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Should questions where a problem arose from a typo be closed?

Questions solved by fixing the OP's typo are pretty common. Here's one I recently came across:


It was asking why this markup wasn't showing the image:

<img scr="http://localhost/my-image.jpg">

So of course, scr should be src, it was an overlooked typo.

I answered quickly and encouraged the OP to delete the post when he confirmed the solution. I also flagged it for closing as "too localized" and was declined.

That was just one example, I don't have any other links handy, but another could be:

Why isn't this working?


I can't see how any question solved by fixing a typo or really basic syntax error could be useful to anyone except the OP, but I do consider myself a bit of a "close-troll" and perhaps these posts are actually valuable to inexperienced people. I'm really not sure how anyone could have the exact same problem and be able to find the post to help them. Maybe the post is valuable in some other way?

Are these examples not "too localized" and should be closed so they can be deleted? Where do we draw the line on these kinds of questions?


3 Answers 3


Are questions solved by fixing a typo or basic syntax error “too localized”?

Yes, they are and yes, they should be closed and even deleted once it has been established that the typo was indeed the source of the problem.

Maybe they happen to be of use to someone else over the course of the years, but the chances of that happening are small. Also, they are often poorly worded, so they're not really valuable for search. They clutter the site, obscuring other, legitimate questions.

One exception - at the end of the day, what we should be teaching newbies is not just point out the typo they made, but how they can find it by themselves next time using the appropriate tools: the HTML validator, the JavaScript error console, the CSS validator... I would consider letting the question stand if one of the answers does that extraordinarily well. Sadly though, that happens rarely enough.

In general, these questions are garbage and need to be burninated (after they've been answered of course. I'm not advocating denying the OP the help they're asking for.)

  • Excellent point, but then it's strange to think that a question's fate should be determined by the quality of one of it's answers.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:50
  • @WesleyMurch It's not the quality of the answer, it's the utter lack of research in the question.
    – yannis
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:52
  • @Wesley true, it's not entirely logical, but a good answer like that would make the question content that might have value to future generations.
    – Pekka
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:53
  • @YannisRizos: I think that's Pekka's point, showing the OP how to do this "research" is valuable - but to me it does not salvage the question itself, but perhaps does make the entire "thread" valuable.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:54
  • @WesleyMurch If you happen upon such questions a lot, perhaps you could scribe a canonical Q&A (using our new insta-answer feature) on how to quickly find such typos in HTML/JS. And then link to it every time you find such a question.
    – yannis
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:56
  • @YannisRizos: Great idea, I think I will do that. It's been suggested to me before, but I'm afraid to put the effort into it just to have the community shut it down because they think I'm "rep-whoring" or not asking a "real question". I feel like that happens a lot, maybe the new feature will help.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 15:16

Both examples are too localized.

Any half decent editor would point the typos out via its syntax highlighting. I'll admit I've lost about 15 minutes with a single / double quote thingy once, but I was exceptionally drunk. Also too localized, found my Ballmer peak since then.

  • The example I provided would not be picked up by syntax highlighting, but the second one would - though to an inexperienced person it might not be obvious and they would still need hand holding.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:46
  • @WesleyMurch scr would be picked up, at least by Aptana and Eclipse.
    – yannis
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:47
  • So in which cases do we make exceptions? Should we wait for the confirmation from the OP that the typo was the source of the problem? Per your comment: SO syntax highlighting would not pick up scr, I think a lot of users don't even know about syntax highlighting or the difference between text editor and IDE, so can we blame them?
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:47
  • @WesleyMurch If you're certain there's nothing else wrong with the question, vote to close, then point the typo out in a comment or an answer and forget about it. Now, I'm a bit confused, you can vote to close, why did you flag? Did you use the custom mod flag, saying "this is too localized, close"?
    – yannis
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:53
  • @WesleyMurch Closing a question is not blaming the OP. By all means, answer the question if you want, and let them know the various ways they could have found the typo themselves. Still, vote to close, the question isn't suitable for Stack Overflow.
    – yannis
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:54
  • OK, you guys gave me the confirmation I was secretly looking for.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 14:55
  • I did vote to close, but additionally flagged because I assumed (correctly) that no one else viewing the question would share my opinion that it should be closed.
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 15:19

They are too localized.

However, I find that they almost never actually get the required number of close votes. To remedy this, I often vote to close and then flag as "too localized - [short description of reason]".

Here are some examples:

Last-child doesn't seem to be working - the epitome of "too localized" - missing an }

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/11096236/ - too localized - the only problem is a typo

Issue with the way my site looks in IE8 compatibility view - too localized - read the first comment under the accepted answer

Masonry is loaded but not working - "not a real question" and/or "too localized"

Border not surrounding entire div - Too localized - the only problem is that he forgot he added height:1200px;

  • Yep, people like to jump in quick with the answer and harvest some rep. Don't get me wrong, I think the OP should get their solution, but after that - nuke the post. IMO a comment/close-vote is fine as an answer for these. A lot of those examples have external-link-only code, which makes them ten times worse...
    – user159834
    Jun 23, 2012 at 15:12
  • I do tend to wait to flag until they have their answer. I'd feel bad if nobody posted the incredibly obvious solution because the question was closed too quickly.
    – thirtydot
    Jun 23, 2012 at 15:13