I voted to close https://cs.stackexchange.com/questions/1/how-does-branch-prediction-work

This is a broad question, asking for an overview of a whole subfield. While the answers do provide some adequate perspectives on the subject, I found them, as a whole, far less informative than the Wikipedia article on the subject. (I pick on this example because I recently learned how a particular processor implements branch prediction; the Wikipedia helped me clarify some points, whereas the CS.SE answers were not helpful.)

This site is not Wikipedia. Wikipedia does a far better job at answering the title question, how branch prediction works. The post has a second part, “Can I optimize my code to help the CPU guess more accurately?” — also too broad, as is apparent in the answers: they only provide tidbits of advice, and none of them addresses the full domain (what to do depends to some extent on the features offered by the CPU, on what the compiler can do for itself, and on what the code does).

Some sites have “general reference” as a close reason, for questions that are best looked up in a reference document (encyclopedia, dictionary, user's manual, … — this doesn't include questions where finding the reference is the main problem). This was not generally adopted, and I am not proposing it here, because there is a huge potential for abuse. Nevertheless, I propose the following guideline:

If the question boils down to “what is X”, and there is an adequate Wikipedia article (or other similar reference), then close the question. “Not a real question” is appropriate for a broad subject where we cannot be expected to write a whole précis in an answer. “Too localized” can also be used, inasmuch as looking up the obvious Wikipedia article is easier than finding the question here, so having the question here hinders future visitors more than it helps them.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it would be also good to advise the OP to edit the question and ask what really they want to know. Often they are looking for a something but have phrased the question too generally. Sometimes the question can be changed to asking for tutorial or surveys articles on the topic. On the other hand, an OP might not know what they are looking for has a well-known name and a nice wiki article but can explain/describe the concept they need. I think in such situations the question is fine and should remain open. The answer would explain that what they are looking for is called X. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Mar 31 '12 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: Sure, this is a good general guideline, and that's what I meant by “this doesn't include questions where finding the reference is the main problem”. In this case, I don't see a way to salvage the question, it's very broad and the answers are all over the place. $\endgroup$ – Gilles Mar 31 '12 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: In that case, a comment pointing to the corresponding name/phrase (and therewith the resource) combined with a close vote solves the problem. The user can always come back with a more focused question after checking the resource. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Apr 1 '12 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael, I think they are on-topic and answerable question so although they are easy to answer I don't see any reason to close them. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 2 '12 at 1:23

I think that posting a comment with a link to the relevant Wikipedia article and requesting the user edit the question if there is a more specific issue is fair and reasonable. Failure to ask a more specific question, one way or the other, could then be reasonable grounds for closing and deleting the question as "overly broad" or "it's hard to tell what is being asked". Anybody who knows enough to ask an on-topic question knows enough to check Wikipedia.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it is also fair to close directly and reopen if the user edits to something more specific. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Apr 1 '12 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael True, but that might be seen as less inclusive/welcoming behavior, especially by new and/or inexperienced users. But essentially, I agree. $\endgroup$ – Patrick87 Apr 1 '12 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. Obviously, such closing should be explained to newcomers in a comment. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Apr 1 '12 at 20:37

I agree with @Patrick87. Stackoverflow scares the heck out of me regarding close and down voted questions. There is no time to correct yourself there, you get immediate down voted, and few secs late your question is closed and felt into oblivion. I would not feel like contributing to such a community. Having the user being ask to edit and giving him some time seems to me as well the right way to go.

I would also like your opinion on questions such as those I posted:

Would these be considered too broad? I somehow find it hard for people to reuse this sort of discussion if it falls into chat, but perhaps I am wrong. What should I do about this type?

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    $\begingroup$ All three questions are a bit on the broad or vague side. I thought at least one was a great question. The one about references for books is, IMHO, possibly unlikely to be well-received; other such questions have been viewed with suspicion. No idea about the third ;D $\endgroup$ – Patrick87 Apr 7 '12 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ Closing questions that are unwelcome in their present state, and reopening them if they are improved, is standard procedure. Please read A guide to moderating crypto.stackexchange yourself - close voting If a question of yours is closed and you edit it in a way you think addresses the closers' concerns, feel free to flag for reopening (SO is an exception in that respect, because the moderators there are severely overworked). $\endgroup$ – Gilles Apr 7 '12 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ It seems you may misunderstand the idea behind 'closing': questions that need to be changed significantly before they can reasonably be answered get closed, so they don't get answers (that by definition are wrong, as the question cannot be answered) until the OP has solved the issues with the question, after which it can be reopened. A close vote should not be combined with a downvote if the question can be salvaged: downvotes should be used if no reasonable question can emerge from the question ("Where can I buy glasses" should be downvoted). $\endgroup$ – Alex ten Brink Apr 7 '12 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ I think you did a good job restricting the first and third question just enough so that it is clear what scope an answer should cover yet not too much. The second is all-encompassing, though. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Apr 7 '12 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @AlextenBrink what I often see is question being closed and no explanation about to this to the person. What is usually visible is a big word saying 'your question is not relevant to us'. I saw once on meta, not sure of stack people complaining about how aggressive the community was on down voting as well. Thanks for the comments on the questions by the way. I will work them out if end up closed :) $\endgroup$ – Oeufcoque Penteano Apr 7 '12 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ @OeufcoquePenteano: whether or not aggressive closing without comments is going on on other sites, I don't know; I do know that it's not supposed to happen, and it's not something I think is happening on this particular site. About "I will work them out if end up closed" - there's no need to wait until the question is closed, you can already start making the needed changes as explained in the comments. The faster you do that, the faster we can help you :) $\endgroup$ – Alex ten Brink Apr 7 '12 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Oh I meant that I will still work them out even after begin closed. I usually try to avoid it being closed changing it ASAP :) $\endgroup$ – Oeufcoque Penteano Apr 7 '12 at 18:55

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