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It seems to be a common misunderstanding that the "Example Question" zone is about defining site direction rather than about answer questions. I am constantly responding to comments on my suggested questions explaining to people that this is not the time to suggest and discuss answers to questions, but to comment on the questions themselves and their relevance to the site proposal.

Is it possible to tweak the interface a little bit to help focus in on the task?

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    lol, it's pretty funny how many users have no idea what they are voting or commenting on. I think it's jarring for newbies to understand how the area 51 site differs from the other stack sites. – Mark Rogers Jun 12 '11 at 16:17
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Might I suggest a specific flag for cleaning up "answer" comments that notified the user why their comment was removed. Right now there seems to be only one sort of flag and while they do qualify as "noise", it might not curb the behavior if it isn't explained why those comments are out-of-bounds.

4

One suggestion would be to add a small one-liner FAQ style note above or below the comment box on example questions reminding people that this is about commenting on the question, not answer it it and that answers should be held off until the site goes into beta.

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Whyever would you want to discourage answers? The answers provide information to the community about the quality of the question.

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    There is no answer mechanism for example questions on Area 51. Using the comment form for answers clutters the space and detracts from the main purpose. Area 51 expects participants to have some level of understanding about how an SE site works, and should be able to judge and express whether a question is exemplary of something they would like to see on the site if it went live without seeing or debating actual answers. – Caleb May 24 '12 at 12:57
  • @Caleb What if not every participant in the area51 has knowledge of every topic? Without seeing an answer, it can be very difficult to judge a question entirely outwith ones knowledge. I fail to see how it detracts from the main purpose - it's not like those comments are a scarce resource. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 13:03
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    The whole idea with Area 51 is that BEFORE a site is opened on a topic, there needs to be a critical mass of experts on that specific topic gathered that are committed to getting the site rolling. Someone who does not have expertise in the area in question should not necessarily even have a say in what would or would not make good expert questions in the field. – Caleb May 24 '12 at 13:06
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    @Marcin The purpose of comments is to discuss the viability of the question... so on one level, you don't just get to decide that you'll use it for another purpose. Folks will imitate what they see and soon the entire process is turned into a light-weight Q&A forum. But more importantly, the entire purpose of SE is to provide high-quality answers through community collaboration and vetting. Using comments for answers does NONE of that. There's no voting or editing or anything else that vets the quality. So the risk is high that we're propagating poor information. That's not what we do. – Robert Cartaino May 24 '12 at 13:53
  • @Caleb It is possible to both be an expert and not know everything about the entire field grouped under that proposal. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 14:30
  • @RobertCartaino Area51 doesn't present itself as being a place to look for information, so I think that the risk of propagating poor information is pretty small. As to the outcome that "soon the entire process is turned into a light-weight Q&A forum", that is simply speculative until it actually happens. In the meantime, useful communication is suppressed if there is anything like a vigorous effort to prevent question-answering. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 14:33
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    @Marcin The primary use case of finding questions (no matter where they're asked) is Google search. So I'm sorry, but your premise that answers here somehow don't "count" is completely wrong. And there's nothing speculative about "broken windows" encouraging more of the same (blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/03/…) -- "...broken windows theory applies to community sites as well. The theory is that minor forms of bad behavior encourage worse ones." In my tenure here, it's happened more times than I can recall. – Robert Cartaino May 24 '12 at 15:05
  • @RobertCartaino An essay is not evidence. Your experience is evidence albeit a weak form: just because certain kinds of bad behaviour proliferate in one forum, it does not follow that other kinds proliferate in another. In particular, there is no reward for comments, which eliminates at least one positive reinforcement mechanism for commenting and answering. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 15:42
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    @Marcin: You seem to be not understanding something. We don't want people answering questions in comments. Period. Whether on main sites or on Area51. Comments are not for answering, and we should do nothing to change or endorse this practice. Furthermore, the example questions on Area51 are not supposed to be answered. Providing the answer is useless; the purpose of the example question is to define what kind of questions are appropriate for the potential site. Answering them in comments is just contributing noise to the site. – Nicol Bolas May 24 '12 at 17:24
  • @NicolBolas Who is this "we"? I thought this site was supposed to be run by its users. Whether or not the answers are useless is the question at hand: I have provided reasons why they are useful; I have seen no reason advanced why they are not useful. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 17:48
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    @Marcin: They're not useful because they are noise. They're not useful because they're not wanted. They're not useful because those questions are not meant to be answered. "I thought this site was supposed to be run by its users." Think again. This site is run by Stack Exchange. They allow users to have a voice and to make minor decisions. But the big things are handed down from above. Using comments for answers is always unacceptable, regardless of the site. That's why comments don't allow most formatting: to discourage people from answering questions with them. – Nicol Bolas May 24 '12 at 18:06
  • @NicolBolas All you're doing is restating your distaste for answers in three different ways. You're certainly not saying why you think that an answer does not provide information about the value of the question. If the users don't run the site, who is this "we" you speak for? You're not an owner or employee of stack exchange inc. Right now it seems that you're providing circular arguments on behalf of a group that either isn't in charge, or you don't even belong to. – Marcin May 24 '12 at 18:27
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    @Marcin: "All you're doing is restating your distaste for answers in three different ways." Which is backed up by what the creators of the site have always maintained. Comments are not for answers. Period. I'm not making up this policy; that is how it has always been. And your response has simply been that these "answers" are "useful". They aren't; they're noise. The purpose of example questions is to define a site. Answering them does not serve that purpose and therefore is not useful. A useful comment would be discussing whether this question is appropriate for the site. – Nicol Bolas May 24 '12 at 19:28
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    @Marcin You are an odd bird fighting a circular argument. I say "don't answer in comments because we did not design it for that purpose." And rather than leaving it at "because I said so," I pointed you to a source that goes on to explain the philosophies behind our designs. Still, you say not good enough. If you have a feature request, then submit it. But you are misusing the feature by design. Your arguments for your behavior are akin to "I should be able to drive on the sidewalk, for I don't see people getting killed by cars by doing so." That's not going to fly. – Robert Cartaino May 25 '12 at 14:08
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    @Marcin Specious is saying you should be allowed to break the rules and go against (explicitly and egregiously) how we designed the system because your way is better. Driving on the sidewalk is alluring at times; it's all pavement, but still... In reality, our next-generation design addresses your issues, but in the meantime, you don't get to retroactively rework what we have now to suit your whims. Please use the system within the framework for which it is currently designed. – Robert Cartaino May 25 '12 at 14:51

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