Why do so few languages with a variable-type 'operator' exist?

I made an edit to the original question which was basically, "what programming languages exist to do X?"

One of the site close reasons is:

Questions asking us to find or recommend tools, libraries, programming languages, resources (including books, blogs, tutorials, and examples), or projects to undertake are off-topic on Programmers as they attract opinionated answers that won't have lasting value to others. You may be able to get help in The Whiteboard, our chat room. 2

It seems this original question fits this criteria exactly as the question as worded was:

Is there a programming language that supports this?

The answers are pretty much exactly the problem with such questions as it is a large number of "this language does this!" types of answers, as I write this post there are 15 different answers.

However it seems the community support is in favor of leaving the question as it originally was worded given several of followup comments and their respective upvotes.

What should be done with this question? It seems like what might be best is to just rollback my edit and closing the question. The original is obviously off topic and has picked up a lot of answers already.

  • One distinction about resource requests is that close reason is great for "I need a resource to do X, can you recommend one?" but, in my opinion, does not fit for more hypothetical questions such as "is there a language that can do Y?"
    – user22815
    Mar 24, 2016 at 22:47
  • 2
    @Snowman Yeah, I think "too broad" is supposed to be the close reason for potentially infinite list questions.
    – Ixrec
    Mar 24, 2016 at 23:31
  • upvoted because it's a good question, not that I think the edit should be rolled back and the question closed.
    – psr
    Mar 24, 2016 at 23:58
  • 3
    You should mention that you edited the question in such a way it invalidated every answer. Mar 25, 2016 at 1:10
  • 1
    per my reading your edit in rev 5 invalidated about 8-10 prior answers. Have you considered notifying answerers about this (with comments)? Have you considered voting invalidated answers down to help readers see that answers missing the point of the question aren't welcome?
    – gnat
    Mar 25, 2016 at 11:53
  • @BryanOakley I just re-checked, I think handful answers of 16 "survived" the edit (where answerers invested effort into explaining things beyond dropping yet another language example)
    – gnat
    Mar 25, 2016 at 12:43
  • sort of a follow-up, most of the answers invalidated by the "salvaging edit" were deleted by moderator
    – gnat
    Mar 29, 2016 at 12:38
  • 1
    @gnat great! I need more rep to see those :)
    – enderland
    Mar 29, 2016 at 12:56
  • as far as I understand you just got 10 repz thanks to that moderator
    – gnat
    Mar 29, 2016 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


After having similar doubts myself and mulling it over for a few days, here's how I currently feel about that question:

1) It's clearly possible to write an answer to this question that's interesting and informative to many programmers and unlikely to go out of date quickly. Therefore, we should not close it unless we become convinced it's impossible to prevent an endless stream of poor answers.

1b) The fact that the question is currently getting an endless stream of poor answers does not necessarily mean it should be closed. If this is preventable, what it actually means is that we're failing to prevent it (see #3a).

2) The question should emphasize the interesting "Why is this so uncommon?" aspect rather than the "What are all the languages that have this?" aspect. enderland's edit largely accomplishes this.

3) The answers should at least attempt to answer the interesting "Why is this so uncommon?" aspect rather than merely listing an additional language. Many of the existing answers do, and for the most part those are getting more upvotes than the ones that just mention a random language, which is a good sign.

3a) Any answer that does nothing but mention "yet another language" should be downvoted, not upvoted. In particular, this answer should never have gotten 24 upvotes. It's probably too late to correct this trend on this question without making ourselves look like a bunch of jerks, but if we start doing this on future open-ended HNQs maybe we can make a difference.

3b) Any answer that brings up another language but cites some sources explaining why the creators of that particular language did or did not include this feature potentially deserves upvotes. I don't see any answers like this at the moment.

  • 1
    If you reword it to be "why is this so common?", what do you propose be done for all the answers that have high votes but don't address the question with the new wording? Mar 25, 2016 at 1:12
  • 2
    @BryanOakley Since most of the answering and voting has already happened, I don't believe anything meaningful can be done to that particular question other than to edit it to emphasize the on-topic aspect and avoid encouraging future off-topic questions. The answers that "no longer address the question" were never good answers to begin with, so there's no real loss there imo. But my real goal here is a change in community behavior the next time we get a list-like HNQ, so this sort of topicality edit happens earlier and the bad answers don't get dozens of upvotes.
    – Ixrec
    Mar 25, 2016 at 7:53
  • to save you from future disappointment, downvoting answers in hot questions doesn't work. No matter what site regulars do, lemmings come and cover it with sympathy upvotes. I noticed this over 3 years ago but if you prefer more recent example, go to this recent question posted in this month and check vote split at 0 score answers
    – gnat
    Mar 26, 2016 at 17:26
  • 2
    @gnat At the risk of being overly optimistic, I'd prefer to focus on the fact that that question actually has multiple zero-scoring answers instead of almost all positive scores precisely because of those downvotes. So they weren't totally useless. If I'm around for the next HNQ I'd probably also add comments explaining why "this language too!" is not a desirable answer, which might deter even more of the lemmings.
    – Ixrec
    Mar 26, 2016 at 23:18
  • yeah comments might help. Not always mind you but still. Just be prepared to be blamed for being hostile if you do them. To give less chances for whining, you better start comments with "Hello, nice to see your attempt at contributing here" and end with something like "Hope this helps. Good luck!" But then, HNQ lemmings with their short attention span may only notice nice-to-see part and perceive this as an invitation to upvote. Oh well
    – gnat
    Mar 27, 2016 at 8:38

We should roll back the edit and close the question as mentioned in the question.

  • 4
    I would downvote this if I could, but this should be an answer to make clear whether upvotes to the question mean it's a good question or mean that we should roll back the edit and close the question.
    – psr
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:00

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