What kind of advice can the SO community offer to other stack exchanges regarding the following question:

Level of questions?

In summary, they are concerned that the users asking questions aren't knowledgeable enough to select the correct answer, so their body of answers becomes untrustworthy.

Their knee-jerk reaction is to restrict questions from this class of users and only allow graduate level questions. After being a member of Stack Overflow for the past few years, I am certain this isn't our philosophy.

Why are we different, what can they learn from us, and what can we learn from ourselves? Do we suffer from this problem as well? If so how do we handle it? If not, why?

  • Um... actually that meta.physics question was about the flood of "popular physics" questions, which frequently have no basis in actual science. That was an issue 5 months ago, when the meta question was asked (i.e. when the site was just getting started), but not anymore. Besides, it had nothing to do with users having or not having the knowledge to choose the right answers to their own questions; this was just about the questions that people do ask and the answers that other people post.
    – David Z
    Apr 3, 2011 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


All accepting an answer means is:

This answer solved my problem.

The answer isn't necessarily "correct" in the strict sense of the term as that would imply that the questioner knew what it was before posting (as in "what's 2 + 2?" or "what's the heaviest naturally occurring element?"). The answer may well be correct, but the "Populist" badge acknowledges that the OP doesn't always select the "best" answer.

The very nature of the problems people have on Stack Overflow (and most of the other Stack Exchange sites) is that they don't know the answer before posting.

From what understand of the physics site they restrict the knowledge level of question posters so they don't get "simple" questions to which the answer is obvious.

  • "The answer may well be correct, but the "Populist" badge acknowledges that the OP doesn't always select the "best" answer." So does the voting system and comment system. It doesn't happen often, but I have seen some answers accepted where other answers have had 2x the votes for being better answers.
    – user142852
    Apr 3, 2011 at 21:38
  • 1
    There is some debate about how tightly we should be restricting the questions. As currently moderated physics.SE is not like Math Overflow, but perhaps a bit tighter than Stack Overflow or math.SE. Apr 3, 2011 at 21:42
  • dmckee has it, I think... at least the way I've been moderating it, we're fine with any level of question (and any level of participant) as long as the question is well defined and can be answered with actual physics. The prevailing opinion (though it is not without objectors) is that we don't want explicit restrictions on the level of questions or participants.
    – David Z
    Apr 3, 2011 at 22:23
  • I think that Physics is different from SO, in that SO generally has answers that can verifiably solve problems (i.e. the answer is some code that gives the correct result when run). With questions on Physics, the answers aren't necessarily solving a problem. How is the person who asks "How does a radio telescope work?" supposed to verify which answer is really correct?
    – Gabe
    Apr 4, 2011 at 7:40

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