I am not the first one to ask: "Should I be asking off topic questions" That's been discussed before:

But I had a thought: perhaps a second voting category would further clarify things.

What makes good questions? The questions on your site say a lot about the community. To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site. Your goal is to make it clear that this is a professional site.

Ask real, expert questions We want you to capture the moment that plumbers feel when they look at Plumber Overflow and say, "Whoa! That's my kinda site!" On a site about plumbing, there are 200 easy plumbing questions, and they've all been asked 100 times on other sites. Don't suggest questions like "How do I unclog a drain?" Instead ask, "If you run 2.5 GPM through 50 feet of 1/2" galv pipe, how many psi will be lost to friction loss?" Remember, pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!


Off-topic questions are important, too If you have a good, useful question in mind, but aren't completely sure that it's on topic, ask it anyway; others can then discuss the subject and together determine if it is appropriate for the site. Questions that simply don't fit in the scope of the site should be closed, indicating that, while perhaps interesting, this topic is inappropriate for this site. This helps to define the very outer boundary of a site.

Some stack proposals overlap existing stacks. Specifically, the embedded systems stack overlaps the EE stack, stack overflow, and the Unix & Linux stacks. So I may post a very good question that straddles the line but may be a better fit in another stack. Right now this question essentially just doesn't get upvotes (rightfully so) or it gets down votes, because it is off topic.

But why not have another voting category for "good question that defines the boundaries of what is on/off topic for this site"?

Thus at the end of a proposal you could have a cadre of "good questions for this site" and a cadre of "good questions that define the boundaries for this site"

1 Answer 1


The idea you are proposing is how Area 51 used to work. When this all first started, authors would post sample questions and everyone would vote for them as "on topic" or "off topic." The purpose of that exercise was (presumably) to find that outer boundary between on-topic and off-topic subjects. But when you vote for the "best" off-topic questions, the purpose was supposed to be to find those questions that you'd think might be on topic, but they weren't (by the vote).

But it didn't work. The whole concept of voting for "good off topic questions" was too confusing to most people. So almost everyone would vote for the most ludicrous questions because they were (of course) "obviously off topic"… and there was nothing to be gained from the whole exercise.

So we changed it…

Announcement - Changes to Area 51 Voting

The premise of posting example questions is much simpler now — "Please propose questions you would like to ask on the actual site." Period. Along with the example questions, we have up-voting, down-voting, flagging, and closing to see how well the questions are received… just like on a real site. That is how we can best gauge how the proposed site would work.

We dropped the whole concept of intentionally asking off topic questions. It just didn't make sense.

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