I recently came upon this question in the close-vote queue and I'm struggling to figure out what to do with it.

As @gnat correctly points out in the comments, this is obviously a "name that thing" question, which Jeff Atwood calls "guessing game" questions in his blog post. All of the reasoning in Jeff's post is accurate: this question is unlikely to help anyone else, may not even have a real answer, and is practically impossible to find via a search, or Google, or whatever. My experience on scifi, which seems to be bearing itself out in this question, strongly suggests that we'll get a bunch of "I think it might be x" answers that will be not quite what the OP wants and start endless comment debates.

But as much as I do think this question should be closed I can't find a good close reason for it. None of the close reasons seem to fit this question: it's about a specific programming problem that (in theory) has a single, objectively correct answer, and provides all the information we need to give that answer. (You might argue that "I want to know what this pattern is called" is not a "problem" but I think that's a stretch, since knowing the name of design patterns is a big part of modern development.)

Of course, we can enter custom close reasons, as @gnat did, but (Jeff's argument aside) these type of questions are generally not considered off-topic on other sites, so I don't know that they should automatically be off-topic here. And if so, should we find a way to roll that idea into an existing close reason (too broad or opinion based seem the closest)?


Just to add some additional data points, this question has come up on scifi (more than once I think) and as of right now, questions are considered on-topic there; I'm also pretty sure are on topic on english.


2 Answers 2


The best way to handle this is probably to have questions in the system that describe each of the software patterns in detail, so that you can close questions like this as duplicates of the pattern they are attempting to identify.

My objections with "name that thing" questions are many, but they mostly boil down to being a proxy for "what should I Google for?"

  • 1
    And yet I'd think that so many of these, "what is the X pattern?" would likely be "too broad".
    – Servy
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:24
  • 2
    Yes, that's the eternal problem with canonical questions. Mostly, they collide with "what have you tried?" They are icanhazalgoz
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:29

This is not a guessing game. The question describes a design pattern in objective terms: no guessing is involved.

The description can be searched for, so “this question is unlikely to help anyone else” doesn't apply either.

The question can be answered, either by finding a reference that describes this design pattern and gives it a name, or (with more difficulty) by asserting that this is not a common named design pattern (and perhaps discussing how it relates to common design patterns).

The absence of a close reason is a hint that this question shouldn't be closed. The fact that the question is on-topic, can be answered and can be useful to future visitors shows that this question shouldn't be closed.

  • 2
    Well, first of all, the absence of a close reason doesn't mean we can't close it. That's why we have "fill in the blank reasons," and all it takes is for five community members to agree, which was apparently the case here.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 15:58
  • @RobertHarvey Your comment is correct, but in what way is it relevant? Feb 20, 2014 at 16:00
  • 3
    That was one of your assertions: that the absence of a close reason is evidence that it is on-topic. For the most part, that's not true.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:01
  • @RobertHarvey Where did you read this assertion? I've re-read my answer and I can't find anything like it. The closest I can find is “the absence of a close reason is a hint that this question shouldn't be closed”, which contradicts this assertion — it's a hint, not evidence. Feb 20, 2014 at 16:02
  • It's not even a hint.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:03
  • @Gilles Guessing game wasn't actually my term; I merely used it because it was in Jeff Atwood's post about other identify-something style questions. Would your answer change if I called it an "identify-this-code" question? (just curious)
    – KutuluMike
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:08
  • 1
    We close questions to the effect of "what does this code do" all the time. "what pattern is this" is just a variant of that.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:09
  • @RobertHarvey Yes, it's a hint. Close reasons encompass the common cases for which a question cannot be satisfactorily answered. If no close reason applies, then either this is an uncommon case of a question that cannot be satisfactorily answered, or this is a question that can be satisfactorily answered. The uncommon case is uncommon. Feb 20, 2014 at 16:09
  • @MichaelEdenfield This isn't “identify-this-code”, but “identify-this-concept”. Identify-this-code is practically unsearchable. Identify-this-concept isn't. In any case, my answer is not about terminology of question types, but about this specific question. Feb 20, 2014 at 16:12

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