I posted a question about the terminology for 3-byte integers (since we have terms for 4 bits, 1 byte, 2 bytes, and 4 bytes).

It was fine for a long time until it was finally closed as subjective. I flagged for a moderator's attention (since it was asking for a definitive answer and not "what should it be called?").

The moderator changed the reason to simply off-topic, stating:

This question appears to be off-topic because it is a "Name That Thing" request which is near universally off topic for StackExchange. For more information see Jeff Atwood's blog post: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/02/lets-play-the-guessing-game

This is most definitely not a guessing game post. As Jeff Atwood correctly states:

A half-remembered description of something you vaguely recall is not what I’d call a practical, answerable question.

I don't vaguely recall anything; I simply didn't know. I didn't know if there had historically been a term. I didn't know if there was a term that isn't common but still used.

The goal of Stack Exchange is not to construct un-findable single-serving questions that only help one person, but that’s exactly what guessing game questions tend to do.

Is there a term for 24-bit integers is not an un-findable or single-serving question. It is a very common integer width in audio/visual software, and as you can see in the answers there are many occurrences of 24-bit terms.

Also, an expert in the topic should be able to have at least some confidence that the answer he’s writing answers the question.

Not sure how this could be misconstrued. None of the answers given were subjective or opinion based; a few even linked out to proof.

. . . these questions aren’t educational in any way, because there’s no way to learn about the process of discovery. A particular community member, by virtue of their experience in the field, just happens to be able to take the limited information you remembered and fill in enough of the blanks to guess the correct answer.

Again, this isn't a "hey, I remember reading this book about stego algorithms written in visual basic and it mentioned the use of elephants in their research. What book is it?" question. It's a definitive, answerable question. It's not a request for recommendation. It's not asking for an opinion.

Further, the close reason states it is off topic given the help center guidelines.

My question is about:

software architecture and design


algorithm and data structure concepts

As well, my question doesn't even come remotely close to anything on the off-topic list.

I understand my question is a simple one, but it is no less qualified on the site than any other perfectly well-formed question. Why, then, has a moderator deemed it as such?

  • 2
    Frankly, such questions are not all that interesting. They amount to "I don't know what to put in my Google Search, so I'll ask the community." Dec 2, 2014 at 20:41
  • related: On the troubles of naming and terminology... regarding this particular case, a question where 3 votes up go to "answers" like this certainly look troublesome to me: "Sometimes people define types like INT32 and UINT32. Maybe you could just define INT24." (that's a full quote)
    – gnat
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:41
  • 1
    @gnat That's not a reason to close the question. I have deleted that answer since it isn't an answer. Some burden must be placed onto the answerer, as well, to ensure that the answers meet the criteria for a good answer.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:48
  • @RobertHarvey I did do a google search. Dec 2, 2014 at 21:10
  • @ThomasOwens it's not a kind of question I am going to fight for getting it closed (or keeping it open for that matter)... especially if moderators clean up garbage answers from there
    – gnat
    Dec 2, 2014 at 21:10
  • @ThomasOwens: I don't understand what you guys didn't like about my INT24 answer. It's a valid naming convention, and it directly answers the question. Did you want more context, or maybe a supporting hyperlink? Dec 2, 2014 at 21:13
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    @M.Dudley: The issue is that questions like this often turn into opinion polls, unless there is a single, definitive, correct answer. Just because one vendor uses INT24 does not make it best practice. Dec 2, 2014 at 22:15
  • @M.Dudley because INT24 is not a name, it is a type alias. If the question were "what is a 32 bit integer called?" then INT32 would be equally as invalid - names such as DWORD (admittedly a Microsoftism) would be a valid answer.
    – user22815
    Dec 4, 2014 at 4:30

1 Answer 1


Based on the most recent guidance for "name that thing" questions, I'm going to reopen your question.

Note that the blogs are only suggestions. The per-site policies are best found on each site's Meta. There is some leeway in terms of what is acceptable or not on a per-site basis.

  • 1
    I would suggest looking at On the troubles of naming and terminology which has the most recent summarization. I contend it doesn't meet that criteria (borrowed from English.SE). If we allow for such questions without sufficient prior work by the OP for trying to resolve the issue themselves, we open ourselves up to a wide range of name that thing questions that... well, aren't good questions and become polls of "I like this name".
    – user40980
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:43
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    @MichaelT The two top-voted answers there suggest that naming questions are on-topic if they are objective. Some burden is put onto the answerer to not give opinions and to provide evidence as appropriate to support their answer as well as the asker to not be polling readers. Based on the answers to this question, it fits.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:45
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    The challenge with that approach is that it would require diamond moderators to ensure the quality of the answers that get up voted (and thus prevent 20k users from deleting them). This is typically something I've seen diamond mods hesitant to do (not always, but a task that they try to avoid and leave it to the community). Closing questions that don't work to ensure high quality answers is the tool that the community has to prevent poor quality answers. If mods are willing to go through and activity audit answers themselves, then that does change things.
    – user40980
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:57
  • @MichaelT We don't need to go through every answer. There are flags for that. If you (meaning high rep, non diamond users) can't take an action, flag it for attention. That said, I think that the high rep, non-diamond users should use their powers whenever possible and from what I've seen that tends to work well. If bad answers are getting up-voted, please do flag them as long as it's not because of a technical inaccuracy or something that doesn't need a diamond moderator to handle.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:59
  • 1
    I would encourage you to look through What would be a good name of practices you don't (usually) learn at university? or Naming for a class that consumes an iterator pattern or Please help me give this principle a name and consider that we really don't have a good track record for giving quality "name that thing" answers. Though, I wouldn't mind boosting my helpful flag count.
    – user40980
    Dec 2, 2014 at 21:11
  • 1
    ... as an aside, if you would post your complete thoughts on the criteria for a name that thing question being open and the associated moderation tasks ("down vote, flag, and delete vote bad answers" or similar) in the "On the troubles of naming" post, I'd be willing to mark it is accepted so that it shows up properly sorted. Having 'name that thing' posts meta posts show up all over is a mess - the one you pulled up originally was from '11, while there were two meta posts and a blog more recent. Focusing this on one spot so everyone familiar with meta knows where it is can simplify things.
    – user40980
    Dec 2, 2014 at 21:17

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