Problems can be categorized into 2 groups:

  • Academic problems
  • Real world problems

Solutions to academic problems are "pure", "preferred", "correct"...

Solutions to real world problems often have to get around real world constraints, but get things done.

When I see questions like this one, I wonder how best to handle serving both groups?

How does SO handle interacting between the two?

Or would one of these groups not be a good fit for SO?

See also: Is there a rule of thumb for objective questions asked out of curiosity?

  • I think it's more accurate to say that problems, not solutions, can be categorized into these two groups. Nov 5, 2013 at 16:08
  • I think that guy is mostly worried about the random downvote he received on his answer.
    – user102937
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:14
  • @shog9: Pretty much a duplicate. The navel gazing is off the scale this morning.
    – user102937
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:27
  • Not until I get my post done it isn't. @Rob ;-P
    – Shog9
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:29
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey - I guess you did not read the note in my question. Not really sure why you would think that I was worried about some random downvote. My question was more to know, what would attract a downvote, when I did answer a question, in the best way I could. Please don't accuse of being bothered about some random downvote.
    – Rahul
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:42
  • @R.J: And the answer is that people vote for all sorts of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with post quality, which is what I said in my answer to your other question. You can't say that you're not concerned about a downvote, and then ask why you got it, in the same sentence.
    – user102937
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:43
  • 1
    Worried and asking about it are not the same, IMHO. If I was worried I would frown upon getting a downvote and cry about it, but I just wanted to know why a downvote on that answer. I know voting is purely on people, but asking a general perception isn't wrong, I would say
    – Rahul
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:45
  • Look at this: a downvoted real world question asked by someone who is actually trying to get things done, vs a highly upvoted academic question of someone who is wondering something. Stack overflow is definitely not a support forum.
    – Larry
    Apr 1, 2014 at 11:33
  • @Larry Not sure about that. The link you posted for the "downvoted real world question" is marked as duplicate. stackoverflow.com/questions/4660142/… and is as highly upvoted as your "academic" example. Aug 8, 2014 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


In cases where they overlap, and solving a particular academic problem is applicable to a real world problem, due to a lack of constraints academically, then there's no need to do anything at all. If there are constraints that turn problems that seem similar at first, but which require different solutions due to the paradigm they are asked in, then they are in fact different questions.

If you see someone who posted a related question but in a different paradigm, and you have more/less constraints than in that question, it would be appropriate to ask a new question, linking to the related question, in which you explain how your situation differs.

  • 1
    An example would go a long way towards clarifying your answer.
    – user102937
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:22
  • The problem with "ask another question with more constraints" is that many answers will apply equally to both questions. For example "Generate a random string" and "Generate a secure random string". Any answer to the latter will also be a valid answer to the former. Nov 5, 2013 at 17:27
  • @CodesInChaos Sure. So what are you proposing, that the first be marked as a duplicate of the second? What if someone has already posted an answer that doesn't generate a secure string? What if someone has a solution that generates a random string much quicker/easier/clearer but which isn't an option for a secure string? Fundamentally there is a good reason to have both questions in existence.
    – Servy
    Nov 5, 2013 at 17:30
  • It's just a bit annoying to copy&paste an answer to several similar questions, but obviously we can't close them as duplicates. Nov 5, 2013 at 17:31
  • 1
    @CodesInChaos Keep in mind that just because an answer might be valid for another question, it may not be a good answer. Personally I wouldn't ever see myself posting the exact same answer to both of those questions; even though one may be technically valid for both, it wouldn't be the best solution for both.
    – Servy
    Nov 5, 2013 at 17:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .