My question on algorithms was closed as "not a real question," though I don't understand why.

I believe I stated the problem clearly even though I am not a native English speaker.

Could someone clarify this for me? And help me identify what a "real question" is?

2 Answers 2


The problem with a question like this is that it's not an actual problem you face. "Now hold on" I hear you say, "This is a problem I'm facing, because I don't know how to solve it". Well, the way I see it, that's not exactly what that line means.

In your question, you posted (ad verbatim) the full problem. You did not attempt to solve it. Or at least you did not tell us about it. The problem is stated and you ask others to solve it.

What we ideally would have liked to see is:

  • This is the problem I'm trying to solve
  • This is how I am trying to solve it
  • I'm stuck here. This doesn't work because... <--- That is the actual problem you face

Looking through your question history, I see why you might be somewhat confused. You have after all successfully asked this type of question before. And you've gotten answers and upvotes. I personally think that has sent the wrong message from the start.

That is not your fault and I don't think you can be blamed for it. I'm surprised to see that the community has not picked this up and informed you that such questions are problematic, if not off-topic for SO.

Anyway, that is my view on the closure and the history of your questions. I hope this explains my reasoning behind the closure. Thank you for bringing it up here in a constructive manner.


From the FAQ:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Your question would probably fit better on https://codegolf.stackexchange.com/

And if you post something on Stackoverflow you should always provide your efforts so far.

  • 1
    Doesn't look like a suitable codegolf question to me. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 11:02
  • why do you think this question is not answerable ? This was a question from f2f interview with MS. From what I can see people posted tons of interview questions on Stackoverflow
    – candyman
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 11:08
  • 2
    Yes there are many interview questions on SO. And many of them get closed. Even the interview-questions tag is depricated as DO NOT USE - Removed as part of "The great Stack Overflow tag/question cleanup of 2012"
    – juergen d
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 11:11
  • 2
    @candyman the site has evolved in order to improve quality and reduce wasted effort. Many questions that were on topic at one point are no longer on topic. Some of those that were asked when they were still okay are kept around for historical significance, not because they are still examples of good questions. I wonder if we need to make it more clear on some of these questions that they're not good examples of questions to ask now? They seem to often be used as justification for new, similar questions (and who can blame them for thinking as much).
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 12:15

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