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I'm getting more and more convinced that, on all SE sites, you can ask almost anything.

With 'anything' I mean also subject or topics that might be off-topic.

The real challenge is to give the question an appropriate format so that they have single, answerable answers and that it's within the field covered by the site.

I give the shopping question as an example: I finally understood that these kind of questions are not allowed anywere on SE ( Where to ask about Myspace clones (it seems to be dead)? ), but the same questions, if seen from another point of view (e.g. "does myspace still contain enough active users to make it worth the time to manage and update my page regularly") can achive similar results if the question remains opened.

Do you agree? Is that true?

share|improve this question
As I read it, the two questions are very different—the first is about a Myspace replacement; the second is about Myspace itself. While a question that would be closed can give rise to a question that wouldn't be closed, that doen't mean the original question is a good fit for SE. – waiwai933 Jan 14 '13 at 20:44
Yes you are right about the fact that the two questions are differente, but I can bet that you'll get advices on alternative networks from someone who reckons myspace is dead. – Daniele B Jan 14 '13 at 20:46
If you mean that if someone gives a "question an appropriate format so that they have single, answerable answers and that it's within the field covered by the site" and the question remains open then yes it's true. I'm sure if you look hard enough (especially on SO) you'll find plenty of stuff that shouldn't remain but it's a tiny minority. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 14 '13 at 20:49
@benisuǝqbackwards Yes your sentence is more clear, i update my question. – Daniele B Jan 14 '13 at 20:50
Your second example wouldn't stay open anywhere on the SE network, no matter how it's formulated. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. – Robert Harvey Jan 14 '13 at 21:07
@RobertHarvey A sexy pig, I might add, but indeed still a pig. – Bart Jan 14 '13 at 21:24
"Is myspace popular enough to make it worth creating my band site / profile on it" would work? – Daniele B Jan 14 '13 at 21:32
Nope, neither. Not constructive I'd say. Worth it by what criteria? How about not focusing on a single site and its worth, but on the overall goals you're trying to achieve. Promotion of your music and yourself as a musician. Perhaps that might be a better entry to a constructive question. – Bart Jan 14 '13 at 21:34
By the way, any suggestion to stop getting downvoted? – Daniele B Jan 14 '13 at 21:37
I have a far better suggestion: stop worrying about that. It's Meta. Downvotes here are sometimes even used to indicate disagreement. (See the FAQ) The rep won't buy you a thing. If you got something out of this discussion, take that with you. Forget the downvotes. – Bart Jan 14 '13 at 21:38
@Bart thanks. Wise suggestion. – Daniele B Jan 14 '13 at 21:39
Look at this question on a mac IDE: isn't it a shopping question? – Daniele B Jan 18 '13 at 7:38
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Both of the questions you mention, based on their titles at least, seem quite poor. And I'm not sure that your second version improves all that much on the first one. It still reads opinion-y and not constructive.

But stepping away from that particular example, yes, formulation does matter a whole lot when asking your question.

Take library recommendations for example. Explicitly asking for them will almost certainly see your question get closed. If you were to rephrase it however to a problem statement for which you need a solution, you might well find that someone recommends a library as the answer.

This to some might seem to be unfair or too strict an application of the rules, but it's all about the kind of answer you're likely to invite. Outright requests for recommendations have the tendency to result in a big list of potential answer, one not better than the other. A problem-focussed question however is more likely to invite the single correct answer.

Now this is just a particular scenario, but I think it illustrates that formulation matters. And while I wouldn't go as far as saying that you can ask almost everything, I do think you can ask quite a bit more with some careful formulation than some users seem to think.

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I do think you can ask quite a bit more with some careful formulation than some users seem to think -- and that's absolutely fair. Users who can't form complete sentences must meet a much higher standard of "this question is interesting to experts" for their question to stay open. Questions that cannot be answered definitively, but are nevertheless well written, carefully conceived and interesting, might still get a pass, even if they are not fully constructive or are slightly off-topic. – Robert Harvey Jan 14 '13 at 21:09

I occasionally see questions That read like unwelcome questions but actually are on-topic.

Often these are new users who make the mistake of using certain 'hot' phrases that turn people off such as

  • "What are the codes that i should use" - looks like a gimme teh codes question
  • "what are the best tools for this" - kinda looks like a shopping question

I find about one of these questions per 15 or so first post reviews, and I've in the past made radical edits to such questions to make them less likely to receive instant down-votes and flags. (with the author's consent of course.)

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Editing is always better than closing, if the question can be saved; but many questions cannot, or are not worth the effort required. – Robert Harvey Jan 14 '13 at 21:12

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