Why was this question closed?

Is there a formal XML coding standard for readability?

"As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion."

This question was specifically stated to eliminate any "debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion." I made it clear in the question that the only acceptable answer was either a reference to a specific document or publication, or the answer "no", that such a document didn't exist. I said

A discussion or debate about our own personal tastes and preferences is not appropriate for Stack Overflow.

Since I was only looking for "facts and references" and that's what S.O. also wants, my question was perfectly consistent with S.O. guidelines. Furthermore, my stipulation about the acceptable answers worked - there was no "debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion"

Published standards, guidelines, and conventions for coding and documentation are an integral part of what programmers need to use to do their work properly so why is asking about references to such standards "not helpful"?

  • 13
    You are asking "does there exist a formal standard or guidelines by a standards body (W3C?) or a major company for coding readable XML?" That will result in (if there is such a thing) link-only answers. We don't want those. And if there are multiple (there might be, given that you include companies) the result might be a list. Something we don't really want either. All in all it's not a great fit for SO.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 12:39
  • 1
    @Bart - there's nothing in the FAQ - stackoverflow.com/faq - that says we can't ask links-only questions - sometimes a link is the correct answer. If S.O. doesn't want questions with link-only answers then that should be in the FAQ. It wastes everyone's time if we diligently follow the FAQ only to be told there's a different set of rules somewhere. My question was "practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession". It seems to me that if the questions should follow the FAQ then so should the reasons for closing them.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 12:50
  • 1
    And it is part of the community FAQ: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8231/…
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 13:00
  • 2
    @Bart - not that it's very easy to find things in the community FAQ. Digging through the 144 questions in there takes some time.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 13:22
  • 1
    @Mike I'm merely explaining why the question was closed. And you simply can't state all cases within the FAQ. But if you have a great idea about how to improve things, by all means propose it.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 13:33
  • 1
    @user316117: The FAQ can never and never will be an exhaustive list of what can and cannot be posted. We'd never be done. Yes, sometimes a link is the correct answer to a question, which means that question was not suitable for Stack Overflow. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 13:44
  • @Bart - the "community FAQ" that you linked to appears to be just a series of questions and discussions - you can't expect someone to review all of it and come to some conclusion of what (if any) the consensus was before posting a question. I structured my question to follow the formal FAQ, which I linked-to, precisely. If the formal FAQ is not a good guideline for avoiding getting a question closed it wastes everyone's time - mine, the moderators', anyone who reads it and anyone who bothers to comment or answer it.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:32
  • As stated by @MartijnPieters the FAQ can never be an exhaustive list of what can and cannot be posted. But suggestions on how to improve it are of course always welcome.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:34
  • 1
    It's not clear that it needs to be improved. I think the FAQ is reasonable and that questions asking for references to technical standards and guidelines are also reasonable. The issue, which comes up repeatedly in the Meta discussion, is closing questions for reasons that cannot be reasonably anticipated by posters. As I said above, that wastes many people's time. Stack Overflow is just a programmer's technical resource we use occasionally - it's not a family or village where everyone knows each other and all the "cultural" rules, taboos, and traditions.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:46
  • "questions asking for references to technical standards and guidelines are also reasonable"...they are a reasonable question to have as a programmer. But they are not reasonable in the context of SO. George has given an excellent outline of that in his answer. You will have to try your luck elsewhere. A forum perhaps. Or maybe one of our topic-related chat rooms. Not every question a programmer might have is a question fit for SO.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:50
  • 1
    "A specific programming problem" is only one of the 4 bullet items in the FAQ. As I said, the problem appears to be that the FAQ is at odds with some cultural, "tribal" knowledge of Stack Overflow but it's not reasonable to expect that people who only visit this village, and don't live in it can be expected to know the tribal taboos and customs.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 15:02
  • 1
    @user316117 That you didn't understand exactly why the question doesn't belong here is fine, you asked, and now you know. That said, you can't expect that just because your question met a few of the criteria listed in the FAQ covering the most basic concepts of what SO is for that the question is automatically allowed. That's just a starting place. Any question that doesn't meet any of those criteria doesn't belong, but not all questions that do meet it do belong. You weren't expected to know every little custom of the SO community, you simply had a question closed, and now you know.
    – Servy
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 15:28
  • 2
    This is quickly devolving into pointless bickering. @user316117 If you want to raise a question (or modify) your question to be a discussion about the community policies, feel free to do so. As it stands, everything in the comments is just an argument; but could be moved to answers if the question was modified. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


