Reading @hhh last comment of this question, I think that @hhh is saying that broad questions are better than specific questions: because when a question has been asked then someone else won't be allowed to ask another similar question, so it's better if the original question is broad enough to also include the answers to all future similar questions.

I disagree. I think that the purpose of SE is to solve specific, real problems: not to ask general questions which solve a whole (hypothetical) class of problems.

Also, my experience is that I was allowed a subsequent question (about which bike for commuting) even though other people had previously asked similar but not identical questions: e.g. a moderator said, "This question is a good variation on the existing commuting questions..."

Also IMO the quality of questions and answers are improved by making them specific.

Note that the FAQ says, "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face."

Perhaps you disagree with that? If so this would be a good place to explain why.

  • @kosh: I killed the spam! Now, it should be clearer. Separated each topic to different questions not stray thoughts.
    – user652
    Feb 21 '11 at 21:05
  • @hhh - You still haven't said why you want the prototype, what you want to do with it, what question you're trying to answer and what problem you're trying to solve with it. People would need to know what you're trying to do with it, before being able to answer a question like, "Could I use some else material like wood"? For example, wood woudn't be a good material if the reason for a prototype is to experiment with your welding.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 21 '11 at 22:56
  • Possibly relevant: Questions that are too basic for Stack Exchange Feb 24 '11 at 0:20

I don't think "broad" or "specific" are the right metric, and either is fine.

I'd ask instead:

How many people will have this exact question?


Will this help somebody in the future who has a problem and finds the post by searching for their own question?

or more generally:

How many people will the answers to this question help out?

Really, most people have very specific problems that they'll be looking for answers to. They have a problem with that one bike right in front of them. They don't care about the general, only the specific problem they're actually having and looking for a solution to.

A question that's so specific that nobody else will ever have a similar problem and be helped by the answers to your question is probably too localized. But questions that super-specific are quite rare.

A specific question about that one bike right in front of you that could be similar to problems with other bikes is fine. I'd expect this to be the most typical question we'll get, in fact. The questioner includes the model of bike and the model of component and pictures of their actual bike and the answers help them solve their very specific problem, but somebody later with a similar problem on a similar bike with a similar component might see that question and answers and find their solution.

A general question with answers that would generalize to answer many specific questions is good, but hard to do. Generalizing a question often means leaving out important specific details. Details make questions easier to answer. Details make questions more easily found. Details make the question and answers more useful. Details may mean that you don't need to ask a followup question.

A question and answers that are carefully written to generally and definitively answer all similar questions of that type for all time are a beautiful ideal, but they're like unicorns: they don't really exist.

If we get similar (related) specific questions, they should have the same tags, which will get the other questions linked in the "Related" area on the right side of the question page. Explicitly linking (in a comment) to the other similar questions can be helpful, too.

  • whatever the cause, I updated my question with things I have used for prototyping. This thread is becoming a red herring to distract attention from protos! Shall we continue? Is the original question now answerable?
    – user652
    Feb 19 '11 at 21:20
  • +1 like your way of breaking it into parts.
    – user652
    Feb 19 '11 at 21:22
  • 1
    "I'd ask instead: How many people will have this exact question?" -- whereas what I want to know is, "Does this question identify a problem to be solved?"
    – ChrisW
    Feb 20 '11 at 5:14
  • 1
    +1, I agree that questions should be here to answer actual, real-world problems. Feb 21 '11 at 18:56
  • One good example of very specific is "Unable to shift to lower gears...". Unfortunately it wasn't specific enough, we needed the comment on a reply to bve sure that it is actually about twist grip shifters. But that is a wonderful question because it will (hopefully) draw out a very specific answer about those particular, awful, shifters. Which will help all the other people with that problem.
    – Мסž
    Feb 25 '11 at 1:10

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