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A user on Beer (beta) suggested temporarily allowing a kind of question that normally would be considered off-topic, in order to build site activity. Specifically, the user proposes crosswords, inspired by Latin crosswords. (Keep in mind though, that in Latin's case, crosswords were proposed as on-topic, whereas in our case we're all already in agreement that crosswords are off-topic. In the user's own words, this proposal is a band-aid solution.)

In fact, I'm guilty of doing something similar when the site first launched: I introduced a list-style question (a textbook case of "too many possible answers") primarily to encourage traveling beer enthusiasts to come and share their brewery finds at airports.

To clarify, my own position is ambiguous. My gut feeling (and my tendency toward "Spartan" measures) is that off-topic questions shouldn't be allowed, under any circumstance: survive without cheating, or perish. But my restrained thoughts are: Well, why not? If a bit of "cheating" (a handful of bad questions that can be weeded out later) could help build an eventually healthy site, would the ends justify the means? Didn't Stack Overflow benefit from numerous list-style, primarily-opinion-based and too-broad questions from the early days, that are still open for their "historical significance" (read: still useful)?

Preferring empirical discussion over theoretical, have you participated (or moderated) any other betas that entertained this idea? If so, and the site did permit certain off-topic questions, were there any long-term adverse effects? Or side-effects?

  • folks seem to believe that broken-windows won't be much of the problem later – gnat Mar 23 '16 at 14:14
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    @gnat - it's not so much broken windows but rather broken bottles there. – Deer Hunter Mar 23 '16 at 15:09
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New sites tend to be more open with what is and isn't suitable, purely because they haven't grown enough for users to even know what the site is for, so you can't remove posts as unsuitable if you don't know what suitable is at that point.

However. That is no excuse for intentionally allowing garbage in. Because garbage will attract garbage. Just like bikeshed questions attract more bikeshed questions. And you end up with a site that isn't really any actual use to anyone.

A site is only as good as the content within it. Allowing poor questions may mean the site becomes popular, but popular doesn't mean good.

  • I agree with your points. Only, let's not ironically appeal to popular opinions on popular people to make an argument :-) – Andrew Cheong Mar 22 '16 at 16:37
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    Nothing wrong with a good cheap-shot every now and again! ;) – JonW Mar 22 '16 at 16:40
  • This priceless moment is brought to you by... – DnrDevil Mar 22 '16 at 23:22
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    both bikeshedding and popular doesn't mean good have SE-specific references – gnat Mar 23 '16 at 14:16
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    @gnat Good points. Edited into my answer. So long, Justin Bieber. – JonW Mar 23 '16 at 14:23
  • you can try Biber instead. What a difference a "e" letter makes – gnat Mar 23 '16 at 14:27
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In the long run you will end up with numerous discussions and finger pointing to those off-topic questions, like is done on Stack Overflow every day again.

If the current users, who built the core of the site, are taking shortcuts, why expect from new users they don't do that? This is in fact asking more from new users than you ask of yourself, and that isn't fair.

My suggestion: try to build a site with good and on-topic questions. If the site can't survive without them, you either have to allow such questions (lower the quality from the site, but gaining a user base) or just quit.

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