too obvious not to have been.

There are certain catagory of questions (most recent to my attention is this one) that boil down to "will this compile?" or "what will this program print/do?"

I feel these questions are of no benefit to the SO community because:

  • They are too nuanced/specific to be useful to the public at large. Or if they are general and useful to the public at large...
  • They are too nuanced/specific to be encountered from a reasonable search. Most often, they're just a code dump which is never good from a search engine perspective.
  • They are typically the result of the asker being lazy, not confused, in his efforts to pursue the answer himself. (Indeed, in the example above, the OP admitted he was "too lazy to create a main class").
  • It's often a good indicator that the OP is just passing off responsibility for answering the question (i.e. homework).

So as a member with voting rights I'd like to be able to vote to close these. But it doesn't fit under any of the close criteria. It most certainly is a question that can be objectively answered. It definitely seems on-topic w.r.t. the FAQ. But StackOverflow is not a compiler, right?

Should there be a criterion that covers this? Am I in the minority in thinking that these questions should be closed? I recognize that often the author really wants to know the why in addition to the what of the compiler/runtime behaviour, but until that's asked for in the question the question remains useless IMO.

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See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/40971/…. Similar from the standpoint of "insufficient effort" but the resolution was to add "incomplete" to the "not a real question" criterion. The questions I'm thinking of are surely "complete". –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:34
If the why is missing, is the question "complete"? –  Ladybug Killer Sep 14 '10 at 20:37
@Ladybug: Sure, I'd say so. It's just not a good question. "Am I wearing pants?" is a complete and answerable question but one you could easily find the answer to yourself. –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:41
But you answered the question? –  BalusC Sep 14 '10 at 20:43
I answered the question as if he had asked the "why" without answering the "what" directly. At least then it has some value for posterity. –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have to be honest, seeing this underneath a question like this has me laughing out loud:

Closed by John Doe, Jeff Atwood, Mark Trapp, Mark Peters, Jane Doe:

You tell me.

But in reality, not a real question should be enough of a reason to close questions like that: the assumption is that extremely trivial questions, if they're not considered legitimate, are missing a piece of the puzzle that would allow a good-faith effort to answer the question the asker really wanted an answer to.

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That would be my first choice, but the description of that criterion is This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. But the question isn't any of those things, and is actually quite simple to answer in its current form. Unless that's what is being implied by "rhetorical", but I didn't glean that meaning. –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:38
if it seems like a legitimate question, I don't see a reason why it should be closed: Stack Overflow accepts questions of all difficulty levels. But a lot of times these questions seem like they're way too trivial even for a beginner, and in those cases, I'd say there's a piece of the puzzle the asker isn't providing, which makes the question ambiguous, vague, or impossible to answer in good faith. –  user149432 Sep 14 '10 at 20:41
OK, I respect that answer. Either it wasn't in good faith, or a piece of the puzzle is missing. Using the "not a real question" on the grounds of being incomplete would then be assuming good faith on our part. –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:53

I'd say this falls under too localised:

This question would only be relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

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This, and downvotes, are what I would use. –  Aarobot Sep 14 '10 at 20:45
If this is too localized, then wouldn't every question that dumped a specific piece of code asking for help compiling or debugging that code be too localized? After all, many problems that come here are very specific to helping in an individual scenario. See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4818/… –  Mark Peters Sep 14 '10 at 20:50
@Mark: not if the problem being described could possibly happen to someone else (using a different code example though obviously). But sometimes the problem being posted is so bizarre, it really is unique and not useful to keep on the site for future reference. –  Ether Sep 14 '10 at 20:54
I don't know if there's some unwritten (or written for that matter) rule on Meta that you're supposed to accept the highest voted answer...but this answer still doesn't seem right me. The problem isn't in the generalness of the question (in fact, the question I cited is extremely general and wide-reaching) it's in the laziness of the OP compounded by the inability of search engines to take advantage of its generalness (due to it being a code dump). So I'm going to accept the other answer. –  Mark Peters Sep 16 '10 at 19:43

"Not a real question"

I use this as the close reason for total nonsense homework questions like you're describing. They aren't "real" questions - the OP is just trying to sucker you into doing his/her work.

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