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When I first joined, I asked a very easy question: What's a Regex? which was instantly downvoted and referred to Wikipedia. As a new user, I took this to mean "Easy questions are not welcome here" A few months later, I ask a meta-question asking what should be done about easy questions, I was then referred here, which seems to indicate that easy questions are not just ok, but encouraged. Then I found out about some question about LOGO and a turtle...What?!?(Then, coincidentally, I stumbled across this.)

All this time, I had been asking questions only as a last resort when I couldn't find the answer elsewhere on the internet. Is this the intended effect? Perhaps SE's policy on easy questions needs to be clarified and put somewhere prominent in the FAQs?

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That logo and turtle question was asked in jest by one of the founders and can't be considered representative of site policies :) –  badp Jan 28 '11 at 18:05
    
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That logo and turtle question was asked to prove a point (that easy questions are allowed) by one of the founders, and demonstrates that - even under exceptional circumstances - shockingly easy questions tend to catch some abuse. –  Shog9 Jan 28 '11 at 18:24
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This is a great question, and I've voted to reopen it. It isn't overly broad. While you could easily have posted each subquestion as a question in its own right, they are relatively easy and narrow questions that are easily addressed.

Further, this type of question can yield both answers that go into little depth, just giving you what you need, and also answers that go into great detail as to what a regular expression is, how it's different from other expressions, and even delve into the Chomsky Hierarchy, which is useful to understand even if only on a surface level. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that "What is a regular expression" is actually very hard for many programmers to define, other than to say it's a method to search for strings within strings. It's much more than that.

The answer to your basic question here, though, is that yes - easy questions are allowed and encouraged, When people type "What is a regular expression" into google, we want them to come here and find out. The individuals whose comments told you to google it or go somewhere else to learn it were not following the site guidelines.

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"The individuals whose comments told you to google it or go somewhere else to learn it were not following the site guidelines." As a new user, naturally I thought they were(and almost left SO because of it), which is my point exactly that the policy on easy questions needs to be stated explicitly in the FAQs. –  John Jan 28 '11 at 20:49
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There is a definite difference between easy questions and overly broad questions.

The question "What is a Regex?" is overly broad rather than too easy. The answer COULD be a short definition, but that's not really very helpful. "How can I use a regex to do X?" (can be) simple, but is not broad. The 'question closed' boilerplate includes the reasons: {ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, rhetorical}. I doubt that it was anyone's intent to say that this question was too easy. In addition, the comments to the question are particularly insightful in your case (they aren't always). Both commenters suggest asking a more specific question.

As long as a question is clear, relatively specific and not a duplicate (which many easy questions are), then in my experience, it will probably not be closed. I HOPE that new users aren't taking away the impression that easy questions aren't welcome here. The links in your question are pretty clear that easy questions are encouraged. Overly broad questions (or subjective/argumentative questions, or unclear questions) are a different story.

As far as the LOGO question. That's just an interesting/amusing/nostalgic part of SO cultural history.

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