There has been some discussion about seeding the site with overly simple questions. I see that today Jeff posted on the Stack Overflow blog about the issue. They're looking at adding a new close reason:

general reference: this question is too basic; the answer is indexed in any number of general internet reference sources designed specifically to find that type of information.

Check out the blog post and the flowchart of how to decide what might be "too general" information.

Do you feel like this is a problem we're currently experiencing? We have some pretty general questions but I feel that having them here on the site is useful as a reference point.


The flow chart makes the point that if the answer is easy to find in Google then it is too basic.
But I think that is the wrong criteria, after all Google is pretty damn good at finding answers and almost all questions can be answered in a Google search.
The real criteria would seem to be - is the answer common knowledge amongst casual photographers, or should we expect it to be common knowledge?
But even then it is tricky. The people making the judgment call are seasoned photographers to whom a great many things are transparently obvious, whereas to a beginner photographer almost nothing is obvious.

Remember, that to have your question closed for one or another reason is a painful slap-down. Do we really want to discourage neophytes who have the most to learn?

I agree that we need to have this reason in our toolbox but think it must be applied with a lot of discretion. In other words, apply this reason when it is really strikingly obvious but if there is room for doubt, don't.

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    "almost all questions can be answered in a Google search" not well though, which is the point -- follow the flowchart. It's not that subtle. – Jeff Atwood Feb 22 '11 at 21:32
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    Agreed, it's not that subtle, it is unhelpful. The heart of it is the block that says 'is the question basic and trivial or is it complex and interesting for experts'. This reads like a circular definition. And it raises an important question; should 'complex and interesting for experts' be the operative criteria? I think this is the real debate. Who is this site primarily aimed at? This is not programming where the majority of the population rule themselves out of contention. Anybody and everybody considers themselves a photographer. So, to what extent are we going to cater to their needs? – labnut Feb 23 '11 at 6:45

I don't feel like we've been getting overly simple questions. We do have the occasional hairball question, typically a recommend me variety, but that's not a simple thing per say.

If we did get questions like, what's a camera, then we should definitely close them. However, I think we're closing about the right number of questions already, so...


I agree that simple questions like "What is aperture?" do not add much value to the site, as they are very easy to answer. However, the spectrum and type of simple questions varies from site to site (so does the usage model & best practices). What I've noticed on the Photography site so far is that many of the questions call upon the real world experience of other users (like problems with equipment, tips & tricks) in addition to factual representation. The problem is nowhere as bad as the some of the other sites (just take a look at the English Language & usage site)

It would definitely be good to have a way to flag questions as general reference (just like we do for community wikis). But, at the same time I feel that just closing the question on those grounds would be somewhat harsh and would leave the floor open for similar questions in the future as many have noted in the comments of the blog post. So, what we need is some way to separate the general reference questions from the rest of the pack, so that they are still available on the site, but don't show up in the main stream. This would prevent future duplicates & increase the overall value of the site as a single source of reference.

  • Agreed, flag the questions as general reference. – labnut Feb 23 '11 at 6:33
  • @labnut Nothing that can't be solved programmatically I'd say. Intelligent tags, auto-Googling etc. After all, it's hard enough to generate a critical mass of users as it is. – ab.aditya Feb 23 '11 at 6:44
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    Sometime even simple questions generate interesting answers though. I'm sure given the "new" criteria, "What is ISO?" would be closed as general reference, but it generated some really good information in answers. photo.stackexchange.com/questions/6615/… – rfusca Feb 23 '11 at 18:18

I think many equipment recommendations fit this category. The answer to "what digicam should I buy" is really "hey, look at the dozens of review sites out there focusing on just that question".

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