I've got the impression that there are many non-trivial questions (and therefore, IMO, interesting questions) that unfortunately get quickly dismissed as "not a real question". See for example this question about Bezier approximation.

In many cases those questions are indeed not properly formulated, but this is true for most questions anyway... Harder ones, in my opinion, just get rejected in this case because of the psychological effect "I don't know how to do it, therefore the question is not clear enough". I'm of course not talking of a deliberated misbehavior of those who closes these questions...

Is this just my impression? If not, what can be done to mitigate this effect that would tend to lower the quality of information one can find on Stack Overflow? Or is Stack Overflow aiming at becoming a repository of futile trivial questions/answers and a place where programmers, who are faster typists with faster Internet connections, can compete for reputation?


The revision history makes it clear what happened there:


  • The OP started with a pretty bad question and edited it to make it better (after about 10 minutes; mouse over the time to see the tooltip).

  • There were probably a few close votes cast in that 10 minute interval when the question was bad and incomplete.

  • The OP then later rolled back a retag which probably annoyed the retagger enough to cast a binding close vote.

I don't know that you can make such sweeping generalizations based on one specific question like this. For what it is worth, I think the edited version is OK and I voted to reopen it.

  • This was just one case where I simply invested some time to find an answer... but there are others in which the question may be is not perfectly worded but doesn't seem unclear and is just not trivial... and they often after a short time get closed. Like I said may be it's just my impression however and so this is not a real problem. Probably not being a native english speaker I tend to be more forgiving about bad english (hoping also others will forgive my mistakes and bad form). – 6502 Jun 7 '11 at 6:45
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    @6502 this was not bad English, this was an incomplete question -- it lacked code. That has nothing to do with how well someone may or may not write English. – Jeff Atwood Jun 7 '11 at 7:01
  • @6502 see the first revision of the question – Pekka Jun 7 '11 at 9:09
  • The question has since been re-opened. – Andrew Grimm Sep 16 '11 at 1:30

I think there probably is a psychological effect of "I can't understand it, therefore it's not a good question", but I'm not sure how widespread it is, nor how you'd even go about detecting it.

I think, as in this case, tidying up and voting to reopen is the way to go.

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    I don't think that this effect is widespread if it comes to complex questions, as far as I can see the exact opposite is the case. Very complex questions which are hard to understand/grasp with very complex problems are up-voted into the sky. Of course questions which are hard to read (broken English, missing details, GIVE ME THE ANSWER PLZ NOW ITS URGENT! etc.) will be closed very fast. The named example is one of these questions which was missing crucial details, it has improved since then and was reopened. – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 7 '11 at 9:28

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