I came across this post in SO: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/18134986/convert-c-to-delphi-typedef-void-ftrhandle/18135037#18135037

It's on-hold pending closing as off-topic. I don't really understand why it is off-topic, because the OP is asking how to properly declare a C void* in Delphi for interop *(I'll come back to this topic)

This is the first question that the OP has asked. As I write this, there are no comments giving guidance as to what he did wrong on his post. Especially since he is a new poster, should we have maybe offered some guidance rather than closing his question? Are we trying so hard to follow "the rules" here that we are negatively impacting the value of the site?

*(my tangent): Some of the text indicates that he should have posted more code, or showed more of an attempt to solve himself. But when you are working with unsafe code, you can sometimes not really know that you have done it wrong, even if it works. I have seen plenty of cases where passing the wrong-sized structure to unsafe code causes gradual memory corruption -- it might work fine the first 4 or 5 times, or it might only fail in release builds. I don't see anything wrong with this poster asking a specific question about how to declare pointer in Delphi. In fact, if you can't ask that question, then really what ARE you supposed to ask on SO?

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    The question apparently is "Can anyone help me to convert C to Delphi?". And the code-block seems to be confirming that. We're not a code conversion service. If the void* is all there is to the question, the question should be clarified, focused and then perhaps reopened.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:02
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    The guidance is very clear in the close message. The user has to try first, ask later. This one is asking first without even trying. It's pure "give me the code" request, and Stack Overflow is not the place for this. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:02
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    Offering personalised guidance is always good, im not sure what can be done to get people to do that more than they already do. The constant stream of low quality questions does need to be closed however Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:04
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    Yes, they do discourage. Recently, we had an issue where a new user OP had his own answer to his own question deleted due to low quality. While his legitimately WAS poor quality, no non-automated advice was given to the OP. This made the OP feel rejected; in my opinion, he should have been given a comment requesting more elaboration on his answer, and at worst down-voted. Had it been any other new user, I'd have been fine with it, but to do it to the OP, who has a vested interest in the question itself, is poor communal form.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:08
  • I think it's kind of interesting that I got 3 downvotes just for asking this question! So then, is Meta not the place for me to discuss why a question was closed on SO, and how we might make it better?
    – JMarsch
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:17
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    Sometimes votes are cast in disagreement on Meta @JMarsch. meta.stackoverflow.com/help/whats-meta I would assume that to be the explanation here, given that I see no question quality issues.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:18
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    @JMarsch Remember (for better or worse) meta downvotes are different; namely we (or they, im not a downvoter) disagree that this needs sorting Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:19
  • I appreciate that clarification @Bart. However, if I'm reading it right, the rule says that downvotes for disagreement are for posts tagged with feature-request. (mine is just tagged discussion). (if we're being sticklers about the rules ;)
    – JMarsch
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:21
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    @JoshDM That's a recent clarification and apparently still not the practice on Meta. We'd like users to reserve them for issues where disagreement votes are needed. That doesn't always happen.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:22
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    Rules that involve not downvoting people are not rules that are welcome on meta Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:22
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    Your title is quite broad, but your post is focused on one particular incident. You're not presenting any evidence that there is a problem, even allowing your title to just be a lead-in. This is a rather poor SO question that was rightfully closed, and "Question closure too fast", "not enough guidance given to new users", etc., are common refrains here on Meta -- and they have been/are being addressed. Have you seen those earlier discussions? What grounds do you have for believing that there is a large problem here? Can you be more clear about what you are trying to contribute to this topic?
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:03
  • @JoshCaswell Hi Josh:All great questions. The truth is, I've come across a number of questions in the past few months where either I didn't really understand why it was closed, or more often, where I just felt that the OP had been dealt with a little too harshly. I guess this one was one of those tipping point moments where I thought "I'm just going to put myself out there and say something" Hate to say it, but I almost didn't because I also thought "Gee, I bet I take a bunch of downvotes just for asking, do I really want to take the punishment".I was right about the latter, but I had to ask!
    – JMarsch
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:11
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    If you do have multiple data points, I strongly encourage you to compile them into a single Meta post and present your conclusions. Research is something that is sorely lacking in this ongoing discussion -- most posts tend to be like this, about the straw that broke someone's back that day, and they don't get very far for that reason. Effort is expected/respected here on Meta as much as on SO proper, and even those who might be likely to disagree with your conclusions (me) will be happy to participate if there's substance to your argument.
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:14
  • @JoshCaswell I really like SO, and I will start to compile a list in the interest of improving it. On that same note, if there are so many posts on this topic, perhaps that says something about the tone that the site has taken. If you are getting enough of these sorts of posts, perhaps the subject should be taken more seriously.
    – JMarsch
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:18
  • It is taken seriously, @JMarsch: there was an "anti-snark initiative" last summer, and recent, fairly involved, changes to the closing system in response to similar concerns. But -- without meaning to castigate you -- a large volume of complaints does not necessarily equal evidence of a problem. If those complaints are unjustified, it might just equal noise. That said, I look forward to a post from you (or anyone) that does justify the complaints.
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:37

3 Answers 3


No. I was a new member a little over a year ago. I've made mistakes, and learned from them. If a new user is discouraged, that's unfortunate. But you can't please everyone and frankly this wouldn't be a good place for information if SO tried.

If someone asks a question about their cat or how to hack into a facebook account on SO, they should be discouraged. Because they shouldn't ask that, and they should learn to read the rules which apply to questions. Similarly, if someone asks a question which demands code, or otherwise demonstrates that they didn't try Google enough first, they, too, should be discouraged.

Negative enforcement for bad behavior is as important as positive enforcement for good behavior in a community with a specific purpose in mind.

