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The idea of this question is to start to focus on proactive things that we, as a community, can do to get the site more polished and ready for the official launch this is hopefully coming. Many of these are tasks that will continue beyond the beta period, but it seems like it would be good to get into as good a shape as possible before then.

  • Update the FAQ At the moment, we have a fairly generic welcome page that details the basics of how to use an SE site. Should we have details on issues more specific to economics.SE (such as our policy on homework questions -- see below)? Is it a good idea to have a one-stop FAQ page, or should we have one general "how to use the SE" FAQ and another one dealing with the question of what is on topic at econ.SE? We should also think about common reasons why people's questions/answers get put on hold or down-voted and try to provide some guidance on resolving this.

  • Agree official guidelines on homework questions This issue comes up again and again (see, for example, here, here, here). My impression is that we have converged on something like a consensus around the approach that homework questions are allowed but must show effort and must not be too specific so as to be of no interest to future visitors. But if this is really the consensus then perhaps we should codify it somewhere.

  • Think about whether there are other areas where guidelines are needed One facet of this was briefly discussed here. But are there common problems people see coming up, and is there a useful way that we can construct a policy for dealing with them?

  • Update the comment templates Here are some template comments that can be used in response to questions that need improvement. But it would be better if they all pointed to some appropriate page (such as the FAQ) where people can find information about why their question is being put on hold/down voted and what they can do about it.

  • Compile a community wiki listing common newbie questions I'm not sure whether we have enough material to do this yet, but it might be a good idea to start to put together canonical questions (much as FooBar has started to do) that are likely to speak to a lot of newcomer's queries. Having identified such questions, we could (a) put a lot of effort into getting some really high-quality answers posted and up-voted, and (b) compile a list of where to find these basic questions and their answers.

  • Agree what the Econ.SE should look like Once SE sites get out of beta, they get a proper customised site design that reflects the subject matter of the site. What should the econ.SE site/logo look like? This was briefly discussed here, but the discussion didn't go very far.

  • Continue the work of organising our tags Including merging duplicates (and voting on proposals to do so), and deleting redundant tags. Also, if you visit our tag page you will see that each tag has a tag wiki with details on what the tag means and when it should be used. It would be great if the community could see that most of our tags have a wiki. Here are some guidelines on wiki authoring.


I am making this post into a community wiki. My suggestion is that anyone who has a task to contribute to the above list goes ahead and adds it into this post. "Answers" below can be used for suggestions on how any of the above issues should be handled (or why they should not be handled!)

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  • $\begingroup$ Are we remotely close to coming out of Beta? $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 24 '15 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamzy I have no inside information. My guess would be, alas, no. Some of the sites currently in beta have been in that state for four years! But this is endogenous: the more we work at building an active community around a refined platform, the closer we will be to that goal. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Jul 27 '15 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Does the FAQ simply live in the meta page? Is there a way to sticky it or something? $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 28 '15 at 2:47
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I agree with everything being said. I think Foobar trying to get some basic questions excellent answers is definitely worthwhile.

For me, the biggest issue we are having at the moment is that we are getting a lot of low quality questions. Too big a proportion of first time posters have their questions closed out straight away. Of that, a lot of them are asking high-school level questions which could be answered by themselves with a small amount of effort. I think this community is aiming at a much higher level than that.

An updated FAQ and improved guidelines can help make it clearer to new users what will and what won't get closed. I'd be happy to help on that.

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The new (2015) SE policy on graduation from Beta can be read here. The positive criterion is very simple, and it reads:

"When a site starts to consistently receive 10 questions/day, we’ll consider it for graduation."

For the last three months (May-June-July) we are fluctuating around 5 questions per day, which is good, but which also says that it is going to take a while (at least a few months if not more) to reach a state where there will be "10 questions per day, consistently". Essentially we are half the distance (and I hope that the other half does not follow growth's theory model of slowing convergence!).

But it is exactly at such a point, where the site is not a "few good men"-case anymore, where pro-active policies such as those proposed by the OP should be undertaken.

Concentrating on the FAQ issue, my proposal is: one-stop FAQ page, but with specific "what's off-topic / what's on-topic in economics.SE" put first. This is the logical way: first a new visitor needs to now what is on-topic here (and certainly what is not), and then, if he still wants to go on and ask, he needs to know how to ask.

And here is a proposed text on the matter: - I am posting it as a work-in-progress, and editing by any other member is of course part of the process:

Welcome to Economics.SE, the free, community-driven Questions and Answers site for economists, econometricians, students of economics, and anyone who wants to understand why and how economic activity makes the world go round.

