This is a problem I've experienced, and i've seen it talked about outside of Stack Exchange as a criticism of it.

The basic problem is me, or someone else asking the question

How do I do X? I have attempted this, and that, but I don't understand why this isn't working.

But many responses end up like

No no no, don't do X. You should be doing Y instead. Here's how you do Y.

Y, while it'd be helpful advice, it does not solve the problem of how to properly do X. The problem continues even if you explain why you have a constraint of only doing X instead of Y.

The "How long to hard-boil an egg" image, while it's an edit, is a great example of this.

I'd like to know how to word my questions to attempt to avoid falling into this kind of issue that doesn't really result in anyone's problem being solved.


1 Answer 1


You pre-empt them by explaining that you know about the alternative solutions, prove that you know them by listing them, and explain that you're interested in exactly the thing you're asking about, for the sake of the rare case where the alternatives don't work, or just out of pure curiosity.

And then you hope someone is smart enough to realize that they could actually answer the question as asked instead of repeating what the dogma on that matter is. :)

FWIW, I don't think a pure "don't do that"/"do Y instead" is often a very good answer. Asking clarifications (e.g. "have you tried to do / can you do Y instead?") should be done in comments, and in an answer it's often quite possible to answer the question as asked, and then recommend an alternative, better solution.

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