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With winter coming/already here for some of us, as stated in the winter post here on meta, some people will be at work building a new bike or modifying their ride.

This question was closed quite rapidly for being "an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet". I don't think there are much more people Using a bike with Trek ABP on a trainer than people looking for orange tires yet that one is still open (and should remain so).

So the question... what do we do with this type building question? Do we automatically close questions asking for "part X in X colour" or "I have X derailleur, will Y shifters work" ? In my opinion this type of question could add some life to the website during the winter months, give ideas to other people building their bikes and bring some interesting product recommendations.

Opinions? or are there rules already in place that I'm not aware of?

  • I closed that question for two reasons, the first being the "narrow situation" one. (Three people have voted to reopen it, so I may have been off-base on that.) The second reason: This is a question that can be answered by anyone in a few minutes with a search engine, and having it on this site really doesn't add much. – Neil Fein Nov 24 '10 at 19:04
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    I don't think that the fact you can get an answer with a search engine in a few minutes is relevant. The point of SE sites is that we provide a great resource for all questions, no matter how simple, along with a community recommendation for the answers that you don't get from a search engine. – Anthony K Nov 25 '10 at 19:00
  • @Anthony - Also see freiheit's answer below, and specifically this blog post that's mentioned there. – Neil Fein Nov 26 '10 at 5:26
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Trying to articulate the general rules (my opinions only, of course):

  1. Can the question be answered usefully? (not lacking necessary details, etc)
  2. Will the likely answers to this question be useful to others?
  3. Is the question asked in a way where it's likely somebody with a similar question in the future will find it via google?
  4. Corollary: If any of those is a problem, can the question be improved to fix those issues while still preserving the original intent?

Or more succinctly: Google hits on our questions/answers are the lifeblood of the site; any question that doesn't have a possibility of contributing to that should be considered a candidate for closure.

I think there's not a lot of value to a "What's an orange tire I can buy" type question. It may be specific enough that nobody but the original questioner will ever find the answer useful. A year or two from now the answer will be wrong because the manufacturer stops making that model (or that particular shop drops it). It's basically a shopping answer that might be better answered with links to the websites of tire manufacturers that make tires with a stripe of color. I didn't close the question when I first saw it, but if I'd seen a vote or two to close I might've.

At least in theory, answers to questions about putting a Trek ABP bike on a trainer could apply to other rear suspension bikes being put onto a trainer.

I wouldn't want to close the more general "part X in Y color" type questions systematically, but unless the color is silver or black it is likely to be an answer that's not much use to many other people. So depending on specifics my opinion could go either way on questions like that. Something a little more general like "part X in different color choices" would be a bit better, especially if it led to answers with multiple choices.

It always depends on the specifics, but I would think that a question like "I have X derailer, will Y shifters work" would be a good question that I'd want to see left open. The ideal answer wouldn't be "yes", "no" or "if you add Z part", it would tell how to tell what shifter would work with that type of derailer. Even better would be to change the question to that slightly more general case: "I have X derailer, how do I tell what shifter will work with it?".

I'm inclined to try to steer away from too much straight out product recommendations. If product recommendations have to happen I'd prefer to see a selection instead of a single one.

I love the idea of questions about how to build a bike, though. And I get that there's details where some specific product recommendations are hard to avoid. The questions that are about trying to learn instead of what the best part is are going to be much better, though.

Coincidentally, there was a recent post on the Stackoverflow blog about this kind of question: Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping!

Now, I think some of the issues with the shopping type questions aren't as applicable to bicycles because the technology isn't changing as fast as computers and electronics. However, specific product recommendations are still unlikely to be useful for more than a couple years, since all the bikes and parts seem to change every year or two (even if just to nearly equivalent new model).

I do think there can be a bit more value to some bicycle product recommendations than, say, electronics product recommendations: there are bike parts under $50 (such as tires) that can make a huge difference and are very hard to find any kind of reviews or details, even who makes parts like what you're looking for. Most of the reviewing seems to go to the big ticket items.

  • We should probably keep that post on the Stack Overflow blog in mind; I'm putting it in my bookmarks folder next to Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. We can also use the components tag for these. – Neil Fein Nov 25 '10 at 16:14
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I think closing questions that pertain to a specific person's personal preference is good, but narrow, specific mechanical or part questions are ok.

Can I use shifter X with derailuer Y is a good question to keep open. Other people could be mixing and matching parts, and googling for those combinations would possibly lead to questions involving those parts here.

So, questions like "can I use this italian crank on this JIS spindle?" or "can I use cantilever brakes with V-brake levers?" or "Can I mount 29" tires on a 700c Rim?", I think have a place here.

Virtually all of the questions posted here can be answered by using Sheldon Brown's site. He recently passed away, and I think a reasonable goal for this site is to absorb the knowledge in his site, and through community input surpass it.

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Questions that teach us how to fish, as it were, would be best. Is it possible to set this up so people will avoid "help me find where to order a widget"-questions, instead asking more well-rounded questions?

In general, having questions about building bikes might be a great way to get this site through the northern-hemisphere winter.

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