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9:33 PM
Drop it like it's hot.
 
Is this were we champion the futility of list questions?
 
Well my idea was actually that you would ask my question opinion and I'd tell you the cold hard truth ;)
 
@random yes
 
Lists are great in that you can see a whole batch of titles with no regard to actually improving anything other than having another list that is available for people to ignore and add another answer to
2
 
@IvoFlipse I think it started with this meta post
 
9:36 PM
Hi movie guys, I've been following the Science Fiction and Fantasy site since it started and I'm a pro tempore moderator there. I thought I'd share a few of our experiences.
 
-1
Q: concerns about the rules of these sites conflicting with the goals of this particular one

SirYakalotI see a lot of 'spoiler' questions on this site. "Who kills this guy in this film?" "How many times does this happen in this film? etc etc." The reason I joined this public beta is because, like many of you, I have a love for movies. Here is an example question that I would love to ask: "W...

And this question
 
There are several question types that we debated and that are already coming up on Movies Meta.
 
@Gilles I think it would be useful they know you're around because of the discussion about Movies vs Scifi
 
I can't post there until the public beta starts, so here are a few pointers
 
I believe the answer to that discussion is that you should ask questions with the community you like the most. Similar to how SU, Unix and Apple sites can live next to each other
pwhd can invite all of us :P
 
9:38 PM
First, on the issue of Science Fiction and Fantasy vs Movies, we already faced this when Literature started
5
Q: When the Literature stack exchange site goes live, how do we handle conflicts?

BennyMcBenBenThe Literature proposal looks to be getting closer to 100% complete. This brings up a number of questions in my mind, since this site addresses Sci-Fi/Fantasy literature. My understanding is that a question that could be addressed by someone should be exposed if possible. Ideally, I think cross...

> Short version: Yes, there's some overlap. It's not a problem. Do not cross-post.
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and dually on the Lit meta:
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Q: How do we interact with the Science Fiction and Fantasy site?

Matthew ReadQuestions are being closed as "duplicates", despite them being on the other site. Note that the question was not cross-posted, it's two different users with slightly different (but effectively identical) questions. If this site isn't meant to stand alone, is there any good reason not to merge? ...

 
@IvoFlipse I don't go by that name in here
 
@phwd yes you do
 
@phwd Funny, because chat thinks otherwise ;)
@phwd > "Who are the cinematographers that you would regard as seminal, and why? and regarding this, what are some classic films that I should watch to see their work?"
 
chat is silly.
 
While these questions look like at face value, what happens is that it opens up to generic questions like: "Who are the X that you would regard as X?" and you can start filling them in with every sort of variation
Which directors horror movies should I watch?
 
9:42 PM
Are we discussing recommendations now?
 
Aye that started it all
 
So: recommendations. They were debated on Gaming which banned them. Then they were debated on Science Fiction and Fantasy which banned them. Then they were debated on [lit.se] which established a restrictive policy on them based on other sites' experience.
2
The problem with most (not all) recommendation questions is that every answer tends to be valid
 
The problem with recommendations, especially with something as subjective as movies is that they only satisfy a certain group of people. Answers are not judged on whether they are correct and/or meet the criteria, but on how much users liked answer X
 
The list of freely available programming books has at least 5 other pages of deleted "answers" No one really wants to clean that up. And that's usually where all list questions end up. A mass of pages that nobody wants to check before shooting their own answer into
2
 
9:44 PM
@random hey, we're doing recommendations now, not lists which are a different issue
 
@Gilles It's Pulp Fiction time. Multiple threads in the one view
 
Well they are related, because if every answer is valid, everybody wants to add their own answer, which tends to result in a large list
 
So, well, lists are bad, I'll come to that in a minute, but first let me show how recommendations might work
12
Q: Policy trial notice: book recommendations

Anna LearOverview Between Gilles and Pearsonartphoto, it looks like we have a suitable set of guidelines to try out for recommendation questions: The questions must be reasonably specific. Not "What's a good book for a person who likes Harry Potter", but maybe, "What's a good book for a 13 yea...

after this policy had been tried for a while:
3
Q: Book recommendation requirements update

DForck42Had a discussion with AnnaLear, and it seems that a good way to easily tell if a recommendation question is too broad is if you can easily do a search on amazon and get more than, say, 10 results. Of course we didn't want to just update it without community support. So what does everyone think?