Besides which, there's a Peer Pressure badge if they delete the question. Sort of a consolation prize of "Yes, you did something stupid. But you learned from the experience, and you're getting better at this, so here's a cookie".

TL;DR? SO's policies are fine. If people are discouraged, they should either cultivate more emotional fortitude, or become better stackexchange contributors.

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    Parents these days... sigh No one teaches their children how to be good contributors to a professional and enthusiast programmer Q&A site, anymore. Hell in a handbasket, Itellya.
    – root
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 20:56
  • Hell, parents don't even teach their children how to get answers themselves, let alone give answers in a coherent manner (text speech anyone?). Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 7:28

As someone who considers himself to still be a SO newbie and a part-time programmer, I have to say no, SO's policies do not discourage new or inactive members. Due to the age of the site, much of the low hanging fruit has already been picked. Basic questions about what a pointer is and how scope works have been asked and thoroughly answered. That means that new questions should be more specific and cover harder and/or more detailed problems. New users have to try harder. The fact that the user's question was put on hold and not closed in a few minutes shows that the policies on SO are getting better.

SO's policies aren't perfect, but they continue to improve. In my experience, this site is a valuable resource because it focuses on good questions, great answers, and civility while discouraging smart-asses and jerks with their LMGTFY links.

What SO's policies do discourage, however, are postings by people who aren't willing to properly communicate the details of their problem and show that they have made the effort to solve it. The original poster dumped a block of code and asked how to convert it from one language to another. That's just lazy, and it's not respectful to the people on this site. My time is important, your time is important, and the original poster's time is important. We all have to respect that. If the original poster wasn't going to make the effort to explain their issue, I'm not surprised that no one else would spend their time responding.

And, let's be honest. Computers are even more unforgiving than any human on SO. If you can't make the effort to attempt to solve your problem, then post in detail what you are trying to do and what you've tried that didn't work, then you aren't going to be successful in this industry. Good troubleshooting and communications skills are a foundation for being successful in IT no matter what job you do.


I understand that stackoverflow isn't a code conversion service but sometimes when you're WAY out of your comfort zone and unsure where to start then it is understandable to ask where to begin. Although looking into this particular question I could understand where people would come off saying that this question shows little research has been put forth into starting off. The question should've at least said something like, "I don't know where to begin with converting this C code into Delphi and would like some help." Not "Can anyone help me to convert C to Delphi?"

As to answering this meta question, the policy is stands on a "We are a QUESTION and ANSWER service". Some don't seem to see this question as a question but more of a request. The question could be rephrased as

I need assistance in converting C to Delphi and I am stuck at converting the following code:

{code here}

I have attempted the following (OR) I am particularly stuck at Section of code.

Any assistance as to where to begin working at the section in question would be much appreciated.

  • Upvote. But why not post something like that in the comment, rather than just closing a new guy's question?
    – JMarsch
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:23
  • Even with your suggested edits, the question at it's core is code translation...
    – Lix
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:25
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    The question is not closed, it's on hold. When the question is improved it can be activated again.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:25
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    @Juhana On hold or closed are really the same thing. There is no practical difference between them, other than "on hold" sounding less final and friendlier.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:26
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    Fundamental rule. Please memorize. Please tell others. When you don't even know where to start, don't start on stackoverflow. There are things SO is good at, but helping someone start isn't one of them. Ditto travel, English, cooking, and all the other SE sites. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:27
  • @Bart I know, but wasn't the whole point of changing the wording to make the close-improve-reopen path more feasible, instead of waiting for the OP to improve before closing?
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:30
  • But it would at least follow the same guidelines @Lix as what is stated in the on-hold. and Falls in the guidelines as a question to aid code conversion for the individuals.
    – Cole Busby
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:30
  • @Juhana getting rather OT for these comments, but I don't see how it has become "more feasible". The process is still the same. Now it just says "on hold" for a while. Doesn't make it much more feasible, though perhaps more likely for the OP to give it another go.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:31
  • @KateGregory But showing that they have attempted at it isn't truly starting the project now is it? as the edit would show it would be an in progress question with which would follow the on-hold text would it not?
    – Cole Busby
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:32
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    @Bart I think "it's on hold, not closed" is a valid counterpoint to the "why not comment rather than vote to close" argument. YMMV.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:33
  • To show what I was looking at for the revision requests. "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." It would come out to him having to provide the similar expectations of the C program from which the code came, as well as providing the minimal understanding of what should be going on with his code. In my edit It would also show which part of the code to start aiding the OP at. As for finding why it didn't work, well Im not a C coder so I couldn't begin to help.
    – Cole Busby
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:35
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    @ColeBusby I'm not ignoring you, I just can't understand your comment. The answer was empathizing with those who don't know where to start. I'm saying "this isn't the place" for questions by those who don't know where to start. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:51
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    @Juhana it isn't really. That would imply that "closed" means something else than it really does. But well, that's a discussion best had somewhere else perhaps. Not in these comments.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:55
  • I guess what I was trying to say @KateGregory was that I see the question as more of a where do I start with this piece of code and was focusing there. I blurred to two definitions of "begin" in my question. I assumed the user had no background at first then later in the question redefined him as having somewhat of the problem at hand finished. I was speaking from experience where I needed help with a section but focused the piece in a broader sense. I'm just saying that helping them along by asking them to focus the question in a comment first would've helped the user than closing/holding it.
    – Cole Busby
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:57
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    "asking them to focus the question" is exactly what on hold is for. If you feel that new users need an extra handwritten comment providing detailed instruction, fine, but the whole point of on hold is "this is not answerable right now, fix it so you can get answers" and the messages surrounding it are supposed to convey that information. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 18:59

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