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Introduce a “general reference” close reason

Questions which are too simple (i.e. answer can be found in the most basic manual), are currently most often closed with reason "not a real question". Description of which doesn't really fit the case.

  • Is it the right reason, or maybe other one should be used? "off-topic"?
  • Should description of either be updated to make it more clear-cut?

EDIT: as noted in comments, the solution is Introduce a "general reference" close reason. I would very much like to see that implemented on main SO site.

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    I think you're looking for the "General Reference" close reason; this is currently being trialled on a few SE sites, so it might be something that will appear in the future... – DMA57361 May 23 '11 at 10:41
  • @DMA57361: indeed, that's what I'm looking for. I would very much like to see it on SO. – vartec May 23 '11 at 10:48
  • @random♦: you're like a Sherlock Holmes and Horatio Caine combined ;-) – vartec May 24 '11 at 15:43

I still have yet to be convinced that we actually need this.

If it's a good, well-written question, then you should provide an equally good, well-written answer, no matter how "simple" of a question you think it is. We were all beginners at one time, and we all needed the answers to simple questions. This information might be available elsewhere on the web, but it's scattered and far-too-often inaccurate. Having the right answers all in one place was one of the original goals of Stack Overflow, and such a proposal runs directly counter to it.

If it's a bad, poorly-written question, then it qualifies to be closed as "Not A Real Question", and you should do so with prejudice. The problem is not that it's too simple, the problem is that it's bad. We already have a hammer for that kind of nail.

Not to mention, 5 close reasons is quite well enough. If we don't want to unlock any more than 5 migration paths to limit complexity, then we certainly don't need to add any more close reasons, which are often even more difficult to select between.

Regarding the suggestion of a "General Reference" close reason, the only case in which I think that would make sense is when linking to the official documentation when there is already a sufficient explanation (and hopefully a working sample) provided. But that's quite rare in my experience: even the best of documentation can always be expanded on by a knowledgeable expert. Most people don't learn programming languages by reading the documentation. And there are far too many programming languages and related tools that have downright terrible or non-existent documentation. I don't want to see those questions closed as "General Reference" because they're clearly not.

We're inclined to bias our opinions based on our own experiences (and really, what else could we be expected to do?), and that means we think something is "simple" or "intuitive" or "obvious" if we've already encountered it, solved it, and understand it. But that's precisely the kind of knowledge that we joined this site to share with others! There's too much risk for a selection bias with this close reason. What experienced programmers in an area think is "general reference" is hardly what the average programmer in that area thinks is the same. For example, as a Windows programmer, I'd be tempted to close questions regarding the inability to perform cross-threading operations with UI controls as "general reference". But they're clearly not, considering how often the question gets asked and how few people seem to understand the real issues involved.

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    Take look for example at: stackoverflow.com/questions/6095717/… I did answer, so while it's on SO, at least it has correct answer. However I feel it just doesn't belong on SO, as it's covered by any introductory tutorial to Python. – vartec May 23 '11 at 10:55
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    @vartec: That's a great example. That question isn't bad because it is "too simple". It's bad because it's not a real question. "Does this work?" is something that you should test in a debugger, not by posting a question on Stack Overflow. There are plenty of ways that the question could be rephrased but cover the exact same material that would make it a great question. – Cody Gray May 23 '11 at 10:57
  • even if this question would be properly phrased, still it's a question for which answer really is "RTFM". – vartec May 23 '11 at 11:19

There is a flag called (not in SO: see comments)

noise or pointless

This question does not add anything useful; having it present on the site is actively harmful because it distracts from other more useful questions.

I think too simple questions can be considered to fall in this scope.

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    Only on Meta. Not on Stack Overflow, or any of the other non-Meta SE sites. – Cody Gray May 23 '11 at 10:45
  • I think the "noise or pointless" is only available on the meta sites. – DMA57361 May 23 '11 at 10:46
  • oh... That's confusing having UI changing everywhere... – M'vy May 23 '11 at 10:46
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    In that case, should we consider to add this reason on SO? – M'vy May 23 '11 at 10:47

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