I'm curious as to what the distinction for 'not a real question' on Stack Overflow is. It seems like if it's about 'what are the pros and cons of something' or 'could you suggest a resource', it gets flagged as not a real question.

What the criteria for a 'real question' is and where these types of questions should be asked? Maybe this one will be closed as not being a real question?

  • Basically, the faq says what kind of questions are accepted and what aren't. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Oct 24 '12 at 23:16
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    It's in the explanatory text below the close notification: "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form." – user102937 Oct 24 '12 at 23:17
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    The examples you gave are closer to "not constructive". – bfavaretto Oct 25 '12 at 0:55

what are the pros and cons of something

This would most likely be closed as not constructive, since it's essentially polling the community for a list of things, which doesn't really solve a real problem. It's also difficult to vote up the best information to the top. Having a lot of specific details can sometimes mitigate this, but in general, it's best to focus the question on solutions rather than pros/cons.

could you suggest a resource

This could be closed as either not constructive or not a real question. These sorts of questions tend to attract a lot of spam or one-liner answers, and the answers are generally just everyone's favorite X resource instead of something that actually solves a real problem.

where these types of questions should be asked.

In general, lists, polls, and extremely vague questions just don't have a home on the Stack Exchange network. The goal of these sites is to serve as a resource to future visitors, and the reason why Stack Overflow is so successful is because we can search for problems in Google, click on a Stack Overflow link, and quickly determine if the information solves our problem or not. There's no noise to sort through to find the true answer.

You've asked a lot of questions on Stack Overflow, almost 300! Only 6 are visibly closed, either as not constructive or off topic. You don't seem to have a problem adding details in your posts, and that's a good thing.

Questions that are closed as not a real question tend to be lazily written or lack significant detail that would lead to real solutions. These questions can be fixed, if you as a user are patient with the asker and leave comments asking follow up questions. As the author of a question, you can fix your post by adding in the information asked of you in the comments, which would improve the post significantly.

In general, the best questions tend to take into account that thousands of people may search for the same, or similar problem, and the material should benefit these users as well. Hope this helps!

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    thx jmort; you raise some great points and clarify a lot. i understand the issue of future resources but I often find that I'm looking for a best CURRENT practice which I feel is hard to get at. In other words, there is a pretty strong tension between future users and current resources. Probably, just an inevitable result of things moving forward. Yeah, I do ask a lot of ?'s; I really think it's really a great resource and am very appreciative of that (and would use your response as exemplary). – timpone Oct 25 '12 at 18:26
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    I guess I have more just an issue with the notion that it is not a 'real' question when, in fact, it is very real. If the argument is that it is not constructive, then it seems to get very subjective (which is ok but should be acknowledged as such). Thx for thoughtful response. – timpone Oct 25 '12 at 18:28
  • I'll say this @timpone, that it's not all black and white. The grey areas are when the problem is clearly defined. Even if asking for a best approach or resource, having lots of specifics can help make the case for not closing a question. It's not guaranteed, but asking "what should I use for X" is a lot different than "What can I use for X, in Y situation, when I've already tried Z and also need to account for A and B?". Hope this helps! – jmort253 Oct 25 '12 at 19:46
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    thx @jmort253 - – timpone Feb 5 '14 at 7:22

A guidance on how to detect one of a NARQ kind questions and in particular, how to distinguish these from ones has been recently posted at Programmers Meta.

An excerpt is quoted below for your convenience, bold font is mine.

...two questions:

...both are absolutely terrible...

The biggest issue with their closing is that they were closed as "not constructive" instead of what they are: not real questions. The "not constructive" close reason seems to be used more and more as the "I don't care why it's closed, just close it" reason, which dilutes its meaning and causes ambiguity about why questions don't belong.

The problem with these questions aren't that they are asking for a book, it's that they don't describe anything about the problem the user is having, or rather why the user is asking the question, to afford a useful response. They're like asking, "tell me what book will teach me everything and anything about Java." Where to begin? Questions must narrow the scope down to a specific problem, otherwise, they don't belong here.

Because the two cited questions are incomplete in this respect, they're not real questions. They'd be "not constructive" if they had asked something like:

  • "What's your favorite way to study for Exam 486?"
  • "Exam 487 really sucks, how am I supposed to study for this stupid exam?"
  • "How does Exam 486 make you feel (as a programmer)?"
  • "What are some tips and tricks for overcoming my inability to take Exam 487 seriously?"
  • "My co-worker/buddy/priest/cat says X book is the best for Exam 486. Help me prove him/her/it wrong."

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