What's the correct way of dealing with a question that's essentially a request for training?

Is it just a bad question (vote down) or is it "not a real question" or something else?

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This question is basically "Help me do answering and voting, I'm a beginner at Stack Overflow with no idea what to do" :) –  Kip Dec 2 '09 at 1:43
    
    
More interesting is what to do about the users who persistently ask these type of questions without giving any making use of (or, sometimes, even remembering from one day to the next) the answers. –  dmckee Dec 2 '09 at 17:21
    
It's not a dup of any of those questions, those are all about "easy" questions, this was about someone who doesn't quite know what he's asking. –  Ward Dec 2 '09 at 22:43
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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This question could be answered with links to various books that cover the topic as well as web sites that have more information. It probably covers too much ground to get a self-contained answer on SF, but that doesn't, in itself, make it a bad question.

I think you have four options: ignore it, down vote it (if you feel strongly that it doesn't belong), close (if you feel very strongly), or suggest a resource/answer.

I'd probably go with the first option unless you can come up with some helpful information.

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I went with downvote in this case because it seemed too vague a question. Maybe there's a language issue, but if someone has no idea what functions a mail server performs, it seems more like "help me" than an actual question. Next time I'll probably go back to ignore or maybe try "suggest a resource." –  Ward Dec 1 '09 at 23:41
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While Erudil's first letter to the Monasterians was written for the Perl Monks' Monastery, I think its message applies universally, particularly verses 4 and 5:

4Brothers and sisters, I beseech you to continue fighting the good fight, showing patience and understanding to those who come to the gates of our blessed Monastery, bereft of clues and ignorant of our ways. 5Do not rebuke them with harsh words such as "RTFM", but rather lead them gently - with URLs - so that they may learn wisdom.

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+1, clever, and (IMHO) the right answer. –  Dr. Gonzo Dec 1 '09 at 23:50
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This is just the Biblical Golden Rule ... always a good one. –  pavium Dec 2 '09 at 0:32
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Is it just a bad question (vote down) or is it "not a real question" or something else?

It's "something else": it's a real question.

The fact that Google has a bunch of answers is irrelevant. Tutorials can be wrong, misleading, outdated, contradictory, incomplete, overwhelming and unfocused. It takes someone who knows about the subject to weed out the good ones and this is why SO exists.

Honestly I wish I could slap someone in the back of the head every time they post a comment with nothing but a link to Google (or, worse, lmgtfy.com) I'd be a happier man.

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you can flag it offensive, after 6 flags they take a 100 rep penalty. that's basically a slap in the back of the head. :) –  Kip Dec 2 '09 at 1:45
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@Kip: not for comments. –  cletus Dec 2 '09 at 1:56
    
Not every link to google results is an offense against humanity. Often, if the question is perfectly straightforward, and the relevant answer is an entire tutorial, a good tutorial link is the best answer. I only do this when I know enough about the subject to vet the thing I'm posting the link to. –  Rosinante Dec 2 '09 at 23:32
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The funny thing about these questions is that there is almost always a pretty good tutorial a quick google away. If you do the google, and post the link, chances are you'll collect a quick 30 points in rep and the OP will go away fairly satisfied.

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If you don't know much about a topic, even if you research it yourself before posting on SO, you might not know how relevant or how good the data you found really is. Remember, not all tutorials are created equal. Try to guide people towards the answer, give them help in determining what's good and what to avoid. Even hints as to the correct solution might be enough for most people.

Not everybody wants to have others do their work, they want to do it themselves, but need guidance; we've all been there at one point in our career. The person that never ever needed any help at any point in their career is allowed to post LMGTFY (sort of like: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.)

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