^ That... is a joke. I'm making a point and trying to give an example of this type of question. My real question is:
What should we do (if anything) about questions that suffer from the XY problem? Are these types of questions "OK" here?
If you're not familiar with what an XY problem question looks like, this site does a great job of explaining them... even my Friday night addled brain figured it out finally after reviewing it.
The XY problem is asking about your attempted solution rather than your actual problem. This leads to enormous amounts of wasted time and energy, both on the part of people asking for help, and on the part of those providing help. The basic description of the problem:
- User wants to do X.
- User doesn't know how to do X, but thinks they can fumble their way to a solution if they can just manage to do Y.
- User doesn't know how to do Y either.
- User asks for help with Y.
- Others try to help user with Y, but are confused because Y seems like a strange problem to want to solve.
- After much interaction and wasted time, it finally becomes clear that the user really wants help with X, and that Y wasn't even a suitable solution for X.
The problem occurs when people get stuck on what they believe is the solution and are unable step back and explain the issue in full.
If you want the Stack Exchange explanation, you can read it on the Meta Stack Exchange FAQ.
But, this merely explains it... what should we actually do with these questions? I'm sure there are a bunch of options that involve editing, closing, asking questions to get a clearer understanding... etc.
So, now, you might ask, "Do we even have any of these questions? Is this a problem here at all?" And the answer is, "Definitely!"
- How can I stop my friend from replying "anything" when asking them what they'd like to eat?
This question is asking how to prevent a specific response when it should really be asking how to get the response the OP wants... probably something more like "How do I get my coworker to pick a place to have lunch so that I'm not doing it all the time?"
- Can I tell my girlfriend that I'm too lazy to meet up?
This person really wants to know "How can I tell my girlfriend that I'm too tired to meet up with her after a long day without making her think I don't care?" but because of the XY problem he got a bunch of answers telling him that his action was wrong, which doesn't help him know what to do in the future.
- Should you point out a friend's flaws when they ask for insight into problems with another relationship?
The title of this is more an XY problem than the body of it is... but I think it's still a good example. They want to know "How can I tactfully explain to a friend why our mutual friend is upset at them?" Pointing out personality flaws may only be a small part of this situation.
Additionally, many of the questions that are about getting around people's boundaries are inherently XY problems. As an example, the one discussed in What to do with questions about "getting around" peoples' boundaries / autonomy - in the example question here, we repeatedly asked the OP to explain why they needed to know this information so that we could suggest a solution that addressed the entire issue rather than their preconceived solution. Their continued refusal to do so caused the question to be deleted.
So, what should we be doing with these XY problems?
If you're wondering whether this is really a "problem" or not, I submit a couple of additional questions for your perusal that are XY problems:
These two questions both have lots of answers... and they both actually aren't IPS questions at all, if you rephrase the question to address the actual problem.
The bicycle question is really "How can I carry more water on a bike ride?" They've just decided that there is no way to do it on their own bike and have constructed an elaborate "solution" - asking their friend if they can have some of the water. This question really isn't for us. They're trying to solve a problem that all of the answers are showing doesn't exist... there are a multitude of other options for carrying water.
The question about an unknown urinating person is also, not an IPS question. It similarly attracted many answers that had nothing to do with IPS. The question here is really "How do I stop someone from peeing on my garage door?" but they decided they wanted to "solve" the problem by communicating a "message" - somehow... I don't know if there's a site for this question but it's still not an IPS question at heart.
I'm less concerned with XY questions that are IPS issues regardless as they're on topic either way but these sorts of questions - where the real question isn't an IPS issue - really don't belong here. They need to be on a site that has experts in cycling or home security. That's where the user can get the most help.