Today I saw this question by a relative new user, which was followed by a set of comments requesting clarifications and by a couple attempted answer.

One of the answerers asked OP to email him the whole code so that he could have a better chance of finding a solution (that comment is now gone, but the one in which he provides its e-mail is still there, as of now), and that was clearly done since answerer updates his solution referring the the code he only has seen.

I cannot find dupes (actually, I can't really come up with the right search terms) of this situation, but I was wondering if this kind of behaviour was ok for a public resource as SO (and SE in general). I'm sure it's not the first time I see this, but it's my first time in which I saw a positive and succesful outcome.

My thoughts:

The answer is now given to OP, and it was accepted, so everyone's good. If this is the ultimate goal, there shouldn't be issues.
The answer, though, could have only be provided by the user who saw the code: that means:

  1. OP hasn't explained his problem as he should (leaving everyone not in the right condition to diagnose the problem)
  2. Only one person is given the chance to solve the problem. What if he couldn't?
  3. The answer is now referring to something which is not present in the question, making it of less use for any future reader

I left a comment saying to please keep the question public, since this is a public place and everyone needs to know everything. I know that in many fora private messaging is an important feature, but that's why - in my opinion, and according to the many times the request for a PM system has been rejected - SE became a far better resource then a regular forum, by distinguishing from those instrument.

What's the SE policy about this? Is it frowned upon, tollerated, allowed, incouraged? Is it ok to leave a comment like I did or is it rude / not my concern?

  • 3
    We could potentially close the question as "problem can't be reproduced," since I don't see how the code in the answer has much value to others without seeing the original source. – user102937 Feb 18 '14 at 18:46

I won't comment on what SE's policy is (or should be), or how they could possibly enforce that people don't communicate with each other outside of the site, but I think you were perfectly fine to leave the comment.

In my eyes, that answerer had an unfair advantage in answering the question, because they had details about the question that nobody else had access to, only because they invited private communication. I haven't viewed the specifics but it's quite possible the answerer came to conclusions that wouldn't be possible without that private code, and this makes the answer at best more confusing and at worst much less useful to future readers.

The asker should add the information to the question, IMHO.

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