# Experts: how do you view these kinds of questions?

For this site to succeed, we need enough "experts" (meaning, for example, graduate students, academic economists, or professional economists) around to provide high quality answers.

I am interested to hear from experts about their views of various types of question we get on the site. What kind of questions do you most like answering? How positively do you feel that various types of question contribute to the vitality of the site.

Some "types" of question might be:

1. Technical, specific graduate-level questions (e.g. How to solve a variation of Merton's optimal portfolio problem?)
2. Conceptual questions about basic (i.e. undergraduate) academic economics (e.g. Why does Slutsky compensation "overcompensate" the consumer?)
3. Homework-style undergrad-level questions with effort shown.
4. Laymen asking economists to explain stuff (e.g. Why do celebrities get high wages? or How does Black Friday work?)
5. Reference requests (e.g. Is there a folk theorem for repeated games on networks?)
6. Requests to use economics to answer practical/"how-to" questions (e.g. Is a universal basic income possible in the United States? or Best way to analyze return rate data)
• I am a little unsure about the best format in which to answer this question. Perhaps one type per answer so up and downvotes are clear? And then maybe you could give the six types you listed yourself as six answers. – Giskard Sep 16 '16 at 6:29
• It might be more useful for people to talk about all 6 points, and then we can upvote whatever set of ideas we approve of the most or second most, a la approval voting mechanism. – Kitsune Cavalry Sep 16 '16 at 17:36
• @KitsuneCavalry What benefit is there in lumping the question types into sets? It makes voting signals less clear unless all $2^6$ types of answers are given. – Giskard Sep 17 '16 at 10:18
• $2^6$ if you assume complete preferences. :P So then should I write out 6 separate answers for this question? I'd think a portfolio is fine, and then we can use the comments to discuss the nuances of each, but idk. – Kitsune Cavalry Sep 17 '16 at 16:23
• To get things moving, I have decided to post community wiki answers comprising a "yes" and a "no" for each of the six categories. That should allow plenty of flexibility in voting. For each answer, i provided some bullet point rationales. Feel free to edit/add if you have your own rationales to the list. Also, if you don;t think the 6 categories are exhaustive then feel free to add new ones. – Ubiquitous Sep 17 '16 at 16:40

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer technical, specific, graduate-level questions on this site.

• This site should be a primary destination for drawing on the kind of high-level expertise needed to answer such questions.
• I find writing answers to such questions to be a stimulating challenge that helps me develop my own skills.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer technical, specific, graduate-level questions on this site.

• If these questions are not closely related to my own research/work then I can't answer them and find them less interesting.
• Answering graduate-level questions is too time consuming, so I'd prefer they weren't on the site.
• etc.

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer reference request questions on this site.

• These questions are easy to answer if I happen to know a relevant reference.
• Helping active researchers to find relevant papers should be a core function of a site for expert economists.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer reference request questions on this site.

• The answers to these questions are often too brief to be interesting.
• There are often too many possible answers to such questions.
• Researchers should be capable of finding references themselves.
• These questions are usually not interesting because they ask for basic textbook references rather than papers from the research frontier.
• etc.

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer conceptual questions about basic (i.e. undergraduate) academic economics on this site.

• Answering homework is tedious, but helping those learning economics to develop an intuition for its fundamental principles is a pleasure.
• Answering these kinds of questions helps me to get the basic intuition straight or develop a pedagogy for teaching basic economics.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer conceptual questions about basic (i.e. undergraduate) academic economics on this site.

• These questions are too basic. This should be a site for experts who already understand the basic building blocks of economics.
• Since I already understand these basic concepts very well, I find writing answers too tedious.
• etc.

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer questions in which laymen ask economists to explain phenomena they observe (such as why celebrities are paid so much).

• Putting economics to work to explain such phenomena is an interesting challenge or good practice for doing research.
• This helps me to get to ideas for work or to spot limitations economics' ability to explain phenomena.
• Reading the answers to these questions helps me to learn about bits of economics I wouldn't otherwise have encountered.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer questions in which laymen ask economists to explain phenomena they observe (such as why celebrities are paid so much).

• Such questions are often poorly framed and do not lend themselves to the kind of rigorous answers that should be on this site.
• The answer is often obvious to economists and therefore does not belong on a site aimed at experts.
• etc.
• Poorly framed questions can be fixed easier than trying to do a lot of MathJax. Either you can prod the asker to narrow scope or edit yourself to something more relevant. – Kitsune Cavalry Sep 20 '16 at 7:23

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer homework style questions on this site (provided effort is showin in accordance with site policy).

• If a student has put in some effort and needs a few pointers then I don't mind helping.
• A key role for this site should be to support the education of economists in training, and answering homework questions supports this objective.
• Answering such questions gives me ideas for teaching or keeps my basic economics skills from getting rusty.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer homework style questions on this site (even if effort is shown in accordance with current site policy). By extension, I think that all homework questions should be banned from the site.

• These questions are too basic. This should be a site for experts who already understand the basic building blocks of economics.
• The danger of this being used to help students cheat is too high.
• Answering such questions is likely to undermine a students' education.
• Since I already understand these basic concepts very well, I find writing answers too tedious.
• etc.
• I personally give answers that try not to reveal the whole solution, and merely demonstrate the setup (though perhaps I still give away too much :P). I like our current policy on hw. – Kitsune Cavalry Sep 20 '16 at 7:25
• I find that these questions are frequently not about economics but elementary math or abstract concepts. E.g. there is a homework question with a comment by the OP "does tax of t = 2 means that the tax is 2 dollar?" While the words of the sentence belong in economics the tought process involved does not. – Giskard Sep 22 '16 at 9:22

Vote up if you agree with the following: I like to see/answer requests to use economics to answer practical/"how-to" questions on this site.

• Economics should be a useful tool to practitioners, so my job as a professional economist is to answer such questions.
• I like the challenge of figuring out how to use ideas from economics to address real world problems.
• etc.

Vote down if you agree with the following: I do not like to see/answer requests to use economics to answer practical/"how-to" questions on this site.

• This site should primarily be for academic economics. Practical applications belong elsewhere.
• It is usually difficult to satisfactorily address these questions within the scope of a Stack Exchange answer.
• The people asking these questions usually have unrealistic expectations about what economics can do for practitioners, or misunderstand the scope of economics.
• etc.