Several months ago, a new question-closing guideline was introduced to Stack Overflow:

  • "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've noticed that questions are often closed for this reason even if they are not asking for any code, but are merely asking for advice:

I think "not clear what you're asking" would have been a more appropriate closing reason in this case, but these questions were closed instead for their apparent lack of "minimal understanding". Is this closing reason intended to be used in this way, and is there anything we can do to prevent it from being misused?

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    I randomly selected three of your examples; of them, two were actually asking for code, only one wasn't. The one remaining question was still a horrible question, even if a different close reason would have been more appropriate. – Servy Dec 5 '13 at 17:08
  • @Servy I still don't see any requests for code in these questions. Can you point out any specific examples? – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 17:09
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    Take this example. It's just a description of a desired result and a question of "how can I do that?" It's basically asking for people to write the query for him. – Servy Dec 5 '13 at 17:10
  • Interestingly, I decided to look at the other three I skipped at first. I also found two questions asking for code, and one very, very low quality question that wasn't technically asking for code, and so probably should have been closed for a different reason. – Servy Dec 5 '13 at 17:12
  • @Servy Still, the question isn't asking for a complete solution: it's only asking for advice about where to start. – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 17:12
  • I don't see that at all. I see it as asking for a completed solution. – Servy Dec 5 '13 at 17:13
  • @Servy That particular question only asks "Is this possible and if is, how can I do that?". This doesn't suggest that the question is asking for code: it only asks whether a solution is possible, and what general approach should be taken. "Asking for code" is not the same as "asking for advice". – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 17:17
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    Isn't, "How can I do X?" not demonstrating a minimal understanding of the problem? I can ask how to print Hello World in any language, without code, and I think that shows a complete lack of understanding of how to do so in said language. – fbueckert Dec 5 '13 at 17:20
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    "How can I do that?" => "How do I write this code?", which is asking for code. Asking for code is fine, if the user also demonstrates that research has been done and realistic attempts to solve the problem have been taken. Only one of those questions even demonstrates any attempt... – Charles Dec 5 '13 at 17:20

No, that close reason does not only apply to questions that are explicitly asking for code. It also applies to questions that give a set of requirements and vaguely ask "how do I do that?"

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    Perhaps the wording of this closing reason should be revised, then: given its wording, I had assumed that it was only intended to be used when questions were actually asking for code. – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 17:22
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    @AndersonGreen If there is a better close reason, go ahead and select it (there are at least two others that apply to the questions you linked to). If a question is so bad that we can easily interpret it to be asking for code, then the focus should just be on getting it closed for any reason that will lead the OP to fixing what's wrong with it. – Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '13 at 17:37
  • This closing reason is still somewhat problematic, though: meta.stackexchange.com/a/188067/177227 – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 18:19
  • If a user asks how to do something, then we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that they are asking for code. An answer doesn't always need to include a complete solution to a problem in order to be helpful. – Anderson Green Dec 5 '13 at 18:57
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    @AndersonGreen I'm not saying we should, but if their question is as bad as the ones you linked to, what can we do but close it? The specific reason doesn't matter much in those extreme cases. – Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '13 at 19:30
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    @AndersonGreen "If a user asks how to do something, then we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that they are asking for code". I agree, and sometimes a more accurate close reason could have been chosen, such as Too broad or Unclear what you're asking, but if that's the case, and if it's frequent that questions are closed with a badly chosen reason, you need to discuss that problem really. Otherwise, either the question(s) shouldn't have been closed, or the question needed closing but there was no real perfect close reason (rare). – James Dec 5 '13 at 19:38
  • I think the description of the close reason should change. Consider all the language-agnostic questions that say "plz send me teh alorithmz" – Raedwald Dec 5 '13 at 20:06
  • I'm not sure why my question here got an almost unanimously negative reception: is the community telling me that I shouldn't have asked this question in the first place? – Anderson Green Dec 6 '13 at 22:53

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