Let's assume that one has some problems with coding or designing specific project. Should one ask general question about techniques, algorithms, generic problem (anonymising the project references), or should one ask about specific problem in specific problem? Or perhaps something in between?


  • generic: Cross-browser implementation of “HTTP Streaming” (push) AJAX pattern
  • specific: How to implement AJAX-y 'incremental blame' view in gitweb (git web interface in Perl)?

If one should ask generic questions, how to anonymise problem? If one should ask specific question, how avoid 'homework' syndrome?

3 Answers 3


Pros and Cons:

Generalized Questions:

  • Pro: You are likely to reach a wider audience
  • Con: You are likely to get a lot of vague answers which may not really be all that helpful.

Specific Questions:

  • Pro: You are much likelier to get an answer that exactly fits your problem
  • Con: Your audience of potential answers may end up being much smaller (depending on the subject matter you are asking about).

Both questions have their place.

The issue with generic questions is they can get too generic ("How do I write code?"). My criteria for a good question is this: does it have a definite answer? Do the answers relate to each other or have some meaning to someone else?

Bad: What did you study in college? Good: Given X, Y and Z about me, which of these courses should I study in college?

See the difference? The fact that someone says "I studied biology" is, well, meaningless to anyone else in the context of being an answer to a question.

It should also be noted that specific questions can get too specific. It doesn't happen oten though.

  • many of the tumbleweed badge questions are overly specific, for example Jul 12, 2009 at 16:28
  • So the actual answer should say something like "a very good mix of both specific and generic"
    – cregox
    Apr 13, 2010 at 23:17

Don't be afraid to ask anything, generic or specific. All knowledge is good knowledge.

Asking a generic question may help you understand something and more specific questions will come from that! :-)

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