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The Stack Exchange concept is centered around factual, answerable questions. But there are also times when opinions are very valuable. For example, suppose I wanted to ask what circuit board layout programs people have used, and what their experiences have been with them. That's extremely open-ended, and clearly not correct material for EE.SE, nor does it seem correct for EEmeta.SE. But it's still a useful question, which this repository of experts is well-positioned to answer.

Is there some way to work around this? Some way to gather this useful-but-subjective information from the community, without breaking the structure of SE?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/1024/… is pretty close! \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 24 '14 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Scott: Yeah, and it doesn't belong here. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 25 '14 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you can certainly ask the question "what are my options for PCB layout Programs?" Even better if you add some constraints --e.g., windows, free, etc. There's zero opinion to be had there, but there's probably nothing wrong with adding "what are the advantages and disadvantages of each", and I would hope that would be offered by answerers even if the question wasn't there. Nobody would argue that the PCB size and layer limit on the free version of Eagle isn't a disadvantage, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 25 '14 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop You contradict your own opinion by asking and answering this purely opinionated question, electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/28251/… \$\endgroup\$ – ACD Sep 29 '14 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ACD: There's a lot more than opinion in there, as there are outright right and wrong ways to draw schematics. Also a mod converted it to community wiki. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 29 '14 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop That is 100% false. Every bolded point you listed is merely an opinion and you could make a functioning circuit without following those guidelines. I'm not saying I disagree (a lot of it is industry standard stuff), but it is still opinion. Drawing a schematic wrong can only be done if the net list is incorrect, everything else can vary by engineer. \$\endgroup\$ – ACD Sep 29 '14 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a valid example of my concern. Olin's experience with schematics is surely vast, and it is good for his knowledge to be shared. But it is not objective. No question about informal standards can ever truly be objectively answered. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Collings Sep 29 '14 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StephenCollings Exactly. Although it is an opinion, I think it belongs on EESE. I think opinionated questions should carry on as always, some are so good the community allows them, otherwise they are downvoted and removed. \$\endgroup\$ – ACD Sep 30 '14 at 17:27
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No, the point is that it's not a useful question.

Such questions are popularity polls at best, but answers are usually more about religious convictions. You are basically asking what the right religion is. The answers you get have to do with the demographics of who happens to be here and which of those people feel like bothering to answer the question. Then there is no quatifiable best answer, so you end up with a meaningless popularity poll.

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Our very own EE.SE chat. The customs are more relaxed there.

Related thread: Where to ask certain questions

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have occasionally looked into the chat room, and each time all I saw was irrelevant drivel and largely incoherent conversations with gaps of hours or days. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 24 '14 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop When a technical question is asked, that tends to silence the drivel, and the attention moves to the technical question. That's my experience with EE.SE chat and other SE chats. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Sep 24 '14 at 16:02
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There are plenty of other places for open-ended discussion of EE topics.

There is the PIClist (content discussed ranges far beyond PICs), EEVblog forums, or electronics.reddit.com.

For open-ended questions specifically, there is askelectronics.reddit.com.

The system here recommends the chat room, but I've never found value there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Our chat room seems to work more like a bulletin board. You post something, wait for a while, and maybe it will be seen. It's usually empty when I check it out. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Sep 23 '14 at 17:34
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This seems to be very similar to What about making a survey website, though that question had a more ambitious solution, which I disagreed with.

I do have sympathy with the idea of opinion based discussions 'beyond' or 'outside' the ee.se 'wiki'.

IMHO the quality of discussions is very strongly determined by the quality of the participants. So the ee.se is, IMHO a good candidate community. (Side note: I am not a devotee of "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" philosophy because it fails to recognise constraints, and seems to ignore the researched evidence that a few very good people don't put many bugs in in the first place.)

I was not aware that chat rooms are used for opinion-based discussions. So that is interesting news. Is the 'protocol' for invoking a discussion defined anywhere?

Do participants get any reward? There are very likely many people's brains "I'd like to pick", but I would feel a bit uncomfortable asking if they get nothing in return.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think chat is too dependent on luck...you have to find the right people at the right time in the chat, or your questions will be vanished... \$\endgroup\$ – mFeinstein Sep 27 '14 at 23:36

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