17

I realize that this question is not a stellar question. But it's certainly programming related. For example in the Netherlands, you have to round cash sales to the nearest 5 cents, because we do not use the smaller 1-cent coins. So a cashier system has to round to 0.05 euros.

How is this question off topic?

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  • 7
    Can I vote to reopen and then close it as lazy? Mar 24, 2013 at 15:37
  • 6
    Not off-topic I'd say, but certainly a poor question. Reopening it in this case would only lead to closure again.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 15:38
  • 4
    Well that's the point. People are closing it because they don't like the question, even though that's not a valid close reason. Several people did enjoy answering it.
    – Andomar
    Mar 24, 2013 at 15:40
  • 5
    We've been over this many times. Having answers does not mean a question is useful. Mar 24, 2013 at 15:42
  • 4
    @Bart, rounding is a pretty critical function in programming, one of my top answers deals with it in the VBA context. Mar 24, 2013 at 15:52
  • 7
    It's a simple question that only requires a simple answer. Do we only want complicated questions? Why would we want to see all the examples of failure he has trying to figure this out? Mar 24, 2013 at 15:56
  • 3
    So why then be critical of questions at all? Just dump out what you want and have people answer it because they like to do so. Because the question is apparently a simple one there is no longer any quality to uphold? The latest comment of the OP perfectly demonstrates why I have a problem with questions like these: "Now something changed- now I need to rounding like 4.01 to 4.1 but 4.1 to 4.1, have you any ideas?" ... being an answer factory for questions without prior research ultimately does not lead to an improved site.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 15:59
  • 6
    Well, the user now plans on having his account deleted. I guess SO has beat one more newbie into the ground. Congrats. Mar 24, 2013 at 16:10
  • 11
    That user has asked 4 questions (that are visible). All of them are poor quality. While I would love for the guy to stick around and learn something, if he's just going to contribute poor quality questions, then I will neither lament nor actively discourage his plan to bow out. Is that harsh? Maybe. But I'm sorry, with the amount of help vampires, I'm not going to shed a tear over one person's experience not being pleasant. It's not pleasant for any of us. Mar 24, 2013 at 16:16
  • 7
    Asking a simple question is not being a help vampire. Having poor english skills is not a reason to crucify a user. We all start someplace. Mar 24, 2013 at 16:26
  • 6
    We encourage people not to start here. Mar 24, 2013 at 16:28
  • 4
    Agreed @LanceRoberts But one of his other questions in essence is nothing more than "Need algorithm,and write code in c#." ... That's not good. Even disregarding English skills. We all start somewhere, and formulating a good question is hard. But a bit of effort goes a long way.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 16:29
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    @LanceRoberts - The OP refused to show any research or effort of his own. SO is not a code-writing service. You know this.
    – user164207
    Mar 24, 2013 at 16:59
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    @JackManey, see my answer below - you may feel he needs to work harder to "earn" your time, and I can respect that, but the implication that his not showing his work to date makes you more of a "code monkey" is unfair - I find it hard to believe additional info on what he'd tried would have made it easier to answer him.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:24
  • 5
    @JackManey, you voted to close it. If your point is that you did so after it was answered, I guess that's true, but I don't think anyone here would advocate closing questions post-response, but not before?
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:35

6 Answers 6

20

It's clearly on-topic. Anyone arguing otherwise needs to stop wasting their time on that and share what they're smoking with the rest of the class.

The original version was arguably unclear enough to justify being closed as "not a real question". However, after several edits that's no longer true either.

In the future, when you answer a poorly-written question try to devote a minute or two to cleaning up the question itself. It will help to avoid it being closed (and potentially deleted, thus wasting your answer), as well as reduce the likelihood of prolonged discussions such as this one.

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    +1 for the share what they're smoking with the rest of the class Mar 24, 2013 at 20:12
  • 7
    I still don't know why this question is upvoted at all. There's clearly no original research effort.
    – casperOne
    Mar 24, 2013 at 20:22
  • 1
    @casperOne It's easier to search a problem than it is to figure out how to fix a problem and search for the fix. I'm fairly sure Canada recently dropped their penny as well (last month?), so its likely that Canadian developers are looking for a quick solution to this problem and found that question helpful. Votes can be used to represent usefulness and clarity in addition to research effort, so just because there is no prior research effort does not make it a bad question.
    – Rachel
    Mar 25, 2013 at 14:55
  • @casperOne Rachel is correct, this issue also recently came up in the US and is under consideration. If it's passed you could have literary millions of US developers looking for exactly the answer that was garnered by this question.
    – Ryan
    Mar 25, 2013 at 15:26
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    @Rachel - "It's easier to search a problem than it is to figure out how to fix a problem and search for the fix." Of course it is. However, that doesn't change the fact that the OP of the linked question should have put forth some effort before asking.
    – user164207
    Mar 25, 2013 at 16:02
  • @JackManey Perhaps, but the way I see it is if the Question + Self-Answer would be acceptable, then I see no reason why a Question + Other-User-Answer would not be. In my opinion, the question is useful and clear, and is fine for SO :)
    – Rachel
    Mar 25, 2013 at 16:07
  • @casperOne: probably worth noting that if everyone who had voted to close this had down-voted it instead it would currently have a negative score...
    – Shog9
    Mar 25, 2013 at 18:07
  • It's situations like this where I think the upvote/downvote buttons should have tool tips of "I like this question"/"I don't like this question" respectively; that seems to be all they're good for.
    – casperOne
    Mar 25, 2013 at 18:30
7

