I encountered an arcpy question, which I answered, that was riddled with problems because the asker lacked a basic understanding of arcgis tools and workflows. At first glance, it seemed like a legitimate python question. The asker posted a chunk of somewhat obscure code with a resulting error message, and asked for help with his code. After struggling to understand the problem for a while, I eventually concluded: 1) this is totally the wrong approach to this spatial problem, and 2) you don’t even know how to use arcgis tools correctly. For example, the user was attempting to use the arcpy.Merge_management tool to populate a field in a dataset with a python list. Insanity! A two second google search will reveal that this is not how to use Merge.
I answered this question, basically recommending that the user learn how to use arcgis tools and workflows, before incorrectly concealing them in complicated python code. Now, I’m wondering if I made a mistake by answering. Maybe I should have flagged the question as “off-topic” instead. I think it’s harder sometimes to detect bogus questions when they’re wrapped in legitimate looking code. What’s the best practice for handling these questions? Is there a flag for, “Your approach is totally bogus”?
What if the user had instead asked:
Q. “Why isn’t the merge too working to populate my feature class field?”
A. Why are you using ArcGIS if you can’t figure out how to look up what common tools do?
How do you convey to the asker that their entire approach is off, even if the question is technically on-point?