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Addressed briefly here my question is:

Should we ask questions that might not have an answer at this date? One could interpret that as holding out for users, research or opinions of the future — skating where the puck is.


Stack Exchange and particularly Stack Overflow is becoming increasingly prevalent in Google search results.

When Googling, I've often come across SO/SE questions without any answers (usually some comments, or at most an incomplete answer). This network is becoming an important resource to new users — and who knows, maybe some of these new users may chime in with a partial answer.

However, asking questions that "cannot be reasonably answered" at present could clutter the site. But marking them as "closed" could scare off new users and interesting answers as time goes on:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

While that invites edits to an extent, perhaps a new flag may be useful in these cases?

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Would you have an example of such a question which is otherwise on-topic? –  Bart Nov 28 '12 at 15:21
    
Which question are you referring to? –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 15:37
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The "question which may only be answered in the future" that your question is about. –  Bart Nov 28 '12 at 15:37
    
Take a question like, "What does UX research say about this?" when there may not be any such research as of yet. Also, as another example, "Has anyone improved this script/code?", which, if not, could lead on to people constructively coming up with ideas and putting the wheels into motion — or, serving as a ground for future replies. –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 15:58
    
Both those examples to me sounds like they are off-topic from the very start. –  Bart Nov 28 '12 at 16:00
    
If the idea is to get the question indexed by Google (or whatever the dominant search engine of the future may be) so that by the time there is an answer it will already be in the search index, what's the point? The Google Juice on Stack Overflow is so good that questions get indexed within minutes of being posted. –  Al E. Nov 28 '12 at 16:40
    
@Bart, really? In UX.SE and SO, respectively? –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 16:44
    
@AlEverett, I wasn't trying to imply that about indexing — you're preaching to the choir about SO/SE Google power, hehe. Anyway, I'm not suggesting we should go around asking future questions like "How much plutonium do I need to start my DeLorean?" fully knowing they can't be answered (just to get a head start on indexing), but what I'm saying is that if it does crop up (perhaps someone thought there would be an answer today), then to treat it differently than the usual closed questions. –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 16:48
    
The second one certainly for SO. I can't speak about the UX.SE. I don't participate there. That is perhaps better addressed by their Meta. –  Bart Nov 28 '12 at 16:50
    
@Bart, I see. How about, "How do I improve this script?" in SO? Maybe it would be a bigger task that the usual JSFiddle one, but, perhaps, one day, someone would come across and improvement of that script, share the code/link to it. Usually, such a question may get closed as overly broad. –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 16:54
    
@Baumr: Your clarification doesn't match up with what you have asked. There is a difference between "Should we ask questions that may only be answered in the future?" and "What should we do with questions that can only be answered in the future?" –  Al E. Nov 28 '12 at 16:54
    
@Baumr If it's not your script, I don't think it's on-topic. Overly broad perhaps. Not constructive maybe. And even if it is your (working) script, then it's not good for SO. Code Review SE maybe. –  Bart Nov 28 '12 at 16:55
    
@AlEverett, I didn't feel I had enough knowledge about how SO/SE is run to ask the second question so explicitly, but I think I covered it in my very last line? Also, once there is some consensus on that — the first question will have a clearer answer; maybe not as far as OKing the DeLorean question, but giving some grounds of merit for future-esque questions –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 16:56
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This question seems rather hypothetical. I have been trying to think of questions which would otherwise be fine, if it weren't for the fact that they can't yet be answered. And guess what? I can't think of any.

All the cases I can think of have other problems as well. Either they end up being non-constructive. (We can only guess for now) Or they are too localized (Only valid at that particular time in the future).

So based on that, I guess my answer is "no". If time is the decider on whether or not it can already be answered, then you should not ask that question now. And it might be an indicator that you should not ask the question at all for other established reasons of off-topic-ness.

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Thanks Bart, good reply –  Baumr Nov 29 '12 at 22:33
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