We see a lot of less than stellar questions pass through Stack Overflow on a daily basis, and these are arguably taxing on some of the people that participate heavily by answering questions. This isn't new, we've been discussing this for years and we've subsequently put a lot more in place to keep our quality bar high. There was a time when we didn't have:

  • Coordinated review queues
  • Automatic quality bans
  • The 'trusted user' privilege levels
  • More granular incentives for participating in the site moderation process

That stuff is working, broadly, but I think some of our more battle scarred veterans are losing sight of what we set out to accomplish from the very beginning.

I think some may be moving into dangerous territory by closing questions more to punish the author for being lazy rather than as a reaction to the merits of a single question. To me, this is a lot more troubling than someone on the Internet not doing their research prior to asking; it's a sign that we may be losing some of our highly valued objectivity, the thing we cling to in order to keep the quality bar high and the experience of using our resource as consistent as possible.

When none of the close reasons really fit, it's not a signal that you should endeavor to find the one that best fits because you want the question closed, it's an indication that while possibly not the best quality - the question is answerable and should remain open unless it's a clear duplicate of another.

Remember, you have the option not to answer if for whatever reason you don't feel that the question is worth answering - there are plenty of much more interesting questions to work on.

6

It's not obvious to me why this needs to be closed.

Is it an awesome question? No, it's not. But what actually makes it closable?

It's only clearly-defined crime is being easy.

Easy isn't off-topic. Easy isn't argumentative. You want to downvote this for being remedial? I wouldn't, because discouraging people who are neophytes for not being experts doesn't appeal to me, but I get that. It's certainly not deserving of up-votes.

But close it?? Being easy isn't a legitimate reason. "Not putting in enough effort" is starting to be a better argument, but in this case, it's just not reasonable as a closing justification because:

  • the answers don't take much effort, so there's not much work imbalance, and
  • adding more "what I tried" here wouldn't help us any - we can all figure out what the problem is (SQL has built-in functions to round to decimal places, but not to other intervals)

So the additional effort we want here wouldn't make the question more answerable; it makes us feel better about the OP's willingness to adjust to our conventions. And that's not how we should be closing questions. All the talk about the OP's general quality of post should be similarly irrelevant. It should be about the post, not the poster.

I do agree that putting in more effort, perhaps by indicating what you've done, etc.is actually a good thing to teach. So even though it wouldn't help us answer, I'd agree that asking the OP to add what they tried as a nice comment is good education.

But the lack of it doesn't make it unanswerable, or unclear, or un-anything. It just leaves it as a pretty remedial question. Which is still on-topic, unless it's a dupe (as is often the case.)

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    So now we have to judge closure based on how much effort an answer would take? I.e. if the answer is simple enough to give, no effort is required? That will be a rather difficult and contentious thing to judge I'd say. A little effort on behalf of the OP would have gone such a long way.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:25
  • 4
    @Bart, that's cool, down vote. My point here is that "not enough effort", when there's more than enough to answer him in under 2 minutes makes it hard for me to see why we need to close it. The "effort" you want shows respect, but doesn't help us answer. It's just asking him to prove he's deserving of our time.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:29
  • 4
    With the subsequent comment "Now something changed- now I need to rounding like 4.01 to 4.1 but 4.1 to 4.1, have you any ideas?" even though he was given the answer, I'd beg to differ. Even the smallest evidence of even grasping the theory behind the question he asked would have made it a better question. This is a user who did not understand his problem, did not show any evidence of researching it and did not understand the answers are a result. This is not about a user deserving my time. Heck, I've spent time on users who didn't deserve it. This is ultimately about quality.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Bart, I'm not sure how his subsequent demonstration of his lack of expertise makes the question more closable. He's just demonstrating another knowledge gap: he doesn't know how to round up in SQL.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:40
  • 3
    I (think) I kinda see where you are going with this. It's a question that should be downvoted to oblivion (the lack of prior effort is astounding), but not closed (as topically it belongs on SO). If that's what you are saying, I tend to agree (in theory), that's the whole point of having two distinct review systems in the first place. In practice, however, people's tendency to not downvote crap (and even upvote them) spoils the fun for everyone.
    – yannis
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:42
  • 4
    @Jaydles Though in this particular case it is minor, the question he appeared to ask was not the question he had difficulty with, nor the question that needed answering. The OP did not know his basic rounding. SQL or not ultimately didn't matter and was not at the heart of the question. While I can step over this particular question, it's getting rather tricky when you're ultimately saying "As long as we can answer it, it's fine. No effort required." I don't see that have a net positive effect on the site.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:53
  • 2
    @Bart, oh dear, I think we're a little closer on this than it sounded. I do not think answerability makes any question ok. But if "lack of effort" is the only real offense in a question, the crime, to my view, is putting in much less than you're expecting back out. I think the main reason we should require effort is that the asker should be doing everything they can to reduce the answerer's workload. And in this particular case, answering was easy, and more info wouldn't have likely helped.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:01
  • And yet we ultimately didn't answer the question the OP really had. Now granted, outsiders who need to figure out how to round in SQL might find the answers of value. Do I think we have really helped and educated the OP? I hope so...
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:02
  • 1
    @Bart, it looked to me like he had two questions ("how can I round UP to the nearest 5/100th" & "how can I round UP to the nearest 1/100th"), and incorrectly posted the second one as an update or comment (now cleaned up), which was the wrong action on his part for sure. The responders did help him with the first one - he'd said as much once he got it to work.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:08
  • 3
    @Jaydles Maybe I misread that. The magical last comment indicating that it all of a sudden worked did not provide me with much more confidence. But let's hope he'll do fine from now on. I tried to provide him with some comments pushing him into a positive direction. Let's see. Thanks for the discussion though. Much appreciated, even if we have somewhat different points of view.
    – Bart
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:11
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    @Bart, +1, at the risk of sounding sentimental, comments like that last one are what makes me so proud to be part of this community.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 18:18
2

