I appreciate the thoughtful responses from both @chl and @whuber.
One thing I'd like to clear up right away is that the issue is most certainly not that we don't like simple, or trivial questions over at SO. For instance, take this question from just earlier today. That was extremely trivial to answer (and answered by one of the highest rep R tag SO users!), but I think everyone over at SO would be delighted if all our questions were like that one. The asker provided a clear, reproducible presentation of their data and code, and clearly described the problem.
I think there are two general categories of questions that some of us find disagreeable:
- "I have this data. I want a graph that looks like X, Y and Z. How do I do it?" with no code, and the data isn't provided using something reproducible, like
Just generally unanswerable, like one of my examples above:
I have 2 variables that, when combined, uniquely identify a product
(barcode id and catalog descriptions). Barcode numbers and catalog
descriptions have drifted over time, but not at the same time (e.g.
barcode value for one product changed in May, then catalog description
slightly changed in December). I would like to create some kind of
object to identify these drifts (e.g. when barcode value xxxxxxx,
connect all catalog descriptions, then with all catalog descriptions,
connect all barcode values, then continue until no more matches).
Any idea how to implement this?
The problem with questions like in (1) is that they break the Q&A model. The questioner is no longer asking for help with a specific problem, they are asking someone to do something for them. This type of thing seems to be happening more and more regularly with data visualization questions. The problems with (2) should be pretty apparent.
As for solutions, I think both @chl and @whuber make some good points regarding the difficulty for CV users to magically fix questions before migrating them, and the fact that askers will always be able to simply re-ask a closed question elsewhere.
In an ideal world, I would like R questions that are migrated to SO to at least demonstrate some level of research effort. This could take many forms. Example code that illustrates the undesired outcome and data (ideally reproducible) would be best, of course. But really anything that reasonably illustrates what the asker has tried, and why it didn't work.
Returning to my first example above, in its original form:
I have plotted some numbers in a scatterplot in R and want to add
dollar signs to the numbers. How would I do this?
I could quibble about just how clear this is: dollar signs where? The axis title? The axis tick labels? Or did you plot numbers as text in the scatterplot itself?
But if they had at least shown the code they'd tried up to that point, most of those questions would be moot. And even a few cursory comments along the lines of "I looked in
?points but didn't find anything helpful" would be an improvement.
That said, I recognize that it may be difficult for your community to do all the work to improve questions prior to migrating. I'd settle for:
- just not migrating the truly horrible questions (i.e. the obvious cases, like (2) above), and
- when you do migrate a question that "needs work", send it over with a polite comment suggesting they edit their question following the guidelines here. I know it seems like a trivial thing, but if the question already has a comment along those lines, it's a lot easier for folks who are easily annoyed to simply ignore it, and it saves some work for those of us who want to be helpful.
More generally, and this is mostly an aside, I think there's sort of an Urban/Rural divide going on here between SO and CV. A lot of behaviors that can seem rude or abrupt in an urban setting are natural adaptations to coexisting with a much higher population density. I think that SO can seem a lot harsher about issues like this than on other smaller StackExchange sites, but it's not always because we're just big meanies over on SO. :)