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There's something I'd like to get cleared up nice an dearly. The advise that pops up the first time we ask a questions states, in part,

If the private beta doesn't produce enough high quality expert level questions, it won't proceed onward to the public beta.

I fully understand the need to have as high a standard as possible during the beta. Does that mean only professional level questions and answers are permitted? The FAQ for the site states the site

is for mechanics and DIY enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles

Which tells me that the site, at any stage, is not intended just for professionals.

If only "professional" questions and answers are to be posted during the beta, as suggested by Joel's actions so far, I really don't like the future of the site because as soon as it goes public it's likely to scare off many would be participants, as they may well get the impression the site is not for DIY people at all.

Edit

Never mind, this post by Joel makes it all clear. Looks like we were only needed to get the numbers up and are now unwelcome. Goodbye.

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    Don't abandon the site just yet. Give others time to join the beta and weigh in on both sides of the discussion. I myself also joined the proposal as one who is interested in the non-professional DIY end of things, and am also disappointed in the turn this is taking so far. – Iszi Mar 8 '11 at 6:38
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    I'm afraid you're still missing the point. I encourage you to take another look at the blog article posted by Robert Cartaino and really try to understand. Are you more likely to walk into an empty restaurant, or one that is seeded with happy people enjoying their meals? Worse, do you want to try to enjoy a peaceful meal in a place with a bunch of punk teenagers? No! You want to go to a nice, quiet place where you can enjoy yourself after a long day's work. Building online communities is similar in that what questions show up on the front page determine who enters. – jmort253 Mar 9 '11 at 4:06
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Short version: I see some room for professional and entry level questions.

Long version: I think the idea to keep in mind is Joel's reference to Stack Overflow. I'm sure lots of SO are posted by folks that are not professionals (hobby programmers or still in school), but they can still produce good questions. This is equivalent to the DIY car enthusiast crowd. As long as the question shows some decent knowledge, it should be fair game.

So what is "some decent knowledge?" Again, to compare to Joel's SO example, SO isn't meant for "How do I turn on the Internet?" type questions. In here, that would be "How do I turn on my car?"

Going up the list would be "How do I change my oil?" -- Google tells me 97,700,000 ways to do that. More relevant is "While I was changing the oil on a 2004 GM Envoy, the oil had some metal shavings in it. I suspect the cam bearings are wearing, but I don't want to charge 5 hours to inspect the bearings. Is there a way for me to isolate the source of the metal shavings without R&Ring the head?"

That is a professional level question. However, I do see some value in getting some of the basics out of the way. Once the basics are answered, they will stop cropping up because a simple search will give the answer. SO has information on how to do a million different LINQ queries. Some of them are rather simple, but the database of knowledge is there for new people to draw on (and for Google to index to bring in more people).

John Gardeniers, your answers have been very high quality, and I actually wondered if you had professional experience. This site definitely needs participants of your caliber.

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    Hear hear. Thank you for putting into words what I was having trouble articulating. However, I do want to warn against "getting easy questions out of the way" during the private beta. If you do that, when the site opens to the public in a few days, it will look like Yahoo Answers, and you won't get a great audience. Save the easy/vapid questions for a month or two from now when you have an awesome audience. Until then, build the site you want. – Joel Spolsky Mar 8 '11 at 22:16
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To best answer your question, I would ask you to read this blog post (go ahead, it's a quick read):

Asking the First Questions

If you don't agree with a word in that post, believe this:

It has long been established that no question is too entry-level nor too basic. Everyone is welcome. But, in these earliest days, we are DESIGNING a site for experts. To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site. Remember, the pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!

The earliest questions on a site will set the tone and topic of the site for a long time.

So while we are not exactly checking your credentials at the door, yes, we are designing a site for experts. And that means asking expert-level questions.

You concerns about scaring off would-be participants are completely unfounded. In the 44 sites we have started, quite the opposite has been true. The sooner we are able to establish expert-level credential, the more people want to participate in that site — both beginners and experts.

Nobody's going to say, "I don't want my question answered on that site; Their answers are way too professional and awesome!"

