9

Sometimes questions get asked, then the need for them to be answered goes away before the question is answered. Answering the question would be a matter of a some kind of post-mortem examination, but the problem is gone and the original asker has no interest in solving it.

I've meant to ask this before, but a new example just cropped up with this question. Since nobody can replicate the problem and the original asker no longer has the problem, requests for more information to provide a definitive answer are useless. It's likely the problem isn't accurately described, but difficult to correct.

Should a "cop out" answer such as "update your system" be provided so that the question can be marked as answered? Should the question be closed? Should it just be ignored and left for time to bury unless somebody else with the same problem comes along and resurrects it with more info?

  • 1
    Is deletion an option? I'm not sure what the policy is, but the less cruft there is on the Internet, the better. – jasonwryan May 29 '11 at 1:12
  • In this case, it would not have been difficult for the poster to clarify what the problem was. Squeeze's apt keeps a record of all transactions (assuming he was using apt). My quess is a slightly out of date copy of libcairo2, because of the undefined symbol. But it seems, as is commonly the case, that once the problem has been solved, the asker is no longer interested in providing information. Often they aren't interested in providing information even when the problem hasn't been solved. – Faheem Mitha May 30 '11 at 10:02
  • My answer is now completely obsolete, please unaccept it so I can delete it and accept Michael's answer instead. – Gilles Oct 15 '13 at 11:29
5

The close reasons include

  • “not a real question”: “the question is (…) incomplete (…) and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form”.
  • “too localized”: “the question is unlikely to ever help any future visitor; it is only relevant to (…) an extraordinarily narrow situation”.

For troubleshooting questions, it's fairly common that the initial question doesn't have enough information, and people will comment to say “what's in file X, try running command Y”. If the asker never answers, I tend to close as “not a real question”: there was a genuine problem but the asker did not care to post all the requested information. If the asker reports that the problem “solved itself”, I tend to close as “too localized”: we'll never identify a repeatable problem.

A question closed as “not a real question” now carries an automatic downvote. This seems to validate my distinction above: NaRQ carries a penalty (bad asker), TL doesn't (hapless asker). However, don't sweat it: apart from “exact duplicate”, the close reason doesn't really matter. What matters is that questions we can't or don't want to answer get closed (and usually deleted).

  • 1
    I'm inclined to say the question linked to is of the 'too localized' variety. – boehj May 29 '11 at 2:10
7

If there is no evidence that any future visitors could ever be helped by such a "no answer needed" question, then it should simply be deleted -- flag it for moderator attention as such.

Pages that can't help anyone don't make the internet better and should be removed, always!

3

We now have an option to close because:

Questions describing a problem that can't be reproduced and seemingly went away on its own (or went away when a typo was fixed) are off-topic as they are unlikely to help future readers.

2

I believe that somewhere on the SO Blog there is a post about questions that a person resolved themselves. In most cases the correct thing to do is post the answer of how you solved it. However if it turns out to be a fluke with no known solution or whatever, then the correct thing to do is for the poster do delete his question. In this case we'll never have a solid solution, as we won't really know what package it was. Therefore I'm highly tempted to close this question.

  • 1
    I was tempted to case a close vote myself, but it wasn't clear in my head what the reason would be, so I asked here :) – Caleb May 28 '11 at 11:35
2

In a bug-tracking system, there's usually a "can't reproduce" resolution option — or, not "not a real bug". Here, we've got "not a real question".

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