The recommendation policy calls for reasonably specific questions with comprehensive answers and stringent moderation
2
Reasonably specific questions: “what fantasy movie should I watch” is not a good question because it doesn't say anything about what the asker is looking for in a movie. “I liked X and Y and Z and can't stand P or Q, and I would like to watch more movies about black cats” → that can work: we know what you like, what you dislike, and what you're after
 
Mind you, I often love advice about what movies I should watch, but I just think those questions don't fit our sites. So please remember its nothing personal
 
Comprehensive answers: a problem with recommendation questions is that they attract answers that recommend one particular movie, often without saying why the movie is a good fit for the requirements in the question. A good answer is “here's a reasonable syllabus for a semester course on movies about black cats; you may want to skip A because it's a lot like P, and you're likely to like B and C because they're from the same director as X”
Stringent moderation: if you don't moderate, you'll be flooded with poor questions that don't help anyone, and with answers with just one movie name that may get a lot of upvotes (“hey, I like this movie! <click>”) but aren't really helpful to the asker
2
So how well has the policy worked on Literature? Not so badly that it was replaced by a ban on recommendation. But not so well that it's now enshrined in stone.
I'm not very active on Literature, but my impression is that the recommendation questions average on not-so-good to mediocre. I don't think they make the site markedly better or markedly worse overall.
Shall we move on to the next topic?
List questions. Prepare to see some hate.
 
9:56 PM
Well phwd bailed :P
 
Lists! wooo!!
 
List questions are bad. They don't work.
3
 
Ah there he is
 
naw I just got my popcorn
 
How appropriate
 
9:57 PM
Science Fiction and Fantasy had a lot of list questions in the beginning. You won't see them because they're deleted.
Now in the beginning, I liked the idea that we'd use the SE platform to build lists of stories with a given theme. It looked attractive on paper (well, on pixels): someone suggests a theme, and we all contribute the stories we know on this theme.
 
A new user appears!
 
Then I watched them come. Stories written by a female author. Stories that “contain elements of human transformation”. “Interesting alternate history stories”. “What science fiction authors were also scientists or engineers?” …
3
 
hello
 
Hey, welcome @Pubby! Don't worry about the logorrhea, it'll pass
I was just explaining how list questions are evil
So, you can still see our very first question on Science Fiction and Fantasy, which I chose to leave up as a warning (and keep in mind this is one of the best specimens):
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Q: What science fiction novels have well developed alien languages?

MatthewMartinI've got Native Tongue on my shelf, which is notable for having a language embedded in the story that can be spoken. What else should I add to my reading list? I'm in particularly looking for books with developed languages, not just a few exotic place and character names added for flavor. UPDAT...

 
If answers fit a tweet: It's not a good answer
5
 
10:04 PM
You can see that almost all answers cite a single work. The upvotes are mostly given to whoever posted first, and also in part to works that are more popular. Nothing about how well the proposed item fits the topic or anything, you know, relevant.
 
3 mins ago, by phwd
A new user appears!
 
Hi @Michael
And, again, this is one of the best specimen, at least here most answers have a couple of sentences describing the work
I do think having a place with thematic lists of movies is useful. But Stack Exchange is not that place.
I guess for movies IMDB keywords are a start, even if they're hardly the best conceivable form
A couple more rants I wrote against list questions:
0
A: How to create a list of answers?

GillesThe list questions you mention do not generate exhaustive lists. They are a motley collection of whatever people have seen fit to mention. They are not organized in any sane way. Usually each answer gives a separate “tip or trick”. The votes on the answers don't mean anything useful (the number o...

4
A: Exceptional cases for list questions

GillesNowhere in your criteria does it appear that the question is likely to attract useful answers. You do say at the end “the overall benefit of the question is considered to be greater than the benefit of the (…) rule”. Yes, I can get behind that, but you've failed to demonstrate the benefit of the...

And by the way that last question illustrates a common theme on meta sites. “Yes, sure, X questions are bad, but my question is different! My question is good, unlike all the other similar questions!”
Well, no, your question isn't better than the rest.
 
List questions are where the lack of effort converges. It's the base where neither user asking or others answering need to put much effort into anything on that question other than turning up. It's the blue ribbon event of participation.
 
Now that we've shown our unanimous hate of list questions, shall we move on to a contested issue?
 
@Gilles Which is that? identify-this?
 
