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(An alternative title for this question is: Is it fine to give meta advice on the main page?)

In one site, there is a question (let's call it question 1) in the form "how do I achieve X?". I give an answer in the form "to get X, you must do Y", and people disagree with it. I think they disagree with it not because it's wrong, but because there is a huge misunderstanding in there. Of course, I've tried my best to make it helpful to the OP. I also explain why the other existing answers fail to address the issue. Perhaps they misunderstand me, perhaps I misunderstand them, but in all, they don't say that it's wrong. They say it's interesting and important, but it doesn't answer the question.

Now I want to ask another question (question 2a) about "why isn't Y helpful to get X?". It is a legit question for the main site, but it can also be interpreted as "why is my answer in question 1 bad?", which is a meta question (question 2b). Any answer for question 2a will inadvertently answer question 2b (give advice on how to improve the answer of question 1), and any answer for question 2b will require an answer for question 2a.

In that case, which version of question 2 should be asked first? I think it's still best to ask 2a, since it seems that it is more important than 2b. If so, is there any thing I should take notice when asking 2a? Is it necessary to ask 2b as well, and let people give meta advice on the main page?


PS: on hindsight, it seems that my answer is a frame challenge. But I didn't know that back then.

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Why isn't Y helpful to get X?

That sounds like a question for the main site, and the main site only.

If a discussion starts about how this influences other questions, that is certainly more meta-like, but this just happens now and then (usually in the form of a comment thread), often when people aren't planning for it. This isn't really what comments are meant for, and long discussions might end up in a separate chatroom.

Is that a problem? In my humble opinion, no, and certainly not worth posting a main site question on meta for. Users expect to find answers to their programming / DIY / mathematics problem on the main site, not buried somewhere on meta.

That said, if you really expect this to happen, try to focus on the problem itself and announce that you'll post a separate meta question as well, to discuss improving question 1, if necessary. For all we know, you might be wrong after all...

  • The last paragraph is what I'm looking for. Thank you. Anyway, do you know why this very question is bad? – Ooker Mar 24 at 7:30
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    I honestly don't know - you even avoided a common meta-mistake by admitting the possibility that you misunderstood them. – Glorfindel Mar 24 at 7:44
  • what common meta-mistake you are referring to? – Ooker Mar 24 at 7:55
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    Too often people post something along the lines of "the system is wrong" or "the other users are wrong". Those posts are quickly downvoted, that's why you might miss them. Or I'm overstating their occurrence because I hang out here too often (a common mistake among meta veterans :)) – Glorfindel Mar 24 at 7:58
  • Is it fine to just ask 2a and let people give meta advice on the main site? – Ooker Mar 25 at 14:56
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    I think so; I've more or less covered this with "this just happens now and then" and "Is that a problem? In my humble opinion, no". – Glorfindel Mar 26 at 8:11
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"there is a question (let's call it question 1) in the form:

(1) "how do I achieve X?". I give an answer in the form "to get X, you must do Y".

What you are saying, in effect, is that doing Y is a necessary condition for getting X. In logic, that translates to 'X implies Y'. This is not equivalent to asking if 'Y implies X'. That is, doing 'Y' may not be sufficient for getting 'X'.

However, asking "Why isn't Y helpful for getting X" is not equivalent to asking "Why isn't it true that 'Y implies X'? You've switched the question to a new one: one about "helpfulness". So the two questions you asked are not equivalent.

Not sure why this question is being asked on meta.se, unfortunately. I think a better answer can be given, provided you identify the particular site, and its meta on which you asked your question(s).

  • I'm not really sure what you are aiming at. Do you just want a logical analysis (which I'd love to have one), or do you have any conclusion about my question? I think the statement "Y is necessary for getting X" is equivalent with "X implies Y" (I use the word "helpful" as another way to express necessity). When you say "So the two questions you asked are not equivalent", are you referring to question 1 and 2a, or 2a and 2b? Because I don't see how 2b exists in your analysis – Ooker Mar 24 at 16:28
  • Ooker, (1) cannot logically be interpreted to mean (2a), nor (2b), and (2a) and (2b) are not logically equivalent. You'd need a predicate H(y, x) to denote "Doing y is helpful for getting x" (2b), in appropriately situated domains. That's not logically equivalent to "Y implies X" (2a). So your question seems rather confused. – Namaste Mar 24 at 20:00
  • I think we have misunderstood. I've never suggested that (1) ⇔ (2a) , or (2a) ⇔ (2b). (2b) is "why is my answer in question 1 bad?", which is completely independent with (2a): "X implies Y". (2a) and (2b) are logically independent, but its linguistic form can be confusing, making people think about (2b) when what they are actually reading is (2a). (2a) is also not about "Y implies X" either. – Ooker Mar 25 at 14:45

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