Via several comments, downvotes, and meta posts such as this one and this one, I get the impression that people would rather not be answering basic questions on this site, especially ones that can be answered directly by quoting source material. Complicated questions certainly get the most play, discussion, and longest-winded answers. But basic questions, ones that can be answered by direct quotes out of the rulebooks, seem to get flak and "RTFM" comments.

This runs contrary to everything in my veins, so I'd like to bring it up for discussion.

Before StackOverflow started, I listened to Joel and Jeff's podcasts. I distinctly remember their opinion at the time being "accept all questions, even easy ones." The goal of StackOverflow was to become the #1 site for programming knowledge on the internet (which they have done). While they did want to encourage expert-level questions and answers of course, intro-level questions were also highly sought after to bring in newcomers and be great for search results. It seemed that as the greater StackExchange network started up, the opinion was distinctly not "we are one Q&A site of many for this topic" but rather "we are the best Q&A site for this topic."

I look at this question and the Area 51 FAQ, and I get the impression people think this site should be experts-only. I do not read it that way; my impression is that the site should not just deep dive into RPGs and be expert-friendly, but quite simply be the best Q&A resource for RPGs that exists, usable by experts and newcomers alike.

So what kind of community is this? Do we want expert questions only, do we want to accept all sorts, or something else?

In contrast, I feel that Arqade is currently far more accepting of basic questions than this site. Clearly my opinion is that basic questions should be accepted with open arms.


1 Answer 1


If you hover over the downvote button, you can see the following text:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

So there's a definite recommendation from the site to downvote questions which show a lack of research effort. This doesn't rule out any and all beginner questions; if someone posts their question, includes where they have looked for the answer, why what they've looked at doesn't answer their question, and why they are confused about what they have looked at, their question is a perfectly good one.

On the other hand, we don't have a close vote reason that mentions trivial questions or lack of research effort.

So the conclusion is pretty simple: We should downvote questions that show a lack of research effort, but we shouldn't close them, which means they are there to be answered. Answers are judged on their own merits as per usual.

You can see this taking place on questions like this one or this one: they are heavily downvoted, but they have good, upvoted answers.

This doesn't apply to any and all beginner questions; if someone posts their question, includes where they have looked for the answer, why what they've looked at doesn't answer their question, and why they are confused about what they have looked at, their question is a perfectly good one.

For example, this question is pretty trivial to answer, but the querent had clearly looked at what there was to look at and was still confused.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ This. It's not how basic the question is, it's that we expect a modicum of effort from the querent before asking us for help with something that a good page through the index would disclose. There's a difference between "I read the rules and I need help understanding them" and "I don't appear to have read the rules, so I want you to tell me about them." \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ That last example wasn't as good an example as I was hoping to find, so if anyone knows a better one I'd love to swap it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I take issue with the comment on this question: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/58472/84 The comment text indicates that we don't like questions that the book answers, but according to your answer, in reality we don't like questions that the book answers and you didn't even seem try to find the answer. That's very different; it actually seems like we're fine with questions the book answers, so long as your question has some thought put into it. I mean, that question is somewhat poorly worded, but it's possible the questioner does not even have the book so how would he know? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mag Roader
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 5:06
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @MagRoader That question didn't give any indication that he tried to find the answer. And if he doesn't have the book, then his question comes under the linked meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 5:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman I'm just saying that the problem is NOT actually "failing to read the book." The problem is actually "not putting forth research effort." Comments like "you should read the book" are misleading about what we actually mean. For that question, I would prefer to assume the person DID read the book - the Paladin section, because that's what he cares about - and just didn't understand that the "Ability Score Improvement" was a more general rule covered elsewhere. Then instead of commenting: "Please read the book," I would say: "Please put effort into your question; this is a general rule!" \$\endgroup\$
    – Mag Roader
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 14:58
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ "Reading the book" is table stakes for "research" - you're trying to make a distinction that's not really actionable or useful. "Please put effort" - what, pushups? No, go look at the index or whatever and read that part of the rulebook. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 19:22
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @MagRoader Keep in mind that it's the responsibility of the question-writer to write good questions. If they did read the book, we should be able to tell from their question. In the end we can only deal with the text that exists, not what it could be. That said, that is an abrasive comment and I understand the objection to its wording and slant. For rudeness in RTFM comments you can flag (though in this case "obsolete" is a more dead-to-rights flag reason). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 7, 2015 at 0:39

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