10:12 PM
@random My beef against them isn't the lack of effort, I don't care about that. My beef against them is that they don't produce useful answers.
So, identify-this-movie, a.k.a. movie identification, i.e. “I remember something about a movie but don't remember its title, that is it?”
When Science Fiction and Fantasy started, it was a given for me that story identification questions would be a reasonably common question type. I'd seen such questions work well in other venues, and the question and answer format is perfectly suited to them
16
Q: Are book / movie / TV series identification questions allowed?

Niall C.If there are books that I read a long time ago that I'd like to re-read but I've forgotten the author and/or title, may I post a question asking if other users can identify it? The same for movies or TV series that I'd like to watch again. If such questions are allowed, what guidelines should w...

 
Woah, activity.
 
On Science Fiction and Fantasy, story-identification questions are allowed, and they work well.
This had been a contentious issue before, on gaming.
Most of the community on both Gaming and Scifi are in favor.
 
@Ivo was just explaining how if @mootinator touches a question it's terrible.
 
Jeff Atwood hates them.
I'm very strongly in favor of them.
 
Because they're localized. (The identification questions)
 
10:19 PM
There is no general Stack Exchange policy about them.
11
Q: Are identify-this questions allowed on Stack Exchange?

GillesA few months ago, there was a debate on the Gaming Meta site about “help me remember this game” questions. Jeff came out very strongly against them, and many voices in the community spoke for them. Now the issue has come up again on the Science Fiction site: Are book / movie / TV series identifi...

@mootinator to some extent, yes, but not to the extent that they “only help the asker” (which is an argument I've often heard about them)
It happens now and then that a story-identification question on Science Fiction and Fantasy receives a non-answer by a new user, saying “hey, I wanted to know that too! thanks for the answer!”
 
nod
 
Kev
@Gilles hell what site doesn't get its share of me-too, it's not a by-product of the question type.
 
We don't have so many such non-answers overall that they'd be statistically significant, but I think we get more than their fair share on story identification questions.
Which implies that story identification questions do help other people.
 
Kev
@Gilles as I said in TL, I think they're really useful just as a casual browser for finding new reading material.
 
@Kev Indeed, they can be useful for that: the question hooks the reader, the answer provides release
But that's only #4 in my list of points in favor
#3 is that they drive traffic to the site, and that includes both novices and experts. Novices want their question answered. Experts want to show off their broad culture.
#2 is that they are useful to other people beyond the asker.
#1 is that they are useful to the asker and a perfect fit for the Q&A format.
 
10:26 PM
Where's @Ivo to contest the other side ;)
 
Now I see that the vehement anti-story-identification people have dropped off, so unless someone else wants to step in I'll turn to the last issue I wanted to lecture about
 
lol
 
@Gilles continue
 
Ok, general reference questions
Ever since the days when there was only Stack Overflow, people wondered if there was such a thing as a too simple question
76
Q: Embrace the non-Googlers

Jonathan SampsonThere seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to "easy" questions that involves quickly answering by copying/pasting an embarrassing link to lmgtfy.com (or similar responses in comments, which aren't downvotable) in an attempt to belittle the questions' authors. I think this comes from engagement in for...

In the early days, the trend was towards allowing simple questions, and in particular not reject questions on the basis that you can find the answer with Google
One important arguments for allowing googlable questions is that google results change. You post a lmgify answer, and next thing you know that answer is the first google hit.
But still, it seems that there is such a thing as a too simple question
Posted by Jeff Atwood on February 22nd, 2011

On Podcast #58, Joel and I had a disagreement. Not the first, and certainly won’t be the last:

Joel says that the only bad simple question is a duplicate simple question. I say simple questions are OK as long as they’re actually interesting (in some way) for other users to consider and answer. To prove his point, Joel actually asks the question on Stack Overflow: How do I move the turtle in LOGO? Do you think this question adds value?

We still have this disagreement. Our community is now struggling with the very same issue across multiple network sites: …

This came up on Science Fiction and Fantasy and English Language and Usage among other sites
In particular, the Borror0 diagram:
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A: How should we handle questions that are easily answered by Wikipedia?

Borror0Increasingly, to a point where it's becoming ridiculous, any question that I have unless it's a question about a non-English speaking area (Québec, France, Spain, etc.) is easily answered by Wikipedia. Basically, almost anything that falls within Wikipedia's systemic bias can probably be answered...

