I often come across questions that are simply points of curiosity rather than requests for help to overcome a development problem that is blocking progress.

Examples of these might be “Why is the number of bits in a word always a power of two?“ or "What kind of parsing engine does Perl use?".

While these examples may fall foul of the rules for other reasons, I can see nothing in the list of reasons to close a question that covers such idle curiosity.

Have I missed something, or should a new category be added?

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    “What does BASIC stand for?” is off-topic; belongs on Wiktionary.
    – Ry-
    Jul 29, 2013 at 14:31
  • @minitechη: As I said, those example questions may also fall foul of other rules, but there are questions of this type for which I cannot see an exclusion rule.
    – Borodin
    Jul 29, 2013 at 14:34
  • offtopic appears to be about [language design] or [history of software development] or the like. Failing that, opinion based would work for me. Jul 29, 2013 at 14:49
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    Can you elaborate on what you think the problems are with your two examples or questions like them? Why are you looking for a reason to close them?
    – jscs
    Jul 29, 2013 at 19:08
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    @JoshCaswell: I am looking at the Help Centre rules which say, "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face". My understanding is that Stack Overflow is about resolving problems, and questions of this sort, where there is no "problem" as such and the question is a matter of philosophy, don't belong here. It does seem to be a specific and common category of question that shouldn't be forced under another heading. Please can someone correct me if I am wrong.
    – Borodin
    Jul 29, 2013 at 20:39
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    I think you're taking those Help Center rules overly literally. They're meant as a general guideline because most good questions will fall under those guidelines. I don't think they're meant to exclude good programming questions. Both of the examples you've given here would be perfectly acceptable. I would fight strongly against any attempt to close them. You have to evaluate each question independently, based on its coherence and ability to be answered. The only thing we feel strongly about is that good questions have an answer. Not multiple valid answers, not mere speculation. Jul 30, 2013 at 4:01
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    @minitech what would the close reason be? That's why these new ones suck
    – Cole Tobin
    Sep 27, 2013 at 20:25
  • @ColeJohnson: It would be the custom “off-topic” one, but yes, I agree that we’re lacking a couple important reasons at the moment.
    – Ry-
    Sep 27, 2013 at 20:40
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    @CodyGray: In that case the Help Center rules need revising. There needs to be a definition of available questions that we can take completely literally.
    – Borodin
    Sep 28, 2013 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


There's always the Off Topic->Other option, if you want to elaborate on it.

In this case, I'd probably mark it as such (eg. "is about software trivia", or something like that.), and leave a comment pointing to the Wikipedia page for BASIC, or similar.

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    OK I've removed that example as it seemd to be misleading people
    – Borodin
    Jul 29, 2013 at 14:36
  • I'd say that kind of thing still falls under the list of things one shouldn't be asking, or questions that should likely be asked elsewhere. The first example could possibly be asked on Super User (where some similar questions exist, eg. superuser.com/q/235030). As for the second, I might still suggest closing as off-topic, as one could check the source, and a short search will likely come up with the answer.
    – Hasturkun
    Jul 29, 2013 at 14:50
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    @Hasturkun I'm curious why you think that a question is "off topic" because its answer can be found with "a short search". Can't the answer to nearly all Stack Overflow questions be found with a short search? The only exception would be "debug my code"-style questions, but surely you don't want the site to become a debugging service. I certainly don't. Jul 30, 2013 at 4:04
  • @CodyGray: I don't think a question would be off topic for being found by a short search. I think those specific examples are (with the removed BASIC example being one); And if/when voting to close them, I normally point out the relevant resource (generally found by a ~3 minute search).
    – Hasturkun
    Jul 30, 2013 at 5:00

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