I asked a question on SO: How to implement an agent?. I got unhelpful comments/answers, I've learned nothing, and I don't have the faintest clue how to improve my question. Some people are more interested in telling others they are wrong than in leaving helpful hints about how they could reformulate a question properly. That is sad and definitely doesn't help improve the quality of content on Stack Overflow.

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    The first step is to not blank out your question when it gets closed.
    – user149432
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:20
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    Is this not helpful feedback?: In other words you'll have to be a lot more specific as the answer depends on what the agent is supposed to do, what environment it works in, who wrote it, what strategy they chose for solving the problem you haven't specified, and so on ad nauseum - dmckee Jan 6 at 23:47
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:24
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    But - even though it may be vague, it's really not necessary to antagonize the author by deleting his question in response to his asking on Meta how he can improve it, guys. Especially seeing as it's got answers. Voting to undelete.
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:26
  • @Pekka'sReputationBordello It depends. I was looking into making some first steps into programming some AI without necessarily having an objective in mind. Perhaps the question would have better been suited to the Programmer's Q&A. The question can remain deleted.
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:34
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    Are you asking for guidelines on how to ask better questions? Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:34
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    Undeleted because this question is pretty hard to answer without your SO question visible. Can re-delete upon request once this is resolved.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:35
  • ...did you ask a question? Not sure what to tell you. Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:42
  • @BilltheLizard Yes. I've read Skeet's article but it's not helping. I sometimes have trouble putting myself in the shoes of the reader. Language isn't a problem but the way I express things sometimes seems to place focus away from the real problem or confuse people. I must be missing a microchip somewhere :p .
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:45
  • @Shog9 Ok. You could actually leave it open since the answers aren't that bad. It's just kind of frustrating to have that someone could drop on it and hastily decide I'm some kind of jerk. Being judged on the form rather than substance has been the bane of my existence. I can live with that though.
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:49
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    Too bad, it probably would have been relevant here. Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 23:59
  • @JaredFarrish Aww, that's a shame. AI has great potential, especially on the web. I'm sure there's a lot more people interested out there after Thrun's and Norvig's free course. Thrun will be giving a second course on how to program a driverless car at udacity.com soon.
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 0:07
  • The impression I recall having at the time was that you hadn't even bothered to try the wikipedia, looking again I suspect that you just think (or thought) that "agent" denoted something rather more special than it does. Despite the hype "agent" just means a program that makes active use of some repository of data (like the web) rather than passively accepting only the input given to it. You write them like any other program. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 17:45
  • "The impression I recall having at the time was that you hadn't even bothered to try the wikipedia" That is of course a large assumption. I often visit Wikipedia.
    – James P.
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


In general, SO is not a good place to look for advice on how to start something; specific problems fare much better. The FAQ says:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

There are indeed entire books written about the basics of artifical agents. I don't think the problem is with your writing so much as the actual question. I see you've tried to update it with hypothetical details, but it's still incredibly broad. The best advice for you is probably to read some books on the subject and/or take a course, which wouldn't constitute much of an answer either; self-contained and detailed/complete answers are best for SO. It just doesn't fit.

  • Too late. I'm in the midst of destroying any credibility I had here and will probably stop using the site. Kudos for the reply though. Do note that Stack Overflow has morphed over time so rules have progressively changed.
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 3:22
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    @James Erm. I think you may be overreacting. The edit and delete functions are quite useful for correcting mistakes and nobody cares about a few honest ones. Certainly don't continue to post things like off-topic "experiments", though.
    – user154510
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 3:25
  • No, I'm not overreacting. I'm unhappy and that's the sort of thing that shouldn't be bottled up. If I go online it's to snap away from daily life and it's definitely not to come accross the same sort of people that snap at me without giving any justification. Profile deletion on it's way.
    – James P.
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 3:31
  • Of course the site has changed, it's grown exponentially. If you run a small business that becomes massive, do you not need to add new rules and such as you grow? The changes have been a good thing. It's too bad that we can't let terrible, vague, and poorly thought out questions stick around, but if that is your criteria for wanting to stay then you may not have a place here anyways.
    – JNK
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 13:13
  • @MatthewRead just to add something the chances of a question getting back on track are virtually nil so edit is useless and a new question needs to be posted or the idea simply abandoned.
    – James P.
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 9:54
  • @JNK is the question linked above terrible, vague, and poorly thought out? If it is a tad according to your view then what's stopping someone simply pointing out what's wrong? Why does the process have to be painful and why is it automatically assumed that someone hasn't checked out the help center when they have?
    – James P.
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 9:56

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