Once again today I've seen an instance of a question that isn't what it seems. FYI in case the title gets changed, the original one was "How to implement server side caching with PHP".
There are a couple of things this question is NOT:
- It is not what its title states it is.
- If the title were true, it would not be a candidate for gamedev.se, but rather for SO.
- It is not a focused question.
I'm sorry to say this, but... There seem to exist some elements of our community who consistently abuse the system by making it appear as if their question they are putting forward is one thing, when really, it's a whole lot things which they are either too lazy to think about enough to break into smaller problems/questions (the all-too-common "Do it for me" syndrome), or which they refuse to post on a discussion forum (like, as I always comment, gamedev.net). And don't try to tell me they don't know. They are well aware of the Q&A format -- they've used this site and that is how they know to come here in the first place. These users reckon that if they can just slip it in there under a title which describes just one small portion of the discussion they wish to have, then they will get someone to give them assistance, and have a nice old chat to boot. And sadly, given the rush for upvotes and desire to assist those who know less amongst the established users of the site, these discussion-instigators are usually correct.
The problem, as those established users all know, is that this devalues the site by making the search for relevant content that much harder. Content is no longer clear-cut. It becomes less of a community resource, and more of a mess pandering to individual users' problems. Why then have a Q&A format at all?
I am guilty of answering such questions from time to time, in fact two days ago I answered just such a one. And I am sorry that I did. In fact I voted to close it, not long after answering it. In my experience, it is rarely worth bothering to answer those kinds of questions. There are several reasons for that:
- It takes up a lot of time because the OP doesn't even begin to understand the problem, such that after one has written a lengthy answer to address the various possibilities, the OP will tend to ask extensive further questions for clarification... in other words, the question is too broad to answer effectively on the first try, and perhaps even thereafter;
- Other users will (I think) in the first place often avoid making their mark on questions that don't seem out-and-out poor, but are just not very clear;
- It sets a trend for newbies to come onto this site and post questions that really do not belong here, because essentially an unclear question is a discussion-oriented one, and belongs on a forum, not a Q&A site.
- If the question is framed as a programming question as stated above, it is taking relevant content away from SO (if it isn't there already) and duplicating it here.
I love SO. And I love gamedev.se. They both clearly serve different purposes. Is this so difficult for some people to understand? I guess so. I guess all they see are potential handouts, and they come running without thinking twice.
I think there are ways to overcome the number of poor questions we receive on this site. I'm not sure that the measures already in place to filter poor questions are sufficient. And I certainly think there are issues of "game-balance" that may work in the interests of those who are savvy enough to play the "game" this site provides, but that definitely work against the stated goals of the site. Capitalism eats itself, or so I've heard it said.
I'd like to hear your opinions on this.