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The question Regular expressions: Finding “negation” of regular expression? seems awfully basic to me. I didn't want to close since my fellow moderator Dave Clarke answered it, which clearly indicates a difference in belief about whether it should be closed.

What say you all ?

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  • $\begingroup$ I checked whether the question was a homework question, and as it wasn't I answered it, even though it did seem straightforward. The fact that I could easily answer a Theory A question should have been an indication that the question was basic. It did raise an interesting question, namely, the point Jukka makes below. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Feb 24 '11 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ I do not want to start a debate here, but I just mention that whether a good answer should save a poor question is a recurring topic on meta.mathoverflow.net. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 24 '11 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave, AFAIR, being homework level is sufficient for closing a question as off-topic, it does not need to be a homework. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 25 '11 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi, I was wondering about the same thing, sometimes we see very high quality and interesting answers for very bad quality questions. But most of the times the interesting answer is interesting because of information it contains that are not really related to the question, i.e. the answer is a nice post by itself but not necessarily an answer to the question posted by OP. I always have this bad feeling when closing a question that I might be denying myself (and others) from reading a nice post by Russell, Luca, ... . $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 25 '11 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ [continued] on the other hand, I don't like to see the credit go to users who don't even understand the basics (e.g. don't understand that every PDA is a decider). If we are going to save these off-topic question because of nice answers or related interesting questions, I would prefer to make the question CW since it is no more a question asked by OP but it is a question that the community has came up with. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 25 '11 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ Hey there. I'm the OP of the discussed question and I was just wondering where (what stackexchange site) this question wouldn't have been off-topic? $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 25 '11 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon: math.stackexchange.com I believe. $\endgroup$ – Jukka Suomela Feb 25 '11 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon: yes, math.SE might have been a better place $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Feb 25 '11 at 19:30
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I think it is certainly far too basic, but Hermann Gruber's answer shows that we might be able to save the question: just rephrase it and ask what is known about the complexity of the problem.

It might be also fun to know what are the open questions related to this problem (papers as recent as 2008 might suggest that not everything is known...). Or if we can find an interesting subset of regular languages that admits a much more efficient complement. Or why we are still using regular expressions to express regular languages, even though they are so cumbersome to complement...

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    $\begingroup$ IIRC, we decided that in such situations, if other users come up with a better question, then those users should post it separately as a new question. If the original question by OP is clearly off-topic, it is off-topic. The fact that someone else can change the question to a completely different question that would be on-topic has no effect on it. We shouldn't try to save questions for the sake of saving them, my opinion is that if someone else comes up with a different related question which is interesting enough to be posted, then that user should post it as a new question. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 25 '11 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ This is correct. We did decide this a while ago $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Feb 25 '11 at 7:38
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I partially addressed this issue by converting my answer to a comment. This disrupted order of the comments, which I have subsequently tried to clean up by removing the ones that were no longer relevant or contained little information and no longer made sense.

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