In the interest of focusing this question (or making a new question inspired by this one), what about asking something like "What open problems in TCS have been raised by the LHC experiments?" I'm trying to make an honest attempt to work within the bounds of TCS.sx here.

More generally, how does one focus a broad question that has value to the community?


I don't think the original question was that bad, but it was written badly. A terser question, along the lines of what you propose, would be a lot better I think. Such a question might necessarily be CW though, because while I think there are well defined answers, I don't think there'd be a single answer.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd honestly love to see a CW on this topic. LHC is kind of the "holy grail" of big data and it would be great to see how TCS fits into it. $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 5 '12 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ hi john thx for your support. similarly Im very interested in "big data"/cloud-related trends also, think they fit in here naturally "in theory" & have been trying to formulate a question for the site on the topic... but "in practice" my initial answer in this direction on parallel "models" got downvoted.. =( $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 5 '12 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ While I'd love to know more about this, I am pretty skeptical that anyone around here knows what they use/need in LHC. I wonder if people more closely associated with the project hang around on some physics site. $\endgroup$ – Sasho Nikolov Aug 5 '12 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ it would surprise me if no one from the LHC has ever used TCS stack exchange. there are thousands of science workers on the LHC, many theorists, many engineers, specialists... however also note that the theoretical physics stack exchange recently got cancelled and folded back into the physics site... probably some specialists there.... $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 6 '12 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ I personally don't like making questions CW, particularly when it is used to make a bad question acceptable. SE has removed the option for users, we should not make a question CW just based on the request of OP. Also not having a single answer doesn't mean the question should be CW, IIRC the only policy we have is that big-list questions should be CW. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 0:47

One issue that we should be careful and is included in the FAQ is that people should ask questions that they really care about. If you intend or are thinking about working on a related problem then the question can be fine and explaining this motivation and the kind of problems that you want to work on would make the question focused. On the other hand, an out of curiosity question is not a real question, neither questions that are intended to be discussions about a topic or solicit opinions about it.

We have many tips in the meta post about writing and asking better questions and there are a few more links to similar advice in the FAQ that you should check if you haven't.

The problem is that some users insist on ignoring these even if they are reminded several times by various people.

  • $\begingroup$ who asks questions they dont care about? of course it is fair to ask questions about areas that one is not actively researching [otherwise, this site has a very narrow scope and audience]. personally, am tired of the constant drumbeat of criticism of questions by high-rep users who rarely post their own questions.... maybe its all just turning/degenerating at times into a "newbie" question shooting gallery by high-rep users.... who insist its all mostly beneath them =( $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 9 '12 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ @vzn, I am also tired of your insistence on ignoring the site's norm and guidelines. Note that no one is forcing you to use this site if you don't like the way the site's community is running it. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh "On the other hand, an out of curiosity question is not a real question, neither questions that are intended to be discussions about a topic or solicit opinions about it." -- I see, and I find that really sad. I think it's time for me to move on. $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 9 '12 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ @John, SE sites are Q&A sites, they are not discussion forums. There are other places for such discussions (e.g. blogs or Google+). A considerable part of cstheory's guidelines about asking questions comes from MO's guidelines. There are good reasons for these guidelines and they have been adopted after community discussions. If you disagree with a guideline, we can have a meta-discussion about it and if the community's opinion is for a change we can change it, but until the community decides to change them they are the base of how the site is run. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ @John, for your particular question I think it is on-topic since your motivation is clear, you are looking for areas in LHC where there are possible research problems about big-data and I am guessing that you have a research interest in the topic. However if someone is going to post "what TCS is used in X" where X is the latest news event then I think they are bad questions and their author doesn't have much research-related motivation regarding them. A good question needs motivation. Its author would be researching to know the answer even if there wasn't a cstheory site. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ Anyone can take the latest (scientific) news and post a similar question without really caring about the answer and and frequency of such questions can severely degrade the usefulness of the site for other users who have real questions related to their research. And IMHO, helping people with their research is one of (if not the) main goals of cstheory. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Fine, it's not a forum, I get that. But you still said "On the other hand, an out of curiosity question is not a real question,..." That is what saddens me. Part of research is supposed to be curiosity. $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 9 '12 at 6:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh By the way, one of your highest rated questions (currently 72) is a discussion: cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/2953/… $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 9 '12 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ For example, I wonder why my toes are so far apart: smbc-comics.com/comics/20120809.gif $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Aug 9 '12 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ @John, I agree with that, but "not a real question" has a particular meaning in SE system, it is one of closing reasons, and I am using it in that sense: "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. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ." And by out of curiosity I meant just out of curiosity, i.e. OP doesn't really care about the answer. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh How do you decide that the OP doesn't care about the answer? That seems like an extremely subjective reason to close a question. $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 9 '12 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @John, regarding my question, I don't think it was a discussion question. Subjective question can be fine, please see the SE guidelines for good subjective questions. (ps: the question is from early days of the site and the guideline is relatively new.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @John, by asking the OP to explain their motivation and give background for the question. IIRC, we have had meta discussions about these before, the how to write a better questions contains some suggestions on how OP can show their they care about their question, e.g. this one which advises the OP to tell us why they care about the question. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Ok, great. So don't say "doesn't really care about the answer," frame it in the language that you've constructed here on meta, i.e., "hasn't properly motivated the question." $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 9 '12 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @John, in practice I try to use a language similarly to that, e.g. here, but I will be more careful. However I don't think using the phrase is problematic in a meta discussion without referring to any particular user and I am talking about items in another meta post. ps: obviously we can't read people's minds, but we have to make decisions based on the evidence we see, so I do try to use "it seems" when I post comments, even for off-topicness. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 9 '12 at 9:21

on the "question in question" posted, it was initially labelled "soft-question" and "big-picture" and kaveh quickly deleted those tags.

