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I've noticed a few questions on here that are pretty, well, chatty, and a lot of answers where people are just offering their opinion on the poster's question. Since we want this to be the premier site for concise, answerable, fact-based questions, can we work hard and try to nip this in the bud (especially since lots of high rep users are part of the problem instead of the solution right now)? I suspect that we have a lot of new-to-Stack-Exchange users coming from the forums, and we will want to make sure that this site keeps a clearly different "feel" from there.

Some examples:

This sounds more like a marketing meeting or a brainstorm than a Q&A site.

This is way too open-ended and invites subjective suggestions. For reference, sites like Gaming prohibit shopping advice and recommendations.

The accepted answer for this one starts with "my predictions are", and the question itself is pretty useless. Predictions? This is supposed to be expert Q&A.

The answers to this one are totally uninformed, possibly even dangerous. You should not be answering a question like this unless you know exactly what you're talking about (probably the question needs to be on a legal site anyways).

etc.

Remember people, you should not be answering a question just to offer your opinion or input. Stack Exchange sites are meant to offer expertise where accepted and high-scored answers can be trusted to basically be "the final word" on the subject. This isn't a forum, and it isn't a strategy meeting. It's a place to compile verifiable, referenced facts for the use of the internet at large.

My apologies if I come on a bit strong, but I don't want to go through downvoting tens or hundreds of questions and answers when there's a much better high-level solution--all of us getting on the same page.

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    there is also a lot of double answering. Somebody gives an answer and then somebody else gives almost exactly the same or ever so slightly different answer 30 minutes later (instead of just commenting on the previous answer). I don't know if this is common practice on SO and other SE, but I know that on cstheory.SE this would be met with downvotes or community/moderator action. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 2 '11 at 15:52
  • Yes, agreed. You should not be adding an answer unless you have something distinctly more helpful to say than the existing answers. We also have to catch these early, because after only a few hours you can't tell which answer was first. – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 15:56
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    if you mouse-over the "answered yesterday" part it will show you the exact time of answering. So a user can always compare the time in of these answers, it just requires a bit more effort. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 2 '11 at 16:02
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    Great tip--I didn't know that. – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 16:04
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The site is brand-new, and a lot of users here don't have experience on Stack Exchange—and so, may not have read the FAQ.

Here's the relevant bits:

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

If you see any of the above, please flag them!

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My question, about which weaknesses affect market/mind share was an attempt to gather information about perceived Bitcoin weaknesses and prioritize them. It was in fact in response to an actual problem I have -- I'm not sure which Bitcoin weaknesses most need work, and working on those weaknesses is one of the things I do.

The question about mining pool payout models seemed to me to be more about which payout model makes the most sense for a casual miner. If he's a casual miner, he has to select a pool. There are a lot of payout models, and they're not always easy to understand. Rather than understand every payout model (some of which are mathematically complex), he'd rather see the ones that are best for most casual miners explained to him. There are a lot of casual miners, so it's useful for reference too.

I see these two questions very differently from you. Maybe I'm just trying too hard to see the good and ignoring the bad because it's bad. But maybe to some extent you are doing the reverse as well. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I understand that we share the goal of making the site as high quality as possible.)

Update: I realize I may have misunderstood you. You are talking about question and answer quality. My answer was addressed under the assumption, likely incorrect, that you were talking about question quality.

  • I was thinking mainly about answer quality, but questions that have no criteria by which to measure the answers aren't really suitable for the Stack Exchange format either. How is one supposed to know which weaknesses "are probably most serious"? I can't think of any meaningful way to measure this, so people are just going to end up voting for "this question because I like it". The point of Stack Exchange sites is for correct answers to rise to the top, not well-liked ones. Regarding the mining pool question, how are we supposed to measure what "better payout models" even are? – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 15:19
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    I think you're also missing the fact that just because a person has an actual problem doesn't mean Stack Exchange is the best place to get feedback on it. The voting to differentiate answers is core to how it works. If you're just looking for a wide range of subjective feedback, you should be asking in a forum. If the pooled mining question were instead changed to "which payout model is most mathematically advantageous" it would become immediately clear how the best answers might be measured, and all of a sudden this is perfectly SE-appropriate. – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 15:23
  • I don't know about that. Even if you can't offer an exact criteria by which something you can be measured, you can offer the pros and cons and let someone else make a decision. Saying we have to be able to quantify an answer for it to be appropriate seems a bit overboard for me. You just lay out your assumptions, "If by best you mean X, then Y." "If by best you mean A, then B" – lemonginger Sep 2 '11 at 19:06
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I agree in principal, however I think there are some logistical issues with being overly strict. As I pointed out elsewhere unlike programing Q&A where there is a fixed and known answer that is testable by the asker bitcoin has a lot of 'fuzziness'. People will be justifiably interested in the pros and cons of different mining pools for example, and at least an answer that explains what the differences are and how they work is useful (but not of course opinion on one viruses another).

We can always vote to close ones that are truly off topic, and down vote opinion based answers, but I'm at a loss to see how we have any other influence on the quality of of the Q&A. Open to suggestions though, because I agree with your concern.

  • I'm inclined to disagree that Bitcoin has any more fuzziness than topics like photography or english, and it has a lot less fuzziness than something like parenting or christianity. There are enough concrete, answerable questions surrounding Bitcoin that we should be leaving the "fuzzy" ones for forums, etc. If someone comes here and sees a lot of opinions being thrown around, they aren't going to be confident the answers are authoritative. – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 15:08
  • I agree, and I like dori's answer for pointing out the FAQ, but there are still questions like "Is bitcoin a ponzi scheme?" Which are worth asking and answering, but it can easily be argued that none of the answers would be 'authoritative.' So then we have the problem of people giving opinionated answers, but also opening up attacks on the question itself under these guidelines. – Joshua Kolden Sep 2 '11 at 15:26
  • Actually, a ponzi scheme is a well-defined system, so it's trivial to break down what it is and show objectively why BitCoin doesn't qualify. You won't find any "I don't think it is" in the answers to that one, and if you did they should be downvoted. Instead, an effective answer clearly breaks down the question and answers it directly by clarifying the difference between a scam and a risky investment. That's exactly the type of expert analysis Stack Exchange is designed to identify. – eMansipater Sep 2 '11 at 15:52
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    And that's why StackExchange has community moderation through downvoting, reporting and editing. I think this is why choosing the right moderators is a BIG deal: there are some questions for which a reasonable examination of opposing opinions is not unreasonable, and the job of the mods is to remove only that content which is not constructive. Bad mods might be tempted to simply remove content that opposes their own opinion and that can't be allowed to happen here. – David Perry Sep 2 '11 at 15:55
  • eMansipater, my point is that people would argue it. As I said it could be asked and should be answered, but a question like that could qualify under the FAQ list of "What kind of questions should I not ask here?" but I think they probably should be allowed. So I agree with David Perry it'll come down to good moderation in those edge cases. – Joshua Kolden Sep 3 '11 at 1:31

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