20

Call me nitpicky, but I can't ignore the fact that the emphasis on the following close reason is misleading:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

(Emphasis not mine)

  • The main emphasis is about what they did wrong, rather than how to fix it!

    demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved

    So the OP thinks

    What does that supposed to mean? I know what my problem is!

    Instead, the emphasis should be on Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results

  • Also, the emphasis is set on the expected results, rather than what's usually missing from the question, the attempted solutions.


I suggest the following emphasis:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

  • 6
    Why not ALL CAPS IN BOLD? – asheeshr Aug 10 '13 at 9:45
  • @CodyGray: Better! I've edited. – Madara Uchiha Aug 10 '13 at 9:46
  • Oh, haha. Okay, I was just about to post that as an answer. – Cody Gray Aug 10 '13 at 9:46
  • @CodyGray: Heh, sorry :P – Madara Uchiha Aug 10 '13 at 9:50
  • 2
    I did it anyway. So there. Won't hurt people to read it twice. – Cody Gray Aug 10 '13 at 9:52
  • Maybe also bold the word "demonstrate"? – StephenTG Aug 23 '13 at 17:10
12

I thought you were going to say that the wrong part was bolded. I think that's more the case. The current formulation has always bothered me a little, but I never spent enough time thinking about it to realize why. (Well, aside from the fact that it doesn't belong under the off-topic heading.)

Rather than emphasizing a person's ignorance (yes, I know that's not what we mean, but it certainly could be taken that way), let's emphasize the solution:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results.
See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

I think that would be far more constructive and less likely to be misinterpreted.

It also matches what we do for the other related close reason:

Questions concerning problems with code you've written must describe the specific problem — and include valid code to reproduce it — in the question itself. See SSCCE.org for guidance.

And what better justification could one have than consistency for the sake of being consistent?

  • Perfect, and even more than perfect if we can add the closing dot after "See also: Stack Overflow question checklist". – Arjan Aug 10 '13 at 10:43
  • @Arjan Hmm, I don't know. It's not a sentence, why should it end with a period? It is more like a list with only one item. – Cody Gray Aug 10 '13 at 10:45
  • I considered that, but then I'd say: rewrite it, just like the second example. (To me it currently does feel like part of the paragraph, despite the explicit line break. Too much mixing of styles, I feel. Not a major issue, but while changing things...) – Arjan Aug 10 '13 at 10:51
  • (As an aside: I also see too many lists in which some items end with a dot and others —in the same list— don't. Not just on Stack Exchange, but everywhere.) – Arjan Aug 10 '13 at 10:52
  • 2
    Why is "why they didn't work" not bolded? It is at least as important as the other bolded elements. – Robert Harvey Aug 17 '13 at 23:36
  • I do not think it is at least as important as the other things. We could bold the whole damn thing, I suppose, but you have to draw the line somewhere. – Cody Gray Aug 18 '13 at 8:28
3
+25

I disagree: the emphasis is on the right part. There are two parts in this text:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved.

This is the reason to closing itself. It's what the message is for. The close reason can be used if and only if this sentence applies.

Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

This is advice to improve the question in order for the close reason no longer to be applicable. Each element in this advice may or may not apply to a particular case. It's possible for a question to have everything that's recommended here and yet for the close reason to apply: “How do I write a Tetris game? Here are my 10 lines of code. They only show a blank window, how can I fix this”. It's also possible for a question to be fine even when this advice isn't followed: not every question needs an attempted solution (only the ones where there is a presumption that the asker is totally out of his depth).

The first sentence is authoritative, it's what the close reason is all about. The second sentence is advisory. The emphasis is in the right place.

2

I don't like the emphasis either, but see things somewhat differently. Here is what I look for in emphasized text in this context:

The emphasized text should be negative

This is a sub-category of "off-topic" and the other not-really-off-topic sub-category aside, the precedent is for the sub-category to provide a refinement on the "unacceptability" of the question (i.e. more detail on how it is unacceptable).

The emphasized text should be comprehensive

I think the common interpretation of emphasized text in this context is that it serves as a summary or title, not that it's just the most important among the list of items.

The language should be clear

Ambiguous terms should be avoided as should language which implies that all criteria must be met when only some must be met or vice versa. For example, the term "problem" seems to be overloaded, with some believing as I do that it refers only to what's desired (e.g. clear statement of input, expected output, actual output) while others believe it comprehends the solution space as well, including programming language/framework.

The language should focus on evidence

The language should avoid implying attributes of the poster (e.g. competence, understanding) and should instead focus on what's present in the question itself

Given the above, I suggest an emphasis of insufficient understanding or effort demonstrated. This would flexibly cover both the problem and solution domains. The remaining text can provide examples of things that might help without implying that all need to be present.

If there's support for this new emphasis/title/summary, I'll edit this answer to propose some accompanying text.

Note: This assumes that this sub-category should remain conceptually as is, covering both problem and solution as well as understanding and effort.

0

Why emphasise at all? Surely the whole point of serving a small notice is that the whole content is requirements all of equal importance and all to a very specific context?

If the non bold/italic/whatever bit is not important don't have it there.

The point of having to serve this is because someone couldn't ascertain the basic requirements on their own merit in the first place, and/or couldn't be bothered with XYZ and just wants to say "how" and have someone answer/write them some code etc.

Could also be they're just not accustomed with Stack's ways, having been on forums and had people lead them by the hand.

In either case (and others), many people of this mentality wont likely use the notice correctly either, and they'll likely read the bold bit only and do that thinking it's the minimum they can get away with.

IMO bold is for when you have a lot of text, ie you've listed many sentences and suggestions/actions/faq links etc, THEN things may need highlighting as more important to stand out.

Adding to that, stating things such as "Include attempted solutions" is not worded well. The word "any" will likely be presumed to be after "Include", and can leave people thinking it's not a requirement as none were attempted. It should be clear in the wording what is explicitly required, and bold does not fix wording or definition on its own.

I would put something like:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem. You must have attempted a resolve yourself, and in your question provide your attempted solution(s), the outcome, and what your expected results were. Full requirements: Stack Overflow question checklist

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