Sparked off by https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/1331/roundup-of-nobel-prize-predictions-for-2012

Should "soft" questions, like the one linked to above, be on-topic for us? By a soft question, I mean something relevant to the topic but not necessarily conceptual, and usually not having a single definitive answer{*}

These questions are many times interesting, though allowing these may open the floodgates to many NC questions.

So, what does the community feel?

For reference, see the tag on Physics and Math

*This doesn't necessarily mean that it's Not Constructive, as long as the number of possible answers is still pretty small, it's fine.


The problem isn't "not having a single definitive answer" or it even being a "soft question." The question itself is probably pretty intriguing where a group of colleagues sitting around a table would likely enjoy this type of discussion. But these questions tend to be little more than conversation starters that will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, and some pretty extended discussions. That type of activity is not really a good fit for this type of Q&A.

Stack Exchange is designed to create an authoritative collection of answers to actual questions about Chemistry. Answers are generally expected to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise. As folks answer these questions, the information is vetted and improved and the best answers rise to the top.

That's the entire purpose of having a Stack Exchange site.

Stack Exchange is probably more like Wikipedia in that aspect than a random discussion forum. I know it's difficult to resist getting into debates and water-cooler conversations when you congregate around folks with interests the same as yours. Good, canonical Q&A is hard. But that's why we have chat rooms — to blow off some steam and get it all out of your system when the hard work of Q&A is done. The question cited above and those like it are better suited for one of the many discussion forums on the Internet… or our chat rooms right here.


This specific question is also "too localized", it pretty much becomes irrelevant tomorrow when the winners of the chemistry Nobel prize are announced.

In general, I'm not a fan of allowing this kind of soft questions on SE sites, it is not what the Q&A platform is good at. Voting ends up as a popularity contest, instead of experts voting on the correctness and usefulness of a post. These soft questions tend to attract a lot of answers, as they ask for opinions rather than answers, and pretty much everyone has an opinion.

I think an SE site benefits from a strong focus on the actual topic, and this kind of question distracts from the purpose of the site. New sites like this one would certainly benefit from a bit more community building, and chat doesn't seem to work well in this regard, but I still think the harm outweighs the benefits here.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .