Six days into the private beta, I've taken 100 questions more or less at random and came up with:

  • 22 “list works containing X”
  • 20 trivia questions (that are only interesting to people who've read/seen a particular work)
  • 13 questions about the industry, of which 6 are about future plans
  • 11 requests for online resources
  • 9 classification/terminology questions (e.g. is X science fiction, what is subgenre Y)
  • 6 “favorite X” questions
  • 5 science questions
  • 4 identification questions
  • 10 miscellaneous questions

I don't have the time to extract my list into postable form right now, and anyway different people might have different classifications, but I think it gives a feel for what we've done with the site so far.

I think at this point we should think what kinds of questions we want and what kinds we don't want. Also perhaps some tagging policies. So I guess my question is, which of these categories do you feel belong/don't belong here? (See also the linked Meta posts for some categories.)

1 Answer 1


Jeff's latest blog post, Real Questions Have Answers, should be required reading:

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

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite X?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, in a variant of “I’ll go first”. If you can authoritatively answer, it’s not a real question.
  • 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 X happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “What is the deal with X?” or “X sucks, am I right?”

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about X”, then you should not be asking here. If your motivation is “I would like others to explain X to me”, then you are probably OK.

My take on what he wrote: any subjective question that doesn't have a definitive answer should be closed. Okay, folks: let's get closing.

  • 3
    This site isn't going to get out of beta if questions like "what's the best [foo]" keep getting asked and aren't closed. Part of the problem may be that there's obviously a lack of education: People don't know why questions are being downvoted or closed. I suspect I've used more close votes here than any other stack exchange site for a similar time frame. Perhaps part of the solution is to have more on-topic-discussion questions? Jan 18, 2011 at 4:03
  • @dori - How would that help? Wouldn't more or less the same users be attracted here, with the same problems? Has such a thing ever been done? Jan 18, 2011 at 4:08
  • 1
    I wonder is part of the problem is that many of the users here came to the site from outside stack exchange? (Just a hunch.) Also, sci-fi people are often insanely passionate about what they love. Jan 18, 2011 at 4:10
  • 1
    @Dori - You may be right, but can we work from the assumption that it's possible to save this site, at least for a little while? (It may not be a bad idea for you to take the question to Meta Stack Overflow, to see if its even possible?) If it gets to that, you'll have at least one supporter in this, but let's at least try to keep things going here? Jan 18, 2011 at 4:23
  • @Dori - No, I don't know. I'm sure the SE higher-ups can do whatever they like, but they'd need a sound reason to keep the site in private beta. Jan 18, 2011 at 4:34
  • 2
    What actual problems are people going to face related to the subject of science fiction? Just about any question with a definitive answer is going to be a simple factual one that a few seconds of searching can find. I can't think of many questions along the lines of "How do I do X?" that could be asked about SF. Identification questions seem like about it.
    – sdobie
    Jan 18, 2011 at 4:38
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    There are a couple of very good questions on the site (like this and this question), but these aren't very popular and aren't getting a lot of attention; all the more reason to close the bad lost questions that are easy to answer. Most of my rep here probably comes from answering list questions, which is a sad commentary on the site. On the other hand, perhaps this is the time to teach users what not to do? Jan 18, 2011 at 5:08
  • @neilfein, Dori: you seem to assume that the same rules have to apply as for Stack Overflow (or rather as Stack Overflow before the Programmers.SE drama^Wcreation), but that's not completely a given. After all Programmers.SE seems to work for some people, and it's made for subjective questions that SO doesn't want. Maybe we can come up with our own rules.
    – user56
    Jan 18, 2011 at 8:27
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    I think the problem here is that people don't really want a Q&A site, which is of limited usefulness for science fiction (as sdobie said). What they want is a site for general discussion of SF, and the SO structure and the moderation processes aren't really optimised for that kind of site.
    – Mike Scott
    Jan 18, 2011 at 11:18
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    @Dori: I don't mean that SF.SE should adopt the same rules as Programmers.SE, I mean that Programmers.SE sets a precedent for having different rules for sites that discuss different topics.
    – user56
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:07
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    I sometimes wonder if it's a good idea to make every SE site fit into a strict SO mold. SO works because people have problems they are trying to solve. When it comes to a site like SF, there are no problems per se - only trivia, which I would argue is pretty much all LMGTFY. Even obscure, cool questions can boil down to that if you're a search engine wiz.
    – morganpdx
    Jan 19, 2011 at 0:36

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