Question from main:

Mastering a programming language by not programming?

This meta question is to hash out the meta commentary going on about the Q.

Synopsis: the question pitches two extreme points of view about programming against each other and asks for evidence to back up the more recent and perhaps more radical of the two points of view.

(Current) Top answer comes from one of our highest ranked community members and points out the fallacy(ies) behind the question.

The other two answers are okay and meh.

I believe the question is on-topic; constructive; and answerable by expertise not just by opinion. So that's why I cast the 5th re-open vote.

Answers to this meta question should either be in support of keeping the subject question open or why it should be closed (again).

  • I'm not going to bring my debate here. If the community wants to close it again, that's fine; I already made my peace in the comments below the original question. Aug 23, 2013 at 19:27
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey - my primary intent was to move the debate out of main and into meta.
    – user53019
    Aug 23, 2013 at 19:34
  • @RobertHarvey +1
    – Eric King
    Aug 23, 2013 at 19:41
  • 1
    @EricKing: I deleted my meta comments on that question. Any chance you could delete yours? Aug 23, 2013 at 19:44
  • @EricKing: Thanks. Aug 23, 2013 at 19:46
  • 3
    @RobertHarvey Took me a while... Had to wait 5 seconds in between each click and there were so many... :-)
    – Eric King
    Aug 23, 2013 at 19:48
  • possible duplicate of “Scientific Evidence” versions of each question. I believe that this question must be closed, on grounds of "This articles" typo. As usual, it strikes me how "people don't want to invest minor effort into reopen and instead they just whine" - in this case, all effort seem to be wasted on drama and dots removal. Nobody even took care of simple things like spelling and formatting cleanup. Oh well, those close-whiners at their best
    – gnat
    Aug 23, 2013 at 21:47
  • @gnat: Wait, what? The grammar and formatting were fixed, and the question did, in fact, reopen. Aug 23, 2013 at 22:01
  • @RobertHarvey I guess I somehow missed the moment when "this articles" became fixed grammar, and wall of text became fixed formatting
    – gnat
    Aug 23, 2013 at 22:50
  • ...think of me as grammar nazi if you wish, but it just happened way too often to me that I changed my take on close / open to opposite after spelling and formatting cleanup
    – gnat
    Aug 23, 2013 at 22:53
  • Ok, I fixed the one grammatical error that was overlooked in all the other edits. Tanks for pointing that out [sic]. Not for nothing, but you do have sufficient rep to make edits yourself. Aug 23, 2013 at 22:54
  • @RobertHarvey I do edits at posts that make me feel like it. At Programmers, this happened about 2700 times so far... not counting about 300 times it happened at my own posts
    – gnat
    Aug 23, 2013 at 23:16

3 Answers 3


I was the one who cast the first close vote.

As I read the question it had the following things:

  • A request for resources
  • A suggestion of looking for discussion on the points (not explicit, but thats how I read it)
  • Looking to reconcile two opinions (with scientific resources)

All of these are points for closure. The last is the one I went with, reconciling two opinions is itself an opinion.

Now, it is the case that the original premises of the question are flawed, and that can be pointed out, but the question, as it is asked, cannot be answered in a productive way in the SE format. The answers are in essence "you are asking the wrong question." and then go off to answer what the person answering the question thinks is the actual question or pointing out the flaw in the question. Every person answering the question, following this model, has an equally valid possible reinterpretation of the question to answer in their own way.

Other questions that aren't asked may be better (where do I misunderstand these two points?), but that would take a significant rewrite of the question.

  • 1
    There really aren't that many possible interpretations of the question. Either you understand that it's a misinterpretation of the two writers' viewpoints, or you don't understand the question at all and you shouldn't be answering. Aug 23, 2013 at 19:34
  • 2
    @RobertHarvey That's your opinion. (Kidding... I couldn't resist though.)
    – Eric King
    Aug 23, 2013 at 19:41

"These articles are in opposition." + "prove Jeff Atwood" suggest that OP already knows the answer.

