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Since the consensus on this question seems to be that at least under some circumstances "how does this work" questions are allowed, I propose that instead of burying this fact under what types of questions one is not allowed to ask, we move it to the positive, "What type of question should I ask" section.

The goal is not to broaden the scope of the FAQ, but to make it clearer.

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    I think you should have posted this as an answer to my question. Or separated your question into question/answer as explained here: meta.superuser.com/a/3994/37440 – haimg Jan 15 '12 at 3:25
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    The principle reason it's not that obvious yet is that it would encourage hypothetical questions. The question is if people would use it defending their (off-topic) questions, even though we already have not constructive for it. I don't know. I think it's almost okay as-is. – slhck Jan 15 '12 at 10:21
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No Action.

With the current wording, and the “I would like others to explain __ to me” separated from the list, it's not as obvious to users that we accept these kinds of questions as it could be.

It's not like the FAQ is just plain incorrect, as with other issues. It's just that it's more or less hidden further down in the section. And everyone who's spent any significant amount of time should know that these questions whose answers are actually useful are on topic.

Ultimately, our problem with the on/off topic section of the FAQ isn't that it's incomplete (it always will be) or not as accessible as it could be. It's not like the FAQ prevents a lot of on-topic questions. We'd get more questions about that on Chat or Meta, if it were. Users ask practically everything (sometimes with a "I'm not sure it's on topic" disclaimer, but still) and we then might need to close it.

So there's not much reason to make it more obvious.


OTOH, there's a problem with these kinds of questions: It's not easy getting them right.

  • They must not be general reference.
  • They shouldn't be answerable with a simple Google query (i.e. no research). If they are, they might be on topic, but still a bad question.
  • If books have been written about the question, they're not fit for our site, they're overly broad and therefore NARQ.

It's difficult to get all of this right. Making it that much more obvious in the FAQ will just invite users (who skim the FAQ) to ask bad questions, or questions that don't fit our site's format.

Given that these questions are indeed being asked, I don't see a reason to act.

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    Perhaps we don't mind these questions being asked (if they're good), but I certainly don't want to encourage them. Once they're in the FAQ people feel entitled to asking them, no matter how poorly phrased or general... – Ivo Flipse Jan 15 '12 at 16:24

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