# Discussion questions

When you click the button at the upper right side of the page? What does it say?

Does it say Post? No, last time I checked it says Ask Question. This is intentional, this site is Q&A, not discussion. There are plenty of great places on the web to ask discuss topics related to role-playing games. But there are very few places to ask questions about them. I think we need to preserve this as a place to ask questions and get answers.

Discussion muddies the site and holds it back from its primary purpose.

So, where do we draw the line. Are pseudo questions like The evil, corrupting roleplaying games… not. ok? What about other questions like [What makes a game an “Indie” RPG? closed? What level of discussion do we want to allow on the main site?

• I asked a question, and I got answers. And I am looking for the best one. For the same reason, should StackOverflow consider "pseudo" questions all those asking for software design suggestions ? – Stefano Borini Aug 27 '10 at 15:01

I found the evil RPG question to be pretty close to the line (sorry, Stefano), but not quite over it. Without the rephrase I would have voted to close it.

I strongly feel that it's useful to phrase questions as questions. When a newcomer visits the site and sees "The evil, corrupting roleplaying games… not." it looks like a discussion topic rather than a question; they won't necessarily click to look inside. I don't feel so strongly about it that I'll vote down questions that don't have a ? at the end, but I will plead here. :)

• indeed I said "slightly off topic", but we all agree is a common issue and likely question from all RP gamers. In fact, another similar question was just posted rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1436, maybe for reputation gain. I'd like to remember again that we are not dealing with a very mathematically oriented topic such as programming, but we are closer to art and personal gut feeling for some questions. Even in programming, there are topics that are matter of opinion (I can produce tons of them) but that does not disqualify them from being legitimate questions. – Stefano Borini Aug 27 '10 at 15:33
• Yep, I'm absolutely agreeing that the question has value. – Bryant Aug 27 '10 at 15:38
• Do you think I should rework the title to be more "question like" ? I'm open to suggestions, or even just a yes, and I'll work on it. – Stefano Borini Aug 27 '10 at 15:40
• Yeah, that's my only quibble. And it's seriously only because I think newcomers should see question-style questions, so it's a minor presentation point. Something like "How have you dealt with people who think RPGs are evil?" maybe? – Bryant Aug 27 '10 at 17:21
• (And thanks for bearing with me while I figure out how to best express my feelings on the subject.) – Bryant Aug 27 '10 at 17:22
• @Bryant: I chose "Best comeback answer for people concerned about RPG activities ?". I think it better conveys the content of the question. – Stefano Borini Aug 27 '10 at 18:58
• On your second comment, we are all here to define the RPG community during the beta. I have my point of view, @Ross has his, you have yours, and anyone else of the >300 people on the site has his own. The point we all agree upon is to make a good, great RPG SE. Everything else, it's not important. If to achieve this we have to sacrifice "discussion questions", I'm not tearing my hair to defend them. I'd get along with what it's considered best by the community. I have my own opinion though, and I think it's important to consider not only the gained value in removing them, but also the losses. – Stefano Borini Aug 27 '10 at 19:00
• I can't +1 the above enough -- even if/when I disagree with someone, I want them to express their opinions. – Bryant Aug 29 '10 at 3:06
• The internet is filled with opinions. The model here is to provide an oasis of facts. Yes RPGs are subjective, but outright discussion questions should be moved to community wiki at the very least. – anon186 Aug 29 '10 at 11:04

I recognize that this format is intended to be very strictly Q&A. I believe, however, that we need to allow a certain amount of subjectivity in the questions. Yes, some posts will be more "discussion" than Q&A at times. All we need to do is reserve the "discussion" tag for those questions. Then, those who want to see only Q&A can ignore that tag. And those who don't mind participating in discussions can pay attention to it. After all, good "discussions" (not to be confused with arguments, for which the mods would be responsible to address) tend to promote participation, which leads to a sense of belonging, which in turn leads to member acquisition and retention.

I completely agree. Only real questions. Again, there are many fine RPG forum sites out there for discussions. This is an expert Q&A site that should become a useful knowledge base over time. It's not for socializing or noodling or speculating or anything that becomes noise not signal.

Look, I don't want to be a "big meanie," but to get this SE off on the right foot we have to be strict out of the gate. Keeping high quality and low signal/noise is what will attract high quality contributors (like game publishers). People are already adding more RPG forums and social network sites than you can shake a stick at out there - there has to be something to add value besides "another place for people to spout just like they do everywhere else."

• I guess I don't entirely understand the objection. If we designate the "Discussion" tag for discussions, it can be used by those who aren't interested in the spouting to filter out such things. Meanwhile, those who are in favor can see them. Why would this not be a win-win? – irreverance Aug 29 '10 at 7:20
• Mostly cause we're not an isolated entity -- we're part of the Stack Exchange community, which is explicitly not intended as a discussion forum. – Bryant Aug 29 '10 at 11:54
• And because tag filtering doesn't help Google, new people not familiar with tags, and allowing fully discussion questions means that people will spill that over into the answers for non-discussion tagged questions. Again, this site doesn't need to be all things to all people - by trying to be, it'll be "just another forum site" among the forum sites. That serves no one. – mxyzplk Aug 29 '10 at 14:15
• Thanks to both of you for clarifying. It will be interesting to see what is decided in the end. – irreverance Aug 30 '10 at 2:18

I answer here due to my comments on mxyzplk becoming too long.

