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A lot of questions try to cast a net into sea of possible designs with the wording "is it possible to...".

These questions often get closed for one reason or another. What steps should I take to try to ask a better question?

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Yes or no?

The simplest answer to an "is it possible to" question is "yes" or "no". Neither of these answers are really that good, helpful, or useful.

This really is at the crux of the problem with questions of this format.

So what should be asked instead?

Assume that the answer is 'yes' and start designing the software. When you have a problem, then ask about that problem.

"But wait!" you say, "This means that I'll need to spend several hours working through this design."

Correct. Asking the community of SoftwareEngineering.SE to do this design for you may take you less time, but it means that a few people might be working on the question and all spend a few hours of time trying to come up with a solution for you. This is incredibly inefficient use of our time.

The other possibility is that no one answers. And while that isn't as wasteful of the time, it means that you didn't generate any seed for good answers and haven't advanced the situation of trying to find out if something is possible or not.

Asking us to do a feasibility study for you is the same as asking us to come up with the design or write the code. The Stack Exchange Q&A model just isn't set up to provide that. If you really want someone to do a feasibility study for you, there are a number of users who advertise their consultancy in their profile. You may wish to consider contacting one of them.

  • related: Question closed because yes/no answer "When asking a yes/no question there are one of two possibilities..." – gnat Apr 7 '15 at 21:51
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    I don't really understand this answer, honestly. As an experiment I clicked "hot" on the front page, and 12 of the 40 questions there had titles worded in a way where, technically, they would admit a yes or no answer. Of those, 2 were on hold. – Ben Aaronson Jan 21 '16 at 15:03
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    Usually, when you have a question like, programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/307861/… , it's understood that you need to elaborate beyond just yes or no. Why would "is it possible" questions be an exception? Isn't it just as obvious that the answer needs to be "yes, and here's how/why your specific concern isn't an issue" or "no, and here's why not"? – Ben Aaronson Jan 21 '16 at 15:03
  • @BenAaronson there are good questions and there are poor questions. Sometimes we get questions like Is it possible to make a python server that takes commands from netcat? which has a post body that amounts to "Title sys it all". That is the classic example of what is trying to be addressed with this post on meta. – user40980 Jan 21 '16 at 15:14
  • @MichaelT That's good, but it seems like meta posts like this get turned into "rules of thumb" that get applied with no thought as to whether they're actually relevant or not. Take this recent question which (by the looks of it) got two close votes for that reason, even though it obviously doesn't invite a yes or no answer. – Ben Aaronson Jan 21 '16 at 15:35
  • @BenAaronson those two close votes are for 'unclear' - not too broad. Part of the issue with that question is that it is likely an XY problem lurking behind it. The "is it possible" is a symptom of this and if the OP were to consider the issue and wording of the question the real underlying problem could be addressed. – user40980 Jan 21 '16 at 15:38
  • @MichaelT I may have been wrong about those close votes being linked to that comment, though it's also possible they chose that reason. And I agree, "is it possible" could be symptomatic of an XY problem (though I don't think it was in this case, it seems more like curiosity). It also has other meanings though- I think I've seen "is it possible for an A to B" to mean "is doing B consistent with the definition of A", for example. – Ben Aaronson Jan 21 '16 at 15:47
  • @MichaelT Having a meta question for yes/no answer questions and XY problem questions is a good idea. It just feels to me like creating this mental shortcut from the phrase "is it possible" to problems that may or may not be there is going to do more to create spurious close votes than it is to help. – Ben Aaronson Jan 21 '16 at 15:48
  • @BenAaronson I do not make the claim that "is it possible should be closed" because of those words. I do state that it is a poorly worded question and the OP should reconsider the question and its wording. The nature of questions worded this way often make it rather difficulty for the community to rewrite them. Nonetheless, they are still poorly worded. – user40980 Jan 21 '16 at 15:50
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    What about questions where "is it possible" might hinge on a deep theoretical result, which somebody cannot be expected to figure out just by trying to do it? – Demi Aug 14 '16 at 22:23
  • @Demi that would be really exciting. That's why I learned programming in the first place. – user251748 Apr 17 '17 at 20:35

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