A lot of the questions on SO are debugging questions with little or no value for anyone else than the asker. Usually, these questions belongs to one or both of these categories:
- The asker lacks basic knowledge about the topic
- The asker does not know how to do basic debugging
When it comes to the first category, it’s common with comments that SO is not intended for tutoring. An example could be a question like this:
Why does this print wrong value? (C language)
double pi = 3.14; printf("%d", pi);
To print a
doublevariable, you should use
"%d"and if compiled with the parameter
-Wallyou would get the warning
warning: format ‘%d’ expects argument of type ‘int’, but argument 2 has type ‘double’
This problem could be easily solved by either reading the documentation or compiling with warnings and read them. Or to the very least, if OP included the warning in the question, the question would be far better, and other people could find it by googling that warning.
When it comes to the second category, it’s common that someone tries to implement some well known data structure or algorithm, such as linked lists or quicksort. In these cases there are TONS of example code available out there, but they want help with THEIR particular code. Often it’s obvious that they have not even looked at working code and that they have no clue how to debug. The problem is usually some simple logic error, like OBO or something.
Sometimes the asker is humble and eager to learn and says something like “I don’t expect a complete solution. Just a hint in the right direction.” And while I do appreciate that, such QA-pairs is simply not suitable for a QA site that people want to search.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that it can be tough for beginners. My objections to these questions are these two points:
- Usually, these questions are very unlikely to help someone else
- Most of the times, the asker would benefit way more from being taught how they could have solved the problem on their own instead of being given the answer.
SO is basically flooded with these kind of questions. I wonder if there is a better way to handle them. A few spontaneous thoughts:
- Separate these from the QA into a forum that is more suitable to guide the asker step by step and giving leading questions.
- Create something similar to the documentation project that SO abandoned. It could have a quick debugging tutorial for instance.
Most of these questions have duplicates, but they are usually very tricky to find. Closing them as dups is not worth the effort.
What to you think?