Help! My question was closed (or down voted). Why? And what can I do about it?

The answers below try to summarize the issue and provide links to related content that helped shape the policies. Realize that many of the links also from particular points in the history of Programmers.SE and while they have good advice and ideas in them, policies described in 2010 may not be the same as 2014 and beyond.

Please note: There are quite a few of my answers in this question. Up voting (or down voting) them all in one go may lead to a serial vote reversal. If this happens, it makes it even harder for you to vote on other things I may have written elsewhere on this meta. In that light, please limit your voting on this question and its answers.

For pasting into chat or comments there is a "Quick link" at the end of each answer. The quick link for the question is [Why was my question closed or down voted?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/q/6483/) - pasting this into chat or a comment will link to the question.

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had questions closed for ops not capable of reading and understanding them - or failed bounties for ops not able to reproduce the results. the only effect it has is, that one may realize, that time can be used more meaningful. –  syslogic Mar 12 at 23:18
    
Thanks for this post - very informative :) –  Chris Cirefice Aug 21 at 17:15
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@ChrisCirefice thank you. Each StackExchange has its own nuances of understanding the various close reasons and P.SE is no exception there. These interpretations are often found scattered through meta and it can be difficult for someone to grasp all that history from just the close reason summary, and thus the attempt to pull it all together. If someone reads this early on in their P.SE asking career, they may find it possible to avoid many of the common problems and close reasons that we face and thus ask better questions from the start. –  MichaelT Aug 21 at 18:11
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@MichaelT Exactly - my first question here was closed & deleted - I went to chat to figure out why and it was fine. This post didn't exist back then :P I think every SE site should have a stickied (FAQ'd) page like this to help out new users. I don't think a lot of them do, unfortunately =/ –  Chris Cirefice Aug 21 at 19:17
    
Compared to other SE sites, Programmers is special. It is one of the older sites, and it has gone through iterations regarding its content. Most of the sites in this network started with highly focused goals, and have not changed course in the middle like Programmers has. That seems to make Programmers more difficult to grok for most new members. –  Snowman Nov 2 at 4:05
    
@Snowman I wouldn't say middle, but it had a very disruptive bit in the early part of its history (within weeks of going to public beta). However, a fair bit of the "this is what programmers is" for people who don't participate was set down during that period. The idea that we still are that "Not Programming Related" site lingers on in quite a few minds (regularly sending questions for "this doesn't fit on Stack Overflow, try on Prorammers.SE"). Some seem to think that P.SE is the worldbuilding.SE version of SO where one can throw anything at the wall to see if it sticks. –  MichaelT Nov 2 at 4:13
    
@MichaelT perhaps "middle" was the wrong word. Regardless, the fact is that many old questions linger on this site that are poor examples of questions under the new contents of the help center. Someone can search first (good!), find a poor quality question that was not closed and did receive positive attention (votes, answers), ask a similar question, then wonder why it is downvoted and closed. –  Snowman Nov 2 at 4:17

9 Answers 9

Off Topic

Career or education advice

Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic on Programmers. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance.

Career advice questions are only applicable to the person asking the question. No two people are looking at the same set of classes, or the same job. Every question that is asked is either only for one person or the answers will always be hopelessly incomplete because of the lack of the nuanced information and context that the person asking the question is in.

Career questions are often very important questions to the person asking them. Although assistance can be provided, the answer is one that you need to find yourself, and not from random strangers on the Internet. If you are in academia, ask a career counselor at the school, or one of the instructors - they know you better than we do. Similar resources can be found for people in the job market already.

One of the biggest difficulties with Q&A for career questions is that to get the nuances of your situation and getting to know you better requires a dense two way communication - lots of clarification back and forth. To this end, chat is a resource where (the current) denizens can have that conversation. We still won't get to know you as well as people who know you know you, but on the whole we are familiar with the various parts of the software industry.

Please also note that we are notoriously bad at predicting the future. If you had asked someone ten years ago if Objective C was going to be a popular language they would have looked at you funny ("Apple has less than a 2% market share - who would use it?"). Or if you asked about running JavaScript outside of the web browser they would have laughed at you. Technology is changing at an incredible rate and to ask about what it will be in another decade? Your guess is as good as mine... maybe better (its less hampered by a few decades of industry preconceptions).

Asking questions to predict the future job market and what skills are best is completely speculation and cannot have any right answer.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as off topic?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6488/)

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This one will forever be a problem because programmers are people. Ultimately a more adequate name for this SE site would have been Programming. –  Andrew Hoffman Nov 12 at 18:54
    
@AndrewHoffman There is a long and contentious history of the name (and scope) of the site. The best approach now is likely to help people clearly understand the scope if they have had their question closed or want more information after reading the help center. –  MichaelT Nov 12 at 19:08
    
And the #1 thing that would help people clearly understand the scope would be to 1) Rename 2) Make the scope prominent and one-click away. Imagine if the UX SE site's scope was actually restricted to UI. Oops.. –  Andrew Hoffman Nov 13 at 14:39

Unclear what you are asking

What you are looking for, in the context of Programmers.SE is unclear.

