There is a category of question that appears here distressingly often. Here is my Socratic description of how it goes. I'm going to use a degree of sarcasm that I don't often use on this site. At the end I'm proposing how to handle such questions.

The questioner writes:

This is my first post here. I've heard that there's a thing called Music. I don't know anything about it. I heard about some aspect of music or musical instruments that puzzles me. I've never seen one of these instruments, or held one of these instruments, or tried to play one of these instruments, but I read something about the nature of sound in a physics book that seems not to jibe with my ignorant conceptualization of how a musical instrument should behave. So since I have time on my hands, I'm going to post a question here: "Why are things like this and not some other way?" not having any idea how to phrase the question correctly, and ask all you knowledgeable people to spin your wheels for awhile trying to answer my awkward question and flail around trying to educate me about something that I'm totally ignorant of and, let's be honest, not really that keen on learning about anyway since I'm just idly wasting my time and yours, too.

Over the last year in my participation on this site, I have been sucked into attempting to write answers to questions like these, in contradiction to the advice of a historical personage I admire who said, "Do not cast your pearls before swine."

Now my New Year's resolution is not to respond to these sorts of questions, not to try to edit them to make any amount of sense, and just to give them a "Close" vote for "Not Constructive".

If any of the rest of you derive some amusement from trying to distribute clues to the clueless and relatively harmless trolls that ask them, go right ahead. Happy New Year.

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    The term "troll" implies intentional and malicious misdirection. It should not be applied to people who are merely legitimately clueless due to its negative connotations. – NReilingh Dec 23 '12 at 1:10
  • Good point. I just could not think of a more appropriate term. – user1044 Dec 23 '12 at 2:27
  • And I warned you about the degree of sarcasm. – user1044 Dec 23 '12 at 2:31
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    @WheatWilliams They're called help vampires. – American Luke Jan 2 '13 at 1:48

I think this could definitely come under the two requirements common on other SE sites:

  • that at least a minimum level of effort/research has been carried out
  • that to answer it wouldn't require a book

So I would tend to close them as NC or NaRQ - both of which could fit the circumstance.

I don't think we should have an entry bar with regards skill or experience with a musical instrument, but we perhaps should with regard to following the site guidelines which are clearly laid out in the [faq]


At the root of your point, I agree--many of these questions should (and are, hopefully) be closed as "not constructive".

However, it raises an interesting conceptual question: do we have a "bar to entry" for the level of questions on this site, and if so, where do we set the bar?

  • I think that this site is for practicing or performing musicians, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced. If the person asking the question appears not to be a musician at all, then it's a good indication that they may be below the bar. But that's why we have the "vote to close" system. I'm not suggesting that we deny access to anybody; I'm just giving my personal resolution to try not to spend time answering questions from people who are not musicians. – user1044 Dec 23 '12 at 2:26

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