This particular SE site is putting along but doesn't look like picking up the kind of traffic it would need to graduate from beta any time soon. One problem with fitting 'sports' into the SE model is that as far as the observers of sport go, as opposed to participants, the kind of questions you really want to ask/answer/discuss would be considered either off topic or too subjective. Questions about participating in sport are in the minority at the moment and not the topic of this question.

Take for instance my main topic of interest here, cricket. If you look at the last dozen or two cricket questions asked, each question taken on it's own is reasonable, but taken as a whole are a pretty bland and uninteresting collection, mainly covering either very simple well known rules or obscure edges cases in the rules. If a cricket fan comes to this site somehow via a search engine and pokes around at the questions, they are unlikely to be particularly motivated to become engaged with the site. Note that this is true more or less for many of the other questions. Football and American Football seems to be somewhat stronger, but still the kind of interesting questions people love discussing in the pub just aren't here, and nor could they given the SE Q&A model.

The main issue is subjectivity. Questions about sport that are entirely objective are typically about either the rules or some statistic that could be relatively easily found on some standard site or via search engines. In a lot of cases they just aren't that interesting to a sports fan.

There is precedent at some other SE sites to have tag categories like 'soft question' to indicate a question somewhat outside the core intent of the sites scope. Would something like that work here, some kind of tag to indicate the question is somewhat subjective and up for discussion, rather than being on the face of it definitively answerable?

There is a slippery slope here, SE is not a forum and by relaxing standards the boundaries become much less defined and puts more load on mods and high rep users to ensure consistent standards are applied to closing questions.

To give an example, the following is an example question (about cricket) that I think would on current standards would rightly be closed. However, I think it is an example of a case where good and interesting answers might be generated with some limited but not open ended subjectivity. What do people think?

Sample question:

Why is Peter Siddle considered to be a Test Match specialist?

Peter Siddle is currently considered to be the leader of the bowling attack in Test matches for Australia, however is never considered for any limited overs cricket. Is this entirely due to the selectors wanting to keep him fit and rested for Test matches, or is there something about his bowling style that makes him unsuitable for white ball cricket, even though he is considered the leading red ball bowler? In an ideal world where we could ignore the needs for player rest and rotation, would Siddle have a place in Australia's best ODI or T20 team?

So, what does the community think? This may not be the best question as a sample, as there is also a strong time localisation to it. On the other hand, subjective questions about relative player or team abilities typically will have time localisation (which is another reason they would most likely be closed on current standards).

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Looks like we're close to rolling out a new FAQ that includes a shout-out to subjective questions. Please chime in! –  edmastermind29 Feb 10 '13 at 18:19
    
Questions such as "Why <X> player not playing <Y> games" or "Why is Peter Siddle considered to be a Test Match specialist?" should be closed as not constructive. These kind of questions can never be answered in a reasonable way. It will just generate arguments and nothing else. For these type of questions there can be no answers and only arguments, which is not encouraged in any SE sites. –  iDev Mar 13 '13 at 20:52
    
FYI, Sports SE meta is placing select subjective/speculative questions through a quality-evaluation. –  edmastermind29 May 7 '13 at 14:32
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4 Answers 4

Should we look to relax 'too subjective' to generate more and more interesting questions?

No. Quality over quantity. A high quantity of questions of low quality will end up stunting the development of Sports SE in the long run. Yes, we are still in beta, but we have progressed such that we have a better idea of questions that are good fits and questions that are not.

Question: To your point, how do we encourage good quality questions?

Answer: I would encourage the community to step up and recognize when to edit or close vote questions that straddle the line or are reasonably unanswerable. However, I recall an upvote regarding a question about nutritional facts of a cookie.

With that said, what are our guidelines in encouraging good content? At the moment, as long as the question is not reasonably unanswerable, then it is fair game. Perhaps we create a quasi-standard and apply it. Yes, tricky to get right.

There are subjective questions out there, such as those @posdef has presented in his answer. However, those that are reasonably too subjective are closed.


There is precedent at some other SE sites to have tag categories like soft-question to indicate a question somewhat outside the core intent of the sites scope. Would something like that work here?

At first glance, I say no. If we were to retroactively fit that tag, I'm sure a good collection of existing questions would merit that tag.


Your points are valid. The original vision of Sports SE, as far as I understand it (as I wasn't a user when it entered public beta), was to have those who participate in sports share their expertise. However, that has expanded into fandom. Therefore, a lot of our questions come from the fan perspective, which usually is rules related.

Also mind that our core userbase seems to change every 6-8 weeks. With such a revolving door, it's tough to maintain a strong, contributing userbase. This is a derivative of @posdef's third point.


2.Redefine the scope so that speculative/subjective questions are on-topic, as long as it leads to constructive discussion and petty argues don't take over (this will undeniably put strain on moderation)

Whether or not to incude speculative/subjective questions....is speculative (I wouldn't).

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Your answer reminded me about the "'why...?' questions" discussion. Should we try to update the meta.sports.stackexchange.com/questions/256/… to encompass that case? –  posdef Jan 23 '13 at 19:16
    
Yes. It would have to be more clever than "avoid why questions." There are legitimate ones out there, but as you say in chat, there are better formulations out there. –  edmastermind29 Jan 23 '13 at 19:55
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I agree about 'quality over quantity' but that makes an explicit assumption that subjective=bad, objective=good. I would suggest that many of the questions on this site that are objectively answerable with factually correct answers are very poor quality. On the other hand some of the more subjective questions that posdef points to are, in my view, of a much better quality. This is because I am making the distinction that quality=interesting engaging content and poor quality=banal. I don't think it's about quality vs quantity but instead what should be considered to be good quality questions. –  Bogdanovist Jan 23 '13 at 21:55
    
I do take your points though, it is a tricky issue to get right. I'll have a look at the previous discussions you and posdef have pointed out. –  Bogdanovist Jan 23 '13 at 21:56
    
If we are relaxing our standards just to bring in more content, that's not what we are going for. I understand where you're coming from. Subjective isn't bad...where does Sports SE fit in subjectivity according to this blog post? –  edmastermind29 Jan 23 '13 at 22:10
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Good meta question! You are definitely not the first person to point out to the scope/subjectivity dilemma, and will most likely not the last person either.

See the following questions/answers, in which I personally took this up (there are others who argued for/against this very concept):

and here are a couple of questions I tried to have a sensible approach to subjective questions:

I can add a number of more questions to that list, questions which I believe would be very interesting to discuss and get some different opinions on. But the bottom line is, as it stands the FAQ clearly states that discussion-inspiring questions are not welcome here.


So far none of the above constitutes an answer to your question, I am aware of that. My two cents on the matter is that Sports.SE will eventually end up taking one of the following three paths in the future:

  1. Attract professional, or semi-pro, athletes to get more concrete content on the site
  2. Redefine the scope so that speculative/subjective questions are on-topic, as long as it leads to constructive discussion and petty argues don't take over (this will undeniably put strain on moderation)
  3. Slowly but eventually dry out in terms of traffic and original content

I would personally like us to avoid the last option there, but if it does happen to be the case, I would not really be surprised :(

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A very good question for which, am sure, there will be a difference of opinion. I have to agree with @Bogdanovist on his opinion of subjectivity.

Taking cricket as an example, if I had to post a question today which falls completely in the "non-speculative" region, then the only questions I can ask are about the rules, statistics or history. These questions are very straight forward and a simple Google search will yield answers. There isn't much research involved. And there would come a point where all the rules are covered and there wouldn't be anything to post. The end result of this would be that the content becomes very drab, limited and textbook-ish.

A question like "Why is Peter Siddle considered to be a Test Match specialist?", is a decent question IMO. Yes, there is no one single rule or factor that defines him to be a Test Match specialist and a little speculation is required to answer this. But this would also give the OP different perspectives from multiple answers as each one will have their opinion. This is in stark contrast to, as is the current trend, copy-pasting laws from the rule book and having just one single correct answer (Guilty as charged). Questions such as these should be allowed.

There are questions that are highly opinionated, for example: "Who is better, Messi or Maradona". There is no proper basis on for comparison of these two players as they played different roles, in different conditions, in different eras. These kind of questions, IMO, should fall under the highly-speculative category. Questions such as these should be closed.

There is a thin line between questions that can be classified as very subjective/opinionated or not. And yes, it does fall under a grey area. But, I feel the current rules on the definition of subjectivity need to be relaxed in order to get better and more interesting content on Sports SE.

By the way, the irony of my above suggestion of classifying question for closure is again, subjective!

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Good points. I'm for allowing "subjective" questions...but we should be more clever in the FAQ. For example, we allow questions about "theories and reasons for sports phenomena" or something like that. –  edmastermind29 Jan 24 '13 at 14:53
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Good question. I don't think it's a question of relaxing "too subjective"; rather, I think it's a case of recognising that even questions with a degree of subjectivity can be answered in a sufficiently objective fashion.

To take the Siddle example, such a question could be answered be referring to any statements from the Australian selectors on the subject, along with references to his career statistics (such as his Sheffield Shield performances).

My two penn'orth: questions that can be answered by providing references are fair game (yes, that itself is subjective), whereas questions that rely heavily on pure opinion are unlikely to be constructive.

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+1 With this said, I would encourage the community to step up and recognize when to edit or close vote questions that straddle the line or are reasonably unanswerable. –  edmastermind29 May 7 '13 at 13:28
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