Not all questions with some economic-financial content are on-topic here. A few guidelines to help you choose wisely and allocate your time-resources efficiently:

Personal finance (off-topic): if you have an issue with your loan, or pondering what down-payment to accept for your new car, or how much marketing expense you should incur for your new business venture, we won't be able to answer your question. True, your situation requires knowledge of certain aspects of the Economics discipline, but it is also true that any serious answer should take into account many data particular to your situation, which would turn it into professional consulting services -and such an acitvity is definitely off-topic here. You could try the SE site Personal Finance & Money.

Econometrics (on-topic): definitely. In case your question does not find an answer here, you could ask that it be migrated to the good people over at Cross-Validated SE site, that deal with all Statistics.

Financial Economics (on-topic, but): This is definitely part of Economics discipline, but there is also a dedicated SE site for Quantitative Finance. You should determine where your question has a greater chance of being answered usefully for you.

Accounting (not-really-on-topic): Don't take us wrong, we all respect the scientific discipline of Accounting, and we rely on Accounting for reliable data on what businesses actually do in this life. But Accounting is indeed a separate scientific discipline, and even though some members here may have actual experience and theoretical knowledge of the Principles of Accounting, we cannot really guarantee expert answers to your questions, as the SE motto goes. So please, spare us the embarrassment.

Corporate Finance/Business Economics (on-topic, in principle): Corporate Finance/Business Economics is usually either really simple Economics, or horribly complex applied micro-macro-economic-o-metrics (and then some). Fire away and ask though, and we will see what happens. It is expected that some Accounting concepts and tools may surface here and be needed, and we will do our best.

Software questions (on-topic): Questions related to software used in economics and econometrics, are on-topic here, but this does not mean that a very technical, programming-level question will find an answer.

Literature/books requests (on-topic): Economics is not "a few everyday rules of thumb". If you think that it is, sorry but with all due respect, you are off-topic here. If you don't, and seek to understand the complex economic interactions of our world through studying what the professional scholars have to say on the matter, go ahead and ask.

Queries for Data (on-topic): Theories should be tested against real-world data. So queries for Data sets and data in general are on-topic here. You can also try the Open Data SE site.

Homework/Self-study question (quasi-on-topic): always a hot issue in SE sites, and always difficult to commit to a very specific policy. You may see your such question getting just hints, or quick answers, or very long educational answers, or simply being closed as "off-topic" -if the members of this community feel that you want them to do your homework for you. To avoid that, you have at least to present in the question what part of the question you do understand, and where specifically lies your problem. And a friendly advice: don't try to conceal that your question belongs to this category -many active members here can spot a homework question from miles away. Elaborations on parts of textbooks that you don't understand fall in this category.

Too broad questions (off-topic): economic activity permeates so much almost all aspects of modern societies, that it is very easy to ask a very broad question, which would be literally unanswerable. We are dealing with a scientific discipline here, and science works by initially narrowing its focus in order to be able to go deep. Do the same -narrow the focus of your question. In social sciences, very rarely do we have truly "universal laws", and Economics is no different (of course, abstractions is not the same thing as "universal laws".)

Opinion-requests (off-topic): it is also very natural to want someone to evaluate, or to make a value-judgement on, something that preoccupies you: But questions like "Is communism better than capitalism? Is money a sin?" are off-topic here. (But, say, "how did the transition of the Eastern Europe economies from a centrally planned economy to a market economy fared in terms of per capita income?" is a perfectly on-topic question, although it would be even better if you could narrow your scope to, say, a specific country). Even apparently less politically/philosophically charged questions like "Is International Trade good?" (good for whom? Even if,say, it creates inequality, who says that inequality is "bad"? Why is it "bad?"), are off-topic here. Try to ask something that a member can answer using facts, studies, economic theory and reasoning -not moral/political/religious/philosophical values (which may unavoidably be present -we know our epistemology-, but that does not mean that we should give them center-stage. We won't.).

