So many questions on Stack Overflow are followed by the response "Why would you want to do this?". Often this spouted by an ideologue, and such a response is typically unhelpful, condescending and indicative of ignorance.

If it's an honest "why"... that's cool. But it is invariably followed by a series of reasons why someone shouldn't, and why their package/method/thing is way better and an assumption that the question asker doesn't actually know what they are doing. In-depth critiques of the asker.... aren't answers.

The question remains... Why would you want to do this?

  • You are too busy to answer but not too busy to troll?
  • You don't know the answer but you think if they were using your (Python/Boost/InsertCoolPackageHere), the problem wouldn't be there in the first place?

Perhaps there's something structural about stackoverflow.com itself that encourages this kind of response and needs fixing?

Some examples (as requested):

... etc. etc.

  • Mostly I posted this question to get people to think twice before commenting in a way that seems to say the person asking the question is "wrong for wanting to do something".

  • These kinds of comments are increasingly distracting. So often the case now that it's starting to make stack overflow less useful - and I really value it!

  • It really is better to answer the question if you know the answer, ask for clarification if you need it ... but not to tell the person to "change the problem", with succinct sarcastic remarks.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Robert Longson, rene, curiousdannii, Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Oct 24 '18 at 3:36

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question's topic is only applicable to one specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should relate to features or policies that commonly apply to the network or the software that drives it, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – gnat, Robert Longson, rene, curiousdannii, Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Posting a specific example would help. In the general case, sometimes the intent of the questioner is wrong from an experience / best practice standpoint, and we usually prefer pointing that out instead of answering the wrong question. – Frédéric Hamidi Jun 4 '13 at 15:18
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    I think it's something about humans. In some cases they genuinely want to know why their great solution has been dissed. In others they just want to show off to someone they perceive as lesser. SO serves lots of emotional needs, not all altruistic or simple "I need an answer". I think trying to stop rudeness is good, but some will always persist. – Kate Gregory Jun 4 '13 at 15:20
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    "Why would you want to do this?" (or similar) is an extremely common comment on questions that are less on the technical side and more on the design/architecture one. That's because sometimes the reason behind the question may completely change its answers. – yannis Jun 4 '13 at 15:34
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    Why do you want to fix this? – Undo Jun 4 '13 at 15:59
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    Look up "XY Problem" and you'll see why this is asked so often. – Wooble Jun 4 '13 at 18:05
  • I don't really want to fix it. It's just that stackoverflow is starting to get littered with "answers" that don't answer the question, and, instead, incorrectly critique the questioner. – Erik Aronesty Jun 10 '13 at 21:10
  • @Wooble Please show me examples where this is the case. In theory you may be right. In practice, your answer is part of the problem. – Erik Aronesty Oct 23 '18 at 20:55
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    @ErikAronesty I can't be bothered to go dig up the millions of obvious examples to justify a comment I made 5 years ago. – Wooble Oct 23 '18 at 21:00
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    Sadly, this question has been closed. Yep, as far as I am concerned, the problem is real, and not necessarily limited to SO. So, you now have two options: a) repost this on SO, so that the main closure reason will fall, or edit your post to make it about the whole network (but this requires you to find examples of similar behavior on other sites). – SPArchaeologist Oct 24 '18 at 6:59
  • @SPArchaeologist I've found that this question has been asked many times in meta over the years. The more recently it was asked, the more vitriolic the response. In fact the older meta's had long, intelligent discussions ... but no solutions. This may be a "tragedy of the commons" problem. It's may be at the heart of why all of these community moderated systems go stale. (What happened to kuro5hn? slashdot? etc...) – Erik Aronesty Oct 25 '18 at 19:21
  • @gnat just put the question "on hold" ... what happened to reasoned debate? Systemic unjustified logical fallacies and ad-hominem attacks that have lead to the death of nearly every community site are not "off topic" – Erik Aronesty Oct 25 '18 at 19:27

Usually spouted by an ideologue

Um. No. Usually spouted by the premise of the question not making sense in the normal working of things. It is a request for context.

this response is typically unhelpful, condescending and indicative of ignorance.

Yes. Ignorance of the context of the question. As for "unhelpful" - without context, there can be no help. And "condescending" - really? It is an expression of astonishment.

Perhaps there's something structural about stackoverflow.com itsel that encourages this kind of response and needs fixing?

Why would you want to do this?

Many people who answer questions on Stack Overflow take the view that the site is here to educate not just answer questions. For that they sometimes require context.

  • 1
    If you're really asking "why", sure it's cool. I have literally never seen that to be the case. The "why question" is followed immediately by "you shouldn't want to do it".... without any qualification or knowledge. Even going so far (in the examples provided) as to criticize the asker, and spout serious ideological reasons for never wanting to do the "thing asked". – Erik Aronesty Oct 23 '18 at 17:12

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