A question on SO was recently closed by 5 members of the community as "not a real question". If you look strictly at the body of the question, that's true, but if you consider the question's title, it was a straightforward question, albeit a rather simple one.

I'm wondering if the title is largely ignored for question-adequacy evaluation purposes or whether there is something else at work here.

Update: For easy reference, the title of the question was

How do I dry up this Ruby array of hashes?

and the code was:

def get_parts(row) [
  @@line_parts[row][@time[3]].values[0] ]

Update: Since the question has been deleted, I figured I'd document the single, upvoted (8) answer, which was (I believe):

def get_parts(row)
  (0..3).collect {|i| @@line_parts[row][@time[i]].values[0]}

which I thought did a nice job of demonstrating the power/elegance of Ruby's range, map and lambda features for someone who might only be familiar with more primitive languages.

  • 3
    The title should be taken into account, but from personal experience I can say that the title is mainly used to get someone to click a question. Questions that depend on data from the title often feel incomplete. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:46
  • Could you post link to referenced question? Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:47
  • 3
    The title should be a summary of the body of the question. The one should be able to stand without the other.
    – ale
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:47
  • @redhotspike: It has been linked.
    – ale
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:47
  • 7
    It's incredible how the closed text, as large and bold as it is with so much link text, can be misconstrued as being the act of "a moderator" rather than five random blokes. It's stuff like this that makes me skeptical of the "on hold" newfangled jazz. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:50
  • 2
    I apologize for mischaracterizing the closing of this question as being an act of a moderator. Thanks for detecting and correcting the error. I made the bad assumption that only moderators can close questions. I will read up on this topic now. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:58
  • Can someone help me understand what the three downvotes on this question might be about? I've read that MSO downvotes can mean that people don't like what a question proposes, but I'm not proposing anything in this question. I was asking if a title is considered a fundamental part of the question, which was answered and which I upvoted and accepted. Any ideas? Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:59
  • 1
    I gotta tell you guys that, as a only-recently active SO and MSO user, I'm having a radically different experience on the two sites. SO feels like a largely tolerant, supportive and respectful group with a diverse population, while MSO feels, well, let's just say "very different". You're certainly welcome to maintain whatever culture you like, but my inclination is to want to "stay away". That may be what you're striving for, which is really fine, but thought I'd share my experience. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 20:10
  • Wow this is getting steadily more interesting. The question just got deleted. Is that usual in this situation? I read stackoverflow.com/help/deleted-questions to try and figure out what justification was used, but again I'm a little hard pressed. Am I paranoid to think that my comments here may have offended a >10ker? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 1:38
  • @PeterAlfvin - If you want to know why the question got closed, the best thing to do is ask a new question "Why was this closed?". Assuming that the answers to this question below aren't sufficient, that is.
    – KatieK
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 4:01
  • @KatieK - At your suggestion, tried that with meta.stackexchange.com/questions/185928/…. So far, no responses and it's not clear why the closers/deleters would see or choose to respond to this or why anyone who could would breach their confidentiality to share the reasons given. The good news from my perspective is that the question was undeleted, although I'm not sure if the new MSO question contributed to that. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


That the post contains a sentence that is grammatically a question doesn't mean that it's not appropriate to use the "not a real question" close reason. That said, the confusion over this has resulted in a dramatic change to the close reason text (largely just in what the close reasons are called, not so much what does and doesn't get closed).

In this case, the question that's being asked is overly broad; it's not a specific question.

Also note that SO isn't here for doing code reviews. It's not a place where you just dump a bunch of code an say "make it better". (That's what Code Review is for.)

Having said all of that, yes, the title matters. It should not be ignored when determining if a post should be closed.

