Background on polling questions: Stack Exchange by it's very nature to a voting Q&A site, which is to say every question is a poll. The best explanation of the difference between a "polling" question and a SE question might be found in Aarobot answer here; which is referenced by Jeff Atwood here on the Stack Overflow blog.

Question this question is about: Google Code Search Replacement

Here's why I do not believe it's a poll:

  • Question is looking for a replacement for a now discontinued programing tool, Google Code Search.
  • Google Code Search's is a well defined solution, and to search for a replacement is not subjective; meaning the best answer would be an exact clone of the tool.

While I might be wrong, I believe Yannis Rizos comment on an answer points to my observations above:

Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. Especially since you are the co-founder, you should expand the answer a bit and tell us why your service is a good alternative.

Meaning for a good answer it must be in the context of being an alternative to Google Code Search, and every answer is not as good as another answer.

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    Notice though that the answerer never bothered to respond to my comment, and that the other answer is equally crappy... – yannis Feb 23 '12 at 23:03
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    I'd be happy to email the guy, he never respond because he has not been on the site to see your message. As for crap answers, not sure how that results in the question being labeled a poll. – blunders Feb 23 '12 at 23:12

There are a few points to consider here:

  • Is it a poll? I don't think so. This isn't a matter of "what's better" or "what do you think about X", but asking for a very specific replacement for a tool. Not every answer is equally valid, as various search engines have differing capacities for scanning and searching source code. In the second blog post about good subjective questions, there is discussion of the Six Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions as well as MetaFilter's "chatfilter". The answers aren't going to be overly long, but the question is asking for a very specific feature set and good answers will explain how the recommended tool meets (or fails to meet) each feature and (hopefully) provide experiences with using the recommended tool.
  • Is it a good subjective question? It can be, assuming the answers are good. Of the six guidelines, 3 rest on the answers and 4 rest on the wording of the question (there's an overlap of one). The currently provided answers are don't explain why these searches are good or how they meet the needs, but that's on the answerers and not the asker. The answers to the question isn't going to be overly long, but they should be a link and a description of how the tools meet the needs of the asker. The question has a fair and impartial tone and is worded so that answers add value. It's not just mindless social fun, but tries to find relevant, useful tools.
  • Is it on-topic? Although programming tools are meant for Stack Overflow, I'm not sure if this is more appropriate there. A code search engine for public/open-source code isn't what I think of when I hear the term "programming tool". To me, a programming tool is an IDE, an editor, a debugger, a static analyzer - things that help you write, test, and deploy code. I'd call it on-topic here, since it fits in with the general topics and is relevant to the users of this site. I would ask Stack Overflow if they wanted it, and move it if they did, but if they said no, I would leave it here.
  • Are the current answers good? No. Both answers are link-only answers. They need to be expanded significantly to be considered good answers.

I'm not sure yet if I'm going to reopen it, but if it gets reopened (or I decide it should be opened after thinking about it more), I would add an "insufficient explanation" notice so that people know that answers should be more than a link and add comments to the posted questions to give the users a chance to elaborate before they get deleted.

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    +1 - I knew you'd make a good moderator :) Also, don't forget that users with over 2k rep can edit answers, and they should feel free to expand on single-link answers to provide a brief description of what's in the link to improve the answer. – Rachel Feb 27 '12 at 16:20
  • @Rachel That's why I usually give it time after posting a comment. There's no point in having non-answers (especially upvoted non-answers) on a question. Having them prevents the question from showing up as unanswered or the random Community user bumps. I'd rather delete the unedited link answer so other people see the question than let it go. – Thomas Owens Feb 27 '12 at 16:26
  • I still consider link-only answers as answers, even if they are bad ones. If I am researching something, and come across a similar question containing links which people claim are the answer to that question, I will click the link to investigate. I would rather have link-only answers than no answers at all. So please, don't delete answers on account of being link-only if they are actually an answer to the question being asked. – Rachel Feb 27 '12 at 16:30

I don't think it's a poll. It's asking for an alternative to an API that is being discontinued.

As for if it's on-topic for P.SE, I don't know the answer to that.

Personally I would have said it's fine, but I consider a lot of things on-topic that others do not, so I would not go by my opinion in this.