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  • $\begingroup$ excellent. Should there be something in there regarding the level we are aiming for? I'm not convinced that it is necessary, looks like these rules would filter most of those questions out. $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 28 '15 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the only main amendment I would suggest is, with accounting. It hasn't been discussed in too much detail in meta but i would say any questions dealing with principles of accounting are off-topic. From memory, these usually get closed. $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 28 '15 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamzy Thanks for the thumbs-up. I would vote against saying anything about "level" -it will be very difficult not to be misleading, and it is also... "politically charged" !(internally). I agree that Accounting, in the proper scientific meaning of the word, is not really on-topic here. I edited the proposed text on the matter, how does it look now? $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 28 '15 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ that seems perfect to me. I think this list will be really useful in getting better questions and improve the consistency of questions getting closed. $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 28 '15 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamzy I think I am done with it (except if any other suggested edits appear), but apart from that, I leave the matter to the upvote/downvote count, and to the judgement of our moderators. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 28 '15 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ The different classifications confuse me. For example, Econometrics and Financial Economics seem to be the same ("On-topic here, but there's a dedicated site to it which may deliver better answers"), but one of them is on-topic, and one of them is on-topic, but. Perhaps these brackets can be standardized? Also, do we have the markup to put the descriptions into spoiler tags or something, such that one can at the start scroll quickly through everything and then click one something if one wants the description? $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jul 28 '15 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @FooBar Cross-Validated is not a site dedicated to Econometrics, far from it. Indicatively, in CV out of 61,000 questions there are currently only 700 questions using the tag "econometrics" (and 235 of them are unanswered). So I don't think the two cases are adequately similar. In any case, any suggested edit? The second part of your comment goes beyond my technical knowledge here. But if it can be done, it would be very good. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 28 '15 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ I like this proposal, but my personal preference would be (1) for the text to be more formal/less chatty, and (2) for it to be shorter and more to the point. But I recognise that this is entirely subjective, so I won't make any heavy-handed edits until more people have chimed-in. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Jul 28 '15 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ Folding blocks of text is a feature that has been requested (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5199/…), but does not seem to have been implemented yet. But judicious use of the formatting tools we do have should help to increase readability. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Jul 28 '15 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous The command used to "hide" text in puzzle questions? :) $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 28 '15 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous I made it chatty because in my experience, people prefer to read chatty statements rather than "formal" ones. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 28 '15 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous I agree with "too long". If we can get spoiler tags, it doesnt matter too much, and might be nice to be extensive. At its current form, without spoiler tags, it is too long, and I would even prefer nested bulletins for readability. Are spoiler tags possible? :o $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jul 30 '15 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous What is that status of this proposal? I don't mind mine or Foobar's version, or some other, but I believe it would be good to include some version in the FAQ page. The final decision rests with the moderators. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Sep 7 '15 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @AlecosPapadopoulos I think this should be implemented in some form. My personal preference would be for FooBar's version. You are very welcome to make the necessary edits to the FAQ, which is a community wiki. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Sep 8 '15 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous Please review/edit the FAQ page. And please notify also the other moderators to have a look. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Sep 9 '15 at 18:47
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I took Alecos' text, reorganized the structure, and tried to shorten it. Happy if you change the words, it was quickly written. Also, one might invert the order (On-topic first).

Welcome to Economics.SE, the free, community-driven Questions and Answers site for economics. Not all questions with some economic-financial content are on-topic here. Here is a differentiation.

Off-topic

  • Personal finance: Personal matters of finance and investment are offtopic here. Have a go at Personal Finance & Money.
  • Accounting: Accounting is a separate discipline, and there is no StackExchange site dedicated to that matter yet. You could propose one.
  • Too broad questions: We are dealing with a scientific discipline here, and science works by initially narrowing its focus in order to be able to go deep. Do the same -narrow the focus of your question. In social sciences, very rarely do we have truly "universal laws", and Economics is no different.
  • Opinion-requests: it is also very natural to want someone to evaluate, or to make a value-judgement on, something that preoccupies you: But questions like "Is communism better than capitalism? Is money a sin?" are off-topic here.Try to ask something that a member can answer using facts, studies, economic theory and reasoning -not moral/political/religious/philosophical values

On-topic, but not perfectly suited

The following topics belong to economics and are welcome here. However, there may be a different StackExchange community with a more narrow focus, where you might get an answer of higher quality:

  • Financial Economics: There is also Quantitative Finance.
  • Corporate Finance/Business Economics: Corporate Finance/Business Economics is usually either really simple Economics, or horribly complex applied micro-macro-economic-o-metrics (and then some). Fire away and ask though, and we will see what happens.

On-Topic

  • Econometrics: Especially for theoretical questions, have a look at Cross-Validated.
  • Software questions: Questions related to software used in economics and econometrics, are on-topic here.
  • Literature/books requests
  • Queries for Data: Queries for Data sets and data in general are on-topic here. You can also try the Open Data SE site.
  • Homework/Self-study question: always a hot issue in SE sites, and always difficult to commit to a very specific policy. You may see your such question getting just hints, or quick answers, or very long educational answers, or simply being closed as "off-topic" -if the members of this community feel that you want them to do your homework for you. To avoid that, you have at least to present in the question what part of the question you do understand, and where specifically lies your problem.
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  • $\begingroup$ That's a good alternative approach. I only disagree with the placement of Econometrics - I would initially place it in the "on-topic" category, and let time decide on the matter. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Jul 30 '15 at 20:13

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