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In regards to the so many questions asked on StackOverflow.com - mostly PHP-related where an OP, who later divulges information of a script being run on a "local" machine, often causes confusion and a potential waste of time, where others including myself spend time to find a solution, but fail to give a correct answer due to a lack of knowledge of "local" Webservers or failure to indicate that the script is being run on a "local" Webserver.

My suggestion is this: When an OP asks a new question, there could be an option which would include either a radio button or checkmark stating the following:

This code will be running:

  1. A "LOCAL" machine/Webserver
  2. On a hosted (Free/Paid)
  3. It won't be on any type of server
  4. Undecided/Unknown
  5. For personal use (or other user-entered option)

    • Another option would be for the appropriate tag(s) as stated in the comments.
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    What if the question is about something that isn't going to be run on any sort of server?
    – StephenTG
    Aug 22, 2013 at 15:58
  • @StephenTG You have a point there Stephen, and that could fall under the Undecided/Unknown option, or I could add it in my question. I will do that now. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:00
  • @StephenTG I have to point out that, if it's a code-related question, which is what my post is about, then what use is it to even ask the question in the first place? Your comment doesn't make sense. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:16
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    There are valid SO questions that aren't about things running on a server. (most things with language-agnostic or algorithm tags, I would imagine).
    – StephenTG
    Aug 22, 2013 at 16:18
  • @StephenTG My post wasn't about the entire StackExchange website, but geared specifically on stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/php regarding scripts/code (PHP mostly). Probably why I'm getting downvotes, but I can live with that, everyone is entitled to their opinion just like myself; that's what a democracy is about, correct? Aug 22, 2013 at 16:29
  • The main problem then is that you would have to specifically determine which tags do and do not trigger the required field. If a question is mistagged, would the editor retagging it have to fill out the field?
    – StephenTG
    Aug 22, 2013 at 16:36
  • @StephenTG The appropriate tag(s) would definitely be a good option. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:38

2 Answers 2

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I have several issues with this feature.

1) What's special about environment.

Isn't that just one of the many assumptions people make that may or may not impact a solution. Why not add mobile to that list. What about client / web / or service. How about level of experience. Or force SQL questions to specify DBMS

2) Why do we think that the majority of users won't simply answer 3 or 4 .

It's been my experience that people usually take the path of least resistance. They often fail to include vital information that would help. If you include meh as a choice they will use it.

3) There is already a good solution for this problem

If you need the OP to clarify something use comments. That's what they're for. If you find yourself using the same comment often you might want to consider using Pro Forma comments

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  • There could have been many options added in my post, and that's where a user input field could be used to enter specifics of which type of server/environment it is to be used in. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:17
  • "If you need the OP to clarify something use comments. That's what they're for." --- So, I/others are to ask the OP (right off the bat) as to how it's to be used, and to ask it each and every time. My suggestion would help eleviate that problem. At the very least ask if it's a local or hosted application. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:20
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    I think your favourite tag is affecting your view of the world. In the C++ tag the most important question might be "What compiler are you using?" In another tag it might be what version of some rapidly changing framework you're using. Etc. You can put advice in the tag wiki if you like suggesting that certain info is vital for questions in this tag. But it's not vital site wide Aug 22, 2013 at 16:36
  • @Fred-ii- well these questions didn't seem to need the environment stackoverflow.com/q/15165111/119477 or stackoverflow.com/questions/15165111/… or stackoverflow.com/questions/13958679/… and got answers Aug 22, 2013 at 16:52
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter That was "then", this is "now". Why are you trying to dig up some old dirt? Look at the dates and look at today's date. It's completely irrelevant. I used to "ask" questions, now I "answer" them instead. Look at the last question I asked, the proof should be in the pudding, as it were. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:58
  • @Fred-ii- Ok then how would knowing the hosting environment help in these questions. stackoverflow.com/q/18370592 stackoverflow.com/q/18367091 stackoverflow.com/q/18367091 Aug 22, 2013 at 17:15
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter In most cases where an OP asks a question, knowing the environment is very important, because many times certain codes will only run on Windows as opposed to Linux. I.e. \r\n reacts differently in those 2 environments. Also the mail() function. Many times an OP asks a question as to why the code doesn't work because of not receiving emails on their (ahem) localhost. Aug 22, 2013 at 17:16
  • @Fred-ii- In most cases where an OP asks a question, knowing the environment is very important. Really? You believe that there are 2.75 million questions on SO where knowing the environment is very important Aug 22, 2013 at 17:29
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter Listen, my post was a mere "suggestion". I don't know why you're taking this to new heights. Had I known about the amount of flack I would've gotten, I would not even have bothered. It was just a suggestion, and as I stated, was advised by email from a staff member to take it here. Seems like it was a bad call on my part. Aug 22, 2013 at 17:32
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This brought to mind a favorite quote:

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

-- Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled, 1989

The sad truth is that the more you attempt to force users to provide sufficient information to have their questions answered, the more users will appear who find new ways to obfuscate their problem. It's a losing battle (as per the quote above).

While I totally understand where you are coming from, I've come to the conclusion that it's a better use of time to just focus on those who actually make the effort to ask a good question.

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  • You have a point there and I appreciate your understanding. Aug 22, 2013 at 17:52

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