Are Super User Style Questions Appropriate In Biostar?
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14.0 years ago
Andrewjgrimm ▴ 460

Are only Stack Overflow style questions appropriate in BioStar ("how do I create a program that does X"), or are Super User style questions ok as well ("What good alignment programs are there out there?")?

meta biostars • 4.3k views
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I'm happy with either, but I don't know if there's a policy. I just favour questions with a practical answer (code or links to resources) over subjective, "meta" questions (such as "bioinformatician or bioinformaticist").

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@neilfws: I favour answers that aren't in the comments section!

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Why doesn't biostar have a 'meta' section, like stackoverflow or the new statistics site? It seems to me that it would be useful, for discussing questions like these. (http://meta.stats.stackexchange.com/)

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I completely agree with Neil. Questions should focus on solving a problem, but it is fine that the answer is which existing tool to use. In case of recommending alignment programs, it would be best to state a specific problem that you need the best alignment program for, so that people can recommend the one that is most appropriate in that situation.

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Good point :-) But this type of question strikes me as "open for discussion" rather than "vote for a best answer".

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I think @Chris Miller is right. Maybe BioStar is ripe now to have such a meta section. I see quite a lot of interogations these days about how different aspects of BioStar should or should not be.

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Is meta discussion not what the Google group for?

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I didn't even know the google group existed. (although now I see that it's in the footer). More prominent placement of a link to it would help. FWIW, I still like the meta forum better than an discussion hosted elsewhere.

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@Chris: The main issue I'd have with a separate meta.biostar.stackexchange.com is whether there'd be enough questions to justify it. If there's only two "meta" questions over half a year (based on the tag activity of biostar), then it sounds like overkill.

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I expect that there'd be a flurry of activity at first, but after that, it would slow down to a trickle. That's fine in my book, as it acts as a resource, where new members (or new moderators) can review community norms.

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14.0 years ago

Existing questions like:

Show that questions of the form 'What tool can I use to do X?' or 'What tool is better than X for accomplishing Y?' can produce many helpful answers, and as Eric suggests, provide the useful resource of a list of tools to try for newbies to a particular task.

Despite being modelled on it, this site is not Stack Overflow, and we cannot necessarily live by the same strict rules.

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I have personaly used the answers to a few of these kinds of questions (sometimes asked by me) to a point where they form a very significant part of the usefulness I find in this forum :)

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14.0 years ago

I somewhat think that referring to BioStar as a 'Question and Answer' site, although perfectly right, is a bit restrictive. I try to keep in mind that it is also a Community and a Resource.

As a QA site, its easy to define it's role as provider of answers to well defined questions.

However, as a community, it can promote bioinformatics by empowering people in a friendly environment where they can learn solutions (the answers) but also good practices and widening of one's horizons. I know I definitely gain at least as much from the discussions I find here as from the answers themselves :)

Finally, as a resource, its aim is simply to be useful to a given public, namely bioinformaticians and biology students trying to analyze their data. There are many ways to be useful and, while some may clearly fall outside the scope of BioStar, I think it would be a loss if the accepted policy guidelines (after all, the users run the site here :) were too strict.

Just some thoughts :)

Cheers

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14.0 years ago
Paulo Nuin ★ 3.7k

Why not? The only thing to avoid is to not transform the answer area into a discussion board. Most of the people don't follow any rules anyway, so I don't think it would harm to have these questions on the site.

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14.0 years ago

In general I do prefer well formed and simple questions that have a well defined answer. On the other hand exploratory questions can also nucleate discussions and answers with a lot of novel and interesting facts. As Paolo Nuin puts it, rules don't actually solve anything and may only bring about conflicts.

In the end it is all about the type of questions that people enjoy reading and answering. By voting up the type of questions/answers that we like we shape the future direction of the site.

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14.0 years ago

Yes, but the question should preferably have a finite answer. The question "What good alignment programs are there out there?" is rather subjective, and does not have a clear answer. The idea of a QA website is that answers can be marked as the 'best' answer.

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13.4 years ago

One question type may lead to the other - so both are fine for the BioStar forum. Like others, I also prefer a more focused question, but am comfortable with either type. This is not a test after all and so I can ignore those questions that I choose not to answer.

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13.4 years ago

Actually, there are "super-user" questions on stackoverflow. (example)

I recommend to be active on both platforms. Sometimes it could be a good exercise to ask a bioinformatics question on stackoverflow. First you need to explain the question to a non-bioinformatics community, which might help improving the way you ask a question. Secondly, you might get an answer from a different perspective then a typical bioinformatics point of view.

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