I'm new to this Stack Exchange site and after browsing around a bit was wondering about the following seeming discrepancy between the FAQ and the questions on the site. The FAQ very prominently says that:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

I came across some questions where the asker is very explicit about the actual problem they're facing, such as the ones on “What was the life expectancy in Medieval Britain?” and on “How to research controversial history?”. But there are few such questions. Most questions don't mention what problem the asker is facing at all. Given that these questions weren't closed as off-topic, or that nobody asked for clarification on the problem (with some exceptions), I'm wondering why the above guideline is (still) so prominent in the FAQ. Shouldn't this guideline be given less prominence, or be reworded somehow? Or conversely, should people be asked more often to clarify what problem they are facing?

As Ted noted that line is copied from the general StackOverflow FAQ which was more based on Programming questions, which would be issues you face. A question on History that you are confused or unsure about COULD be construed as a problem you face as well. It's all perspective. –  MichaelF May 29 '12 at 9:01

2 Answers 2

I've noticed that too.

That's copied verbatim from other FAQ's, such as the StackOverflow FAQ, which uses identical verbiage.

IMHO it is indeed inappropriate on this site. While there might be some folks who need a history question answered for an "actual problem they face" (eg: a novelist wanting to avoid anachronisms in a book they are writing), for the most part questions here are just going to be people confused or shaky on some bit of history.

I'm not sure what the best way to phrase that idea would be (perhaps "actual details that you don't understand"?), but I do know what's there now ain't it.


Unfortunately, the FAQ makes reuse of the same standard guidleines that are applied across all sites. As SE evolved to include other topics besides programming languages, these guidelines did not necessarily fit when applied verbatim. Each separate SE site, therefore, has to rely on the community at large to help determine which questions are appropriate or not appropriate. As moderators, we have the added responsibility of making judgement calls on certain questions, but for the most part, we rely on the community to help us police the content.

I agree with this in general. However, having something that is just flat out wrong in what is being promoted as our "FAQ" is liable to confuse new users, isn't it? –  T.E.D. May 30 '12 at 14:56
Yes, there is definitely that possibility, which is why it is important that we have an active community to help educate and guide new users in a manner that encourages them to participate. –  Steven Drennon May 30 '12 at 15:05
Yes, that is the point of your answer, and I agree. It just seems like a poor way to address the problem. Isn't the FAQ editable somehow? –  T.E.D. May 30 '12 at 16:10
No that I am aware of. When I look at the FAQ on other SE sites, there does appear to be some additional questions or information, but the basic foundation, including this specific scenario, is exactly the same. As moderators, we do not have the ability to edit the FAQ, but I'm sure if you ask nicely, someone who works for SE could do so. –  Steven Drennon May 30 '12 at 17:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .