With the recent release of Android Studio v0.1, there are a lot of questions with the android-studio tag, and a lot of them are duplicates or have the answer "It's alpha software, it's not supposed to be perfect!" or perhaps "Report the bug to Google, not here."

Looking at this meta thread the top answer is that "MS Word hangs when I format a paragraph with a sans-serif font." is inappropriate, so should questions like "Android Studio new project can not run, throwing error" be flagged, and if so, how?


2 Answers 2


What's potentially wrong with questions about alpha software?

If they turn out to be a bug or based on an unstable API, they are too localized, as they will be irrelevant soon. However, just as easily, the user could be using the API incorrectly, so it's not really clear which are "too localized" problems and which are legitimate SO questions. Unless as a community we take the stance that it is not okay to ask questions about immature software, we must find a way for at least some of these questions to be permitted.

Furthermore, note in the case of something like Android, it has a mature release cycle, and its owners endow it with a well-defined alpha stage. But SO supports many smaller programming technologies and communities, some of which may have more bugs in mature products, some of which may have perpetually unstable APIs for better or for worse, so it's arbitrary to declare some software too young without any subtler criteria.

How do we handle questions when the OP doesn't have the expertise to know whether it's a good question?

This happens with the category "not constructive" often. Sometimes questions like "how do I do this simple thing?" happen that look constructive to the OP, but someone posts, "Wow there are a zillion ways to do this" and closes as not constructive. But these questions almost always indicate poor research effort, because the user could have done a Google search and discovered them (if there are a zillion, they're probably easy to google).

But there is a category of questions that are good when posted but closed shortly thereafter: exact duplicates.

  • Some duplicates are bad questions. The user didn't research that much, finding the duplicate was trivial - it may even have been suggested to the user as a duplicate when posting. These usually receive downvotes and are quickly closed.
  • Some duplicates are good questions. It may require real expertise to find the duplicate. For instance, at the "novice" end of programming questions, the OP may ask about "a function with changing number of inputs" and had no idea to search for "variable arguments to function," but someone with more expertise may know the magic words to use, and is able to use this expertise to find the duplicate. These questions may receive upvotes because they look like good, original questions until the expert steps in, then it is closed as a duplicate, and usually still has upvotes.

When should alpha software questions be accepted?

  • In cases where it's unclear whether something is an alpha bug or legitimate user confusion, and is a high quality, well-researched question, they should be permitted.
  • If you notice such a question and know it is a bug, or are capable of researching and determining this, please post this as an answer or as a comment with facts, reference, expertise etc. to back you up, and vote to close as Too Localized.
  • Do not delete these questions. They serve as signposts to future visitors, much like duplicates do. They need to be alive for at least as long as the alpha period is open, so similarly confused users get to a "too localized" question instead of re-posting the question. Please tag them well so they can be cleaned up after alpha phase.

What about comments discouraging posting?

"It's alpha software, it's not supposed to be perfect!"

That's not an answer. Or helpful. Or constructive. Or really worth saying at all.

"Report the bug to Google, not here."

Yes! Do exactly that after we know it's a bug, then close this question as Too Localized. I'm going to take a wild guess and say most people posting that as a comment are just being unhelpful. Otherwise they would, you know, be helpful, by:

  • linking you to a bug report
  • explaining why they know it's a bug and not ignorance for how to use the API
  • vote to close as too localized

So comments saying "report to Google, not here" with no other information are best taken as a suggestion that it may be a bug and not heeded further.

  • 1
    Allowing bug-report-style questions about prerelease software runs counter to how I've been handling ones about Apple's beta tools: meta.stackexchange.com/a/137727/135615 . Apple has specific forums set up for support of prerelease software where engineers respond to questions, so I generally feel safe directing people there and closing "this is broken" questions as too localized. If Google offers something similar, I might lean toward that in this case too. May 17, 2013 at 23:09

I think the most substantial problem with these questions is going to be users posting answers like "I have the same problem," and "has anyone found a solution." There are three such answers (now deleted) on the post you linked.

Apply the usual quality tests to such questions. Has the OP provided enough detail to identify the problem and attempt a solution? Apply your usual close votes to vague, under-specified questions, including those that merely state "I'm getting this error, any ideas?" Protect questions that are being inundated with inquiries in the answers.

Google is probably a better place to report these errors; since Android Studio is brand new, it's unlikely that anyone else here has a solution, and the fact that it is alpha software makes any questions about errors extremely localized. They're certainly the only ones in a position to provide a fix.

  • Problem is: there are ?s of good enough quality to be SO-appropriate, but not of the level required to submit a bug fix, which is basically proof of bug.
    – djechlin
    May 17, 2013 at 21:08
  • I'm open to opinions from the community as to whether or not they think these questions are too localized. They're certainly going to be very short-lived, as they will all become obsolete when Google releases the next version.
    – user102937
    May 17, 2013 at 21:10
  • Well... maybe. You don't know that until you know whether it's a bug or you are doing it wrong. Plus if you just don't know how to do something on alpha software... it's still legitimate to ask here. Kind of the opposite of TL - we had the documentation first and will reap the traffic rewards.
    – djechlin
    May 17, 2013 at 21:12
  • It sounds like you're arguing for leaving these questions open, since we can't determine ahead of time whether a solution exists or not.
    – user102937
    May 17, 2013 at 21:13
  • Thanks. I used this discussion to post my own answer.
    – djechlin
    May 17, 2013 at 21:44

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