Social Engineering Tricks for Q/A sites

The XY hack, or how to get answers for “XY-problem” tagged questions.

I am an engineer, I like to know how stuff works, sometimes by breaking it.
This approach leads to (sometimes) strange questions, Like this one: “How do I Stop apache from responding“. Software developers like MDs are the smartest people on Earth, hence, I am an idiot :-D. Since most people do not know how to answer this on StackOverflow, the immediate assumptions are:

  1. It can’t be done
  2. He is trying to do something else which he has no idea about (check assumption 0 above “I am smarter then the OP”)

From this stems the XY problem.
May be your question is really an XY-problem, may be not. How do we circumvent this?
By writing the question in such a way there will be no assumption you try to do something else. My favorite way:

“I was asked this in a review last week, Could not answer it, any idea what are the possible answers?”

Here is the same exact question asked that way: How do I stop Apache from answering a http request?

The PHP guys :-/

I love PHP, This is my language of choice, but sometimes, to get a good answer, all you have to do is remove the PHP tag from your question.


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