I very often find SQL beginners asking simple questions about standard SQL constructs. They often don't realize that it's a JOIN operation they are after, but it should be pretty obvious for anyone who have read at least a tutorial on the subject (Example 1: "i was having hart time finding it in exact format ... im new to sql and for example things like "users.id = emails.user_id" are still confusing for me") (Example 2).

The questions are often very precisely related to the askers' own schemas and they can't, or won't try to, understand general explanations of joins, but instead want exact answers which match their own schema. I have found that this makes it hard to find exact duplicates because other people may have other names in their schema and thus the other question may look very different (Example 3: Very standard problem, in my opinion, but how do I find duplicates?).

I'm leaning towards "Too localized" because questions where the asker want the answer to match their exact schema are often very localized. At the same time, the schema is often crucial for understanding the question at all so it must still be included in SQL questions. Maybe I'm just confused about the "Too localized" category?

So a short summary of my rather broad question:

  • Should we close these types of questions? With what motivation?
  • Can they be closed even if an exact duplicate is hard to find?
  • Maybe I'm talking about two different types of problems?
  • Do the experienced users have any hints on how to find duplicates?
  • Close cargo-cultist questions as too localized.
    – Rosinante
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 14:51
  • "Close cargo-cultist questions as too localized." - Col. Shrapnel, is that you in there? Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 14:56
  • 1
    What does Rosinante's comment even mean? Can someone clarify? Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 14:57
  • 3
    It's a term used to complain about other people's bad code. See Cargo cult programming Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 14:58
  • Thank you, jadarnel27! Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 15:00
  • 2
    What bugs me is all the SQL newbies who post here before they've even learned how to write a JOIN. It seems like every other question is someone with nested loops in their script that can be turned into a trivial inner join. Is SO really supposed to be a replacement for learning the basics of SQL?
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 2:00

2 Answers 2


All tags suffer from this, not just SQL. See The Wikipedia of Long Tail Programming Questions.

The blog post recommends that you

  1. Don't answer
  2. Vote to close as dup if its a dup
  3. Edit to make the question more general
  4. Create a canonical answer

Currently there is an effort to create a sql-faq tag that is supposed to help this has been attempted before on c++ see Setting up a FAQ for the C++ tag

However the reality is, its easy and rewarding to answer a question while casting a close-dupe vote is both hard and un-rewarding. The only way to overcome that tension would be to marshal the most active users in a tag and get them to stop answering these near dupe questions. If you don't you'll get a handful of tag-faq questions, a smattering of close votes and a ton of marginal questions with accepted answers.

  • A great, useful answer. Thanks for the reference to c++-faq, the read there was rewarding. Of course answering the question is the best option, and your answer here explains why. I also especially liked the hint that "It is OK to edit a question to make it more general". Thank you! Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 17:48
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    it is, as you point out, a very difficult problem to solve -- because we (obviously) want people to be incentivized to answer questions quickly, and there is a clear benefit to questions getting answered. But not duplicate questions. It's difficult to come up with a system that prevents the latter without harming the former. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 18:09
  • I am fairly new to SO, so wouldn't making an answer into a wiki post be a viable option? (I would say it would be #3). I am not sure how the community wiki is found/referenced.
    – Ryan B
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 18:14
  • @RyanB CW always confused me but the The Future of Community Wiki has a nice line: Community wiki is for that rare gem of a post that needs true community collaboration This might be appropriate for a [tag-faq] answer but it still leaves us with the problem Jeff succintly described above. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 19:56
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter And that line, almost makes me think the opposite of a wiki is. In college I wiki a term to maybe get a 100 level answer or below knowledge of a topic. To write a paper- I'd need to actually open my book/reseach. So for answers that are you need to use JOIN, pointing them to a wiki article on the basics of JOIN would be more logical.
    – Ryan B
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 20:20

How about answering the question?

We have hundreds of Regex questions of this ilk, all of which are too localized in this way, but they somehow get answers anyway. If you close these, you're gonna have to close all of the "What is a good regex for this" questions also, including the one I asked about a month ago.

  • well yes, but see my comment on the other answer here Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 18:10

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