there are many questions on this TCS site that are very broad but are highly rated. their broadness is indicated by many responses (easily over a dozen), some spanning 3 pages or so. can dig up numerous examples of that.

eg the "broad" rejection is one aspect. on this site there are tags like "soft question" and "big list" and "big picture" tags (which are nice but apparently opposed by some here) that seem like they are in mild conflict with the broadness question rejection standards. isnt a "big list" or "big picture" inherently broad? or "soft question" verging on meta? etc... ie the combination of these conflicting elements is not always totally coherent.

for example suppose the questioner asks a broad question, but nobody knows the answer and there are few replies on this site. why is that a problem? isnt that less of a problem than a question with 3 pages dozens of answers in which its difficult to determine if answers overlap or if they match? isnt that what the broadness rejection criteria is attempting to prevent?

on another stackexchange, maybe the original stack overflow, saw another approach to this-- questions that are too broad are closed after there are too many responses/answers accrued. this pattern can be seen on some sites.

(therefore would like to know or see clarified more specifically why certain questions are rejected by stackexchange standards and think that the stackexchange software has significantly expanded outside of its original scope & feel that reevaluation of some of the rejection standards in the context of new uses of the software is justified.)

also, anyone can edit questions to improve them, but this seems to be rarely done on downvoted questions here... for obvious reasons... anyway there is little interest or motivation in "rescuing" questions here that get initial negative reactions... this may be a more TCS cultural aspect compared to other stackexchange communities...

ps/fyi it is interesting to note there is a stackexchange medal that is intended to encourage/incentivize people to rescue bad questions, by getting a medal for posting a great, high upvoted answer on a negatively voted question-- last I looked nobody has been awarded that on this TCS stackexchange...

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    $\begingroup$ I believe the problem is not so much broadness itself, but is more non-specificity. The LHC question is fine, just the wording was rambling. Some of your other questions however read like random associations and the question is no more specific than "have you guys thought about this loose train of thought?". I believe most of us don't know how to answer that. $\endgroup$ – Sasho Nikolov Aug 5 '12 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ one might think on a so-called "research" site, there would not be such strict restrictions on content & that the "benefit of the doubt" would favor increased participation rather than discourage it. but, Im slowly mindreading the groupthink here & doing my best to fit in... anyway, fine, vote down the question but as is already argued in many other threads on meta (which I compiled&linked to once in meta, but I guess that question is now deleted), closing the questions has been overly aggressive (and I would argue, still is) in this particular TCS stackexchange.... $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 6 '12 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ i actually don't systematically downvote your questions. i think many of them contain a nice focused question somewhere inside. the LHC question is an example where it's quite clear what that is, but often it's not so clear. i am usually too busy/tired to and also uncomfortable to totally re-edit your question to bring out what i like in it. i wish you'd put more effort into clear writing. it's unreasonable imho to post a loosely assembled text and expect us to edit it heavily into shape. $\endgroup$ – Sasho Nikolov Aug 6 '12 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ maybe some day i'll bring myself to post what i think is a focused version of some less focused question of yours that got closed. that being said, the whole quantum <-> parallelism series was a wild goose chase $\endgroup$ – Sasho Nikolov Aug 6 '12 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ wow, really generous, thanks for that SN. a wild goose chase with lots of excellent references mixed in wink =) ... Im sure in 5-10yrs ppl will feel differently & the world could catch up .. thats what the really best research is about =) $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 6 '12 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ @vzn the problem is this site is not really designed for discussion as much as it is designed for questions that have clear answers. Now this might seem like a contradiction since true "research" questions don't have clear answers, but the idea is that the questions and answers are in the aid of research-level investigations. Many of your questions are very open-ended and a little rambly - you'd find a much better response to your questions if you could at least proof read them, tighten up the language, and make it seem like you actually spent time on them. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Aug 6 '12 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ SV-- fine. there are other considerations. maybe no one has noticed, but participation is down on the site from initial levels. 50% question/mo count. also rejection rate has doubled in the last month. this from openly reported stackexchange statistics. if one takes into acct low or negatively rated questions, it might be higher. the question/mo count and other metrics have fallen below official stackexchange guidelines for groups.... I personally see too much preoccupation with supposed question quality here... that is not so much the point of stackexchange... $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 6 '12 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ This has not gone unnoticed. I do agree that we need to ease up a bit on the question closing, but that doesn't mean necessarily that your questions should remain open :) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Aug 6 '12 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @SureshVenkat If this has not gone unnoticed, are there meta questions where people are discussing this? Would you mind linking to them here? Personally, I find the current trend to be very disheartening. $\endgroup$ – Josephine Moeller Aug 6 '12 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ I meant that I have noticed it. But anyone can post a meta question $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Aug 7 '12 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ I would discuss this further but this site is not really designed for discussion as much as it is designed for questions that have clear answers. =) $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 8 '12 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ @vzn: not on meta :) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Aug 9 '12 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ respectfully disagree $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 10 '12 at 22:30

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