A recent question from a brand-spanking-new member got closed for being 'not constructive'. At the time of closing, it was because he violated a specific edict in the FAQ: that one must not ask which art would be better to study. This part of the FAQ should be changed to allow for quality questions of that sort.
While his original question was very rough and needed some work to keep it on-topic, the idea that it should be closed simply because he wanted to compare the schools available to him is without merit. Closing such questions immediately requires rejecting one of the most basic and productive forms of question:
- "these are my preferences"
- "these are my options"
- "these are the restrictions I face"
- "what's a good choice for me?"
Such a question is constructive and on-topic, yet technically banned because of a too-broad ban on all questions that compare styles. It is also stunningly similar to Jeff Atwood's description of a good-subjective, good-"localized", good-"shopping" question:
[Shopping questions are explicitly off-topic.] However, there is a way to ask these questions that avoids the inherent problems with shopping recommendations. For example, let’s say you wanted...to buy a point-and-shoot camera that takes good low light photos. [Dave here: notice how easily that translates to "to train in a martial art that's available to me, is good for self-defense and keeping fit, and minimizes the risk of concussion"?]
It’s about “how can I make a better decision” vs “what did you decide”.
Paraphrased more generally — to broaden it to all kinds of [recommendation] questions — what I want to see is this:
Don’t just recommend X. Explain why you recommend X. That is:
- share your personal experiences using X
- what characteristics of X make it better than the alternatives?
- what other things like X have you tried?
- what is X best at? What is X worst at?
We definitely got a solid crop of answers that meet most of these criteria. People wrote about their experiences, mentioned characteristics of the options that would make one better or worse than the others, suggested things to look for while trying out class, and discussed things that some styles are often good or bad at. In short, the answers NAILED the localized-but-still-valid-Stack-Exchange question contest.
Good versions of these questions are detailed, in order to meet the first guidelines of good-subjective/bad-subjective:
Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.
If the OP (in this question or in the future) hadn't provided copious detail, it would probably fail these tests. But here and elsewhere we see people providing that kind of necessary detail, and the Close hammer being dropped anyway.
Style comparison should be totally kosher if done in accordance with the preceding principles and caveats. It's not "too localized", because many people are going to have similar situations and will benefit from seeing the reasoning behind various answers. It's not "not constructive", because it is specific and immediately helpful to that person as well as future visitors.
To crib from slugster: The rules and guidelines of this site don't mean that a question like "What's the best martial art for xyz reason?" shouldn't be asked, they simply mean that question shouldn't be asked here unless it is very tightly constrained to avoid 20 different answers all equally correct in their own way. Therefore, we should modify the FAQ as follows:
- "Recommendations for schools or teachers in area X (too localized)"
- "What martial arts system is "best" or if you should practice art A instead of art B (not constructive)"
Recommended (and please recommend your own):
- "Blanket recommendations for schools or teachers in area X (too localized)"
- "What martial arts system is "best" or if art A is better than art B (not constructive)"
This revised language would maintain a ban on the low-quality, unproductive questions it was aimed at. It would also allow for the very reasonable questions that require comparing styles in specific and productive ways.