A meta question. After spending 6 hours trying install XYZ I found that I need to put one line in one file and this is information is missing from the docs of the package/library/language. One of the great strengths of SO is that these things often can be found very quickly browsing through the questions. The FAQ and responses at meta-SO however are tending in the direction that too specific questions are not of great value.

Background: I have been starting moving into developing more seriously again, and find SO of great value in many regards. I'm just wondering how SO will develop in the, say ecosystem of programming knowledge. In a way I'm confused, because too specific questions are frowned up, at the same time too general questions are often not wanted also.

The general question is a "canonical" one, meaning that it has been asked many, many times, in one form or another. A single canonical question (i.e. a mini tutorial) substitutes for the many specific questions.

However the problem is that:

What annoyed me is that the "canonical" answer just has a bunch of links to [XYZ].

See: Are specific questions "duplicates" of general ones?

| improve this question | | | | |
  • Links to the questions you're talking about? – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 9:50
  • I would say at least 30% of the nearly 4 million questions are of the type: I have this compile/linking error, how do I fix it. Perhaps 20% are about the deeper meaning of a language/architecture. And 50% are somewhere in between. In this case I'm talking about installing django with apache. I have solved my problem and thought this info should belong into a wiki. Better than blog posts with specific into, how to get something running. – RParadox Oct 30 '12 at 9:53

I think I would go out on a limb and say that you generally can not go too far with specificity; more is better. Generally...

But yes; you can go so far with specificity that the question becomes useless to anyone else. The trick is to provide enough detail that people can answer the question, and no more. Of course, you probably will never hit that exactly, because if you knew exactly what info was needed to answer the question, well... you could probably answer the question.

A couple things that tweak my "too localized" (too specific) sensor are; far too much code; an unrelated solution being found shortly thereafter by the OP; asking about some technology that essentially no-one else uses; having so many cross-dependencies in the problem code that can not be easily un-entwined.

| improve this answer | | | | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .