So the saga of my question about XNA windows twitching and its subsequent plea on Meta to reopen the question had a bitter-sweet outcome that I feel needs to be addressed.

As a very brief history, I originally asked my question and had it put on hold within minutes. I made some edits and began making my case for having it reopened which was redirected to a Meta post. I won't get into more details as that Meta post can be read.

Anyways, I finally found the answer to my own question. The entire reason I had asked was I had hoped someone would recognize the symptoms of my problem and be able to direct me to a solution. Did it require research and debugging code? Yes, but only if you're unfamiliar with the problem. It would've been well within the realm of possibility for someone to answer with "That sounds exactly like this bug with MediaPlayer I've run into, I bet you're using that incorrectly," even without my mentioning MediaPlayer (my code is fairly complex, making narrowing down causes especially difficult).

The point of my question/post here is, does anyone not find it absurd that I had to answer my own question to even be allowed to ask the question? Had I been able to narrow down the problem I'd never have asked it in the first place, because I'd be able to fix the problem myself (which I have fixed it by now, knowing MediaPlayer's bug was causing it). I came to GameDev with the hopes of avoiding endless debugging and had no intention of wanting others to speculate or help me debug. I was simply hoping for answers.

This incident has left me feeling this StackExchange is too strict in its rules, and honestly makes me not want to ask any more questions (what's the point if I have to get 99% of the way to the answer before being allowed to ask?). Bugs without relevant code are not automatically impossible to recognize nor do they automatically have many causes that would necessitate needing more details. And just because the reader of the question doesn't know the answer, and would have to research just like the asker, does not automatically mean there's nobody out there who could give a good definitive answer (without needing all the explicit details uncovered by thorough debugging).

As a poor analogy, it's like being stuck on a complex math problem, asking for help, and being told "Can you narrow down the problem to where it's just adding two numbers? Then I can help". But I can also add two numbers, so what's the point of my even asking?

  • This is exactly the process by which we get those kind of rules re-considered or overturned. (Being very sincere) thanks for using Meta. – Jesse Dorsey Jul 11 '14 at 7:21

My understanding of the rules as they are today is had you taken the effort to narrow down your problem to Media Player causing the issue, like the person in your linked Stack Overflow post, you would have gotten up votes and not close votes (assuming it wasn't closed as a duplicate instead). I don't think the work it would take to get this far is as extreme as you claim.

I realize you said it's a poor analogy, but if you said you were stuck on a complex math problem, only told us you were using Calculus, and said you were seeing 5 as a result when you were expecting -3 but did not include any details on the steps you took to reach the conclusion of 5 no one would be able to help you. To expand upon your analogy further, yes there are probably people who know calculus who could help you reach -3... the problem is you might get 12 different approaches on how to reach -3 and given how little information that was provided in the original question that was asked, the one answer that helped you is technically not more correct than the other 11 making the question no longer about a specific problem you are having and about a generic problem anyone using calculus is having.

Another example, just to show you what we would be subjecting ourselves to if we don't define a clear line, would be a question as such:

I tried implementing proper collision resolution but the player just walks through solid objects. What are some common issues with collision resolution that might be able to help me solve this issue?

The above is just awful because there is no way someone could reasonably help this person without lengthy discussion or flat out guessing. The issue could be because of his collision resolution code, his collision detection code, or maybe he's using a physics library and he's implemented movement in a way that doesn't support the provided physics. I'm sure someone out there has seen his problem before and might have an idea as to what was done wrong based on his description, but if a person cannot answer a question with some degree of confidence I don't think that person should be attempting to answer the question.

If you can come up with how we draw the line between why you feel your question is appropriate vs keeping questions like the example above out I'm open to suggestions but if we cannot objectively define that line I think I have to lean on the side of believing that questions, such as yours, are off topic for the site because they don't provide enough context (too broad) to aid in answering the question with confidence.

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    The only reasonable middle ground I can come up with on my own (I'm very open to suggestions), is use of community wikis for solving something like this. I still don't know where we would draw the line for "This can be a community wiki" and "This should be closed" though – SpartanDonut Jul 11 '14 at 14:33
  • It has to do with how specific the problem is. "Why is there black smoke pouring out of my house?" is answerable with "It's on fire". "Why do I hear a clicking sound?" is not. Like I was saying in the other Meta post, it has to do with how many possible answers there are to determine how specific the problem is. If in doubt, I feel benefit should be given to the question, and not assume the question has too many possible answers. – Bob Jul 11 '14 at 16:57
  • More than one possible answer is too many. Your question had more than one possible answer without more context. – SpartanDonut Jul 11 '14 at 17:31
  • How do you know there's more than one possible answer? If you can't answer that, if you don't know, how is it fair to declare a death sentence on my question from that position? – Bob Jul 11 '14 at 18:38
  • One of the links you posted mentioned a lost device being the culprit. Perhaps you were interacting with GraphicsDevice or related objects in a way that could have caused this. Maybe you there was a GPU driver issue. Maybe you have a GPU hardware issue. Maybe you've got WinAPI hooks into your window and are doing things that could potentially cause this. – SpartanDonut Jul 11 '14 at 18:48
  • Lost device wouldn't explain the behavior I saw. My original question already mentioned I wasn't manipulating the window through any means. All signs pointed to it being something unusual, like a bug with XNA, which in fact it turned out to be. Armed with this information, I would've been able to answer my own question as it was originally written, without need for more context. A very good sign that my question was not too broad, as the problem I saw was very specific and narrow, especially considering window manipulation is so rare. – Bob Jul 11 '14 at 20:08
  • I'm not going to debate this with you in a lengthy meta comment thread. Your scenario is not how you describe it despite what you want to believe and if you want to convince me otherwise we need a real time conversation. I hang out in chat very frequently so feel free to stop by and we can discuss this further. – SpartanDonut Jul 11 '14 at 20:25
  • And just to be really clear... I can change my mind though I will also convince you of seeing my side of the story as well. But I am open minded so please join me in chat :) – SpartanDonut Jul 11 '14 at 20:34

I don't think that the “more than one possible answer” describes a situation in where a question would be closed as too broad. Many, many well–written Stack Exchange questions have more than one possible answer: that's why there is also the Accepted Answer function.

The problem is whether the person providing the answer needs to engage in troubleshooting or diagnostics — which is probably not possible unless that person is the same as the one asking, and who already does so and thus answers their own question.

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