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While I realize it's the goal of most SE sites to provide simple Q&A and opinion/debate is discouraged, would it not be appropriate to at least not discourage it in bicycles.SE?

Because some of the topics relating to bicycles and bike building are so completely subjective, it would seem fair to relax the discouragement. An example would be a question I asked here: Which spokes to get, Wheelsmith or DT Swiss Spokes?

I worded it specifically to elicit debate, opinions, and discussion - which would (and did) answer my question. Someone posted a link to Peter White, a wheelbuilder who ranted on the difference. His opinion, with some facts to back it up, were precisely what I needed.

Should this type of question be discouraged from bicycles.SE? Some bicycle questions just naturally lend themselves to this format, and they don't get answered well on forums.

  • As an example, here's the titles of questions on the active page that are ALL asking for opinion/discussion/debate based answers: To compose a traveling bicycle, which frame should I choose a steel frame or a aluminium one? What pressure should I run my Road Bike tyres at? How do I put grips on mountain bike handlebars? What are optimal fabrics for cycling clothing? Should I get wider tyres/tires for my tour if I'm not going to go off-road? How often should I change a road bike tyres? – Ehryk Apr 3 '12 at 8:52
  • In the event you're not clear on this, downvoting on Meta generally means "I disagree" and there's no loss in rep to the voter or the person who asked the question. I think that freiheit and zen both wrote excellent answers to this fundamental but important question. Also, welcome to the site! – Neil Fein Apr 5 '12 at 2:05
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Thank you for asking about this.

First off, I agree with zenbike.

I could've closed the question (made it unavailable for answers until re-opened). I didn't feel there was anything so wrong with the question that it required anything but an edit. The phrasing (asking for debate) I see as problematic. Basically, I thought your question was good, but could be made better.

Also worth noting that I think the accepted answer that keithmo started and you really pulled together into a complete answer is a good answer, and getting good answers is what we're all about.

All of the SE sites have a certain amount of opinion and debate. Stack Overflow is the first and biggest site in the network, and the computer programming questions there often have differing opinions and a certain amount of debate because there's often more than one way to solve a given programming problem. That doesn't mean the site gets optimized for debate. It works great being optimized for great answers.

Ultimately, we're trying make the internet better. In particular, make it so that people with questions that google for their answer find a really good answer on our site. Obviously restricted to bicycle-related questions here with other types of questions elsewhere on the SE network. Questions whose answer will never help anybody else are discouraged. Forum-style questions that create a discussion instead of clear answers are discouraged.

Here's a couple more references:

  • Thanks, that clears a lot of this up. Could you provide perhaps one or two sample titles of how YOU would word such a question for my future reference? – Ehryk Apr 4 '12 at 1:15
  • Nevermind, I see you edited the question. – Ehryk Apr 4 '12 at 1:17
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Every non-mathematical question is subject to debate, and I'm sure there's a mathematician out there who'd debate that with me.

Stack Exchange does not limit debate. It provides a structure for it.

On SE sites, that structure is limited to providing what you feel is the best answer, and letting others vote you up or down. Your response to other answers comes in the form of modifying your answer to respond to assertions made in other answers or comments, either by refuting them, or incorporating them, and the better your ability to debate in that fashion, the more likely your answer will be at the top, and/or accepted. You also get to vote on other users answers, and comment to tell them why.

The reason it is limited that way is that without structure, debate becomes argument, which becomes name calling, which means Stack Exchange becomes another forum.

You see a large number of comments by people who disagree on Bicycles.SE. What you don't see often is that disagreement degenerating into a flame war, and therefore the loss of that thread as a useful source of information.

In short, while you state that Forums rarely answer your questions effectively, you are basically requesting that Bicycles.SE become just another forum.

  • Not at all; just a forum that works. I just think that productive results can come from debate, argument, and sometimes even name calling. Not all arguments lead to personal attacks, either. – Ehryk Apr 3 '12 at 9:35
  • What I'm specifically responding to is the comment that I shouldn't put be asking for opinions or debate from @freiheit - a user with 1000x more rep than I. – Ehryk Apr 3 '12 at 9:38
  • @freiheit is a moderator, and is correct, for all the reasons mentioned above. – zenbike Apr 3 '12 at 10:07
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    If you want a forum, you are in the wrong place. This is a site which is designed to produce intelligent answers to questions, quickly and in a focused fashion. – zenbike Apr 3 '12 at 14:36
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    I see your points on this, but I'm as of yet not convinced that debate, opinion, and even occasionally heated discussions are necessarily non-intelligent answers, nor unuseful. Perhaps what you're saying is SE isn't the place for them, even if they lead to helpful/useful answers... but neither are most forums, due to off topic posts and a general lack of intent to help/answer. I'm more of an 'end justifies the means' type, and if I can get the knowledge out of opinion/debate/name calling, I'll still take it. – Ehryk Apr 5 '12 at 3:11
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    And I understand your viewpoint. I don't even disagree, entirely, although somebody calling me names is more likely to get them trouble than the answers they theoretically want. But what separates Stack Exchange sites from the forums is that focus on accurate information above ego. And because of that, you are absolutely correct. We are saying that this is not the place for that kind of 'discourse'. – zenbike Apr 5 '12 at 4:39

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