I agree on one thing. Forum behavior must be discouraged. With Forum behavior I mean where answers are used for dialog among users. Every user should post one answer. This point is trivial, but makes SE and its usage stand out against forums.

I checked a bit on meta.SO for the meaning of CW, and the point is: nobody knows for sure. The only point that is made is that a CW is some post where 1) votes do not reflect skills (which imho is slightly wrong, since rep does not necessarily correlate with skills) 2) the post is owned by the community, not by a particular person. To me, the nature of the design of CW with a Q/A site where every answer is associated to a person makes little sense. Why should I edit your answer anyway ? This would make more sense if there were only one "answer space" available in CW, with this answer belonging to the community. But ok... this is SE design, I'm not here to discuss that.

The point clearly is: we need to encourage good answers to good questions, not good discussion to good starting issues. Hold your horses, though. What is the difference between a discussion and a question/answer ?

A discussion implies an intense exchange of opinions with retorts and counter-retorts. This behavior must be fought against. Our scope is that someone asks a question, and some other people provide answers. The appreciation of each answer by the community is voted (up or down) and the original question author can give his own recognition to his preferred answer by ticking. So far so good. This behavior is simple, googleable, quick (I have a need -> I solve my need) and straightforward.

Then we come to the problem of subjectivity. There are various kind of questions a person can ask. Those who accept a clear, exclusive answer. examples from various domains

• What is the surface area of a cone?
• How do I initialize a list of a given length in python ?
• What are the changes in AC between AD&D and D&D 3.5 ?

Those who accept different possible answers, because they are different strategies (all equally good) to achieve the same goal:

• How can I prove the pythagora theorem ? (you can prove it in many different ways, and no one is better than the other, although maybe someone is easier to be presented)

Those who accept different possible answers, because the strategies are different (and some strategies can be better in some situations than others)

• How to recognize malicious source code?
• How many parameters are too many?

The problem we face is subjectivity. Apparently, subjectivity is when the personal, non-mathematical, non-specified-in-literature gut-feeling enters into the answer. There can be questions that today are subjective and won't be subjective in 10 years. Example... Suppose someone asks "Is object oriented programming suitable for my project ?". In 1980, such question would be a heated source of discussion. Today, the answer is relatively straightforward and most definitely is a yes.

Again, a question about how many parameters go into a routine is kind of subjective, but it's well agreed that too many is a bad idea, so there's no real subjectivity involved, at least today. Idem for the malicious source code. There are different techniques, some better than others, but they are specified in literature or experience. These questions generally lack the gut-feeling scenario, but it's worth noting that the gut-feeling scenario can change according to crystallized knowledge and acquired experience in the field.

So we are still at the same point. What is a "subjective" question ? And is a subjective question bad or not ? Let's see an example of what is clearly a subjective (a bad one by virtue of its subjectiveness) question:

• Should my character be blonde or dark haired ?

Here everybody has his own answer, according to his preference, and whatever answer the player gives has no effect on the game whatsoever. Another one

• Should my character be LG or CG ?

This is another bad subjective question. The choice, in this case, has an effect in terms of gameplay, but it's impossible to answer properly without considering the context. The same question asked in this way:

• Should my paladin be LG or CG ?

definitely has an answer, and a right one.

Another example (not rpg related):

• should I put decorative sunflowers on my dinner table ?

is a bad subjective question if asked in the DIY SE, but it becomes a matter of style and presentation on the Cooking SE, where there's concern about visual impact on guests in a restaurant, and eventually can answer with a "no. they smell too much" (I assume they smell. I've never sniffed a sunflower)

In conclusion, the issue of bad subjectivity can be solved by asking yourself the following two questions, one after another:

• "Has this question a value of quickly solving a problem of general interest or providing strategies to solve it, within in the context of this SE argument, regardless if the answer comes from personal feeling or from a clearly specified book ?". if Yes, then it should stay open. If No, it should be closed.
• "Has the question no potentially better answer (in terms of either technical exactness or greater personal satisfaction) that can be picked by the OP out of the pool? and any upvote that any particular answer could collect does not reflect the skills of the person answering ?". If yes to both of them, then it's a CW, otherwise it's a regular question.
• I agree with a lot of your points. Some amount of subjectivity is unavoidable. But it's a matter of magnitude. I'd alter your question 1 slightly to be "from personal experience or from a clearly specified book..." Not pure unfounded opinion and speculation. I disagree more with your question 2. Sure, CW is not well defined on the original trilogy - to their detriment. We have the opportunity to do better here. CW should not be a refuge for nonquestions and junk. – mxyzplk Aug 30 '10 at 1:49
• @mxyzplk : The only and true use of CW was for the FAQ, which has been replaced by meta. CW is a relic of the past, but for "FAQ-like" documents CW is still appropriate, imho. on SO, for example, rosetta stone and code golf questions are typically CW. – Stefano Borini Aug 30 '10 at 7:05