First off, just to say I really like the stackexchange platform in general. I think it nailed a lot of the keys to get right to make community-based knowledge platform work well. Like many here (I think?), I first started using SO (and to a lesser extend other IT-related ones for linux etc...).

I think we are getting to an interesting point where the platform is branching off in many different directions & topic - this is great. However, I am thinking that there may be adaptations needed for different topics, especially for outdoors. The strong influence of IT-related exchanges is good in a lot of ways, but there is also a risk to overdo it.

My reflection was kicked off with a topic here. I wrote a question which was put on hold as being too broad/containing more than 1 question. While writing it, I actually was somewhat thinking it might be the case. You can find the topic in question at the end of this topic.

I would never have asked an "equivalent" question on SO. I completely understand the culture behind SO and I strongly believe that in IT & coding it is completely justified. However, you can isolate bits & piece of codes and narrow it down to whatever doesn't work. You can measure & compare performance of difference approaches. It is not necessarily as easy to isolate bits & pieces of a topic on outdoors (and other matters). For example, is a question like How to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures, not too broad? If we "translate" that into a SO question, what would that look like? "How to structure a backend for online webform?" Well that would be closed as too broad on SO, would it not? And even if you break it down into different chunks/aspect for that topic, would it not be closed as containing more than 1 question? Therefore I would argue that there is already some level of aknowledgment that the nature of the discussion is different. But I feel that this may not be conscious to all and hence there is some level of arbitrariness that could be lessened. (I don't think that question is too broad - I am arguing for more flexibility on this).

Similarly, I am not sure that "primarly opinion-based" has quite the same meaning in a discussion about how to most efficiently pack for a month-long autonomous trip than it does for "Performance of arrays vs collections in Excel-VBA". I would argue that MOST discussions about outdoors are opinion-based. It's more difficult to get hard facts about many of these topics and choices are generally more based on personnal preferences than they are in programming.

I think on SO, initially, the reason for this to be was partly that's there's already a lot of forums that ask questions like "How do I do X or Y" and provide no attempts at anything. The web doesn't need more of that. But I think for outdoors, we can avoid falling into that, while at the same time aknowledging a different nature for our topics which in some cases require a different approach, favor exchange of valuable knowledge and abilities that goes beyond comparing the rated number of strikes of X flint & steel or caloric values or quinoa vs couscous.

So, what do we do from here? Well for a start, I think it initiating the discussion on this here is a good start. I think that out Help abut questiont to asks or not to ask & how to answer are way too broad. That's basically the default settings but, default settings which were drafted for coding-related exchanges. We're far from that and I think our guidelines needs to be adapted to show this. I think our on-topic page is less than helpful, for a start. What do we consider broad or not also isn't very specific. What is considered opinion-based for outdoors also isn't very well elaborated.

Link - but please note the point of this intervention isn't this topic precisely but the wider question presented above. I present the link in an effort to provide concrete example on which basis we can discuss and hopefully set boundaries.

EDIT: I think this topic related to that original question illustrate a certain need for us as a community for push our thinking and approach to this meta issue. The discussion related to that closure/edit were contentious, which shows a variety of opinions and lack of clarity, which is my point.

  • I'm okay with the downvote, but I think it would be constructive to comment as to why you think it's not a good idea/relevent?
    – Francky_V
    Dec 9, 2016 at 20:14
  • 4
    Francky - generally it's not useful to ask for explanation of downvotes. On meta, they usually indicate disagreement, but people either will comment or not. Comments are not mandatory. As it is, I posted my downvote then wrote my answer.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Dec 9, 2016 at 20:18
  • I've posted an answer to explain my downvote.
    – OddDeer
    Dec 13, 2016 at 10:15
  • 1
    @RoryAlsop that's probably why on SO when you downvote they systematically add "Please consider adding a comment if you think this question can be improved".
    – Francky_V
    Dec 18, 2016 at 20:03

4 Answers 4


I think you are right to start a discussion, but I'm not convinced of your points at all, I'm afraid.

Opinion based is actually very straightforward - your example of packing for a trip has many different preferred, "right" answer.

Rather than a long essay like your post here, which has elements people may support buy a lot of content that has been discussed and settled on already, why not try individual suggestions on particular aspects of the site scope.


You are in the common natural science vs humanities dilemma. Whereas natural science speaks in the language of math, the humanities just speak in English (or whatever). The problem here is, that it doesn't provide an unbreakable truth. For example 1 + 1 = 2 vs "Is Trump a good choice for president?".

However, the humanities are based on (just like everything known in the universe) natural scientific facts. So, whereas the example "Is Trump a good president?" failed, it can be a valid question to ask "Is there evidence that Trump kills kittens?".

To make things more clear we should move to an outdoorsy topic. What we often have here is something like: "Is this a good sleeping bag [replace with any kind of equipment]?" This question isn't appropriated because there is no truth on this one. One person can love this sleeping bag and the other simply not. So such questions are likely to get closed or deleted on TGO. What you can do however is to ask "What to look for in a good sleeping bag (...)?" Okay, okay, this needs some clarification since you may still don't understand why there suddenly is a truth for this question. This question leaves no room for opinion. It just asks for an unbreakable fact-list of potential properties of a sleeping bag. For example a hunter might have prioritize camouflage properties but a hiker might won't really care whether it's camouflaged or not. Still, if the hiker answers here, he has to say something like "You might consider camouflage if you go for a hunt." He can't just answer "I like to hike and that's why you can pick any color you want."

Actually I have a good real world example here:

How to distinguish "bad shooting" from "bad spine"?

The question is how to determine whether the archer just shot bad or his arrows are not ideal for his particular bow. The OP mentions a method called "bare shaft tuning".

This answer is what I want to talk about:


The author states that he doesn't like the bare-shaft method and that's why you should never be in the dilemma of choosing between bad shooting or bad arrows. That's exactly the thing with the hiker. The author can't just say: "I don't like bare-shaft tuning. Don't use it." That's not an answer on the question (remember: how to distinguish bad shooting from bad arrow).

This answer would be valid on a question like "Is bare-shaft tuning good?" But as you might have already guessed, this question wouldn't be appropriated since it's the "Is this sleeping bag good?"-thing.

So, to come to an end: the Q&A-concept of SE is perfectly fine for humanities. You just have to rethink your question and split it up.


I would argue that MOST discussions about outdoors are opinion-based. It's more difficult to get hard facts about many of these topics and choices are generally more based on personal preferences than they are in programming.

As it is now, the opinions are expert opinions and the experts on the site will quickly shoot down an answer, or spring to answer a question, that is misguided. One recent example of the users springing into action is Mountaineering with a 6-year-old kid in winter.

Quoting articles and citing sources to answer this question would have been less informative and convincing than the answers generated by at least 100 person-years of experience.

As the user base grows, this may not remain true, and we may get more off-the-wall questions and stupid answers than the expert users can monitor. Thus, I think your question is something to keep in mind but not critical now.


I would argue that MOST discussions about outdoors are opinion-based. It's more difficult to get hard facts about many of these topics and choices are generally more based on personnal preferences than they are in programming.

I agree if you're talking about gear, and also object to downvotes because of such "opinions" not being valid or useful to sought after "answers". There is enormous value in hearing about others' qualitative evaluations regarding gear (and technique, for that matter) especially from experienced members. Otherwise, the OP should just google their question...which easily qualifies at least half the questions asked in the Outdoor Community.

For this reason, I upvoted your question.

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