"How does Microsoft make its money?" Was quickly dismissed because the user provided a source with the answer within his question. However that source had about 38,000 words, yes he does answer his own question, but should we simply close it because he did not realize it? Or instead perhaps assist him in rephrasing his question to better fit what he is looking for?

Clearly I'm more in favor of the latter.

2 Answers 2


To many comments on the above so I am posting this as a reply.

Editing the question to make it generic or different from what OP intends to in incorrect. Unless the OP himself does that. So we shouldn’t be going ahead and editing questions that are closed just so that they can be opened again. If you believe that reading an SEC is a good question, ask the question and answer it. After all the philosophy of SE is to ask questions even if you know the answers.

  • Thanks that clears it up for me. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 5:26

I don't think it was dismissed (and closed) because the answer was included in one of the sources the OP mentioned outright. Demonstrating one has done some of the research already is actually a Good Thing.

Rather, we prefer the site not be used to ask questions about individual, specifically-named stocks where the end goal may be to buy or sell the stock. Many individual-company stock boards or forums exist precisely for that purpose. For example, here and here and here. (Quality varies; and notice I didn't mention the one that starts with "Y" and ends with "!")

If the question were generalized to not be specific to Microsoft, and using Microsoft merely as an example to support the more general question, then it may have survived. e.g. Q: "How do I find out how an integrated technology company makes money?" (A: Read the annual report, and here are some things you should know about companies in the industry... etc. etc.) .. or something along those lines, I hope you get the idea.

Consider the alternative if we did allow questions of the form. Then all of these are valid questions:

  • How does Apple make money?
  • How does Google make money?
  • How does Oracle make money?
  • How does Yahoo! make money?
  • How does Facebook make money?
  • How does Hewlett-Packard make money?
  • ... etc times thousands of stock symbols ... (similar to the issue discussed here)

And consequent to us allowing those kinds of questions would be the degeneration of the signal-to-noise ratio, and a consequent influx of people posting poor-quality questions or answers simply to shill/promote/pump & dump a particular stock, or to find validation or consensus for some investment decision they made. We don't want to go there.

  • Point well taken and I agree, but that still leaves me with the question why not assist him in rephrasing instead of flat out closing it? It was pretty clear why he asked the question, he was unable to find where the information is listed. Maybe today he is only looking at MSFT but perhaps tomorrow he will be looking at some other 10-Q. On top of that anyone with a similar issue might come across this through a search engine and also be assisted. 10-Q's are huge and navigating them can be difficult, why not offer solutions. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 20:19
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    @KirillFuchs - because this is not a course on reading 10-Qs. You were able to pull the data easily enough, within a short time of reading the question. The OP needed to read. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:07
  • @JoeTaxpayer I didn't understand, are you saying questions on how to read a 10-Q should be off-topic? Yes I was able to pull the data quickly but isn't that the point? I am the "answer-er" he is the "ask-y", I should be able to answer rather quickly(specifically for such a simple question), if not I probably shouldn't be answering. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:11
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    @KirillFuchs - but his question wasn't general, and your answer was to pull the data, not teach him anything. It's a fine line, at times, and I am at the point where I'd rather go answer interesting questions than debate the FAQ. I'll leave that to the moderators. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:15
  • @JoeTaxpayer I don't mean to argue or go back and forth I really am trying to understand why not rephrase their question? Yes his question wasn't general but couldn't we edit his question to make it general? And I guess your right my answer didn't really teach him a lesson but if I added "This technique can be used for other SEC filings" it would have been more of an example of "how to quickly search through SEC filings". Perhaps my answer should be redone to answer that question properly or another answer should be supplied. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:31
  • I could have put the edit in my self, but I am fairly new to the community and would like to better understand what is a good use of "edit" before going around and changing things. So that's why I am trying to get a discussion going so I can better understand these situations. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:34
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    @KirillFuchs rephrasing the question would lead to a generic question "how do I find data", with an answer "Read the report". Chris addressed why that is not desired on this particular site. I downvoted your answer, because you didn't answer the question, you just rephrased my "read the report" comment in a slightly bigger word count.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:36
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    @KirillFuchs Question closure does not preclude the OP from editing the question to improve it for potential re-opening. Until such time as it is re-opened, it may be edited and commented upon. Of course there is a limited time in which to do this (days) before an off-topic question is deleted. What closure does prevent is off-topic answers to the off-topic question. Once the question is improved and, say, re-opened, then it can be answered again, in the right way. We don't want to encourage answers to off-topic questions much as we don't want to encourage the off-topic questions. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:41
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    @littleadv Well I think your over simplifying his question. Its an extensive amount of data, and reading the entire thing would be quite time consuming. The answer might be pretty general and applicable to other forms of "data searching". Your right my answer was your answer just with a bigger degree of explanation(just wanted to help the guy :). Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:50
  • @KirillFuchs Re: "your" vs. "you're" ... second & third time you made that mistake today ;-) Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 21:59
  • @KirillFuchs yeah, I understand that, but where do we draw the line? IMHO when someone brings me a huge PDF and says "summarize it for me", I as a good programmer respond with RTFM.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 22:02
  • @ChrisW.Rea Thank you I didn't know you can edit the question after it has been closed. So I guess my question now would be, If the question is off-topic but can be rephrased to be more generalized should we(I) attempt to edit it(even tho it might be a big edit). PS: Internatz speeek is bad for grammar :(. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 22:03
  • @littleadv Your right some times it seems that questions can be a little "durrr" type. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he really did look at the document and just couldn't find it(It's pretty big). But for example bit.ly/MNPu4T < that question seems FAR more "durrr" then the this one and the question received no criticism, instead it is +1(half of that answer was in the image he provided). I have come to assume they really did try to find the answer before coming on this SE. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 22:17
  • @KirillFuchs your example is the kind of question that makes StackOverflow so boring for me. Its a trivial question, and has as trivial answers, and is generally boring. Not off-topic though, just boring.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 22:28
  • I will only add - Kirill - downvotes are not obvious, but those who close a question are shown. I will be one of the closers now and then depending when I sign in. I answer the questions the pique my interest, and sometimes vote to close acknowledging that while interesting (to me) they are still off-topic given the FAQ. Please understand, I run the same risk answering a question I find interesting only to see it closed. This one wasn't by the way, if you can fix it, go ahead. Sometimes it's just RTFM. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 1:46

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