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Is it OK to ask questions that are really just requests to brainstorm with the community?

I'm referring to this question, which just came to the top of the main page. It caught my attention because it mentioned brainstorming explicitly, even in the title. However, this type of question has been very popular. Perhaps others are not as explicit, but they're often characterized by:

  1. The asker hasn't started the project yet.
  2. The asker has little to no experience in the problem domain (case in point, RF communication and RFID technology), and doesn't know if a solution exists or not, how much it costs, or whether they're capable of implementing it.
  3. The problem is often poorly defined.

There are other examples (not by me) here, here, and here.

My take on the issue is that while a real brainstorming session can be full of bad ideas and people speaking what's on their mind, that's acceptable - Anything goes in a brainstorming session. It's kinda fun that way! However, for the same reason, I'm not sure such discussion belongs here. Also, real-life sessions usually are performed by people with a vested interest in the outcome. We're here to increase the amount of information available for electronics and robotics development, not to help people get ideas for projects.

This is already addressed in the FAQ.

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

The list of bad subjective questions includes:

  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

It also includes:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I started close-voting the linked questions (including my own) as "Not a real question - It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form." \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Mar 7 '11 at 22:31
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Is it OK to ask questions that are really just requests to brainstorm with the community?

No.

We're here to increase the amount of information available for electronics and robotics development, not to help people get ideas for projects.

Exactly!

Anything goes in a brainstorming session. It's kinda fun that way! However, for the same reason, I'm not sure such discussion belongs here.

I recommend such brainstorming happen in chat

http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/15/electronics-and-robotics

(and it is a much better tool for rapid back and forth "yes, and.." style brainstorming), though that does require everyone to be in the same place at the same time.

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Hi.

This is the OP of the question that triggered this one.

I don't understand this attitude at all :

1) there are many questions where you have a problem but don't yet know the solution. I need something that does X but I don't know if the solution is to buy an existing product (that I haven't yet heard about) or construct a fairly well known solution. Or perhaps no one has ever solved the problem before but if a couple of people throw out some further questions and suggestions that will generate some new approaches.

I don't want to preclude any of these possibilities by asking too narrow a question ie. ask "is there a product which does X" and lose the build suggestions (or vice versa).

2) I'm new on this site. But I've been on StackOverflow for nearly three years and I've not seen general discussion questions damage the value of that site. Quite the opposite, if there's a danger to the StackExchange sites it's from fragmenting into too many narrow specialisms (half the time now I don't know which programming / sys-admin / unix related forum I should be asking a question on, with the result that I spend less time hanging around and answering questions on any of them).

3) I don't see that "brainstorm potential ways to do X" actually does match any of the five disallowed question types mentioned in the FAQ:

* every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
* your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
* there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
* we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
* it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Which one does it allegedly match?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ if I provided 3 different methods of approaching that problem, which would you choose? One is near field, one is reflector based, one is using a much more effective cabling system? upvotes would be on the preference of others reading, not on a technical criteria as you do not seem to be very specific in that light. It also is somewhat hypothetical, you are wondering if there is a better way out there in general then what you are doing and discussing some of your thoughts on the matter in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Oct 26 '11 at 9:20

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