On Area 51, I thought that specific questions would be better, & I've been telling people as such:


However, I notice that some proposals are using lots of generic questions with generic words in square brackets, like


Which one is better?


What's the purpose of asking the question?

The bracket notation is nice for the purpose of voting. It helps keep the focus on the point of the question rather than the semantics. In your example:

"What procedure should I follow to brew the perfect espresso?"

Is the purpose of the question to show that we talk about espresso or that the site includes talk about brewing techniques? I think the "brewing techniques" is more the point of the question so it might be clearer to write:

"What procedure should I follow to brew the perfect [espresso]?

...so people don't start harping on whether the site is about espresso or also cappuccino, latte, or ristretto.

Don't be too general

You don't want to use the bracket notation to overly genericize your question to the point of ambiguity (i.e. How do I [do some thing] to that [device] to make it [work]?)

Provide specific examples

In your second example:

How do I get [species] seeds to germinate?

I'm sure the author meant that bonsai germination is a valid topic but this isn't entirely clear and would have been better written:

How do I get [shimpaku] seeds to germinate?

Your site's FAQ (which comes later) should contain the proper, iconic words for your model questions (not this [bracket] stuff). So please provide an actual [example] that is fitting for your site. You want the experts to get excited about your site through the questions they see. A question like "Does the SCAA Brew Chart need to be changed?" is certainly going to attract more experts than "Hey! Folgers is on sale at Shop Rite!"

  • It strikes me that it might be a good idea to put [ ] with more than one alternative inside the brackets, like "How do I get [shimpaku/sakura] seeds to germinate?" Then people can see that it's meant to be a "framework for a question" rather than a real question. What do you think?
    – delete
    Jun 10 '10 at 0:52
  • Use your best judgment. If one example is sufficient, use one. Don't add unnecessary examples if it doesn't add to the readability or clarity: "How do you train a [dalmatian]?" (good). "How do you train a [dalmatian|beagle|shepherd|mutt]?" (not as good). Jun 10 '10 at 14:22

What procedure should I follow to brew the perfect espresso? might not prevent someone else from posting What procedure should I follow to brew the perfect cappuccino? to steal rep by splitting up the potential votes, so IMHO keeping the questions quite general now and refining them during commitment is better.

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