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?")?
Existing questions like:
- Gene Id Conversion Tool
- Tools To Find Gene Ontology Term Enrichment
- Content Management Systems For Bioinformatics Websites
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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.