Close this if it's too far OT, but I keep asking myself in a GOM* kind of way, why so few SO "questions" are actually questions.

To take a random sample, only 20 of the 50 latest posts that I can see are actually written as questions, with real honest-to-goodness interrogatives and everything.

What, for example, are we to make of "XML Parsing Problem"? Should we be taking it on ourselves to make the question more usefully scoped? Perhaps in this case someone might have changed the topic to something like "How do I handle incomplete or invalid streamed XML?"

Or did I just get out of bed on the wrong side this morning?

* Grumpy Old Man

  • Belongs on uservoice - stackoverflow.uservoice.com – juan Feb 19 '09 at 14:25
  • Shouldn't any question with the tag 'not-programming-related' be closed, by the very nature of having that tag????? – pearcewg Feb 25 '09 at 15:44
  • Yes, it should. So I've voted to close it... – Mike Woodhouse Feb 25 '09 at 19:38

I think its a question of semantics.

A question needs not (IMO) to end in a question mark, but it should always be as clear as can be, and it is your right as a reputed user to help both the person who posts the question and any possible users reading it, to make the question as clear as necessary.

(perhaps not always needing to be as clear as possible for the person helping the original poster, but making it clear enough for the readers)

Other tools to voice your opinion are also there at your disposal, voting and commenting included.

Me, I learned a lot from both getting constructive criticism over my questions and answers, and also from watching others being corrected.

I am learning something new here everyday, and not only IT stuff.

Please check for reference the etiquette to change posts, user FAQs and the SO FAQ input on this.

From the link on the etiquette to change posts:

I figure that I should edit in the following circumstances:

Grammatical or spelling errors.

Clarification where the meaning is not changed. For instance if the title does not describe the question very well.

Where the user has made a very minor mistake that doesn't justify a full post to clarify.

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Only if you are Alex Trebek. Otherwise it's a solution in search of a problem.

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The following is stated in the official FAQ written by Jeff Atwood:

It's also perfectly fine to ask and answer your own programming question, but pretend you're on Jeopardy: phrase it in the form of a question.

Although that's referring to the a person asking and answering their own question I think it's clear the expectations is that questions should be phrased as questions.

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  • And finally, after stewing on this for weeks to no real benefit, I had to conclude that this was exactly what I thought the correct answer should be. I tried to close the question but it never got the votes, so I guess I'd better give in the to "accept something" nag... – Mike Woodhouse Apr 7 '09 at 9:45

It's been like this on Usenet forever - people seem to have a fanatical desire to obscure what their real problem is, and instead post questions regarding (often inappropriate) specific techical solutions.

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  • well, depending on how clueless you are, seeing/finding the real problem IS often the main problem ;-) – Anonymous Feb 19 '09 at 12:40
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    Ah, but we have the ability to edit stuff, unlike on UseNet, so we don't have to tolerate it. Hell, people like Jon Skeet can probably make offenders disappear completely! – Mike Woodhouse Feb 19 '09 at 16:31


It's up to you, whether you want to or not, for any given question.

Sometimes I find I like something enough that I want to edit to make it a clearer question (to help the OP get answers); and sometimes not.

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The question you linked DOES have an explicit question though!

If you are talking about just the summary-lines containing questions then you should specify.

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  • I was referring to "XML Parsing Problem" which was hopelessly unspecific. It's not going to help anyone searching Google in the future, for example. I agree that his question could be parsed out of the text, I was trying to (and failing) refer to the title. – Mike Woodhouse Feb 19 '09 at 18:04
  • Gotcha. And actually yes I do agree with you. Non descriptive subjects are bad in the short and long runs. – OverloadUT Feb 19 '09 at 18:12

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