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There's a user on the Bicycles board who wants to build a bike, a wonderful wintertime activity! Of course, we're there to answer questions about the process. The user also wants to set up a public project to do so. Is it possible to open a master question in Community Wiki mode, using that question as a master-question linking to other questions with details about the build project?

For example, the CW question would outline the stages of planning and work, and that would spawn additional questions (such as "how do I build a [system]"), and the master question would answer the question of what knowledge is needed to complete the design.

(I think that this is what the user is looking to do.)

The current usage of community wiki is somewhat unclear, and I'd like clarification about the best way to do this, or if it's even allowed to do so.

Original question: Items required to manufacture a DIY bike?

It seems that this could be a very good way of generating a lot of useful questions if it's handled correctly. However, there has been some resistance to collaborative projects on Stack Exchange in the past, and I'd like to clear up any problems ahead of time.

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I'd appreciate some more opinions, if anyone has one. –  Neil Fein Feb 18 '11 at 17:46
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There's always Meta @Neil Fein and he could blog about it, sharing his experience based on answers he got from the site –  Ivo Flipse Feb 22 '11 at 18:19

2 Answers 2

master-question linking to other questions with details about the build project

I'd discourage an attempt to do top-down knowledge design.

If you were writing a book/tutorial then you might start with a table of contents, top-down, analyzing (i.e. subdividing) the domain:

  • Book title: Everything there is to know about bike-building
  • Chapter titles: Building the frame; building the wheels; building the gears; ...
  • Section titles: Building the frame from steel; building the frame from aluminium; building the frame from bamboo; ...

Instead I think that SE should be created bottom-up:

  • Good, specific questions
  • Possibly, aggregate or classify those questions later ... but on the other hand, that (aggregating or classifying) is what 'tags' are supposed to be doing.

Look at The Business of Software Wiki for example: the individual questions were asked first, individually; later (post facto) somebody referenced a few of the good ones into a FAQ.

generating a lot of useful questions

IMO a question isn't useful until/unless someone has a need which prompts them to ask it.

One might see the converse (i.e. a question that's less useful, because the OP doesn't identify what problem they're trying to solve) in the question about prototypes.

By the way this has analogies in software development. The 'old way' was to do top-down planning and design, and a newer way encourages delivering the deliverables (in this case, specific questions about real-world problems, and corresponding answers) just in time, as and when they're need, with less 'big design up front'.

I'm saying that it's the need (having a problem) that will generate a useful question (or a question with useful answers): IMO it's not the existence of a 'master question' that generates 'useful' questions.

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Also, note the FAQ: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." –  ChrisW Feb 22 '11 at 18:03

I think that individual build logs, or master questions, goes against the grain of the system in terms of:

  • Subjective
  • Too localized

While individually the questions are fine, I don't think we should encourage stackexchange sites to be used as anything similar to a build log that essentially says, "Here is how I did it" especially when everyone is going to do it differently, and people are encouraged to make their own build logs.

Making a very generic question that is very broad to cover all aspects of "What you need to know in order to build your own bike" with links to all the sub-questions should be ok.

But you'll need to make sure it's generic, applicable to all, and still follows the question/answer format (for example, look at the tag here on meta, which, to some degree, follows this format).

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Bicycles does allow for some localized questions, along the lines of cycling laws in London, or bikes-on-transit regs in New York, etc. Building a bike for a specific type of riding isn't local, and building a bike for a specific user is simply a matter of frame sizing, saddle height, and so on -- matters useful whether you're building or buying a bike. We'd have to concentrate on the reasoning behind decisions made. But you have an excellent point in that a master question could be, essentially, a build log, and we'd have to find a way to avoid doing that. –  Neil Fein Feb 18 '11 at 3:38

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