19

Based on the results of the vote for a change of policy we've drawn the conclusion that the majority of the users (who voted) are in favor of allowing appropriate tablet questions.

So the new policy means we allow tablet questions, but we don't actively encourage iOS or Android questions. Basically, this is a start of making our hardware policy more in line with our software policy. We don't tell users with Ubuntu questions to go to AskUbuntu, so starting today we'll also stop telling iPad users to go to AskDifferent.

We will also have to update our FAQ and that's where we need your help! Ironically, tablets never were explicitly mentioned on our FAQ, so I'd propose to leave them out and consider them computer/computing hardware.

Here's a draft for the new FAQ, I used the FAQ from Math.SE as a template which points out that while certain topics are on-topic, there are also other sites on the network that might give you better response.

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware
  • computer software
  • personal and home computer networking

… then this is the right place to ask!

There are certain subjects that, while still being on-topic here, might get better response on our sister sites for certain niche topics:

  • Android for enthusiasts, power users, and regular people who use the Android operating system
  • Ask Different for Apple enthusiasts and power users
  • Ask Ubuntu for Ubuntu-related questions. It's also a place to share knowledge about Ubuntu
  • Unix and Linux for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems

You are still welcome to post questions from the above categories here on Super User as long as they are otherwise on-topic; however, some types of questions are always considered off-topic:

  • Shopping or product recommendations
  • Programming and code — Stack Overflow
  • Corporate IT support and networks — Server Fault
  • Videogames and consoles — Arqade
  • Websites or web services, like Facebook, Twitter — Web Apps or WordPress
  • Devices, media players and phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • Questions about the site itself — please ask on our Meta instead. You can also ask questions that apply to all of Stack Exchange on Meta Stack Overflow, but you don't have to.

I copied the middle part straight from their respective FAQs, so don't blame the messenger. This does not mean we don't think Super User is a great place to ask questions about these respective topics, but just to make users aware that we're part of a larger network of great sites!

Now that this is incorporated into our FAQ, we'd also want to actively discourage comments pointing users to these sites. Don’t attempt to scavenge on-topic questions from other sites by asking the moderators there to migrate them to yours. Such comments should be flagged and will get deleted. The only times a user should be encouraged to have their question migrated to other sites are if the question is one of the following:

  • off topic here, but on topic there
  • getting very few views after at least a few days, and no good answers, and you believe it might get better answers there
  • the user who asks the question requests it to be moved because they think it would do better there

Lastly, I know Daniel and slhck want to have our (software) recommendation policy to be more clear, so if you can think of a change of wording, feel free to propose it now.

Just so everyone knows, moderators can't change the FAQ on Trilogy sites like they can on (beta) SE 2.0 sites, so we'll have to run the final thing past the team.

  • 2
    @soandos "So the new policy means we allow tablet questions, but we don't actively encourage iOS or Android questions." and "Ironically, tablets never were explicitly mentioned on our FAQ, so I'd propose to leave them out and consider them computer/computing hardware." – nhinkle Jun 22 '12 at 9:33
  • 3
    Product recommendations! Finally! – Daniel Beck Jun 22 '12 at 17:25
  • Has there been prior experience with sites referencing other sites with overlapping scope right in the FAQ? – Daniel Beck Jun 22 '12 at 17:49
  • @DanielBeck Math is a clear example, cstheory only links to off-topic sites and ServerFault seems to have something similar. – Ivo Flipse Jun 22 '12 at 18:49
  • @IvoFlipse Consider placing Shopping or product recommendations first in line. – Jeremy W Jun 26 '12 at 20:46
  • @Any reason why that one is more important @JeremyW? – Ivo Flipse Jun 27 '12 at 10:40
  • @IvoFlipse Perhaps a better request is to put StackOverflow next to last. I don't have access to a log of off-topic questions but I haven't personally seen very many programming questions here. While I have seen questions about web services, hardware recommendations, and some corporate support. – Jeremy W Jun 27 '12 at 12:32
  • Fine by me @JeremyW – Ivo Flipse Jun 27 '12 at 12:42
  • I propose adding another item to the list of "always off-topic": Growing Fruit - Apple Stack – VxJasonxV Sep 7 '12 at 0:11
18

My simple suggestion for the software recommendation issue would be to replace

Shopping or buying recommendations

With:

Shopping or product recommendations

This takes away the possibility to argue about "free" software, because price was never the problem with those.

