A number of times I have asked a certain kind of ‘attractive nuisance’ question – that is, one in which I anticipate a certain kind of answer would be given that I already know I am going to find insufficient or entirely inadequate. Some examples:
- fsck exit status "System should be rebooted"
- Assigning to a variable in a parent context in Bash
- Network interface of type ‘phonet’ – what is it good for?
A more abstract example would be asking ‘is it possible to do this 100% correctly’, where people itch to come up with hacks, workarounds and half-baked solutions of various degrees of robustness – while the point of the question is obtaining a fully correct and reliable solution.0
I try to be very explicit in the question body about what kinds of answers I am not interested in. And yet, every time I ask such a question, someone gives such an answer anyway, or an outright XY-type, i.e. frame-challenge answer – where in fact the framing of the question is exactly how I want it, and I don’t want it challenged.
Since I have already said in the question body that such an answer would be inaqeduate, when I get one, I downvote it. I believe it’s only appropriate, but it tends not to be received very well – I get insulting comments and downvotes in retaliation.
I realise that a proper answer would be much harder to come up with than an ‘obvious’ inadequate answer. I suspect that often a real answer should be negative: ‘there is no way to do that’ or ‘there is no way to answer that for sure’. Nevertheless, if that is the right answer, this is the one I want posted – I don’t want the Internet polluted with more tumbleweed of what is already well-known (and may even be subtly wrong), and I don’t want to give ‘A for effort’ upvotes.
What is the most appropriate way to act in such a situation?
0 I am also reminded of when Gary Bernhardt asked Twitter whether it’s possible to control the lexical environment in which
evaled code executes while trying to avoid reflexive ‘don’t use
eval’ replies. Of course, expecting nuance from Twitter of all places is silly, but that’s beside the point.