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I asked this question yesterday. Someone posted a comment that was saying: "This is a very common question. Google your exact title : there are 3+ pages of answers."

Now, I have some questions:

  1. Which properties should questions have? I think that all of question exist some where in the books, internet, people's brain, past, present, future, etc. So, if a question exists somewhere (except PSE), then that question mustn't be asked in physics stack exchange? If so, then 99.999999 % existent questions in PSE hadn't be asked.

  2. Should the question be very very very hard? If someone asks a simple and common question, then he is wrong? His question should be downvoted? If so, I personally know some people that 99.999999 % existent questions in PSE are so simple and common for them.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that PSE only has under 10^5 questions, so you can safely replace your fractions by $100%$ :) $\endgroup$ – Peter Kravchuk Jul 6 '16 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ Some people are just rude and unhelpful and i honestly dont understand why they get mad. You can google damn near EVERYTHING. But the point of SE, as i understand it, is to be able to interact and ask follow up questions and discuss. You just cant avoid the fussy people here. Please domt get discouraged $\endgroup$ – user122066 Jul 7 '16 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ @user122066 Thank you very much! $\endgroup$ – lucas Jul 7 '16 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ I can relate to this. I've had a question duplicated, upvoted and downvoted yet the link which was provided as supposedly duplicate to my question, didn't answer my question. I have one particular user in my mind who does this in a lot of questions. $\endgroup$ – Weezy Jul 17 '16 at 9:18
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Focusing on the question, of how much research you are expected to have done before asking here, and answering only for myself.


I wrote an answer for a similar questions about Stack Overflow some time ago. The gist of it is that asking the site things that you could have easily (or perhaps trivially) googled comes down to wasting the time of people looking at your question, and those questions shouldn't be asked. The final expression of that idea there was:

It is the same as not asking when the answer is in the furnished manual or the first half-dozen links that Google brings up. The answer being in some obscure usenet archive or 400 comments down in a slashdot thread on some other topic is no impediment to asking Stack Exchange, but there being dozens of answer instances all across the internet is.

I figure the situation on Physics is similar, but not necessarily exactly the same, because it is (in my opinion) easier to to see but not understand a treatment in physics even when you have the minimum preparation for the topic.

  • Asking before you have looked at those resources that Google brings up right at the top is a waste of other people's time.

  • If you have looked and still don't get it, tell us what you found unsatisfactory about those treatments. And "I didn't understand" doesn't count; say where your understanding broke down. I you stuck on a step in the math or on how it could be written in terms of that math in the first place?

  • Be clear about your level of preparation. I've seen so many questions where the OP claims to understand field theory and relativity, but has actually just read some pop-sci book that I can usually guess what the case it, but you aren't doing anyone any favors by muddying the water that way.

  • Asking for a detailed description of a topic at your level when you simply aren't prepared to deal with the math is a waste of other people's time. We have been open to "layman's terms" questions, but you have to accept that those answer will be in layman's terms.

All that said, part of the goal here is to build a comprehensive database of good questions with good answer. So, shouldn't we allow ever good question, even if they have been answered well elsewhere?

Well, we should, but it is fair to insist that we work on really good versions of those questions, and that really calls for someone who knows the topic to craft the canonical version of the question.


Any way, those are my thoughts I've wanted for some time to sit and hammer on them to find where they might not be internally consistent, but I never seem to find the time. So perhaps some of the rest of you can show me those spots.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your attention! It seems from your answer that the site goal is helping to people if they need help and they express their need and this is in contrast with "to build a comprehensive database of good questions with good answer." In addition, I don't agree with this: "waste of other people's time" Other people can choose to answer or not. $\endgroup$ – lucas Jul 6 '16 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ @lucas Yes, people can choose (not) to answer. It is however depressing if half of the new questions are resolvable by reading the wikipedia article because good questions get harder to find in all the clutter of nonsense. $\endgroup$ – Sanya Jul 6 '16 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ Well written, overall, and I generally agree. But I actually don't think our goal is to build a comprehensive database of questions and answers. I think our goal is to fill in the gaps of information presented elsewhere, so that PSE when considered along with other standard reference sources becomes as comprehensive a database of information as possible. Our niche in this overall goal is getting people's specific questions answered. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 6 '16 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee, I'd agree with this except for two things: one, Wikipedia. I mean, I've barely linked to sites other than Wikipedia in my answers! Does that mean that the majority of questions are not valid because of Wikipedia? Second, let's say some sites you would say are clear and directly related pop up in the first 6 links. However, I might think they make no sense, and I need clarification. It just seems like there's problems with it! It's a very arbitrary thing, whether something's "a waste of other people's time" (I've learned tons from answering questions), etc. $\endgroup$ – heather Jul 6 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @heather If there is a need for clarification and people clearly state what they have looked at and where their understanding broke down, the question is much more attractive than a simple "explain me xy". $\endgroup$ – Sanya Jul 6 '16 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Sanya, true, I'm just trying to point out that a lot of questions on physics.SE could (arguably) be figured out with a little effort, such as looking on Wikipedia. I don't think that makes the question invalid at all, though I have seen one or two questions that are certainly stretching that (though those were homework type questions that were subsequently put on hold, or really broad questions that were put on hold as such). While there should be guidelines like you said, we shouldn't put a question on hold with an arbitrary decision about whether or not it's easy to figure out. $\endgroup$ – heather Jul 6 '16 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ Personally my goal is to help others understand and in the process i understand more completely. Im not going to do anything that wastes my time and i doubt anybody else does so i dont exactly understand the "wasting others time" argument. Im a FIRM believer that there is no such thing as a bad question $\endgroup$ – user122066 Jul 7 '16 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ A comprehensive database would be nice, but I don't see it happening. Nor a niche DB with quality answers. Many users are simply winging it, without any research. To be expected, when answers get deleted because they are "complete" and questions are closed while people write an answer. Few people will risk wasted hours more than once. (I notice btw that >240 users have +3000 rep, but just 4 of them cast about 45% of recent votes). Bad questions are cheap, good answers expensive. You don't need game theory to know what will be most affected by "discouraging policies". $\endgroup$ – Previous Jul 13 '16 at 10:27

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