  • I've updated it with your suggestion – Ivo Flipse Jun 22 '12 at 11:55
  • 1
    And FWIW, Daniel and me are certainly not the only ones who want this changed ;) Daniel still has an open, well received feature request about that issue. – slhck Jun 22 '12 at 11:55
  • Alright.. Thanks, Ivo! – slhck Jun 22 '12 at 11:56
  • Thanks @slhck for bringing this up. – Daniel Beck Jun 22 '12 at 17:27
  • 5
    Since the other items are so much longer anyway, we should probably change it to Questions asking for product or shopping recommendations. Recommending something in an answer is fine according to our recent discussion in chat, it's the asking that's the problem. – Daniel Beck Jun 22 '12 at 17:29
  • Using the statement Shopping or product recommendations, would these questions be allowed: I believe my computer has just contracted the blivit virus. Does anyone have a recommendation which antivirus will remove it? How about: I currently use SNORT as an IPS to protect a small subnet. Is there any software that interfaces with it that will log all x situations and notify me only when a threshold is reached? Both of these questions seem like very legitimate questions for an ability to do something based off of a software recommendation. – Everett Jul 24 '12 at 20:57
  • ad 1) Which antivirus have you already tried? and ad 2) That seems legitimate.. just don't ask for recommendations but how you could do that and what you've already attempted yourself. Then it should be specific enough. The main issue are posts like "What's the best tool to foo the bar on Windows?" et cetera. @eve – slhck Jul 24 '12 at 21:03
  • 1) I haven't tried one yet, I want to know which one will work to remove blivit virus from my system. I get your point, but some people just will not do more than exactly what they are told. Sometimes, you will be recommending, "McAfee, and Kaspersky are both known to remove it." At that point you leave them to the choice, and you aren't responsible for their choice. – Everett Jul 24 '12 at 21:14
  • It's not about being responsible or not – the main problem is always that people are quick to suggest anything they know, without any specific references or further explanations on how to actually solve a problem. And then there's others who toss out votes on that. Questions that encourage these kinds of polling are per se not constructive. There's always a way to do your research before and ask for specific and factual advice. I guess your example would fall in this category, if asked properly (and I'm sure the community would help to tailor such a question in shape). @Everett – slhck Jul 25 '12 at 5:54
5

We don't tell users with Ubuntu questions to go to AskUbuntu, so starting today we'll also stop telling iPad users to go to AskDifferent.

Well, actually, with the new FAQ, we would tell users with Ubuntu questions to go away.

"You have a software question? Cool, come on in! ... Ah, what? Ubuntu? Do we look like we're using Ubuntu? The Ubuntu experts are over there. Well, if you insist, you can ask here, sure, but don't expect to get any answers. We're busy with the topics this site is actually meant for, not niche topics."


While there are sites with overlapping topics, but Ubuntu, Linux, or OS X simply aren't niche topics here:

Recent Tags screenshot

Sure, there are more or tagged questions than or (not a big surprise, given the market share), but a niche looks different. There are almost four times as many recent Linux related questions than either or , software pretty much everybody uses every day. Every one of these "niche" tags has thousands of questions, and hundreds, or thousands of followers.

This would probably be the first FAQ to not actually be clear whether you should ask a question on the site. It's on topic, but the experts are over there after all.

If we didn't think these questions would fit here or could get answers, we wouldn't allow them, it's as easy as that. Quoting Ivo:

We nowadays get twice as many visits/day than when we made the original decision. So in contrast to Gadgets, which lacked sufficient users who could answer questions about a large plethora of gadgets, I think we have sufficient critical mass that as long as it isn't some obscure device, we should be able to answer it.

So let's not tell newcomers to go away unless we're confident it's a good idea for either them or us.

  • 3
    I tried to keep the wording neutral, just to make it clear that there are other sites, not to claim they have more expertise than us. The vast majority of the users do not read the FAQ, so it won't affect them. But if you disagree strongly, what wording would you propose? – Ivo Flipse Jun 22 '12 at 18:45
  • @IvoFlipse Not a specific wording, but I'd suggest linking to this meta topic for both off topic questions (See here for sites where you can ask questions about these topics.) and alternative site suggestions (See here for sites about similar topics.) instead of listing sites right there in the FAQ. We'd need to change its scope a bit though. The other benefit would be the ability of the community to react to changes in SE site lineup. AFAIK changing a trilogy FAQ is pretty difficult. – Daniel Beck Jun 22 '12 at 18:59
  • 4
    Hmm. I agree that the implication is a bit too heavy towards the "don't ask these here" side even though that's not what we're trying to convey. Let's see if we can't come up with something to convey that a bit more accurately. – nhinkle Jun 22 '12 at 20:00
  • might get a better response just seems.. meh. Maybe keep it as neutral as possible and say There are certain subjects that are also on-topic on our sister sites? – slhck Jun 23 '12 at 16:10
2

I feel like the following part a bit too verbose compared to the other list entries:

  • Questions about electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • Shopping or product recommendations
  • Questions about the site itself — please ask on our Meta instead. You can also ask questions that apply to all of Stack Exchange on Meta Stack Overflow, but you don't have to.

