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Recently there was a supplement question about the differences between two versions of the same product. While I don't have any problems with questions about supplements (I just bought Soya Proteins and Nathan called me stupid :P), but this question is very localized to this specific brand.

I've been using Maximuscle Promax for a while now whilst focusing on increasing my strength and size and it's been great.

I'm trying to focus now on losing fat and just maintaining my size and strength and am considering trying Maximuscle Promax Diet to help with this. I'm not really sure what the differences are between these products though, and whether there are any downsides to moving onto the diet version.

The question tells me nothing about what the content of each product is. So it expects me to research the difference in composition and effect myself (assuming this info is even available online) and it kills the usefulness of the question for anyone with a similar question. Why? Because it might just be the difference between Whey Proteins and Soya Proteins, which can be generalized between brands, but now this difference is hidden behind brand names.

A similar example was this question about debunking claims from Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice [note the quote is from the first revision]:

I'm reading VENUS ON FIRE, MARS ON ICE: Hormonal Balance - The key to Life, Love and Energy the author suggests eating several foods for hormonal balance and longevity of life. However he is also suggesting that you buy his products to get these foods. I want to know if there is any real scientific evidence of the claims made about the foods and supliments he suggests, or if he is just peddling his own wares.

The question doesn't state anywhere what foods are having what supposed effect. Luckily the user followed up on the comments and added this information later.

Another example would be Hay diet's effectiveness, that doesn't explain at all how the diet is supposed to work:

Does the Hay diet (essentially not mixing protein based food with carbohydrate based foods in the same meal) actually produce good results? Are such restrictions unhealthy or excessive?

Or How much of MuscleTech Anabolic Halo's causes the creatine effect?


Granted, most of the above questions are pretty poor in themselves, which could be fixed by editing the question. However there's a difference between fixing spelling errors and rephrasing parts of the question to make it more clear and having to completely rewrite the question. As Nathan points out on chat we want the question to be general enough so it doesn't apply to just one specific brand, but specific enough to be actually answerable.

So I'm wondering how can we help explain these users how they should change their question to be more effective and what should we do if they refuse to do so?

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  • I didn't call you stupid... I said it tasted nasty! – Nathan Wheeler May 27 '11 at 18:22
  • Isn't it stupid to eat something that tastes nasty? ;-) – Ivo Flipse May 27 '11 at 18:23
  • I dunno... feverfew tastes nasty but cures migraines... (but I took advil migraine or imotrex because feverfew was so bad it made me almost vomit) so depending on the desired effect it may be worth it, it's a matter of personal preference I suppose. – Nathan Wheeler May 27 '11 at 18:27
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If ...

  • they are borderline
  • you can see a way to edit them to be more generalized and useful to more people

... you should, without hesitation!

Per http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/01/the-wikipedia-of-long-tail-programming-questions/

It is OK to edit a question to make it more general. With the power of editing comes the power to take someone’s selfish, very specific question, and edit it a little bit until they’re asking the more general question that hundreds of people encounter. For example, if someone asks, “I set up a web server at home but I can’t access it from work,” it’s OK to rewrite the question as, “What things should I check when a web server running at home is not visible on the Internet?” In fact, sometimes selfish, stupid questions of the “do my homework” variety can be easily edited into a form where the answer will provide an extremely valuable resource for the internet at large.

One caution, don't do this unless you strongly feel the question can be whipped into shape and become great. If the edited version will be just as "meh" as the original, don't bother -- vote to close it or delete it instead.

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I think a combination of FAQ and voting mechanism might be the solution here. The FAQ (and possibly the yellow pop-up box for new users) should specify that any questions regarding a commercial product/book/diet/workout should include some sort of link, description, or other explanation about the product or premise.

Any that are poor in this respect should be downvoted; I'm reluctant to say that they should be closed outright because that will devolve into just the three moderators making unilateral decisions (only a couple other users even have enough rep to vote to close, I think).

As an aside, some carefully-authored community wiki posts could be a reference describing common diets, supplements, workouts, etc. This way, there will be an easy in-house reference that all of these questions can be linked to.

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    Personally I hope we can also blog about some of the more common things that we perhaps don't want to see in actual questions, but I agree, some [community-faq] questions might help. Perhaps we can also have some Meta examples on "How to ask a question about your diet" – Ivo Flipse May 27 '11 at 20:03

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