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I want to be able to ask more general questions. Not worthy of a discussion, but not an exact coding problem. For example:

How does a compiler work?

There is a definite answer, but it's not an exact issue. Where can i put this?

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Are you sure there's a definite answer? It's an honest question; I don't know the topic, but I feel like the general "it depends on the implementations and inputs" answer applies. –  Pops Jul 12 '11 at 19:46
You could be right actually thinking about it. I'll try and think up a question that better expresses what I mean. EDIT - done. –  Infinite Jul 12 '11 at 19:48
That sort of question IMO would be fine on Stack Overflow, provided that it was made more interesting. How to make it more interesting, I don't know. Asking simply, "How does a compiler work?" would probably be a candidate for closure. Questions like that could work well. –  Jeff Mercado Jul 12 '11 at 19:54
The question in its current form doesn't fit on any Q&A site IMO. It's like "how do I build a house?" - you could write a library in response. A better question would be "where can I learn more about how a compiler works?" –  Pëkka Jul 12 '11 at 19:55
@Jeff Not much difference between, "How does a compiler work?" and "How do emulators work?". Are you saying that these statements, "When I see NES / SNES or C64 emulators, it astounds me. Do you have to emulate the processor of those machines by interpreting its particular assembly instructions? What else goes into it? How are they typically designed? Can you give any advice for someone interested in writing an emulator (particularly a game system)?" made it worthy. –  dbasnett Jul 12 '11 at 20:10
@dbasnett: Are you referring to an actual, on-topic question that has been posted on the SE network? If so, could you provide a link? –  Robert Harvey Jul 12 '11 at 20:11
It is the one linked by Jeff. –  dbasnett Jul 12 '11 at 20:15
I just created an Area51 proposal for RFI: Request for Information where this sort of question would be on-topic. –  M. Tibbits Aug 17 '11 at 22:40

1 Answer 1

Questions on Stack Exchange need to be about specific, practical problems you actually face. If you're asking about how a compiler works, we need to know why. Are you:

  • writing a compiler?
  • trying to debug a compiler error?
  • unable to read the article on compilers on Wikipedia?
  • trying to write an essay about it for class?

And so on. The specific question about the real-world application of the knowledge is what Stack Exchange is about: not the general.

Now, of course, not every problem with compilers is on-topic in one place or another:

  • If it's a problem you're having with code or implementation (e.g., a compiler error), it's on-topic on Stack Overflow.
  • If it's a more conceptual, bigger-picture (but still applied) question (e.g., how do I determine what compiler will work best for X-type projects), it's on-topic on Programmers.SE.
  • If you just want to know the basics of how a compiler works, try Wikipedia or HowStuffWorks.
  • If you want to know why X famous guy in compiler design did Y with Z compiler, Quora eats that stuff up.
  • If you're trying to get a list of recommendations of compilers, lists of books about compilers, list of <insert item here> about compilers, I don't have a great suggestion for you. Questions asking for lists of recommendations don't work well here, and I can't think of a place that happily provides lists on demand. Maybe ChaCha?
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For software recommendations, there's now software recommendation stack exchange: softwarerecs.stackexchange.com. –  neuronet Feb 8 at 18:08

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