Anything we can do about that?


Thoughts

The first part could be shortened because any phones that don't interface are off-topic. We can also assume that given the context of our site devices would be electronic, non-electronic shouldn't be on-topic either. Furthermore, you can cut off Questions about because you introduce the list with types of questions in the first place, so:

Devices, media players and phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer

It might even become better by adding in spacing in between the two types of list items using <br><br> or otherwise reword the parts around the list so that you can turn them into two separate lists.


Based on the comments, here is an alternative:

  • Programming and code on Stack Overflow
  • Corporate IT support and networks on Server Fault
  • Videogames and consoles on Arqade
  • Websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter on WordPress or Web Apps
  • Devices, media players and phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • Shopping or product recommendations
  • Questions about the site itself — please ask on our Meta instead. You can also ask questions that apply to all of Stack Exchange on Meta Stack Overflow, but you don't have to.

Or if you hate bold, you can do it like this:

  • Programming and code — Stack Overflow
  • Corporate IT support and networks — Server Fault
  • Videogames and consoles — Arqade
  • Websites or web services, like Facebook, Twitter — WordPress or Web Apps
  • Devices, media players and phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • Shopping or product recommendations
  • Questions about the site itself — please ask on our Meta instead. You can also ask questions that apply to all of Stack Exchange on Meta Stack Overflow, but you don't have to.

We could also use , ask (them?) on instead of the —.

, but feel free to suggest better formatting where it makes sense.

  • 2
    I disagree with your splitting/wording of the MSU vs. MSO. It is explicitly allowed to ask questions pertaining to Stack Exchange at large on per-site metas. – nhinkle Jun 23 '12 at 3:11
  • 2
    I don't think the sites should be emphasized, but the topic of the question, since that is what the user knows: "Programming questions should be asked on Stack Overflow". – Daniel Beck Jun 23 '12 at 6:12
  • @DanielBeck: Yeah, KronoS version but with the first words emphasized would work well. I think when the ending words are emphasized that it is hard to read on the eyes. – Tamara Wijsman Jun 23 '12 at 12:06
  • @DanielBeck: Done, the current list provides a very quick overview of the topics. – Tamara Wijsman Jun 23 '12 at 12:14
2

The current FAQ accomplishes something that neither the original post nor the suggestions for improvement delivered so far: Delivering the entire on topic/off topic information in a single sentence.

I have, more than once, quoted a single sentence from the FAQ, that looked like this:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users*. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware

and it is not about …

  • a shopping or buying recommendation

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

I think the fact that the entire section is made up of a single sentence is important and this structure is worth keeping.

The few users who already care about reading the FAQ will stop reading after the first period tells them what they need to know: Everything about computer hardware and software goes! Especially with the "you could also ask here" information, nobody will read that much further, as the rest is clearly just additional bonus information for people with too much time on their hands. That we consider e.g. shopping recommendations off topic is just too far down the page!


Given the following assumptions and observations:

  • There is not a lot wrong, structurally, with the FAQ — all suggestions so far change a lot and there's no real explanation why.
  • We don't actually need an FAQ change for the tablet issue, we just no longer consider them to be electronic devices, but computers.
  • We really need to fix that product recommendation issue :-)
  • Neither the community nor the moderators on a trilogy site can update the FAQ without developer support (and how often did that happen in the last few years?), so we shouldn't put a list of sites right there into the FAQ where it goes stale in a few months, and is restricted in size anyway by what we can reasonably put there.

... my suggestion is the following, changes in italic:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware,
  • computer software, or
  • personal and home computer networking

and it is not about

  • programming and software development,
  • video games or consoles,
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress,
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer,
  • issues specific to corporate IT support and networks,
  • or asking for a shopping or product recommendation,

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

For suggestions where to post your question instead, please see here. If your question is about Super User, you can ask on Meta Super User.


(I changed the "format" of the lists to be able to include the new product recommendation list item that doesn't start with about without starting all other items with about.)

We'd need to change the topic to include alternative sites for both off topic and on topic questions.

A bit further down the FAQ, there's also this gem (again, changes in italic):

What if I don’t get a good answer?

