We have a problem, need help.

When people fail in trying to post their question on Stack Overflow, they come here to post it. This is often the case with people trying to get around a question ban and getting some help anywhere. Its also occasionally happens with the low quality posts. It also apparently happens here too.

This isn't an extremely frequent thing and looking at this search, the questions that it would have blocked are:

Before people start getting up in arms about the Traveling Salesman Problem or the Knapsack Problem or the Problem domain, let's look at the last month of undeleted questions with 'Problem' in the title.

  1. Problem on PHP and MySQL with jQuery (-8)
  2. Problem 3, project Euler (-6 deleted)
  3. Having a Problem Passing First Unit Test in Exercism.io Java Challenge (-3 deleted)
  4. Problems with storing plain text and byte information in the same file (-1 migrated)
  5. Problem with C# File IO in Winforms (-2 migrated)
  6. Problem with device orientation code in Firefox for Android (-2 migrated)
  7. Isn't there a substantial problem with SVN tags? (+2)

Question 7 there was posted July 16th (over a month ago). Questions 4, 5, and 6 where migrated to Stack Overflow (apparently its not a problem to migrate problem questions). I would encourage SE to look into how often these questions get deleted and don't show up in my query.

Why should this be done? Because questions of this form are rarely good questions. They are either poorly written questions, or questions that are poorly written and should have been asked on Stack Overflow. So instead of dealing with the question on Stack Overflow, the person is frustrated with not being able to post there, then posting here, getting the question closed and down voted, and sometimes get the question bounced back to Stack Overflow anyways. All in all a poor experience for the user and a waste of community close votes here.

This can also be seen with 'help' in the title:

  1. i wanna become a programmer need help (-6 deleted)
  2. Help with javascript please (-5, migrated, self deleted, rejected, deleted)
  3. C++ Segmentation Fault, Please Help! (-7 deleted)
  4. I have a problem with math in C++ help me, please (-4 deleted)
  5. Help with Shell (-2 migrated)
  6. Beginner in C needing help with strings and memory (0 migrated)
  7. Help me design this use case (+1)

The last item here is from July 23 (again, nearly a month ago) and could use a better title. Again though, this list shows examples of questions that (if written well) are clearly off topic here and should have instead been asked on Stack Overflow.

By blocking 'problem' and 'help' from question titles on Stack Overflow, but allowing them here, we get the poor questions and have to deal with them where they clearly don't belong. This leads to a worse user experience for both the poster and the community and in cases where it is a very poor question, unnecessarily contributes to the OP getting question banned here (though I'll grant if they don't read the faq and ask poor questions here too, they'd probably would have gotten question banned eventually).

  • 2
    for similar reason, 'help' in titles would be better blocked too
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 20:30
  • ..this one with 'help' in title even was featured in this meta question: How could this user (having only Programmers account) ask at Stack Overflow prior to Programmers? "This is italicized, and so is this. This is bold, and so is this. Use italics and bold together if you have to."
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 4:23
  • "Help" is not blocked on SO at present. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:29
  • 2
    @NathanTuggy I just re-tested it using title of the question referred in prior comment: "i wanna become a programmer need help" - system blocked me with red popup about word 'help'. Changing title to use 'halp' instead ("i wanna become a programmer need halp") cleared the block
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:17
  • @gnat: That's strange, because before I posted that comment I made sure to test both "problem" and "help" independently. Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:25
  • @NathanTuggy but you have seen it with the title I mentioned, right? That block is not even rep dependent, as evidenced by my testing - I hit it with mine 5K at SO
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:39
  • 2
    @gnat: Now I see it. I'm not sure what the deal is anymore. Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:44

2 Answers 2


Please don't.

It's implementation at Stack Overflow causes all manner of side effects, including "pr0blem," "Halp," and "Knapsack Issue." In addition, unlike many other behaviors, this one isn't overridable by moderators, so it's forced on people unconditionally. SE seems especially enamored of this "fix," so if you get it here, you'll get it permanently, even if we decide it was a bad idea after all.

Preventing use of certain words in titles is just another variation on "Clbuttic."

Just say no to the pr0blem.

  • The thing is when people can't ask the question there, they ask it here. Even if its off topic here. It means it takes additional community moderation here to handle the, well, crap that Stack Overflow refuses to deal with itself. When it takes several hours to deal with, it is our problem - and one that we haven't been given the resources (or moderator mandate) to deal with.
    – user40980
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 17:05
  • Another side effect, which probably should be fixed by eliminating the original pr0blem, not spreading it like a cancer to other sites. Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 17:06
  • 2
    I would be completely ok with removing the title restriction from Stack Overflow. However, as long as it remains people who fail asking questions on Stack Overflow come here to ask their questions of 'help' and 'problem'.
    – user40980
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 17:52

A workaround worth considering is posting links to these questions to CV chat room:

okay, I plan to post here all the 'problem' and 'help' questions that will be dropped at us from now on. If you spot such a question before me, I would appreciate if you drop it here. SE team and moderators want us, the community, to handle these? all right, let's do it

From there, concerned users can get to the troublesome posts and vote them down, close, delete.

So far, this approach seems to be working fairly well, off-topic questions get deleted in a matter of hours (did I mention that this site has a fantastic community). I think it's hard to get better than that in the absence of system or moderators support.

PS. Before some moderator comes and tells me, "oh but if you flagged it with appropriate message, explaining what specifically is wrong" ...no. I already considered this and decided that it ain't worth it. I don't want to waste my time summarizing every garbage dump into compelling flag message. Nor would I recommend this to anyone else. It is just so much more productive to simply drop (or follow) chat link, vote and move on. If moderators are interested to know about these questions, they can follow links posted in chat room.

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