  • Glad to read of the changes to the close reason taxonomy and definition. With respect to this particular question, I have a hard time regarding it as "too broad" or "primarily opinion based", since I don't think it meets the criteria for those. I also don't think the OP just said "make it better". They had a specific, relatively narrow request. I can see it being "off topic" in the sense that you've decided to factor out code review questions into a separate forum, but should we then be discouraging code-quality related statements in comments and answers as well? Anyway, thanks for responding. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:19
  • 2
    @PeterAlfvin But it's not a narrow request. When you're saying things like "this code seems wrong, how do I clean it up" it's actually very broad, unclear, and subjective. Closing the question as either "too broad", "unclear" or "offtopic" would each be appropriate in this case.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:30
  • @Servy (and comment upvoter), I don't mean to be argumentative, but I don't see how you can get much narrower than this question. The OP asked how to DRY the code, which consisted essentially of four statements that differed from each other in exactly one character. In my mind, that seems very much like an instance of the "how do you do XYZ in language FOO" questions that are fairly common on the site. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:42
  • @PeterAlfvin It's certainly possible that the question could be rephrased to not be broad, but as it is the language I see really is too broad. If it were more specific as to providing some objective requirements that one could use to determine if an answer were correct or not, then perhaps it would have a chance.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:47
  • So you're interpreting the "D(on't) R(epeat) Y(ourself)" request as something other than a request to reduce the code duplication, which currently stands at 75%, to something near 0? That's certainly how I interpreted it and that seems pretty objective to me. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:54
  • I am not trying to defend the question (I have no opinion about it), but I'd like to understand what you are saying here. You are saying the question was closed because it was to broad? I don't know much about Ruby, but the question rather seemed to be too specific. In addition, one comment as well as the main answer seemed to have found the question trivial.
    – jogojapan
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 5:03
  • I wouldn't say it's too broad. It's too narrow in the sense that it's asking about that specific hash. It's also unclear what's being asked. Until just now, I had no idea what was being requested because I don't understand the phase "dry up" with respect to something that cannot be consumed. (A queue could dry up in a loop, but not a standalone data structure.) From the comment above, I now understand that it should have been capitalized to "DRY up," as in "don't repeat yourself." Even capitalized, it's not a term I've seen before, so maybe others used the same reasoning when closing it. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 13:40
  • @jogojapan, were you directing your question at me? If so, I have no idea why it was closed. I can only see the opinions expressed on this thread, the first and most vocal was that it was too broad. While on balance I think it was marginally acceptable, I think that if anything it was indeed too narrow. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:02
  • @PeterAlfvin It's both in a sense. It's narrow with respect to it's audience; questions on SO are intended to be applicable to a large number of people so that the questions can be useful for future visitors to the site. That's not really the case here. It's broad in that answers can vary widely in how they choose to interpret the question and address it in their answer. However, that huge variety in how the poster chooses to address the answer doesn't really change the fact that it'll still be only really useful to the OP, making it both too broad and narrow, just in different dimensions.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:09
  • @Servy - If it were a more complicated case of redundancy, I can see it being too broad. In this particular case, however, the options were quite limited, as the answer and comments reflected. As for being too narrow, I can't tell you how many questions I've seen of the form "why am I getting this error" which seem comparably narrow. This question had the benefit that the answer demonstrated three important language features that have general applicability. Anyway, I realize these are judgement calls and I respect your right to disagree with me. That's why I'm focused on the process now. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:17
  • @PeterAlfvin Much of it has to do with the wording of the question. While you may disagree, I really do see this as a "here's some code, make it better" request, due in part to quotes like "I'm not sure how to clean this up." It's not that the question couldn't be asked in a way to have a not-too-broad question, just that the specific wording the OP chose wasn't it. Note that a question in the form of "Here's a code dump and an error, what happened" is indeed too localized on the site and should be closed. It should be phrased in such a way that people with similar errors will find it.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:23
  • @Servy - So is there some reason the question wasn't edited to address these issues or the OP given an opportunity to improve it? Was deletion in <48 hours really called for? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:26
  • @PeterAlfvin The OP is the person with the primary responsibility to edit questions. While community members are encouraged to improve questions, they aren't obligated to. As for deletion, it shouldn't have been (in my opinion), and in fact has since been undeleted.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:35
  • @Servy - I understand the editing obligations. That said, if I'd known it was at risk of deletion, I would have taken action, as I've done since it was undeleted. BTW, thanks for whatever role you may have had in undeleting it. I'd still be interested in the "why" on that score, if there's anything to learn about it. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:41
  • @PeterAlfvin You can see who vote to delete/undelete from the revision history; the names are listed, along with the times each action took place. My name is on neither list. As for why it was deleted, those users much have thought the question wasn't salvageable.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 14:43

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