I am slightly confused on how to deal with questions which cover say the following scenarios

Scenario 1

A user asks a questions and says that he is not getting the correct result. The code he is using is

Sub Sample()
    mass = 10
    MsgBox mas
End Sub

The answer here is that the user has misspelt the variable

Scenario 2

A user asks a question and says that he is getting an error Duplicate declaration in the code. What should he do to remove the error.

Sub Sample()
    Dim mass As Double
    Dim mass As Double
    mass = 10
    MsgBox mass
End Sub

The answer here is that the user should delete the duplicate line or use a different variable name.

My Question

In such cases what do we do?

  1. Leave a comment
  2. Answer the question explaining on what the user is doing wrong
  3. Close the question as Off Topic
  4. Ignore the Question

Live Example

How should I have handled THIS post? Did I handle it correctly? Or should I have handled it in a different manner?

  • @Downvoter: Care to explain the downvote? Maybe I can improve on the question? Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 10:40
  • 1
    Meta is different. Downvotes don't mean "down", but "disagree".
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 14:39
  • 2
    Meta is different. Downvotes don't mean "down", but "disagree". – Kerrek SB 3 hours ago @KerrekSB: Whoa! Disagree? With What? I have not expressed any opinion nor am I suggesting or requesting for a Feature request. I am asking for community's help to help me tackle these kind of questions. So I fail to see what's to disagree here. :) Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 18:19
  • 1
    @KerrekSB: No, only on feature requests. This isn't one. Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 11:32
  • Belongs on meta.stackoverflow? Neither the matter of the question nor the answers are easily portable to other SE sites. Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 11:47

2 Answers 2


Since it is no longer possible to close as off-topic "for not demonstrating minimal understanding" as suggested by @KerrekSB, I would close your two example questions as "off-topic because..." (emphasis mine)

This question was caused by a problem that can no longer be reproduced or a simple typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, this one was resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. This can often be avoided by identifying and closely inspecting the shortest program necessary to reproduce the problem before posting.

Misspelling a variable name or duplicating a line both count as a typo in my book.

  • +1 Thanks for taking the time out to put a reply here :) Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 10:00
  • 1
    And thank you for taking the time to comment on my answer. Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 10:02

I would leave a comment explaining the problem, which should only take one short sentence, and vote to close as off-topic for not demonstrating minimal understanding, or a custom reason. Minimal understanding fits well enough, I think, in the sense that minimal understanding of anything includes the ability to perform basic spell checking, and of a programming language in particular it should include being able to make sense of very clear and direct error messages. Or say something to that effect in the custom off-topic reason.

It all boils down to the fact that such questions are entirely useless, as they will never, ever help anyone else, nor would anyone ever come looking for such a question. The essence of the two examples (modulo my caveat below) is that they are almost tutorial in nature: problems that someone new to a field may encounter along the way. Undoubtedly there are many people who learn a thing for the first time in their life and would love to post a question about every small detail on SO to get help, but that's now what the site is trying to be.

I consider the eventual deletion of such question a clean-up that helps to keep the site relevant.

I should add that the second example is a bit more complex. What I said applies to questions which are obviously lacking basic care and effort in narrowing down the problem. It would be a rather different situation if the poster noted the duplicate declaration error, pointed to it, said that the error went away if she removed a line, and then asked why duplicate declarations are a problem and how one could guard against those. That would be fine and well. It's the lack of basic effort in the examples which is my guide as to whether a question will be of future use.

  • I am not sure I agree. Because you can actually give a full fledged answer explaining why one should use Option Explicit and how to avoid such errors. Also regarding what you said... nor would anyone ever come looking for such a question. Trust me in the last 2 years approx, I have seen many such questions popping up. However if the community thinks what you suggested is the right approach then I will accept your answer :) Let's wait for couple of hours? Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 7:59
  • @SiddharthRout: You may have seen such questions pop up, but did the posters of those questions first search in any way that would have led them to the existing questions?
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:00
  • @SiddharthRout: Do we really want a detailed analysis of the benefits of Option Explicit hidden behind an obscure "please help me fix my codez" question? Who would benefit from it?
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:01
  • Frankly speaking how many new users actually search for a question? This can be supported by the number of duplicates we vote. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:01
  • Explaining about Option Explcit definitely falls under the scope of Programming. Very few (new) users are aware of it. So yes it will benefit new users :) Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:03
  • @SiddharthRout: OK, in that case, how many duplicates do we need of spell checking questions? A duplicate of something useless is still useless... but you reminded me of something I had wanted to say; editing.
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:04

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