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How would you prefer to handle a Question, if the source of the problem is only a typo in the OP's source code?

has been made a question on the current Moderator Election's Questionnaire. I could not retrieve any standing policy on that matter on meta nor is it part of the guidelines laid out in the helpcenter.

Given that a site's policy should be defined by its community and not just the moderators (or at least that is my take on it) I would like to discuss the issue here.

Stackoverflow has an appropriate rule:

Some questions are still off-topic, even if they fit into one of the categories listed above:

  1. Questions about a problem that can no longer be reproduced or that was caused by a simple typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, these are often resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. This can often be avoided by identifying and closely inspecting the shortest program necessary to reproduce the problem before posting.

So the question is: do we recognize the wisdom of SO's rule or do we consider code with simple typographical errors a phenomenon common enough to the users of Arduino - including questioners at a beginner's level - that might profit from answering such questions?

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Many of our users are just starting out in programming. To them, it can be hard to spot the difference between digitalWrite and DigitalWrite, or digtalWrite. Also, there is a well-known phenomenon that we all suffer from called Code Blindness - from looking at the code for so long that you can no longer really see what is there.

In these situations, a fresh pair of eyes is essential to spot little errors like these.

Is it off topic? Possibly. However, that's not helpful to the novice user trying to get their first (non-built-in example) program to compile.

So I say answer the question pointing out (gently) what is wrong.

They come here looking for our help. It's our job to give them that help (as long as they're asking something about Arduino and not C++ programming in general unless pertaining to working on a microcontroller and the restrictions that imposes) - whether or not that question and answer help someone else in the future.

Who knows? These small typos made by novice users are common. Maybe it will help someone else in future. Probably not though. But still, that user went away happy and the overall impression of the helpfulness of this site increased by a tiny margin.

If the question ends up being closed by the community in the future, no matter - the OP is happy and will come back again and maybe bring their friends with them.

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The trouble is, it isn't just typos that are likely to be things that are "one-off" problems. Sometimes we get highly-specific questions about certain code that may have a logic error. Next time it will be a different logic error, so answering the question doesn't necessarily help anyone later on.

This is unlike, say, questions about Linux about how to combine stderr and stdout into one file. This is a question that a lot of people will want the answer to.

Having said all that, I would also agree with Majenko's answer.

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I am the author of that question. And I am for the SO approach. Why? Because it is possible to generate endless count of this kind of questions as anonymous user and then answer them. I don't know if an anonymous user can accept an answer, but this answers tend to get upvotes.

A comment can point out the error and the question should be closed as "Unclear what you are asking" in the meaning "it is obvious".

  • Thank you for presenting your point. If I may ask, did you observe a pattern to that end on this stack, i.e. a large number of question of this kind that disrupts the operation of the site? 1 rep users can in fact accept answers but they cannot upvote. I have never heard of suspicious voting behaviour with this sort of questions so far. – Ghanima May 20 at 12:27
  • I disagree about closing as "Unclear what you are asking". If we want to close these questions because they're one-off problems & might generate endless numbers of similar questions, then we should have a custom close reason for that purpose. – sempaiscuba May 23 at 20:03

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