It shouldn't have been closed, and is now on the way to being reopened. I've edited the question for style and grammar.

1

Wow, that's a lots of discussion :) My theory of what happened is that it's easy for people to misunderstand questions that are not in their area of expertise. That means they can evaluate a question as "trivial" when it is not.

For example, if you were to ask how to retrieve a column from a table, most SQL regulars would close your question as "not real". For an SQL outsider, it may seem that rounding to the nearest 0.05 falls in the same category. But it doesn't: rounding in SQL is DBMS dependent, and not all that easy to get right or Google.

In addition, one close vote seems to attract more close votes. I suspect those extra close votes come from the close vote review tool. Unfortunately, the average 10k user is not a SQL expert, and is more susceptible to wrongly evaluating a short question.

Being a new user also doesn't help, since their first question is generally badly formatted, adding to the low-quality impression.

A possible solution would be to sort tags of your expertise on top in the moderator tools.

3
  • FWIW, only 2 of the (now 10) close votes originated from /review.
    – Shog9
    Mar 25, 2013 at 14:56
  • @Shog9: If those 2 are the 4th and the 5th, that would be kind of compatible with my theory. I suppose 6-10 came from the meta discussion. (Btw, is that something you can query with SE Data? Or do you have a web flow analyzer?)
    – Andomar
    Mar 25, 2013 at 15:02
  • Yes, those would be the last two on the first closure. All reviews are kept; for mods, they're linked to directly from the post.
    – Shog9
    Mar 25, 2013 at 15:04
0

You know, try as I might, I can't see this being a good question.

I won't disagree that the subject matter is common - programmers need to know how to round to certain points in any language that's required - but what I struggle with is the effort in the question. It's below sub-par - the question basically says, "Here's my problem, please give me teh codez."

I feel pretty bad that he wants to leave Stackoverflow over this incident, but I would rather encourage him to write better, more concise questions - questions that will benefit not just himself, but everyone that comes across this particular problem.

EDIT: Compare this question to the question on trial. What is the fundamental difference between these two questions that allows one to remain open and the other to remain closed?

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    I feel pretty bad that he wants to leave Stackoverflow over this incident Why? I understand why we want to encourage newbies on the sites as a general principle, but it's hard to feel a big sense of loss over someone who picks their ball up and goes home in a big sulk when people try to get them to improve their questions in order to improve the answers they get.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:03
  • 3
    @RobM, I agree that being reactionary isn't a positive, but to be fair, he didn't need to improve this question to make it possible to give him good answers. I'm not saying he couldn't have done better, but the notion that improvements were needed to facilitate answering doesn't seem right - it was pretty clear how to help him even from the initial post.
    – Jaydles
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:22
  • 1
    @Jaydles Absolutely, but perhaps he could have made that point himself instead of going off in a sulk (and also, I believe there were comments where he essentially re-defined the question and gave the same lack of detail). I admit it, I've got a very low tolerance for people who make it hard work to help them, and again with people who pull the whole "dramatically quitting the internets" thing.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:32
  • 2
    @Jaydles: Admittedly, the only improvement that he'd have needed to make would be to show prior effort. Historically, Stackoverflow hasn't tolerated questions that read very similarly to it without prior effort; why is this case different or special?
    – Makoto
    Mar 24, 2013 at 17:45
  • It has now been edited 5 times by 4 editors besides the original author. Regardless of how much effort was originally put into it, I'd have to say the current level of effort embodied in the question is sufficient. As for the other example you linked to... I'm not sure what he's even asking for, and it doesn't seem like anyone else who has answered or commented does either. That's a much larger problem for the continued existence of a question than "lack of effort".
    – Shog9
    Mar 24, 2013 at 19:22
  • Read it a third time and finally got it, so I edited and re-opened.
    – Shog9
    Mar 25, 2013 at 3:35

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