I want to ask a question on a beta site (stats), but I don't know if it's relevant. Attempting to ask on the stats meta site returns this:

You must have at least 5 reputation on Statistical Analysis to ask a question.

The parent site footer said "feedback always welcome", but this reputation cap does not make me feel very welcome.

I'm also invited to "join the discussion the stats chat room" but this shows:

You must have 20 reputation on Meta Stack Overflow to talk here

which I find a disappointingly limited definition of "join".

How can I ask experienced users of the beta site whether my question is on topic, without having to think up some arbitrary question first just to generate the reputation to be accepted on meta or chat?


Just... Ask the question. If it's off-topic, it'll get closed. Or you'll be told it's off-topic, and delete it yourself. Either way, no harm done.

Note that you should read the site FAQ first. If your question is blatantly off-topic, hopefully you'll realize that...

  • ...*and* they will have the ability to ask questions in the comments. But I don't think that this is the optimal solution. – dmckee Sep 17 '10 at 18:38
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    I agree that will work, but the #1 role of meta is given as "Are questions about {subject} on or off topic?". It's very frustrating being give so many pointers towards using meta for exactly that purpose, and then being prohibited. – Ian Mackinnon Sep 17 '10 at 18:44
  • @dmckee: the optimal solution (from my perspective) is that new users spend a few days reading through all the existing meta topics and a good cross-section of the existing questions so as to learn what's allowed and expected before cluttering up the site. But realistically, if new users would at least read the FAQ and maybe look at the front page before posting, we'd be making progress... – Shog9 Sep 17 '10 at 18:46
  • @Ian: the problem is, if you want to ask a question, asking if you can ask the question just wastes everyone's time. If it's on-topic, you could have just asked it. If it's off-topic, then someone has to take the time to explain why. This happens in RL too: how many folks ask you (trying to be polite) if they can ask you a question prior to asking you a question (ignoring the fact that in doing so, they just asked you a question)? It's just noise - either ask the question (and then deal with the fallout) or look around first to see if there's a good reason why you shouldn't. – Shog9 Sep 17 '10 at 18:48
  • @Shog9: the question and the topic of the question are separate things. I was not proposing asking whether I could ask my specific question on meta, but whether it's topic is relevant, which I believe would be useful information on the meta forum, especially during beta. – Ian Mackinnon Sep 17 '10 at 18:55
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    @Ian: I got that - but again, the easiest way is just to ask the question. Especially during the beta, you'll get far more input by asking the question itself than you will asking a question about the question. Naturally, if you're asking about a topic that's already been discussed on Meta you can save time by finding that discussion first... but otherwise, the best test of a question's validity is to present it to the community at large (vs. the handful of users who hang out on Meta). FWIW, I commend you for being thoughtful enough to want to ask, but... You don't have to. – Shog9 Sep 17 '10 at 18:59
  • @Shog: I'm not arguing. I have no better suggestion. But it does leave us saying "The right thing to do is to risk doing the wrong thing..." If we go this route it is important to keep the inevitable frustration of long time users firmly in check so that new users aren't driven off by a bad experience the first time out. – dmckee Sep 17 '10 at 19:15
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    @Shog: I agree with a lot of your points, especially about relative user numbers, but I still feel that there's a lot of information for users that appears to contradict your advice. "Feedback always welcome" seems especially cruel! Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Accepted :) – Ian Mackinnon Sep 17 '10 at 19:18
  • @dmckee: we should be doing that regardless - the vast majority of users will be doing what I suggest as a matter of course. (Except, without the whole "read the faq" part) – Shog9 Sep 17 '10 at 19:33

These limits are necessary because we allow completely anonymous participation. I agree it is unfortunate that new users are limited in what they can do until they get 5 or 20 reputation respectively, but the alternative is a whole lot of griefing that could ruin the site for everyone.

I would also say that if you are the type of user that is thoughtful enough to think "is my question correct for this site?" your question is probably ok.

(assuming you've looked at the front page of the site and seen what types of questions are de facto accepted there)

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    Thanks. Do you see a conflict between the rep limit and the text of the "Feedback always welcome" link? I'm assuming there's no limit for answering questions and thus some contribution, but this seems to prohibit feedback from new users on new topics. – Ian Mackinnon Sep 17 '10 at 20:25

I think Shog9's got the best method, but you could also try checking the Area 51 proposal for the site to see what kinds of questions are on topic.

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