Think of the 'How to ask' page as a Whitelist. Anything outside of that has a really good chance of getting closed. Of course, you're dealing with humans, so there's a degree of latitude.

Your question was correctly closed (note that closing can be temporary) for the following reasons (I'm taking this directly out of the "How to ask" page):

  • It's not about a practical programming problem you face. Once you talk about 'standards' and 'best practices', you're getting away from the compiler. Stack Overflow questions work best when a compiler is involved. Unlike humans, a compiler is objectively correct, every single time.

  • Let's say the answer is "No." What good does that do the internet at large? Nothing, really. For instance,

    #1 "Can you walk on water?"
    #2 "No."
    #1 "Oh."
    (Awkward silence)

    Yes and no questions don't do well here because they don't encourage people to elaborate (especially on obvious things like walking on water) We want long answers, not short answers.

  • At best, it's going to devolve into a list. A list that will quickly grow out of date and potentially have links die.

How could you improve this? I don't think you can. I'd like for a Programmers moderator to chime in, simply because there might be a way to turn the question into an acceptable question for their network, but I highly doubt it.

Take this as a learning experience: If you've got a programming problem, we're here for you. If you want to talk about 'standards' and 'best practices', then this isn't the place for it.

  • 4
    I too would be interested to hear from a Programmers moderator about the acceptabilty of "standards and best practices" Q's on that site.
    – hardmath
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:10
  • 1
    If the answer is "no" it saves people from exhaustive Google searches, which I had just spent much time doing on the topic before posting my question. So "no", to me, would have had value. And if you want long answers so much that a short answer results in questions being closed, then that should be in the FAQ. I don't see why a long answer is preferable to a short answer if the short answer is the right answer.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:50
  • "If you've got a programming problem, we're here for you. If you want to talk about 'standards' and 'best practices', then this isn't the place for it." I linked to my original question so you can see that I made it clear that I didn't want to "talk about" standards - I simply wanted to know if there was one that I was overlooking. And standards are part of programming if we're going to be professional about it.
    – user316117
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 14:55
  • And the answers you invite with that question are "no", or "yes". Which makes it a question unfit for SO. And in the case of "yes", you might end up with a list of links. Once again, not fit for SO. Is it about programming? Sure, in a sideways relationship. But it's not of the practical type related to a problem you face. All in all it's a fair question to have, but it does not fit the site.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 15:03
  • 1
    @hardmath I am not a moderator but "major company" in the question would get an immediate close vote from me at Programmers - this opens a door for all imaginary kinds of NC lists / polls / extended discussion (what makes company "major"?). Something like "why didn't W3C define formal standard or guidelines for coding readable XML" could possibly fly on Programmers (I for one wouldn't VtC / would vote Leave Open stuff like that)
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 15:24
  • @user316117 I'm not here to get into an argument with you about what the policies for questions are. I'm just telling you what the community expects out of a question. I realize you want your question to stay open, but that's just not going to happen given the current community sentiment towards those sorts of questions. I'm just trying to explain why that is the case. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:04
  • SO is no longer a place to ask about "best practices" or "standards"? When did that change?
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:17
  • 3
    @Rachel It's been this way for years. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:21
  • @GeorgeStocker I see. I have often asked questions about the most efficient way to do things or the "industry standard" for something specific, however I typically am very specific about the bit of code or a rule I am asking about, and do not ask for broad standards about a technology in general. I misunderstood your final sentence to mean that SO was no longer the place to ask for the "best practice" for a specific code problem.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 16:31

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