This close reason can also be a bit unclear as to what the issue is. Please be sure to:

  • Give enough context that someone reading the question can understand it
  • Explain what you are looking for
  • Check to make sure you are not using jargon that is particular to one specific branch of computing (and if you are, either change the jargon or link to a site that explains it)
  • Check that there are no hidden assumption or "leaps of thought" in your question. They might be obvious to you, but they won't be to the wider community. It is often better to spell it all out explicitly, even if you think it is blindingly obvious.
  • Make sure you are on the proper site

The last point is important too. This close reason is often used as a proxy for "we don't think that this question is a good question for Programmers.SE (it might be on Stack Overflow), but would get closed there too."

Explain your design. Explain what you have done. Explain where you are having difficulty. Explain what you are looking for.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as unclear?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6489/)

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Off Topic

What technology to take up next

Questions about what language, technology, or project one should take up next are off topic on Programmers, as they can only attract subjective opinions for answers. There are too many individual factors behind the question to create answers that will have lasting value. You may be able to get help in The Whiteboard, our chat room.

There is a constant stream of new projects out there. Github claims 4,500 new projects a day back in 2011. On December 23, 2013, Github had 10 million repositories. Quite frankly, there are far too many projects for anyone to suggest a good answer. What's more, the projects of yesteryear may well be inactive now.

The same problem exists for suggesting languages and technologies - they are constantly changing. Further, many questions of this type often just ask "which one is best" without specifying any requirements, making them essentially a popularity poll. If you really do want a popularity poll, consider reading The Top Programming Languages: IEEE Spectrum’s 2014 Ranking which takes into account such things as Github active projects, Stack Overflow questions, Reddit questions, Hacker News, and job postings (see the 'custom' ranking for working with weightings).

A goal for Stack Exchange is to create a lasting repository of information. Asking questions about which technology to chose runs counter to that. In part because everyone's needs are different and also that everyone has their own favorites.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as off topic?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6486/)

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Primarily opinion-based

Good questions ask for expertise, not opinions. Examples of questions that are primarily opinion-based:

  • "What did this person mean when he said..." (We're not mind-readers)
  • "Which of these two designs is the better one?" (what do you mean by "better?")
  • "How should I arrange the folders in my project?" (really?)
  • "Is this the best practice?" (what do you mean by "best?")
  • "What is the name of this thing so I can go look it up?" (Ask us your specific question about the thing)

The key distinguishing factor is that there is no way to get an authoritative answer for the question - the answers are all based on opinion rather than the knowledge of the person answering the question.

Consider that if the answers to the question of:

I like ${design A} for these reasons

I like ${design B} for these other reasons

If both of these answers are valid then the question is likely opinion based.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as primarily opinion-based?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6491/)

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"the answers are all based on opinion” - that doesn't seem a good criteria (not least because it's a opinionated claim). I appreciate we're looking to find objective rather than subjective answers. Yet even so called authorative answers are in fact subjective, and thus opinions, on a well-informed basis alright. If that were not so, only one answer per question would ever be given, by the most authorative person on the site. A better reason and criteria would be 'has caused back-and-forth arguments without reaching a conclusion, as demonstrated by comments and answers'. –  miraculixx Jun 12 at 23:05
    
so bitter, opinions matter, I usually want to know the opinion of people who knows more than me, and stack exchange sites are a good place to do so. What if knowledgeable people just write for the joy of share what they are, and not to answer a question or earn reputation. The community will suffer? I don't think so, it's just the system needs to be better classifying information, and let user know when is reading a "too opinionated/discussed question", but no need to close, storage is cheap, and noise means system is not filtering. –  juanpastas Aug 3 at 15:25
    
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@juanpastas opinions do matter, but the site is poorly designed for having an opinion poll or discussion. Its specifically designed for questions that have specific answers or solutions. The site can't do everything ideally for all types of questions and so we try to focus on just those it can do Really Well. There is a bit more about this in On discussions and why they don't make good questions. –  MichaelT Aug 3 at 15:32
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@juanpastas You said: "noise means system is not filtering." And that's exactly what the community is doing - filtering out the noise so the signal remains high. If you're looking for opinions, StackExchange is not the right community for that goal. While there are opinions, StackExchange is built around high quality questions and answers. –  GlenH7 Aug 3 at 15:33
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@juanpastas: "stack exchange sites are a good place to do so" – No, they are absolutely terrible for that. There is no way to have a discussion about opinions on SE. You are looking for a discussion platform, not a Question/Answer platform. There are many of those, SE is not one of them. –  Jörg W Mittag Aug 3 at 16:45
    
@MichaelT thanks for your link very illustrative, now I understand more, not all people takes the time to explain it in a concise way as you did. –  juanpastas Aug 3 at 18:25

Other

Questions can be closed with a custom reason. These are found in the comments for the question. To that extent it is difficult to enumerate all the possible reasons people may try to close a question.

Read the explanation.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed - other reasons](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6492/)

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Too Broad

The question you have asked either:

  • has too many possible answers
  • would require answers that are too long for the Q&A format

Polling

Some questions are just polls for a design, or pattern, or name of a thing. If the accepted answer is based on "which answer I like best," rather than "which answer solves my problem," the question is probably a poll.

