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I recently asked on mechanics.stackexchange.com: What diesel SUVs are available in North America?

I deleted the question because I was downvoted and the comments stated that this was an inappropriate question because it was a question about buying.

I've a couple questions and concerns with the response I received to this question:

It's a question about options (not products, per se)

I've found that Stackoverflow often has lists of options (commercial and otherwise) when individuals ask for solutions to a problem.

For example, a quick search for "solutions" came up with:

I think it's obvious that these questions are analogous to "What are some diesel options?" On what basis then would users of mechanics take the view that the diesel question is not appropriate when it's a clearly an accepted style of question for a programmers web-site. This is particularly troublesome when the mechanics site is small and has limited content (i.e. is less likely to show up in searches and wants to encourage users to participate).

In any event, what's the value of a deletionist atmosphere for questions clearly within the realm of expertise of the site's users?

Perhaps more concerning is whether downvoting and negative comments on questions clearly within the expertise of the readership will stymie growth on the site.

A more inclusionist policy will grow the site by making it more visible with relevant questions that show up on search engines and by not discouraging participation. Questions such as "what diesel SUVs are available in North America" is well within the realm of expertise for mechanics and there's no other appropriate Stackexchange site to ask the question.

The expertise to answer the question is here, the site benefits from having the question and not disheartening its current and prospective future users, and yet the question is apparently deemed to be (at least by some users) inappropriate.

All to say ...

I don't understand this policy, and find it to be counter-productive. I'm confused about why there would be a policy to not talk about buying or options would exist. In any case, this is clearly contrary to the policies of the much more popular sites such as Stackoverflow.

So then, what should be the policy of mechanics? While the site is entitled "motor vehicle maintenance and repair", the choice and availability of engine type is clearly related to the maintenance and repair of a vehicle, at least inasmuch as Stackoverflow programming is related to the choice and availability of databases or languages used to do actual programming. I doubt there's a downside to buying advice or questions about options, though I'm open to being persuaded otherwise.

This discussion is related to the meta-question: does the ban on buying advice apply on mechanics?.

Thanks for reading!

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Even if your buying question were on-topic, it might have been closed for being too localized, as you specifically mentioned North America. The comment I left you on that question encouraged you to broaden the question by editing it. My intention was to help you improve the question; however, you chose to delete it.

I encourage you to take the feedback you receive as constructive criticism. Many people on the site will leave comments to help you make your question a good, quality on-topic question, if possible.

Additionally, please keep in mind that the metrics alone won't define the success of the site in the long term. If we allow questions on other topics with the sole purpose of increasing the numbers; eventually, that approach will backfire as the experts cease supporting the site.

A disciplined site, where the topics are enforced, is most likely to succeed as there will be more experts to help provide good quality answers for both experts and enthusiasts alike. This will lead to natural growth of a site tailored to a very specific audience.

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  • Thanks for the reply. I'm sorry but I don't recall seeing a comment on localizing/broadening, only one about "buying/selling" being inappropriate (whether it was your comment or not I don't recall). I'm unclear on how North America changes the nexus of the question to the site. Is there an appropriate way to ask this question? On the topic of discipline, the underlying problem would seem to be: This site says "you can't ask general auto questions here" while Area51 is saying "go ask general auto questions on mechanics". Seems to be a structural issue. :) – Brian M. Hunt Mar 24 '11 at 21:12
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Another issue is that the answer to the question changes over time. In a few years’ time, the (accepted) answer will no longer be correct.

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    This is a great point, but I think it would be a detrimental barrier to creating a community on SE/SO sites. This issue applies to the many of the Stackoverflow questions, and isn't dealt with (well, in my opinion :). I've a fairly lengthy analysis of this issue on SO meta: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/71522 – Brian M. Hunt Mar 30 '11 at 1:13
  • Actually,regardless of other reasons the question may or may not be suitable,the fact that SE/SO sites have a wiki like component to the questions & answers means that the software is ideal for questions where the answer changes over time.The issue is that few answers are ever updated on any SE/SO sites,this is mostly a failure of the communities although I guess the software could be improved to help somehow-perhaps with the introduction of something like a "This question/answer requires review in X months", but I'm sure smarter folks than I have already thought of and discarded such an idea. – Scott Jun 6 '11 at 3:48
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Your question isn't just a little off topic. It defines an entirely different site altogether.

The question you are posing (even if it is not specifically about "buying") is more suited to automobile enthusiasts site.

This site is bounded by a specific, well-established field of expertise: Mechanics/Automobile Repair. The mechanics profession provides a healthy, well defined scope for this type of Q&A.

But just because folks here might happen to be interested in (or even have thorough knowledge about) the auto industry, that doesn't necessarily dictate that it is on topic for this site. There are probably a lot of people here with interests in auto racing, and tools, and audio systems, and antique cars, and football. That doesn't mean a cross-interest in these subjects make it on topic for this site.

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  • @Robert: Thanks for the answer. According to the faq this is an enthusiasts site (i.e. for mechanics and DIY enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles), much like Stackoverflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers. If this is the criteria for the target audience (and the faq seems the only canonical reference) my analogy remains unequivocal, and in my humble but correct opinion there is no value from the boundary you've suggested and it will do great harm to the site. I am open to being persuaded otherwise, of course. – Brian M. Hunt Mar 23 '11 at 18:50
  • @Brian M. Hunt: The phrase "DIY enthusiast" is to disambiguate that you do not need to be a certified, professional mechanic to use this site. Avid enthusiasts and wanna-be experts are welcome with their expert-level questions, too. But this site is dedicated to the field of "Maintenance & Repair" and not a general car enthusiast's site. There should definitely be one, though. – Robert Cartaino Mar 23 '11 at 19:42
  • @Robert: Thanks for the comment. This issue has been discussed to quite some degree on Area51 (discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/533). Note that the Area51 consensus seems to be that another auto site would be a duplicate of this. See e.g. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/7435/autos; see also: discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/595 – Brian M. Hunt Mar 23 '11 at 19:59
  • Most of the key metrics on Area51 (questions/day, avid users, answer ratios, and visits/day per area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/1321) show mechanics falling short in all these areas. The metric for "answered" is the only metric meeting the suggestions (93% given a 90% is "healthy"). Of course, it's still early beta (16 days in), so the other metrics may come up, but it would certainly benefit the site to consider questions of the sort in this discussion (though I think the stronger argument is the Stackoverflow analogy, and that the content is appropriate). – Brian M. Hunt Mar 24 '11 at 2:11
  • Unfortunately, the Area51 metrics for mechanics (area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/1321) is deteriorating: 2.9 questions per day, 27 avid users, 2 answers per question, 126 visits per day. I'm posting this for posterity, but also to reiterate my concerns that the policy of deletionism I encountered is dangerous because of this potential consequence. – Brian M. Hunt Apr 12 '11 at 23:43
  • For posterity: May 5, 2011 statistics: 2.1 q/day, 88% answered, 30 avid users (41 w/200+ rep), 2.0 answer ratio, 149 visits/day. – Brian M. Hunt May 5 '11 at 14:37
  • latest stat (17 months later), Dec 2, 2012: 2.4 q/day, 95% answered, 122 avid users, 1.9 answer ratio, 2,556 visits/day. – Brian M. Hunt Dec 3 '12 at 0:41

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