  • +1 Rachel: Unclear why someone would downvote your answer without commenting. Clearly I agree with your answer, and thank you for taking the time to review my meta question and the related Programmers.SE question. – blunders Feb 23 '12 at 23:24
  • @blunders The downvote was probably from someone who thinks the question is a poll. Meta votes are used to agree/disagree with a question or answer, and people are definitely not shy about using their downvotes on here. I usually don't down-vote unless I think something is bad/wrong, although I've started using my downvotes on meta much more to try and make my voice heard. Can't fight a battle if you're only using half the tools.... – Rachel Feb 23 '12 at 23:26
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    @blunders As Rachel already mentioned, voting is different on Meta. Use votes liberally to denote your agreement / disagreement on Meta posts, no need to further explain; comments should be used only for clarifications. – yannis Feb 23 '12 at 23:31

Your question may not be a poll, but it is likely off topic as well. Questions about tools or which technology is better are both off topic, and your questions is a bit of both.


Yes it's a poll.

You are asking for a recommendation without specifying any parameters, other than the service should be similar to Google Code Search. Anyone can search for "Google Code Search alternative", reach a site like alternativeto.net and post the six services presented there. Each answer is equally valid, none of them is better than the other.

It's not realistic to expect an exact clone to exist, and although someone familiar with Google Code Search may imagine what you have in mind, that doesn't mean you don't have to actually tell us in the text of your question.

Both answerers could expand their answers to include several information on why their suggestions are good alternatives, but since you don't define the exact parameters of what you are looking for we can't tell which answer is "better" in the context of the question.

Recommendation questions are incredibly hard to get right (~ fit the Stack Exchange format). Even when similar questions specify the parameters adequately, answers tend to be crappy "just a link", and gather populist votes. So, even if you do everything right, answerers may spoil the question for everyone...

Further reading:

  • Thanks for the feedback. So, you're answer in the context of your comment to the question is confusing to me. Your comment appears to state a better answer is of use, your answer here appears to say that no matter how good an answer is, it'll never be good enough to be the right answer. Am I missing something? – blunders Feb 24 '12 at 17:43
  • You are missing something: Back when I left that comment I wasn't a moderator ;) I probably found that answer through the review page, as it's a first time answer, and didn't even check the question or the other answer, I would have left the exact same comment there if I had. I can't think of a way to salvage it, unfortunately. Did you check out the alternatives I found? – yannis Feb 24 '12 at 18:18
  • I didn't miss the fact that you weren't a moderator at that point... :-) ...and yes, I did check the alternatives you found, though still that makes me think that even if I was to take the time to comment to why of the solution currently know, which is the most likely to be a fit replacement, it wouldn't matter, because the question and it's answers will be deleted. Also, I emailed Tom, just in case he decides he's interested in updating his answer... :-) – blunders Feb 24 '12 at 18:23
  • So, where does that leave the issue then, if it's that the question will remain closed, then I would just request it's deleted, since it's unlikely anything will change with the questions state, and there's no point in revisiting the issue in the future in my opinion. Cheers! – blunders Feb 25 '12 at 1:41
  • @blunders Right now my answer here is at +3/-3, so it's not clear what the community wants. There are two reopen votes, and, well, you just need three more.I would prefer it if reopen voters took some time to address some of the issues I've identified, but that doesn't mean that I expect anyone to agree with me that the issues should be addressed or even that they exist. Since it's an upvoted question it won't be deleted for some time, so there are chances it will be revised and / or reopened. If you really want it deleted, please flag it for moderation attention and say so. – yannis Feb 25 '12 at 1:50
  • @ Yannis Rizos: Ha, well since I was one of the people that voted to reopen the question, I acted on your request, and made an update to make it easier to understand what Google Code search via the question now that the site is gone. One item I was unable to find was a list of source it indexed. Not sure if that's what you were requesting, but it's the only info I was able to think of to add. If there's anything else that should be done, just let me know, or feel free to edit the question itself. Cheers! – blunders Feb 25 '12 at 2:26
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    The question has been improved. It seems to be a good question in its current state, and I don't think that questions should be closed because people can't or won't provide good answers. In cases where people provide poor answers to a good question, I'd rather deal with the answers. – Thomas Owens Feb 27 '12 at 0:47
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    @ThomasOwens The poor quality of the answers was pointed out because they are amongst the deciding factors on borderline questions... I'm not saying questions should be closed only because of poor answers, but only poor answers are a strong indicator that a question should be closed. And of course, the answers were provided to the initial version of the question, not the current one. – yannis Feb 27 '12 at 1:16
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    @blunders Question re-opened ;) To me it still feels like a very non constructive question but it had 4 re-open votes already and you did put quite a lot of effort in it, something that I really appreciate. Hopefully the question will get better answers from now on. – yannis Feb 27 '12 at 1:25

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