While some other Stack Exchanges allow it, Programmers.SE frowns upon 'big list' type questions that seem to want to compile a list of things. Questions that fall into this category typically have the form of:

  • What are all the problems I will encounter with XYZ?
  • What are the pros and cons of XYZ?
  • How can XYZ be used?
  • Any ideas?

Questions like these don't pose a problem that can be solved by an answer. There is no definitive right answer that someone can go to, see the accepted answer and say "yep, thats the answer."

Too long

Can someone explain Java to me?

This question is too broad. There is far too much in Java to explain it to a person. While long and complete answers are a good thing, questions that would require books to answer completely don't make good questions.

Often these questions can be resolved by spending some time thinking about what the core problem is or what the first problem you are running into is.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as too broad?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6490/)

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Downvoted

The first thing to look at is the mouseover for the down vote button.

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Realize that this is a completely subjective grading and people may down vote because they were late to work or don't like unicorns. However one's feeling of unicorns, this is information for you to look at and consider how to improve the question.

Make sure that the question is not just asking for something that can be easily searched with google.

Asking other people to do your searching for you is considered poor form. Everyone answering questions is doing so on a volunteer basis (even the SE employees that sometimes answer questions - they aren't paid to do so).

This also extends to things that you should have been able to find when searching on P.SE. As you enter the information be sure to tag the question appropriately. The combination of tags and title may help you find something right away that answers the question.

Explain your current understanding of the issue

Just saying "Could someone explain ${concept} to me" doesn't show what you do understand. It lacks research. Often the answer to this is spent repeating what is already available in Wikipedia. If you had read this already and don't understand a part of it, explain that part and what you do understand. Correcting a misconception is easier (and a better question) than trying to explain the entire topic.

Blatantly off topic

Make sure you read the help center on on-topic and off-topic questions. Questions that are asking for a discussion, or polling or one of the reasons specified in the help center are often down voted. Especially note that questions should have been posted on Stack Overflow (implementation) or questions that should have been posted on Stack Overflow, but would be off topic there too (do this work for me) are similarly often down voted.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question down voted?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6488/)

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Duplicate questions

A duplicate question in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Often it means that the people who have suggested it as such think that the answer to your question is already in the original question. Questions are closed as duplicates because we want future readers to be able to go to one place to find the answer.

Make sure you read all of the answers on the original question and consider the implications behind the answers too - not just the first reading. An example of this can be seen on Stack Overflow when debugging questions trying to track down a NullPointerException in Java are linked to a question that explains about NullPointerExceptions rather than trying to resolve that particular instance.

If you feel that something is closed as a duplicate incorrectly, edit your question to explain specifically how it differs from the other question and the answers in the duplicate question do not apply to your situation.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as a duplicate?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6485/)

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Off Topic

Recommend a tool, library, or other

Questions asking us to recommend a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Programmers as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

Stack Exchange is not designed to be a book, library, or link review site. It just doesn't work well that way. Asking for libraries and tools often attracts spam answers where the person answering it just drops a link to some library in an answer, without explaining anything.

Try libXYZ.

Questions like "What is the best book to learn Java from" are incredibly broad, polling questions that have no right answer, only opinions. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of books on Java. Often times these books become outdated as fast as the technology does.

Asking for a link to something or statistics

This is a subtler meaning of the 'favorite off-site resource' part of the wording of the close reason. Asking a question that doesn't draw upon the community's expert knowledge as programmers but rather asking it to be a crowdsourced search engine falls into this area.

Links to things suffer from link rot. Statistics become out of date over time. Neither of these contribute significantly to the collective knowledge of problem solving that the Q&A format provides.

An example of this is someone asking in 2012 "What is the market share of Android vs iPhone?" This information would be out of date in a few months as new numbers come out and someone else would ask in 2013 "The question [link] asks about the stats, but they are all for 2012. What is the market share for android vs iPhone in 2013?" And again, this information would be out of date and prompt another question.

Asking for information about statistics, or more generally, asking us to search for some data for you is off topic because of these problems:

  • No actual problem to solve
  • Not drawing from expert knowledge of the community
  • Will suffer from link rot or become out of date

Link Rot

Furthermore, external resources may move or be deleted for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a particular site reorganizes its links without setting up redirects. Perhaps an organization goes out of business or discontinues product X or library Y.

In addition to the reasons stated above, external resources tend to be transient. Whatever tool, library, or other resource who requested might not exist in five years or be otherwise readily available. This has the effect of making an answer utterly useless.

If one asks for a library to perform function X, and the answer links to web site Y, and either function X or web site Y cease to exist as defined in the answer, that answer is now useless.

This is one more reason why questions like this tend to be of low value and are off-topic.

Is there a place where I can ask such questions?

Asking for software recommendations is on topic at Software Recommendations. However, if you decide to repost the question on that site, the required information for posting a question has a much higher threshold. From the ground rules and What is required for a question to contain “enough information”, you will need to describe your specific need in detail. If you are unsure how to frame such a question, please ask in the SoftwareRec chatroom before posting.

Related reading

Quick link: [Why was my question closed as off topic?](http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6487/)

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