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This question at one point had a link to binaries, which you could download and try, which are part of the SO users question about portable apps, the binary link in question was later removed. I suppose he hopes someone might find a non-portable aspect of the binary (it doesn't work for me! Oh it works for me!).

Is that an appropriate thing to do on stack overflow?

The posting of binary links (hey download and run this Exe and tell me if it works!) seems like something Other than a programming question, since it's binaries, not source snippets, or source code examples (pure 100% sources only in a zip say). The OP's question DOES contain a source code snippet, and a question about that, so it's not purely a binary related question, but it is part of the post's purpose, and seems to be the purpose of the question asked in the question title.

Additionally, since the exe in question is a download for a person's freely-available-but-obscure-app, it seems almost like the question is a spamvertisement, but that would be another meta-question, and a considerably more gray one. Maybe I'm just making stuff up here, but it kind of struck me as unusual. I have not downloaded the app to find out if it is a trojan, malware, adware, or any other kind of thing, but I wonder if StackOverflow mods and trusted users have encountered a situation like this before, and what they think should be done.

update: The post has had the binary link removed by a concerned meta user who read my meta question and decided to just go ahead and edit the post, which I agree with, and left a comment for the user.

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Binaries? Where's the Beef! –  user7116 Jul 17 '11 at 3:43
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slugster edited the OP question to remove the link. –  Warren in Toronto Jul 17 '11 at 3:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This one is problematic, because on the surface it seems a good and legitimate question. But even if it is, SO is not the place to get your binaries tested. Even if they are digitally signed. And allegedly virus free. (I wouldn't even download them to check that aspect).

IMVHO this question needs to be flagged, and at the very least the link to the binaries needs to be removed. The OP can ask for guidance on writing a portable app, but this post is a cross between:

  • legitimately asking a question about portable apps
  • getting SO members to do his testing work
  • advertising his product

So my answer to this is: hell no!! This has to be almost as inappropriate as it gets without being straight out spam.

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Bingo. There could be a real programming question there, but they're doing it wrong. Post the code and explain the issue. Don't give us binaries to download. We're programmers. We can compile the code ourselves and run it if we need to. Alternatively, investigate the Code Review Q&A site: codereview.stackexchange.com –  Cody Gray Jul 17 '11 at 4:27
    
@Cody, Code Review does not test binaries either. Code Review is for ... well ... reviewing code. –  Brian Reichle Jul 17 '11 at 12:46
    
Yes, I didn't mean to suggest that one should post binaries there, either. But it's good for getting code reviewed... –  Cody Gray Jul 17 '11 at 12:48
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I would also argue that if the question can't stand without the binaries then its probably too localised –  Brian Reichle Jul 17 '11 at 12:49

A question that is asking to test an executable is similar, IMO, to a question that is asking users to test a site against vulnerabilities; the difference is that testing a site for vulnerabilities, I could be causing problems to a site to which the OP is not associated, or that is managed by the company that is competitor of the company for which the OP works.

In both the cases, the question is not really a question; it's a request.

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In certain circumstances, a compiled program might be useful as supplementary information to a question that meets our on topic guidelines, provided the question could stand on its own.

You might be having a problem with a compiler that is difficult to reproduce. In that instance, it might make sense to provide a link to an executable program that you compiled for people to inspect. If that program was harmful, we would remove it just like we would any other inappropriate link and likely take action against the user.

If you problem is easily reproduced by anyone taking your example code and compiling it, I see no reason to provide a link to a compiled executable. Additionally, if you are unable to provide code due to proprietary restrictions, I don't think providing a compiled version would be any more appropriate.

I don't think we can give a blanket yes or no answer to this, it really would depend on the context of the question. Portability issues could go either way - compilers and virtual machines do have bugs, but usually the program gets the blame.

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In the case of this question, where it's a complete app and not just a demo of a particular question or issue, do you feel it becomes less valid to post a link to a binary that could perhaps be a security risk? (And for that matter, I can write a rootkit in Delphi in 80K or less, would you like to download one, here's a link..... just kidding) –  Warren in Toronto Jul 17 '11 at 3:54
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@Warren - I think anything you download that isn't signed could perhaps be a Trojan (and even stuff that is signed), so this risk isn't exactly specific to this topic. The current revision of the question seems to provide enough information for an answer, so I think the community handled it rather well. But, a question a week from now could be totally different and we might ultimately need to inspect what a compiler produced. –  Tim Post Jul 17 '11 at 3:58
    
Agreed. Questionable binary links being removed by edit, with a comment to the user to tell them why it was removed, seems like a good SO community balance between safety for all, and friendliness towards the question asker. –  Warren in Toronto Jul 17 '11 at 4:02

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