A question that I asked on Stack Overflow was closed as "not a real question". The box explaining this states that "the question ... cannot be reasonably answered in its current form". But the question was answered in that form; in fact, it was answered twice over. I consider Kitsune's answer a satisfactory one, and therefore I accepted it (and I thought both answers were reasonable, so I upvoted them both).

The FAQ says that "if your motivation is 'I would like others to explain ______ to me', then you are probably OK". Well, I did, and people did, but nevertheless the question has been labelled "not a real question". I think it evidently is "a real question", and one that can be answered, and I am curious as to why it was labelled thus.

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    I'd guess it was closed because its Windowscentricity (if that's a word) just happened to rub people the wrong way. – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 3:25
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    @TheCommunity Eh, no. – George Stocker Mar 26 '13 at 12:39
  • @GeorgeStocker no, I wouldn't guess that? That's my guess and I'm sticking to it. ;) What's your guess? – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 13:45
  • @TheCommunity It's not a good fit for Stack Overflow. We have plenty of windows specific questions that do just fine on Stack Overflow. It has nothing to do with programming (it's about file names). it's a curiosity question with no practical programming problem at heart. – George Stocker Mar 26 '13 at 14:07
  • @GeorgeStocker, yeah, somehow I missed that it wasn't directly tied to programming until I read kiamlaluno's answer. I think you might have misunderstood my comment, though... it's not the fact that it's a Windows-specific question that I think might annoy people, it's the implicit subtext that the Windows way of doing things is the only way... sort of like saying to a Muslim "why is the football game on Sunday, that's annoying, that's when people go to church." – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 14:35

I have to say your question is well formed, at least it's constructive because you gave examples and context. I wouldn't downvote it, but I personally consider it too chatty. To refer to the FAQ, I would say that it falls exactly in this category:

there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”


"Not a real question" is a bit of a contradiction, as is often "It is difficult to tell what is being asked here," since sometimes it is all too clear what is being asked. Think of NaRQ as a catchall for all of the close reasons that don't fit neatly into the other categories, questions which are:

  • Ambiguous,
  • Vague,
  • Overly Broad, or
  • Rhetorical

Because it is a catchall, it is sometimes used when a question has the "smell" of needing to be closed, but it's unclear why.

In your particular case, I'd say that the real reason the question was closed is that it isn't really a good fit for Stack Overflow. SO is a clearing house for solving programming problems, and yours is a curiosity question more than anything else.

I daresay that the accepted answer is mostly speculation, and some of it is wrong; Windows file systems work perfectly fine with files having no extension; there isn't any built-in limitation as such. Questions like this do, in fact, tend to invite speculation, making them a fit for the "Not Constructive" close reason.

In short, you have to look a little deeper than the four words, "Not a Real Question."

  • The accepted answer looks dead-on correct to me. I haven't used Windows in a while, but last time I did, it used file extensions to determine what program opens a file when you double-click, what icon to display next to it in the file manager, etc. Has this changed recently? Other than that I daresay it's correct, is there some other part you disagree with, or do you just assume it's speculation since it lacks citation? – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 3:22
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    Oh, no, Windows does do all that. But the answer implies that files won't work without extensions, which is not true at all; Windows does not force all files to have an extension, and an extension is not required to open files. What you are describing is called "File Association," and while it is very convenient, it is also an entirely optional activity. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 3:27
  • What would you say would be a better way to word that? Maybe a legacy of "assuming" files have an extension? Aside from that bit, I'm still curious what parts you think are speculation. – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 3:33
  • He's making a comparison to Windows using all the wrong assumptions, so his argument essentially falls apart. You can strike the last two paragraphs, and the answer will actually improve. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 3:35
  • I'm not sure what you mean, can you expand on that? What was he speculating about? Everything he says about how files are generally named, loaded, etc. in *nix systems seems accurate. Are you saying that because he said Windows "forces" file extensions (an exaggeration, I agree) his whole answer automatically becomes speculation and falls apart? (Ed: last paragraph looks good to me too) – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 3:40
  • Is there any way I'm going to be able to avoid getting into a pedantic argument here? Suffice it to say that the answerer was responding to the second paragraph of the OP's question, which was itself based on a false premise. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 3:42
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    I didn't want to start an argument, I was going to edit the answer to fix whatever the problem was. I guess if you just want to call it speculation without backing it up, that's fine too. – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 3:43
  • @TheCommunity: Fixed that for you. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 4:00
  • Looks good, thanks. I went ahead and re-added most of the last paragraph; it's certainly true in Gnome and KDE. You can remove the file extension of, for example, a .png file, the image thumbnail will display in the file manager, and double-clicking will open it in the associated program for that MIME type. File extension is only used if it's present, otherwise, the "magic bytes" are used. – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 4:11
  • @TheCommunity: Hm, I think you missed the point. It's not a problem in Windows either. :) I'm not a Windows apologist; the information is just wrong, that's all. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 14:59
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    @RobertHarvey: It depends on what you mean by "it". Will the Windows shell be able to open an arbitrary file without an extension automatically, the way Linux does? No. Can you shove a file at a particular application regardless of it's current extension or lack thereof in the Windows shell? Yes. So lacking an extension means you don't get automatic file type association; you have to do it manually. So it rather depends on whether you consider the OP's question to be asking about automatic file association, rather than manually shoving a file at Notepad – Nicol Bolas Mar 26 '13 at 15:01
  • @NicolBolas: That's made pretty clear in the second paragraph, where the poster describes the procedure *nix uses to grok the file type. However, I made an additional edit to clarify. – user102937 Mar 26 '13 at 15:04
  • @RobertHarvey, and here I thought you wanted to avoid arguing pedantically. ;) I assume the "problem" he was referring to is the fact that without a file extension, associations break under Windows. I edited it so it contains the gist of what he was saying in that last paragraph as neutrally as possible, without sounding "problematic." – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 15:53

Essentially, the questions being asked are the following ones:

  • Why would someone ever prefer not to add a file extension?
  • Where does this irritating convention come from?

The first question is asking about preferences somebody has, and it is not probably possible to objectively answer it. The second question is answerable, but it is not about programming, or tools used from programmers.
Both the questions are not about programming.

The first question could cause the question to be closed as constructive; both the questions could cause the question to be closed as off-topic, since they are about programmers, not programming.

  • +1, nice to see an answer that makes sense. It's sort of tangentially related to programming since he's noticing it in software projects, but not directly. – The Community Mar 26 '13 at 13:58

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