I saw this question closed as Not A Real Question (NARQ). What I want to discuss is not this closure in particular, but rather the act of closing a question as NARQ when it already has an answer.

NARQ questions are one or more of the following:

  • ambiguous
  • vague
  • incomplete
  • overly broad
  • rhetorical
  • cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

This got me thinking. If a question has a (good) answer, then it:

  • Can obviously be answered in its current form (because it has been)
  • Can't be too ambiguous, or there is little enough ambiguity to cover all cases
  • Can't be that vague because someone was able to figure it out
  • Incomplete, possibly, but there was enough there to cover for a single answer, so perhaps it's complete enough
  • Overly broad. If the answer is a good answer on the question, then it obviously wasn't so broad that it can't be tackled in the SE medium
  • Rhetorical questions can still be answered, especially if there is an assumption being made and it's wrong

With these points in mind, should we stop using NARQ closures on questions that have good answers? (Use your own discretion as to what you think is a good answer).

3 Answers 3


Yes we should however there are currently several things which work against this

  • People don't always read the question correctly before making a decision - everyone needs to be more careful.

  • The UI for /review/close doesn't show any answers that a question may have, although it does mention their existence en passant. Effectively, once something is in the queue, unless reviewers take the trouble to check, then a question has to stand up on it's own merits.

  • The close process is (today) relatively quick which doesn't allow for answers to be suitably evaluated before something is closed. Which leads to ...

How to determine a question has 'good' answer(s) ?

I think the question you link to fails the first point. Apart from reading like a homework question, the first paragraph does indeed make it seem NARQ (overly broad). It's not until you read the last statement that you (may) realise what the real question actually is.

  • 2
    What you've said though indicates to me that the question should have been edited rather than closed. If someone takes enough time to read through it and actually found a question, then it should be adjusted to suit. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 9:47
  • @MarkHenderson: I guess so, but nobody did because (I also guess) they didn't get past the first paragraph.
    – user9517
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 9:57

I have seen, and voted on, quite a few questions that are and indeed should be closed as NARQ, despite having answers. I can't see why it having answers should make any difference. For the particular question you linked I admit I don't see why it was closed as NARQ but the fact that it does have an answer still makes no difference.

I think you're forgetting that there is a huge difference between not a real question in absolute terms compared to not a real question within the context of the site FAQ.

This one is a good example of what I mean.

  • 1
    Then please explain how is this not a real question: serverfault.com/questions/479344/… Also do explain why you deleted your snarky comments from that post and then voted to close it to hide your tracks.
    – Mxx
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 1:35
  • 2
    I don't need to explain anything to you or anyone else. read the FAQ and find out for yourself. I made no "snarky" comment, nor have I deleted any comments made on your posts. As for the closing, I was but one of five who closed those "questions". You appear to be taking very personally something that happens to a great many people on SF. Grow up and get a life kid. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 2:22
  • I see that question has been reopened, not by votes but by a moderator. If that's the way the site is being run now you're right, it's time for me to retire. From SF at least. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 1:44
  • 2
    @MXX we can obviously see you've not read the FaQ as one of the sections says `Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Be Nice." You're acting like you've chucked your toys right out of the pram because a question was closed.
    – tombull89
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 11:08
  • 1
    @tombull89 same does not apply to John Gardeniers' inconsiderate and dismissive replies?
    – Mxx
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:35
  • Mxx of course it does. But after spending some time on ServerFault and other StackExchange sites you tend to get sick of people whining that their question was closed. It happens. If you have an issue with a user, moderator, or the way the site is run start a new question on Meta.ServerFault (QUESTION, not rant). If you're still not happy, take it to Meta.StackOverflow.
    – tombull89
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:44
  • The above comment was edited after I posted my response.
    – tombull89
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:51

I think it's very worth noting that the "good" answer to your example question got a single comment basically saying "I already did that", with no further elaboration. Presumably the asker is expecting a diagnostic back-and-forth, making this indeed "not a real question" and better suited for chat.

Often in the case of vague questions, people make guesses as to the meaning, often focusing on one narrow aspect. This is really unlikely to be helpful to the person asking the question unless the blindfold-dart-toss happens to hit. And it's really unlikely to be helpful to future visitors who may be drawn in by the same vague setup but really have a different problem.

It's better for these answers to be made as comments, and the question refined if possible.

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