Atwood trashed Norvig. If you know the answer, why ask? That means, unclear what you're asking, which was my close vote ("opinion-based" shown to readers is pure fake indiscriminately attributed to me due to... shall we say, not too smart user interface - a bit more on that below...).

In a "clean room" case, I would shrug, edit this unfortunate phrase into something like "These articles appear at odds with each other, how can I find a way out?" and walk away knowing that unclear doesn't apply anymore.

Unfortunately, at the moment question has been "locked" from such an edit by already submitted FGITW answer: "You're missing the point..."

Besides above, there are a few issues induced by the phrase "Is there a friggin' scientific evidence to prove the Jeff Atwood approach?"

► Is-there part of the phrase shifts it into Yes/No territory with all its known issues:

Stack Overflow is not just a 'get an answer for me' place, it's "Produce quality content that is useful for people who follow". In the case of your question, the second part is lacking...

When asking a yes/no question there are one of two possibilities:

  1. You really want a yes/no answer. If this is the case, and you don't need anything else to answer your question then it means the answers will be inherently low quality. An answer that only says "Yes" or "No" (in addition to not meeting the minimum length) would be of very low quality. SO answers expect more.
  2. You don't actually want a yes/no answer, in which case your real question is not actually a yes/no question, and you're hoping that people will determine what your real question is. For example, someone might ask, "Can I do [...]?" when what they really meant to ask was, "How can I do [...]?"

Almost all yes/no questions I've seen fall into case 2; they should be edited into a question that isn't really asking for just a yes/no, it should be asking to explain something. (Even if it has a yes/no in there somewhere.) Note that just adding "Explain" at the end isn't really a good way to go about this; you should refactor the question on a more fundamental level...

► The part "evidence to prove the Jeff Atwood approach" sucks, well, because it blatantly misses the opposite: "evidence to prove the Peter Norvig approach". This is yet another indication of question quality issues (happily ignored by reopeners).

At the very least, I would rephrase to symmetric wording "evidence to prove one of these approaches above another".

► Issues with "scientific" part are addressed in "Scientific Evidence" versions of each question

I for one like the way these are presented in this comment:

Slapping a request for scientific literature onto the question... doesn't really make this question any better. It still is enormously vague and unanswerable, there is no objective scientific measure..., it remains a question that should be nuked on sight.

Above does not fully apply to this particular case because there is an answerable question obscured by scientificevidence garbage there, but it rather makes a point that it would be better to wipe out that scevidence crap outta there at all (if such an edit wouldn't invalidate existing answers).

The last but not the least, even with all imaginary editing cleanup, the question would still remain average.

Don't get me wrong, resolving false contradictions can be fun, I sometimes enjoy doing this myself but it's often way too simple. And this case looks simple to me.

As Mysticial would probably say, it's not really advanced question. Meh.

Side note, regarding question closure notice, I would rather prefer it to be shown rephrased to something that doesn't put words in my mouth. There is a bunch of feature requests for something like that at MSO, but SE team doesn't give a shit.


I cast a close vote because it wasn't completely clear how to answer the question properly or meaningfully. I would say Robert Harvey's answer is good, but doesn't address the spirit of the question.

I wouldn't vote for a reopen without an edit to make it more asking for an explanation of those posts because the whole question is based on an inaccurate understanding of those posts.

I pondered doing that edit, but again I feel it changes the spirit of the question, didn't know if I should interfere. Perhaps it would have been the right thing to do to avoid the closing.

  • 5
    I think interference is always welcome so long as we can blame Yannis in some way, shape, or form.
    – user53019
    Aug 23, 2013 at 19:53
  • 1
    Well, this wouldn't be the first time I answered a question with "you're asking the wrong question." An invalid premise should not automatically disqualify a question; we've all been there. Aug 23, 2013 at 20:03
  • @RobertHarvey speak for yourself buddy, I always know exactly what I am supposed to ask. You need to start drinking the koolaid, how long have you been out of conformity? Joking aside, it wasn't completely clear to me what the right question was so I didn't leave a comment with such guidance, I think it's clear now but when I saw the question I was a little perplexed. I still think an edit should make it a sensible question. Aug 23, 2013 at 20:07

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