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By my understanding (and the Area 51 FAQ), StackExchange sites are meant to be host to "experts" posting "expert-level" questions. However, we've seen a number of questions asked and answered (and up-voted), which are quite definitely basic-level topics.

With my apologies for D&D4e-centricity in this list (it's all I know) here's some examples:

These questions each represent one of a few things, to an experienced D&D4e player:

  • Something they should by now have inherent knowledge of.
  • Something which is unambiguously addressed in a single rule.
  • Something which can be quickly found by a single lookup in a rulebook or online resource that an experienced D&D4e player would likely have access to.

In short, I feel like any question that can be unambiguously answered by checking one page or one entry in either the PHB, DMG, Essentials Rules Compendium, or D&DI Compendium, is not something which is "expert level" for our environment.

On the other hand, we do have a good and large base of more in-depth and complex questions on a variety of topics here.

Still, to stay within the spirit of SE, should we be discouraging simple questions about the bare basics?

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It's complex.

Yes, we should be encouraging questions that require expertise. Yes, we should be discouraging trivial questions.

But, as the other responders have suggested, expertise is a difficult thing to judge. I think What should I read/watch for information about the 1930s United States requires expertise, but CRoss doesn't. Conversely, I think that How much damage is caused by a thrown coin? is trivial, but obviously others don't.

Thus, there's no easy answer. Personally, I think your guidelines are pretty good: if you can easily find it in a book, it's probably trivial. But there are dangers in those guidelines, too: for example, they'll lead to arguments over whether something is unambiguously answered.

So, the answer to the thread title is yes. But judging expertise is a difficult problem.

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No. As long as it is on topic, the question should be judged on the quality of the question itself. We do want interesting, difficult, and "expert" questions, but there's plenty of room for the trivial, as long as it also has quality. A large part of the design of the site is that the expert questions don't get lost in the 14 forum pages of trivial discussion about something tangential. After all, its those good questions that bring the experts back to answer them, and that is why the Area51 quote is specific to the definition phase of the site proposal process to attract good answerers. The site is only as good as the set of people willing to answer the questions! (see Jeff's comment here.)

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No,

We should not discourage these questions. Just because a question is easy for one person to answer does not make it an illegitimate question. Not all rules are easy to locate in the books at your time of need. Heck, some game books fail to include an index or a table of contents.

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There's a problem of concept here.

The idea of the Stack Exchange is not posting "expert" questions, but expert answers for questions. Stack Overflow is the best friend of the beginner developer because of this--even the most basic topics are covered, with TONS of content generated by experts.

The site needs to be useful to everyone; they just need to follow the guidelines.

So, no, you shouldn't judge a question by its expertise. The idea of voting is "Useful" or "Not Useful," not "Expert" or "Newbie," and really good insight can be given to even the most newbie of questions.

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"This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear."

That's the hover-over criteria for voting up a question. To vote down, it's the converse.

You don't have to be an expert - but if a question is basically trivially answered in the rules, it is liable to be voted down.

So for example, I voted down this question (even though I answered it): Do all Spell Trigger items always require a Use Magic Device check? because the question was trivially answered in the skill description they were asking about, which to me fits the category of "does not show research effort."

So yes, you are allowed to vote down questions that do not show effort, are unclear or not useful.

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