So I'm a bit torn. I've long supported the idea that we should be asking expert questions, but I'm not an expert in this area and can't support that mission much in terms of asking questions. I'm still hesitant to ask my own newbie questions because a lot of them are answered via google, which is something that is frowned on for many stack exchange sites.

And yet the "ideal" for a Stack Exchange site is for 90% of its traffic to come from google - so the google fodder questions are exactly what we should be asking, if we want people to come here via google.

So I've added a question which I think is grey area at best:

Homebrew 20M SSB receiver design?

And I wanted to discuss the general theory of how to build the site up, drag more google users here, and what balance we should attempt to strike between expert questions and LMGTFY fodder.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the question you linked to falls a little too close to "recommend a resource", but there's nothing wrong with breaking that question into answerable chunks: "What are the main parts of an SSB receiver and how do they interact?" "How can I create a stable VFO for the 20m band?" "How do I select components for receive RF, IF, and AF filters for a 20m SSB receiver?" $\endgroup$
    – Dan KD2EE
    Nov 22, 2013 at 21:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @DanKD2EE that the linked question as posted comes awfully close to "recommend an off-site resource", which we don't want. There are numerous subquestions that would be on-topic for the site, however; Dan named a few. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 23, 2013 at 9:25

3 Answers 3


My initial impression would be that there's nothing wrong with most Google questions, because that type of question can always benefit from an excellent and authoritative answer - a literature review if you would. A question would be good for this site if either 1) the current top search results give the answer without explanation (in which case maybe ask "explain why", turning it into more of an "expert" question) or 2) the top Google results are conflicting (in which case the question should link to the conflicting sources so that an answerer knows that they must refute the incorrect answer).

Consider that there is a difference between an "expert question", which must be about something that only an expert would know, and an "expert answer", which could be an answer to an expert question, or could just be a clear, well-researched answer to a question that has plenty of Google answers, but no Google explanations.

The only bad Google questions are probably those for which there is no explanation possible. Either the answer is obvious or can be found in very common references (what frequencies does the 70cm band cover) or the answer can be easily found and cannot be explained (Is ham encryption legal in the US? No. Why? Because it isn't.) There was a blog post sort of about this, especially the guidelines near the end of the article. Many of the best questions are those which have a little subjectivity. These questions have an answer, but require some explanation as to how to arrive at that answer. (The followup to that post is pretty interesting too.)

One note on the question you linked - it's not really clear which side of the spectrum that falls on in terms of scope. The way it's worded, it's a really small question - please find me a resource that answers this question. However, the subject matter is so broad that it could probably be split into many smaller on-topic questions.

So, perhaps in summary, while questions should have at least some of these qualities:

  • expert-level subject matter
  • a single factual answer
  • which can be justified with references and data
  • which can be explained such that the questioner can arrive at the answer themselves
  • which cannot be found by typing the question into a search engine

It isn't necessary that all questions have all these qualities all at once.

To follow up on the example question you provided, consider breaking that question down, and consider the question "How do I select components for receive RF, IF, and AF filters for a 20m SSB receiver?". You can certainly find an answer to this question on Google, but the question asks for much more. By taking your very broad question which could be answered by a single link to a single schematic and breaking it up, this question could be answered by an expert-level explanation of choosing RLC values, active vs passive filters, crystal vs RLC filters, and even carbon film vs wire wound resistors and electrolytic vs ceramic vs tantalum capacitors.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm just going to second Dan's answer, because I think it sums things up well. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Nov 23, 2013 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ Ditto. There is a big difference between "for experts only" and "expert level", IMO; sort of like how Server Fault aspires to professional sysadmins, but other questions are welcome too if they are the kind of questions such an individual would face in their professional endaevour. (I'm not a system administrator by profession, but still have a handful of upvoted questions and several upvoted answers there.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 23, 2013 at 9:21

From the stackoverflow blog, Question [Closed]… and it’s probably best that way:

When Joel & Jeff first sat around the campfire and dreamed up Stack Overflow, they did so with an insight in mind: They weren’t going to just create a forum where a user can receive an answer. SO (and later, SE) would be a platform to encourage intelligent, invested answers deserving of links across the Internet and useful for generations to come.

Too local? Take it to Yelp. Too easy? Take it to Google. Too subjective? Take it to Quora. Too fun? Take it to Facebook.

Note in particular, the objective wasn't to create a forum where people can ask really dumb questions that get asked constantly so that SE can get a lot of traffic from Google. Rather, it was to get a lot of traffic from Google for things which weren't already answerable there.

Sure, there are a lot of stupid questions one can ask Google, and the first result is SE. Usually those questions are closed. For example, Google "ruby read file" and you get How can I read a file with Ruby? [closed]. Sure, it has about 60000 views. Does it make the internet a better place? No. The real answer I want (even if I don't know it), the relevant API documentation, is the sixth result.

Besides polluting the internet, SE sites that are all Google fodder are no fun. If I wanted to read Google fodder all day, I'm sure there's some newfangled web 2.0 thing that will notify me of all the new crap Google turns up for any given phrase. What does asking easily Googled questions on SE accomplish?

  1. more advertising revenue for Joel & Jeff
  2. reputation injections for crackoverflow junkies

As great as it is that some people make money from this site, I really don't care. And if the highlight of your day is answering a really dumb question so you can get a lot of reputation, get a life. I'd much rather spend my time reading, asking, and answering intelligent questions that I haven't heard 1000 times before.


Just to add a little different perspective, i'm a long-time StackOverflow (and StackExchange network) user, who is interested in learning more about amateur radio. I'm not licensed but would like to be. Bought a Baofeng. So, naturally, i come to ham.stackexchange.com looking for beginner-level info in a familiar format. Looking at the available questions, it's pretty frustrating to see:

  • Light traffic, few questions - This indicates to me that it's going to die if something doesn't change.
  • Only intermediate-to-advanced questions - I understand only a few of these and find them valuable for future reference, but they're not immediately useful to me.
  • Many many closed questions - just on the face of this, it makes me think there's an overly aggressive or closed attitude at work here. Granted, this may not be true, but lots of closed questions is not very welcoming. I came to meta to figure out why you didn't seem to want many questions, and found the stats on questions per day (1.9 at the moment i think) and this question about getting good questions.
  • You need more users - Your question count will suffer without either a lot more advanced users or a somewhat looser question question filter. If you opened things up to simpler, more beginner questions, your potential user base might grow (at least by one). The downside is you'd have to suffer more fools and dabblers. A FAQ could help with that.
  • No obvious FAQ - Obviously i'm too basic for this community as is, so i look around for a FAQ to guide me. Don't see one. But then you don't want basic questions, so there can't be many "frequently asked."

So a FAQ, organized by skill level or type of user: starting out, first steps, first transmissions, first radios, "How to get licensed," "what's a repeater?"... up to intermediate and advanced questions. You know, if you want to keep the question pool clean, answer some low-hanging fruit and guide us newbies to more useful areas of inquiry.

I hope this doesn't sound confrontational or pouty; i'd like to see you succeed here. I didn't come here from Google or Bing, i meant to come here. But i do know this, when i'm looking for basic resources or an introduction to, say, the C# programming language, i'll wander around StackOverflow and find everything i need. Here, all i see is that i need to go elsewhere.

Anyway, just some thoughts from an interested observer.


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