After discovering Software Engineering(Previously called Programmers), I've been using it to aid me in finishing a hobby project of mine; building an interpreter, for a language I've been designing. However, I'm beginning to think I've been a bit selfish over these past few months.

What prompted this question was me planning to ask another question some time before the holidays. While in the process of researching, I decide to take a quick look over my previous questions. I currently have eight questions that are posted. And while they all seem to be well received and generally on-topic, they all have the same thing in common; they're in a very specific genre.

I say these questions are specific, because I really don't think anyone else would find most of them useful. It seems that most everyone I've seen trying to design a language, has a background in computer science or they've been doing it for years. As for me however, I was coming at this from zero knowledge on the subject. I don't think many language designers are wondering What datatype should a lexer return, or How an abstract syntax tree is used to execute source code.

My question boils down to: Am I being selfish by asking very specific questions, that are on-topic but unlikely to help future visitors?

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    Yes that specific knowledge may not likely benefit anybody directly, but you would be surprised what people learn just from reading answers to questions like yours. I learned a lot about Abstract Syntax Trees and why they are a critical part of parsers.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 14:34
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    I've got to say, writing the answer for your recent “how to lexer” question was a lot of fun for me. I really enjoyed it, and am thankful for your question that prompted it. I was a bit surprised that so many others liked the answer and your question as well, but it makes sense: I'm not the only one interested in programming language concepts. Your questions are enriching this community, and I'd like to see more of them :)
    – amon
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 12:26
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    If you approached this with zero experience, then that means that not everyone who designs their own language has experience. Therefore, there's always a distinct possibility that someone else will try to design a language without having any experience, in which case they'll find your questions useful. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 1:54

3 Answers 3


The questions which are most welcome here are those which come from real software projects, related to real problems which arise inside the project. It does not matter if it is a commercial project, or a hobby project, or if the topic of the project is very specialized, as long as it is an answerable, on-topic question with a reasonable focus.

Opposed to these kind of questions, questions which tell " I just asked for curiosity" or "I have seen this [vague description] two or three times, is there a name for it", or "I have this [vague idea] for a project X, can someone give me a concept for this", which do not address real world problems of the OP, are regularly closed as either beeing too broad or too opinionated.

So don't feel bad about your questions because their lack of generality - this site suffers much more from questions which are too general for it's Q&A format than from questions which are too specific. And who knows, just because you think a topic is unlikely for helping future visitors, some of those future visitors may think differently about it.

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    Often times I come across problems that are different than mine, but some part of the answer gives me a clue on where to look next for a solution. Sometimes, the answer works for my problem as is. Specific problems can often be grown to a wider scope by readers.
    – DonyorM
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 14:38

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    i.e. "before stack exchange" Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:12

Of your 9 non-deleted questions, all of them have a net positive score and none of them are closed. Two of them are also marked as a favorite question by at least 1 person, with one being marked as a favorite by 3 people. Most of the questions have a solid view count - the lowest one (and also the most recent) has 50 views, and several have over 150 views.

If your question was too specific to be interesting or helpful to other people, I would expect that they would not be up voted, be getting answers, or would remain open.

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