It seems to me that the Physics.SE FAQ is slightly outdated and could do with a little revision. Many questions by new users on this site are closed, and the various mismatches between the FAQ and the site's actual policy as practiced might be part of the reason for this. It would also be nice to have an up-to-date FAQ so that users could reference it in order to learn why their question was closed and what they can do about it.

Below I have listed a few places where the FAQ seems in need of updating. I hope that this thread can serve to turn up any others.

  • The FAQ does not mention book recommendation questions. (These seem to be treated as in-principle off-topic by the moderators.)
  • The FAQ (question 1) holds up a "big list" question as an exemplar of an on-topic question. (These are also usually closed nowadays.)
  • The FAQ does not mention questions on observational astronomy. (When the astronomy.SE questions were merged into physics there was a consensus to allow such questions as on topic.)

I've held off on suggesting specific changes to the text because I'm not that active on meta and I'm not 100% sure what the most recent consensus on these issues actually is - but if the policy is clear and people can post links to the appropriate discussions, I'll be happy to contribute to writing them up in FAQ form if necessary.

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Ah, thanks for catching the list question, I missed that. Certainly these things can be changed. –  David Z Jan 1 '13 at 16:42
    
Hi Nanthaniel. I really agree with you. FAQ updation should be done. If this goes well here, someone could post this on MSO :-) –  Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 1 '13 at 16:43

1 Answer 1

Just a note: Not all off-topic on-topic policy rules need to be in the faq. They may also be on meta (or on the main meta)..

The FAQ does not mention book recommendation questions. (These seem to be treated as in-principle off-topic by the moderators.)

This may be covered by http://physics.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask , specifically the "every answer is equally valid" part. I recall seeing a request on the mother meta to update this to explicitly include "make a list" questions, but I can't find it right now.

Our current book recommendation policy allows such qs as long as they talk of a specific subtopic and level of understanding required.

How about we add (under "Some kinds of questions should not be asked here:"), the following point:

  • Recommendation questions: Questions asking for recommendations are off topic, unless there are enough criteria defining what a "good" recommendation is. Book recommendations are only on-topic if they are about a specific subtopic, and ask for a specific level (high school/undergrad/grad/etc)

The FAQ (question 1) holds up a "big list" question as an exemplar of an on-topic question. (These are also usually closed nowadays.)

I don't know what you're talking about. Look closely ;-)

The FAQ does not mention questions on observational astronomy. (When the astronomy.SE questions were merged into physics there was a consensus to allow such questions as on topic.)

This is already covered by Explanations of observed physical or astronomical phenomena and Experimental designs and results

I've held off on suggesting specific changes to the text because I'm not that active on meta and I'm not 100% sure what the most recent consensus on these issues actually is - but if the policy is clear and people can post links to the appropriate discussions, I'll be happy to contribute to writing them up in FAQ form if necessary.

Sure, just suggest it. We can edit the top two sections of the faq, editing the ones below that takes some work.

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Thanks for the answer. To reply to the note at the beginning, I realise that policy can be in meta, but as a courtesy to new users it would be nice to have the most frequently relevant ones in the FAQ as well. I worry that new users might might be driven away because they perceive closing their question as an arbitrary rejection, but if the reason for it is clearly stated in the FAQ then maybe it's more likely to seem reasonable. –  Nathaniel Jan 1 '13 at 17:30
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@Nathaniel: I have an edit coming up, stand by –  Manishearth Jan 1 '13 at 17:33
    
Yes, I think that change regarding recommendation questions would be a good one. –  Nathaniel Jan 1 '13 at 17:37
    
By the way, is there a way to get a list of recently closed questions? I'd like to take a look, to try and see if there are any other frequent reasons for closing that aren't prominently mentioned in the FAQ. –  Nathaniel Jan 1 '13 at 17:38
    
stand by - I've heard this somewhere. Ah.. Yeah. While I was playing NFS chased by 911 :-P –  Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 1 '13 at 17:40
    
@Nathaniel: search closed:1 and sort by "newest" –  Manishearth Jan 1 '13 at 17:41
    
I would actually like to move the book recommendations to the tag wikis. This is what SEI recommends, and I think it's a better place for that information anyway. I haven't done anything about it so far, because it was always a long-term plan, but perhaps it's time to do that and shut down the book recommendations entirely? –  David Z Jan 4 '13 at 6:32
    
@DavidZaslavsky: I like this, it makes the site more consistent :) –  Manishearth Jan 4 '13 at 10:24

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