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My recent question Which keyboard layout(s) is/are objectively better?, was closed as "Not constructive" by a moderator.

My intention with this question was not to solicit debate, but rather to learn about objective studies that have been done in the area. I realize that even with a well-formed question, many people may choose to try to turn it into a debate and/or extended discussion, as described in the cookie cutter closing text ("this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion").

I think it's a fair question to ask. (If not, it should have been closed as off-topic, not as not-constructive).

So my question now is, is it possible to ask such a question in a way that is viewed as constructive by the community? Or is it perhaps just such a hot-button issue that it's impossible to ask the question without becoming a debate/discussion?

Maybe @A Dwarf was right when he said (in a comment on my question):

You need a moderated panel of experts (or trusty users, let's say). Unfortunately, you cannot have that type of information in a public forum where it will be quickly crowded by subjective posts that will very rapidly detract the discussion from what really matters.

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I appreciated you later comment on that thread and frankly made me doubt my vote to close at that point. But unfortunately my comment does stand from experience on this and many other places, that indeed these type of questions invariably result in debate that obstructs from the real purpose.

FYI, I consider "Non-Constructive" a too strong of a term. It's unfortunately the title of the close option that best fit the situation; i.e. "this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion".

So, moving ahead. I think the topic is interesting, but does not really fit into a Q&A forum. Some ways you can improve the topic (these aren't meant to be seen isolated, but as a whole):

  • You aren't interested in which one is better, but which one could you best adapt considering your typing. So you want to provide information on how you type, your hands shape and size and receive as an answer what could be a good keyboard layout/size for you.

  • You should encourage only factual or objective answers (you did this).

  • You could study each keyboard layout in more detail and produce not one, but a series of well spaced questions on the matter, trying to understand whatever details you couldn't from your studies in an effort to collect these answers and then decide for yourself what keyboard layout you want to finally use.

  • Thanks, all good suggestions. – Flimzy Jul 13 '11 at 1:02
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Following your suggestion it has been re-opened.

It was then closed as off topic as it is less about a problem with the computer and more fielding for research about keyboard layouts.

There is no way for this question to be asked that doesn't come with it conjecture and debate as to the study methods and the controls in place behind the results.

The only way this can ever have a concrete answer is if you can run studies of a subject in parallel and with the keyboard layout the variable. History, learning and exposure to one layout before the other will always taint the results.

  • Thank you for the explanation. – Flimzy Jul 13 '11 at 0:57
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    That all being said, it's probably a better fit for Skeptics, but even the question there doesn't really have scientific arguments and references, like peer-reviewed experiment results. – slhck Jul 13 '11 at 9:14
  • science -- it works, bitches! xkcd.com/54 – Jeff Atwood Jul 14 '11 at 11:00
  • I agree with @slhck about the better fit for Skeptics. – rishimaharaj May 14 '12 at 19:11
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What about: "Can anybody point me to objective studies on the usability of various keyboard layouts?" Possibly with some additional proactive disclaimers about how you don't mean to start an actual debate on the topic.

I'm not sure why that wouldn't fit into a Q&A forum; it seems to me like the sort of thing that someone else might well come in from the outside and be happy to find the answer to. I'd be interested in comments from folks who've been around the stack a few more times than I have. :)

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    Being asked to be pointed to another place isn't ideal for this platform. Questions should make the answers complete here without relying on a third party for the bulk of the answer's worth – random Aug 1 '11 at 18:50
  • Fair enough. Thanks for the explanation. (But did someone really have to downgrade my comment, when it was there to enhance the meta-question rather than provide an answer? Micro-harrumph.) – Jenn D. Nov 5 '12 at 15:50

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