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    @RobertCartaino - You are right, "Nobody's going to say, 'I don't want my question answered on that site; Their answers are way too professional and awesome!'" but people will say (as @JohnGardeniers is saying, and I cannot at this point disagree) "I don't want to ask my question here - nobody here cares about my entry-level issues." This site was specifically written to include the "DIY enthusiast" types, and yet several questions from said audience (the very same who have helped the site get where it is) have either been flatly rejected via mod-hammer or just generally met with disdain. – Iszi Mar 8 '11 at 7:09
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    @Iszi: We are in the firsts day of a closed beta, designing the site. So you are right that we're saying "hold off on your beginner-level questions until we can establish that this site will be useful to experts." This is the most important time to design a site with expert answers... or you can actively turn away experts who will see this site as a bunch of rank amateurs of no interest to them. Read the blog post again. If it doesn't click, maybe we explained it better to this community: meta.quant.stackexchange.com/questions/4 – Robert Cartaino Mar 8 '11 at 7:19
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    @RobertCartaino - I suppose I can agree with the logic of "hold back your entry-level questions" as there is some sense in that, to better attract the experts. However, once a question is asked, I do not think it should be closed just because it is "too entry-level" as long as it is within the defined scope of the site. Question closure is, in all honest likelihood, a permanent change that will not only prevent that question from being answered, but also discourage others from re-asking it (or similar questions) in a later time when the site is more widely opened to the "beginner stuff". – Iszi Mar 8 '11 at 7:26
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    @Iszi: When the site is in a closed beta -- when it is this new and this small -- every question plays a huge contribution to its initial design. These questions appear on the front page, and that front page IS the design which will drive what types of questions as people check out this site. The "wrong" type of questions will only encourage more of that type of question to be asked... setting the tone and topic for the site for a long time to come. – Robert Cartaino Mar 8 '11 at 7:32
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    @RobertCartaino - And yet at the same time, you are suggesting that the "wrong" type of questions now may be the "right" types of questions to ask later. For one, this sends a very mixed signal. Second, and again, this means that questions that will presumably at some time be the "right" type of questions are being shut down and rejected just because they were asked at the "wrong time". This, despite the fact that some of the questions asked are the same or similar to questions that were voted as "on-topic" in the "definition" phase of the site. – Iszi Mar 8 '11 at 7:44
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    I don't mind having it pointed out that we want to hold back on entry level questions, but I think closing the questions is the wrong approach. Let us know what to change, or put the rules on the "rules" page, not in a post somewhere in Meta. It's very discouraging to have your question closed by a mod when it seems to comply with the stated objectives of the site. – Kendrick Mar 8 '11 at 17:38
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    @Kendrick: The email you got inviting you to the beta AND the "mini-eula" that you agreed to before you posted your first question described these principles in detail. Go to mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/ask while logged off and you'll see, right there in huge type: Avoid Easy Questions. I know it's discouraging to see a question closed but we do just about everything we can to educate people about these principles before they ask their first question and I can't think of what more we could do other than giving them a test to make sure they read the rules... :) – Joel Spolsky Mar 8 '11 at 22:19
  • @Joel Spolsky, I guess it comes down to the subjective nature of "easy". Either way, I expressed an interest in fixing my question mechanics.stackexchange.com/q/175/32 and received no reply. We all have the same goals here, but not the same vision. If someone is going to enforce their vision, then IMO, they should be doing more than closing posts with a form letter link at the bottom. – Kendrick Mar 9 '11 at 16:06
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    What's even more discouraging than having your question closed is watching your Q&A site -- that you worked so hard to build -- get closed down because the community as a whole doesn't want to participate, all because of a few people who thought they knew better than expert Q&A site builders. Joel and Robert are in business to make a profit, and if the site doesn't get enough hits, it doesn't profit. It also doesn't help the community. These guys, Joel, Robert, and their crew, have successfully built many online communities. We're just learning, so let's trust their judgement! – jmort253 Mar 13 '11 at 0:50
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    Experts don't stumble onto the front page of a Stack Exchange site and then decide to participate based on the professionalism of the most recent questions. They search for something they need help with, and Google sends them directly to a question about that specific topic. If this happens often enough, they notice the site and consider contributing. Beginner-level questions only help publicize the site and improve its quality and Google rank. – endolith Jun 14 '11 at 2:32
4

Anyone who reads Grassroots Motorsports knows that there is no "line" between DIY enthusiasts and professionals (other than one group does it for fun and the other also happens to get paid ;-). Read about any of their 2K challenges and gape in amazement in what "non-professionals" are capable of.

I intend to continue as I have: advocating the position of the people who have cars that they love, a garage full of tools and a wishlist that's much longer than their budget.

3

I think that we should allow professionals, and people who are able to ask very specific questions relating to their vehicles. After all, people who committed were committing to a site about "Beta Q&A site for mechanics and DIY enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles".

I will agree that there are some very basic questions which are probably better not asked at the moment, and that we should close off any topic that isn't about repairing or maintaining a car, so...

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