I posted this question about the differences of directories vs folders on SO some time ago. Despite my effort, it was migrated to SU.

Since I strongly believe that this question should stay on SO, I flagged it, only to have it closed as a dupe of a SU question that even got a wrong answer accepted.

Flagging again is not possible, so I'm putting this issue up here. I'm a bit sad about how this was dealt with so far. The question content is definitely relevant to programmers, and I already stated that I'm explicitly not talking about the usual user POV.

Edit: Why the question belongs on SO

Any programmer that deals with the file system or the shell on e.g. Windows is going to work with files. It is, as seen in my answer quoting Raymond, a huge difference if your program handles folders or directory - for instance, a directory-based program won't be able to work with files inside a zip file. You also won't easily be able to tamper with any other kind of virtual files, like the recycle bin or the control panel items.

Certainly, users (since we're on SU) may be interested in the difference as well, but as stated I'm explicitly talking about the programmer POV, and a programmer will look for this question on SO and not on SU. You're bound to get dupes if this question can't be found on SO.

Therefore, I strongly believe that knowledge of folder/directory differences is important to programmers, and the question ought to be moved back.


The distinction that you are making between "folder" and "directory" is specific to a particular operating system.{*}

At a minimum you should restrict your question to the API that makes that distinction.

Otherwise the answer "They are one and the same." is just as valid as the one you're trying to get at, and it looks like a perfect question for SU.

::wanders off grumbling about kids these days and how all the world isn't windows::

{*} Note that there are systems that will present directories (in the unix sense) to the user as if they are applications. How do you think "What's the difference between an app and an executable?" would fare on SO if it wasn't tagged ?

  • I agree with your arguments, but they just don't really support the migration to SU for these reasons: 1. That it is different for various OS (Windows, nix, ...) is fine and should be posted in an answer. 2. It's true that the question looks perfect for SU at first, but SU does specifically not provide the programmer POV, which is what I'm looking for. – mafu Feb 21 '11 at 9:44
  • @mafutrct: You have a legitimate question for Stack Overflow, and accordingly a legitimate complaint that it was moved, but you have to take part of the blame because you wrote and tagged it so that it read like a general user question (and a pretty naive one at that). Worse, it was migrate more than 12 hours after you asked, so there time for you to see what was happening, ask why, and clarify. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Feb 21 '11 at 15:50
  • Well, I'm not saying that I'm not at fault - I naively did not think that a lengthy explanation is necessary at the time, and I should have raised my voice more - but I clearly stated that it should not be moved and also gave a link that shows that the question can have value on SO. Once it was moved, I figured there was nothing I could do, and maybe I was wrong anyway, who knows - until Raymond blogged about it recently. It was exactly what I was looking for and also indicated that the question belongs on SO, so I picked up the issue again. – mafu Feb 21 '11 at 17:03
  • Anyway, I just want it moved back, no idea why it's so difficult... :\ – mafu Feb 21 '11 at 17:03
  • @mafutrct: Easier by far to ask it again, taking care to make it clear that it is a programming question. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Feb 21 '11 at 20:30
  • @dmckee: Alright, I'll do that. – mafu Feb 22 '11 at 13:15

Personally, I agree with the migration; your question doesn't fit any of the on-topic bullets in the FAQ:

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • matters that are unique to the programming profession

As for closing as a duplicate of a question with a wrong answer; that's generally the right move too. If the other question's answer is wrong, leave a comment saying so and try to get the answerer to fix it. If you post the same question again and get a different answer, now there are two identical questions on the site with two different answers, both accepted

  • About closing: I meant that this question would not be a dupe on SO, where it imo belongs. – mafu Feb 18 '11 at 9:07
  • 1
    @mafutrct - you still haven't explained why you think it belongs on SO. – ChrisF Feb 18 '11 at 9:11
  • @Chris: Yes, I thought I'd better include it in the OP :) – mafu Feb 18 '11 at 9:14

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