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FAQ: Must all questions be notable?

I know there have been a bunch of Meta discussions about whether answers to questions need to be referenced, and how good the references need to be, but there doesn't seem to have been as much discussion about how notable the questions have to be. The best Meta thread I found on it was this one.

Notable quote from Jeff:

The "just one thing" here is that someone must be able to point to a lot of evidence that people believe this, or that this claim is actively promoted. The idle daydreaming and "is it really true that.." has to be stopped.

I suppose I can understand wanting to avoid having totally random questions asked on this site, but I wonder whether the current threshold of notability about a claim has been set too high. It seems to me that StackExchange sites do best if they have lots of questions and lots of answers - helps keep the community active. There don't seem to be too many questions swamping the site right now, so why not allow even a relatively rarely-believed claim to be asked as a valid question? Never know, it might help some people out.

I asked this, and got downvoted for not having a reference. I later referenced Yahoo! Answers, but this was apparently not notable enough to make my question valid. I have also anecdotally heard this claim several times in my life. What would make my question valid? A link to a semi-famous celebrity posting the claim on Twitter? Their blog? Several blogs?

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    I think this is a question that could be beaten into shape as an FAQ question, but the accepted answer by the OP isn't the highest voted answer from our StackExchange Overlord. I'd also like to see the definition of notability (which is in a few different forms, hidden around meta) put in the official form and inserted into Jeff's reply.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 17:13
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    This does seem to be a case where the OP was simply fishing for a specific response. The accepted answer doesn't just set the bar low, it drops it on the floor. Any and every question is on topic if it begins with "is it true that..." To have accepted that as the answer (even if Jeff's wasn't all that spectacular) just a few hours after it was posted, without any additional debate, with a negative score, shows disingenuousness. If you're not happy with Jeff's answer, there's no need to accept that one either - but the one that is accepted definitely shouldn't have been.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


I believe that, being a skeptics site for the people, not for top-notch scientists, everyone should be allowed to have an inquiring mind and a skeptical attitude and manifest it in here through a question. Restricting this based on how notable a claim one makes will no doubt discourage people from asking obscure, undiscovered, or too localized things that may prove quite valuable for the site, as they would gather people that know more about the topic than most of us.

Questions with no context demand answers that supply different contexts with their different particularities. I believe that a passionate skeptic is a curious fellow, who wouldn't mind doing some research of his own, not relying on the OP to have done this. Absurd claims would quickly turn out no results upon trying to research them, so there is no real danger here of wasting vast amounts of time for nothing.

Besides that, what's the difference if I claim some absurd theory and ask about it here, or I find someone else on the internet that makes some absurd statements, promotes them heavily and I reference my question with a copious amount of links? The nature of the claim is the same: bulls*it will remain bulls*it, no matter how referenced or notable it is, good, interesting facts with curious outcomes will still be interesting to research and discuss, even when not referenced. The rest, is just the digital equivalent of bureaucracy.

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    I don't like your answer, but I fear, you're mostly right. Most questions here are about silly believes, shared by masses, and a smaller amount is about silly believes, shared by nearly nobody. Critical thinking isn't welcome, but of course, you can only debunk silly questions with citations, if the believe is popular enough to raise the interest of some scientists. Then there are two forces, pulling in different directions: the attempt to ask popular questions to attract the masses and to get out of beta, and the idea of providing high quality q & a. Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 22:32

I think this site has too many questions, and specifically too many low-quality and marginally on-topic questions at the moment. So I support being a little stricter on what we allow.


per this, the site gets 10 questions per day. I'd settle for 7 good questions that support scientific skepticism and not idle speculation about irrelevancies...

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    OK, but we still haven't well-defined how notable a claim must be for it to be on topic. It's not in the FAQ, so people could be forgiven for asking something that isn't considered notable enough.
    – Jez
    Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 7:46
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    As an occasional user, this will make Skeptics.SE--which is an amazingly valuable resource--even more unapproachable than it is at present. Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 16:43
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    @neil really? Was Marilyn Monroe a Dude is worthy of being asked here? I think not. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 2:20
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    @Jeff- No offense meant, but you're using an extreme case to prove your point. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 4:29
  • @neil really? I see 3-4 bad questions on this site every day. I barely have to look at all, e.g. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/3567/… -- by what criteria is "I heard someone say oranges are bad!" allowable? Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 6:14
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    I never said questions didn't need to be improved. I simply don't think this is the way to do it. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 6:43
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    @neil so having a few more rules about questions -- such as, you must be able to provide credible evidence that a reasonable number of people believe this claim you are "skepticizing" -- is not the way to do it? Can't say I agree with you here at all. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 6:50
  • At least seven other people agree with you, judging by the vote count! Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 6:53
  • In a related question, I propose a notability rule that might satisfy @Jez. meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/864/…
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 16:21

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