On Stack Overflow, I frequently I find myself looking at questions which have been asked to the best of the person's ability, but are consistently hit with down-votes and excerpts from this, which a lot of people seem to be readily resorting to when they can attempt to answer the question and do understand what is being asked.. but dismiss it with an arbitrary reference to the question guidelines (yes, this has happened to me recently).

It seems like SO has become more of a place for rapid fire 'get-rep-quick' answers and less 'how can I help this person by thinking about what they asked'.

For example, getting hit with the quote:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of
the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, and why they didn't work.

is valid. However what if you know a language inside out, but to your knowledge there isn't a way of solving the question you've asked. You've done your due diligence and searched SO and Google, but to no avail. Nothing has been attempted code-wise because having done DD, there simply isn't anything to attempt.

So your question is clear, and readily understandable- but because you haven't provided an attempted solution, because nothing you know of would be appropriate... you get hit by downvotes due to the fact there is no code.

How then can you ask a question under these circumstances? Is SO the best place for this?

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    So how are people closing low quality questions instead of answering them rep farmers? The rep farmers are the ones who answer questions that the site guidelines consider poor, not the other way around. – Servy Nov 27 '13 at 17:10
  • It is far easier to answer a question which the site guidelines dont consider poor, i.e. have code to start your answer from, etc- you often see answers coming in rapid succession to these simply changing a word, removing a character etc with little explanation. Questions that dont follow the guidelines in their strict state often require more heavy lifting/investment which is a slow way to get rep..and it seems a quick way to get a bad reaction. – SW4 Nov 27 '13 at 17:15
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    @gnat, there are a lot of similarities I see – SW4 Nov 27 '13 at 17:15
  • I think you have things backwards. The questions which can be answered as you have described are poor questions. – Andrew Barber Nov 27 '13 at 17:15
  • Perhaps the question really is: is there ever a poor question in the eye of the one asking? – SW4 Nov 27 '13 at 17:18
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    "It is far easier to answer a question which the site guidelines don't consider poor" Well yeah, that's why the guidelines are in place. We want people to ask high quality questions because they're possible/easier to answer, and result in much higher quality content. Poor quality questions are often unanswerable, or are hard to answer, and answers to them tend to be of low quality and value to both the author and the community as a whole. That's why we close them. Are you saying that you want to see lots more crappy questions with poor quality answers? If so...perhaps try another site. – Servy Nov 27 '13 at 17:26
  • If you're referring to this question, I don't necessarily agree with the downvote, and I'm borderline on VTC. Some people may disagree. I don't agree with the "If there is no code there is no effort" stance some take. As long as the thought process is outlined, it should be enough. Just make sure it is clear that you've done your research, including some of the dead-ends you ran into. – Geobits Nov 27 '13 at 17:27
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    Re: "Is there ever a poor question in the eye of the one asking?" Doesn't matter. Nobody thinks they're ever driving too fast, either, but a cop with a radar gun will feel differently - and the consequence is different depending on where you are, too. While they may not think it's a poor question, this doesn't mean they don't ultimately need to adjust their perspective to match the expectations in their current environment. If we're not willing to enforce quality standards, and would rather be nice to newbies and invite all kinds of crap questions, may as well rename the site Yahoo Answers. – Aaron Bertrand Nov 27 '13 at 17:28
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    Effort doesn't mean code, it means effort: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/107116/… That said, your question looks pretty okay to me. Personally, I have no domain knowledge, but it seems to me that you've demonstrated minimal understanding. The only thing I might suggest is more than one sentence about the trouble with the potential solution you've discovered: "Because of x, I can't do y, but if I work around y with z, then fubar. Fubar isn't documented, etc." – jscs Nov 27 '13 at 19:29
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    There are plenty of questions around, full of code but devoid of effort - just think of people pasting the full code of some class and asking for help with some simple logic error. – Monolo Nov 27 '13 at 19:51

You don't necessarily have to show an attempted solution. But you do have to demonstrate effort and a minimal understanding of the problem. Usually that means showing some code, even if it's only a little bit.


I tried fooing the bar with a baz instead of a qux, but got a casting error, and I don't understand why. Normally this cast works, but it didn't in this particular case.

My code:

private Foo Fooing(Bar the)
    var qux = new Qux();
    var baz = (Baz)qux;   // Casting error here.

    return baz.ToFoo();

The first question someone is going to ask you is "What does the code for Qux and Baz look like?" That kind of necessary dialog is the beginning of a path to an answer and is, in large part, why we ask for demonstration of effort.

In a way, your meta question here is illustrative of the problem. Without providing a specific example, you've essentially done some hand-waving, but haven't really painted a true picture of the specific problem you are having posting a question.

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