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tl; dr: I was offended by 2 questions that got closed and reopened multiple times here and here.

Both of these questions got lots of downvotes, then got closed, then reopened, then upvoted, and so on. So, I wanted to understand the concept.

Theoretically: every question has an answer, somewhere on the Internet, the point is: what keywords should you use to fetch the answer.

Therefore: Broad questions are naturally hard to search on google, since most of time they are entry level questions of someone who has no clue what he's asking. That's what a Q&A site is there for (answer his question with a set of keywords, high quality links, books or whatever would help him start digging deeper and understand more about the topic).

In short, I think "off topic - too broad, primarily opinion based, poll question" is plaguing Stack Overflow: while questions like "how to slice an array in php?" are accepted, broad questions like "how can i become a professional php programmer" are closed and banned.

Let me clear this, the concept of asking in a Q&A website is to find an answer for a question that you could not find an answer for it on Google due to the difficulty of specifying an exact set of keywords that would return a high quality specific answers.

How to handle broad questions?

  1. "you're asking about something called data modeling, try to google it"
  2. "you can try googling Keywords like: ER DATA model, or XXXX in wonder land
  3. "this book will allow you to understand"
  4. "to summarize this broad questions google XXXX key words, and here is a short intro ..."

So, don't you agree that providing a service of answering google-hard questions is of a greater value than answering a specific question that is 99% exists in the documentation and you can get 1 million correct high quality specific answer for it just by googling your question title?

After all, if you cannot summarize an answer, then you don't have to answer it. A 1000+ pages book usually contain an excerpt of 1-2 paragraphs that allows the reader to understand the book. So, if you think a question is too broad. then so is the 1000 page book, yet author was able to introduce you to the answer in couple paragraphs.

Let someone with better understanding, experience and higher IQ do it!

Thanks

marked as duplicate by gnat, Martijn Pieters, Toon Krijthe, Hugo Dozois, Josh Crozier Mar 11 '14 at 0:38

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 2
    On the plus side of splitting your question (and providing an easy link) is that you double the downvotes ... – rene Mar 10 '14 at 19:37
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    What is it with people and their focus on a web search? "Google it" is not an answer, but "I did google it" is no justification for a broad question either. Google isn't magic. Break your problem down in parts and find your solutions to those individual narrow problems. – Bart Mar 10 '14 at 19:43
  • 1
    This is the link back to the other question. – Shoe Mar 10 '14 at 19:45
  • @Bart but Google is magic. How else do you fit all those interns who look up the results for you in those little boxes otherwise? – user213963 Mar 10 '14 at 19:51
  • Unless the format of the edit history has changed neither of those questions has been re-opened. – dmckee Mar 10 '14 at 22:52
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I reject your premise that every single broad question already has an answer, and I further reject the premise that every single broad question can be answered with a single google search.

There are plenty of broad questions that don't have an answer out there, simply because nobody has taken the time to answer that particular question.

There are many other broad questions that cannot possibly be answered. To give an example here, I'll take one of yours, "how can I become a professional php programmer?" That question is highly opinion based, in addition to being very broad. There is no way to provide a single, objectively correct, and complete, answer to that question. People can try, (and oh boy will they try) but their answers will invariably be incomplete, subjective, specific to their individual context, and there is no possible way that one can objectively evaluate the answers to determine if one is "correct" or not.

To your suggestion that we respond to all broad questions by either telling them what, to Google, providing nothing but a link, or a book suggestion: that is contrary to one of the core principles of why this site was created. The founders were annoyed at sites that contained nothing but links, or suggestions for topics to Google (which is super annoying to come across when you find the question by searching on that term) or in some other way telling you to go somewhere else. SO is a place to find answers. In order for it to be a place to actually find answers, it needs to restrict questions to those that can be answered within a scope reasonable for a post on this site. People can't effectively write a whole book here, so questions that would require it must be out of scope. If people choose to suggest books, provide, links, or suggest terms to Google in comments, they're free to do such. While that is certainly not required, it is also not prohibited either.

To your point that many broad questions are simply hard to find the relevant search terms for, I disagree. Yes, there are some questions asked that can be found through a simple search, if only the question author knew what to search on. Such questions have no real correlation to being "too broad". There are plenty of very specific questions that derive from someone not knowing the proper term to search on. In fact, I find that, in most cases, broad questions are less likely to be hard to find in search engines. To take one of your examples, "How can I become a professional php programmer?" has tons of results in Google that are entirely on topic.

  • Allow me to give an example : closed and reopened , another closed twice question .. got 8 downvotes and couple upvotes ! this is the type of questions im referring too. – Zalaboza Mar 10 '14 at 19:44
  • That question should most definitely be closed. – Bart Mar 10 '14 at 19:45
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    @Zalaboza That question is very broad, clearly offtopic, is not hard to search for material on at all (using terms already in your question), demonstrates a clear lack of effort spent trying to either research the topic or form the question iteself, half of the question should just be deleted entirely as it is unrelated to what you are asking, and it is impossible for a quality, complete, on topic answer to be posted to that question. – Servy Mar 10 '14 at 19:50
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    You didn't even bother to write capital letters in those. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 10 '14 at 20:00
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    @Zalaboza The question that you said was closed and reopened was in fact never closed in the first place. It should be closed though. I've added my vote. The question that you said was closed twice was in fact only closed once, and it has stayed closed. – Servy Mar 10 '14 at 20:02
4

So don't you agree that providing a service of answering GOOGLE-HARD

No. They aren't "GOOGLE-HARD" necessarily to be "too broad". Those questions typically have too many questions and/or questions which don't have a specific answer.

Ex.

"How do I create an Android app that does this and that. And also can you tell me how to send the data to a server."

That person needs to learn the basics first and ask a specific question. They probably also need to learn how to use Google more efficiently by using proper keywords.

Too address your examples of what you say is/isn't considered acceptable

broad questions like "how can i become a professional php programmer" is closed and banned

This is not a specific programming question so is not well-suited for SO. It is a broad question which isn't specifically about code.

while questions like " how to slice an array in php ? " are accepted,

This would be acceptable if it shows an attempt at "how to slice an array in php" because it is asking a specific programming question.

  • The OP is providing those examples (except for the last you quoted) specifically because he knows that they are off topic, but thinks that they shouldn't be. The last question you quoted was an example of a question that he knows is on topic, but that he considers to be a very low quality question. – Servy Mar 10 '14 at 19:44
  • @Servy I understand that. I was just trying to reiterate why they aren't/are and shouldn't/should be acceptable. Maybe I should have went into a little more detail there I guess. – codeMagic Mar 10 '14 at 19:55
  • The question already has stated that the first question that you quoted is too broad for SO. It's a part of the premise of the question that it's too broad. Saying that it's too broad is only repeating the question. The same is true with the second question; the OP stated that it's a specific programming question, which is why it is allowed. These are both assertions in the question, you are merely repeating them. – Servy Mar 10 '14 at 20:06

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