(the blog post above has a reformatted version of that diagram)
On English Language and Usage and Science Fiction and Fantasy, we have a “general reference” close reason in addition to the standard 5:
> This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.
 
Isn't that what downvotes are for?
 
10:34 PM
My take on this is that there are questions that are not useful, and hence should not be on Stack Exchange at all. Not because they are too simple, but because finding a good answer is too simple.
@Pubby No, not really. You might downvote a question because “just look it up”, but that's not all.
If a question is a general reference question, in that looking up the obvious entry in a dictionary, or on Wikipedia, or on IMDB or something like that, then it is not useful to have answers for a question.
There's no point in anyone wasting their time copying or linking to the appropriate WP article.
If there's no point of anyone answering, then the question should be closed. That's exactly what closing is for: to prevent answers.
 
General reference is a subjective term. I think closing because of it is locking out novices from answering questions.
 
And since the question is pointless, because it would only duplicate material that is easier to find elsewhere, the question should be deleted: it's clutter. Again, closing is a preliminary to deletion.
@Pubby I don't agree with the Borror0 definition of general reference
My definition is that you can find it in the obvious place
And that is a lot less subjective than “basic and trivial” with an answer that isn't “too hard to parse or otherwise in need of improvement”
Example: “in what movies did Ashley Judd act?” → just look it up on IMDB
 
"Who is this actor and what else is he in: /bad picture of movie playing on TV/": Wait for the credits, then look them up on IMDB.
Or just look up the movie you're watching, lol.
 
The Science Fiction and Fantasy policy on general reference is that Wikipedia, IMDB and ISFDB are general reference sites.
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Q: What are standard internet reference sites for SF?

GillesWhat are standard internet reference sites for science fiction and fantasy?

 
My hypothetical scenarios are inefficient :(
 
10:42 PM
On the other hand, fan sites are not general reference.
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Q: Is Wikia.com general reference?

DVKIt's fairly clear that Wikipedia is considered general reference (for both SciFi.SE and many other sites). Is wikia.com network considered general reference as well? For example for Harry Potter questions, http://harrypotter.wikia.com

To summarize my arguments there, there are three things that make a source a general reference: the source should be well-known and easily found; it should be of recognized reliability and authority; and it should be easily available and durable.
6
A: Introduce a "general reference" close reason

Gilles[TL,DR: general reference is “wikipede it”, not “google it”.] I support a general reference close reason, though we need to be careful about the potential for abuse. Having the closer indicate what the reference is is a minimum barrier. However, I don't quite agree with Borror0's flowchart. I t...

Have I bored everybody yet? Can I go now?
Ping me if you have any questions
 
Thanks @Gilles
 
And please, learn from our mistakes, don't repeat them
 
Kev
@Gilles ZZZzzz :P
 
@Kev aye, 'tis almost midnight here
 

Recommendations, Lists, Identification and General Reference

1 hour ago, 1 hour 11 minutes total – 146 messages, 7 users, 23 stars

Bookmarked 9 secs ago by phwd

 
11:32 PM
Just then, Movies general chat faded into obscurity.
 
Not really. There was a discussion going on somewhere else and we decided to come here since it involved this site. If you want to discuss things drag them in there
For example @lauren
@@useridonsite@@movies.stackexchange.com pings that person
 
Here's me trying to spoil other people's fun:
0
Q: Yes, that was a plot hole, and?

mootinatorIs pointing out obvious plot holes really on topic? This question has a lot of upvotes, but to me it seems like a candidate for a "Yes, that was a plot hole." and a close vote. Even on the original question on scifi the answer is very discussiony. Kind of interesting, but not terribly useful. ...

 
But sorry for using you as an example Lauren one on your questions was open on one of my tabs
@mootinator mmm I see it as just analyzing the film actually
 
Okay. Maybe I don't get it.
To what end.
Jeff Atwood doesn't host bytes for your amusement. ;)
 
Heh, we recently had an opposite objection on Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Q: Usefulness of "Plot hole" answers/comments

OghmaOsirisI'm seeing a lot of movie/TV questions being answered with comments or answers saying, "Bad writing" or "It was a plot hole the writers forgot about". How useful are these answers? They don't provide any data that might explain a situation in-universe. It also seems like an insult to the work in...

 
11:46 PM
Interesting.
One could really have a heyday with that if one was to want to prove a point.
I think this is definitely more the sort of answer I would consider useful to a plot hole than unreferenced speculation.
 

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