Many times, on many different SE sites, I see people complain about the Fastest Gun in the West problem. However, in private beta, we tend to see a completely different kind of problem. I don't yet have a name for it, but for now we'll call it the "Every Single Detail You Could Ever Want To Know About A Field All Tied Up In One Answer" problem, which could hint to the question being too broad.

This question asking What Are The Benefits Of Stretching Before Exercise and What Might Happen if One Doesn't? has an incredibly long answer.

Is it possible for an answer to be too long? Does this perhaps hint that the question is too basic or too broad?

Since the purpose of the private beta is to ask expert level questions, should questions like this be closed or deleted? Is it okay to leave a comment on the question to help the OP write better questions?

If you notice that you're writing an extremely long answer that might be providing all of the details of the entire field of Fitness and Nutrition, should you instead use your Private Beta close votes to close the question or should you let it be? Would you be doing the site a favor by closing the question? Are you hurting the site by playing along and providing an answer?

Do we want this site to be a place where experts will come or do we want it to die in beta, flooded with basic, academic questions and very detailed yet long, drawn out, unreadable answers?

I can see that Robert Cartaino posted a question Please Avoid Very Broad Questions During the Beta, yet there are still people posting broad, basic questions.

What can we do to stop this? Should we stop it? Does everyone on this site know that they have the power to close questions that are too broad? How can we educate everyone?

4 Answers 4


Robert has already closed some questions and pointed them to the post in meta. So I think in some cases if the question is so broad that either everyone knows it or it has been talked to death then having it here is just filler.


What are the most effective exercises for weight loss?

Main causes of failure sticking to a diet

Having examples of bad questions and having them closed provides a strong message to those coming to the site when it goes public that these types of questions shouldn't be asked here.

You are dealing with the problem early rather than being luke warm about it and then having a more drawn out debate at a later stage where you get people saying "but X hasn't been closed and it's just like my question Y" when both questions should be closed.


There's nothing wrong with long-winded answers to broad questions per se-- in fact, Ivo Flipse did a terrific job on this one. While the general advice says to avoid them, I think we should make exceptions for questions that have already quality and informative answers instead of a post in the lines of "read about the topic on Wikipedia/google it". Such broad questions are bound to be asked eventually (and they are genuinely useful), so if they have already good informative answers -- all the better.

For broad questions yet unanswered -- vote to close yearly until somebody gets the chance to answer (people have less incentive to close questions they have written answers to, or plan to answer). Even a single close vote (which is visible to all during the private beta) can serve as a deterrent to others planning to answer the question.

As for what it can be done -- the best advice is probably "lead by example". You can ask a question you know the answer of, and let the community step in to post some solutions before you do that yourself. This is acceptable practice as per Stack Exchange guidelines.

  • I tend to disagree with the "nothing is wrong with them" statement. I just don't think the majority of people are going to read the answers if they span 3 pages. My answers are long, but that's probably twice as long as my longest answer on all the SE sites. I feel the answer should have depth, but eventually you should use resources to a> back up your answer, and b> encourage the OP to read more. What do you think?
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 14:54
  • @jmort253: I see where you're coming from, and although I like long informative answers (and write such myself, when I can), I agree that excessively long posts should be discouraged. But to close the question and effectively scrap the effort.. just feels wrong. Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 15:03
  • Just to be clear @Ivo did do a fantastic job. He was actually the one that pointed out that the length of his answer could allude to the question being too broad. I thought that point was worth exploring. I do question how many people would read it. I was thinking that someone doing research on Google might read it, if they happen to land on that page. I guess if I wanted the publicist badge, Ivo's answer would be a great candidate for that. Perhaps the answer is to think about it from an outsider perspective.
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 4:33

This is still the private beta. They had to consume 1 commitment to get into the private beta, and to get that commitment back, they have to ask or answer 7-9 questions. That means that some folks may ask dumb questions. If you think the questions are dumb, or off-topic, vote to close them.

  • You are assuming people can be bothered to sign up to a site in private beta just to get their commitment back. They can do that at any time in the 6 months it takes to put a site into beta with much less effort.
    – going
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 1:23
  • 1
    The purpose of meta is to discuss these issues and define the scope of the site. Esp. during the private beta. Your answer to close everything doesn't help the discussion.
    – going
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 1:24

To improve the questions ask the person posting it to make it more clear or to break the question up. Questions are only going to come from people not familiar with the topic and therefore cannot know that the question is broad or contains several separate questions. The most interesting questions do not have a simple answer which makes them interesting.

Ranting in its different forms makes questions and answers long. For example let me rant while making a few supporting points.

Your question here is long. All the answers here are long. To top it off the answer in each posted answer is to close questions which is counter productive to the very existence of site. Question closure does not include feedback from the author even though it can result in them being banned from asking questions. I think alot of people like to close questions because they cant google an answer for it, but if google answers the question then why have this site? This site wont grow by closing posts.

Yes alot of my questions are too broad. Some not well thought out then they were closed before I could edit them. So I guess Im speaking up for (as part of) the "stupid" crowd.

  • "Questions are only going to come from people not familiar with the topic" I really don't agree with that. I like to think I know a lot about fitness and I ask fitness questions. I try to ask specific and targeted questions.
    – Eric
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 5:07
  • @EricKaufman Yeah I shouldn't say "only" but the point is that the person asking the question doesn't know the answer, so its not necessarily them being lazy or stupid. Why not work to improve instead of throwing away work?
    – Jason
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 1:43

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