First, make sure you’ve asked a good question. To get better answers, you may need to put additional effort into your question. Edit your question to provide status and progress updates. Document your own continued efforts to answer your question. This will naturally bump your question and get more people interested in it. If you still don't get any answers, you can try to ask your question on a different site. Meta Super User has suggestions where you can ask your question instead.

  • You raise a good point about lazy people who won't read beyond the first little bit. – nhinkle Jun 24 '12 at 4:54
1

Can I make the suggestion to make the "off-topic" section to look like this:

You are still welcome to post questions from the above categories here on Super User as long as they are otherwise on-topic; however, some types of questions are always considered off-topic:

  • Programming and code questions. Feel free to use Stack Overflow
  • Issues specific to corporate IT support and networks. Feel free to use Server Fault
  • Videogames or consoles. Feel free to use Arqade
  • Websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter. Feel free to use Web Apps and WordPress
  • Questions about electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • Shopping or product recommendations
  • Questions about the site itself — please ask on our Meta instead. You can also ask questions that apply to all of Stack Exchange on Meta Stack Overflow, but you don't have to.
  • Perhaps we should rephrase the sentence before the list and make it more like the middle part. To first the name, then the scope summary? – Ivo Flipse Jun 22 '12 at 18:46
  • I think the first parts of the sentence should then be bold, or perhaps no bold at all. Now it looks like some bold words were spread out in the end which are calling "read and click me" before reading the text around it, which isn't easy on the eye... – Tamara Wijsman Jun 22 '12 at 22:38
0

Suggestion: replace the five sentences addressing niche topics with something like this:

Android, Apple, Ubuntu, and Unix/Linux questions are welcome but may receive a better response at one of our sister sites

  • We already have a list of sites without further information in the footer of every page. Not sure this is an improvement over that... – Daniel Beck Jun 26 '12 at 20:29
  • @DanielBeck The page I linked to has a tag line for each site ex: (Arqade ... Q&A for passionate videogamers on all platforms). I offered this as an improvement over the proposed FAQ structure - not the site footer. – Jeremy W Jun 26 '12 at 20:45
-2

IMHO it looks good.

For software recommendations I propose the following rule:


If it is something can be answered with a simple Google search (something like "Presentation software", or "Program like filemaker") then please Google it. SuperUser is not a replacement for Google, and as such questions that simply ask for programs that are like some other program, or can do a broad class of things are not constructive and will be closed as such.

However, if what you are asking is how to accomplish a specific task (something like "How do I remove all metadata from a quicktime movie file?" or "How do I crop or black out personal information from a large number of short video clips" then it is a valid question.


The primary different between these two categories is that the first type of question is looking for all possibilities, or the best possibility. Doing so makes it a question that is no longer based on facts/data to a large extent, as things like the design of the interface start to play a role. The second type is looking for any solution. That is something that can be clearly determined, and therefore is a good and valid question for SU.

  • 1
    While Super User isn't a replacement for Google, there are many simple questions that are solved with a simple Google search and still on-topic for this site. Besides, Google often times points to Super User for some questions. – James Mertz Jun 22 '12 at 15:32
  • 1
    @KronoS, if a simple google search can solve the question it should be downvoted anyway – soandos Jun 22 '12 at 16:54
  • I disagree. There is a fine line between useless questions and questions are may appear simple to one, but not to another. What defines a "simple google" search? What if my Google-Fu skills aren't as good as yours. Are you going to punish me for that? – James Mertz Jun 22 '12 at 16:57
  • 1
    Within some limit, yes, I will downvote. I am not requiring the the answer cannot be found using google, but it should not be so simple. What is simple? To some degree it is subjective, but I think the quiries listed above are ones that everyone would agree are simple – soandos Jun 22 '12 at 17:02
  • 1
    I agree that recommendations are off-topic, BUT a criterion for Google search simplicity can't be regulated and shouldn't. – James Mertz Jun 22 '12 at 17:48
  • that's... very verbose. – nhinkle Jun 22 '12 at 20:00
  • Note that whether it can be found on Google is pretty much dependent on what search terms are used, did you mean "crash", "crashed", "hang", "hung", "freeze", "freezing", "frozen", "halt", "halted" or perhaps "stopped". Probably there are others I can't even think off. Now which one would I take to figure out why my Windows Live Messenger just hung? I know I can Google it by using the right terms, but that doesn't make my question off-topic. Did you know Process Explorer then showed me WLM was using tons of CPU, then in the Threads I saw Flash was the culprit. How would Google tell me that? :( – Tamara Wijsman Jun 22 '12 at 22:35

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