It seems to me that we are still struggling to pin down exactly what a lifehack is, with questions like:

The trouble is that everyone is trying to define a lifehack, but defining a lifehack defines the answer, not the question.

In order to work out what is on topic, we need to place requirements on the question; that's the way StackExchange works. We need to phrase the requirements in such a way that they don't imply that the asker needs to know whether a hack exists or not before they post their question.

(N.B. This doesn't necessarily exclude an "answerable by common sense" close reason - English Language Learners has an OT close reason for "questions that are entirely answerable using a dictionary", and I think "common sense questions" could be similar - that's still a requirement on the question.)

  • Would you answer your thoughts on this question as well: meta.lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/88/… ? Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 12:25
  • I think this is a defining question... I guess the answer is we cant make a good SE community with this topic
    – skv
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:45
  • @skv I disagree. I think there is plenty of room to clearly define the scope (it's early days yet!). I just don't think that defining the questions by the answers is the way to go about it. Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 13:59
  • Why this question was marked for closing? It is marked as duplicate to question which was asked after this one. Why not to close the other one? Maybe the new discussions in Meta have higher priority?
    – vladiz
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 17:55

4 Answers 4


The problem we have here is that we don't want to rule out questions that fit in other sites because we want to provide "lifehack" answers instead of the standard answers they would get there.

I feel like any question can be on topic as long as the questioner has done this:

  1. Clearly state the problem listing all details necessary to solve it.
  2. List what has been tried and why this doesn't work. Be very specific and rule out any answer that are unsatisfactory. Make sure that some effort has been done to solve the issue. If some object could solve the issue but is not available, list that as what has been tried. Coming here and posting a question should not be the first thing done.

    (Example: I could just do {TheObviousSolution} but it won't work because {SomeIssue}. I know I could use {SomeObject} but I can't because {SomeOtherIssue}. I have also already tried {ThisThing} and {ThatThing} which didn't work because of {ProblemWithThisThingAndThatThing})

  3. Give a reason that a "lifehack" is needed instead of going with the standard solutions that could be provided by other sites or that have been tried in #2.

    (Example: {TheThingNeeded} is too expensive/unavailable)

I fell like #1 is required in all SE sites and really should go without saying and then #2 and #3 are what can set the standard for our questions. This way we're not sending people away to other sites but we are also setting a standard for our questions that will demand "lifehack" style answers.

  • 1
    I think the third requirement is impossible to determine in most cases. See this post of mine for my reasoning Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:01
  • @ZachSaucier maybe I need to reword it a bit, I mean for it to go along with #2. Whatever the standard solutions you have thought of were, explain why you'd rather have a hack. I just feel like we need to demand that people have already done some research and tried something and then told us why they'd rather have a "lifehack".
    – liebs19
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:03
  • The research question was brought up in another post Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:06
  • @ZachSaucier I like you answer and your word better! I don't neccesarily mean googling it for an hour. Given it some "effort" is perfect. Coming here and posting a question should not be the first thing you do.
    – liebs19
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:09
  • Feel free to reword you answer as you see fit :) Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:11
  • @ZachSaucier I feel my answer getting a bit better with every comment you make. :)
    – liebs19
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:12
  • Regarding #2, what if there isn't an obvious solution? I'm thinking of my question about opening wine bottles without a corkscrew here. Apart from the things that have been suggested in the answers (which would turn my question into a chameleon question if I now edited to say I'd already tried them or didn't want to) I can't think of anything to try besides "go to the shops and buy a corkscrew". Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 14:26
  • In fact this is kinda true of any "substitute tool" question - the "obvious solution" is the tool that is normally used for the purpose, that you can't use because you don't have it. Does that count as "what have you tried?" info? Or is it not enough? Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 14:29
  • @starsplusplus I would say that stating you don't have access to a corkscrew is what you have already tried. We need to make sure that no one can post something that obvious as an answer.
    – liebs19
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:23
  • @liebs19 If that's the case, could you make it a bit clearer in your answer that that is sufficient? It's not currently clear that "I don't have access to X" counts as "something you've tried". Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 12:35
  • @starsplusplus The edit has been made.
    – liebs19
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 14:02

Under the definition of a lifehack in our new scope, we can determine if a question is on topic or not by the following:

  • The question is about a practical, physical problem.
  • The question must implicitly demand unconventional and creative solutions, meaning the solutions use materials that are on hand for uses besides their intended use. This makes questions seeking product recommendations off topic.
  • The question is not a yes or no question, but rather asks for alternative approaches.

It goes without saying that these questions need to be clear, not too broad, not a duplicate, not primarily opinion based, and should show a good amount of effort.

  • I think the question doesn't belong to another StackExchange community is not a good criteria, because no other site can answer a question from a hacking point of view and we should become specialists in hacking solutions. Also with a good amount of effort part, knowing a solution and asking to share knowledge is encouraged in SE, so would probably not be a good criteria to assess the quality of questions
    – skv
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 6:30
  • 5
    I strongly disagree with your proposed criteria of "doesn't belong on another StackExchange community". 1) Whether or not a question is on-topic on another site doesn't matter, all that matters is if it's on-topic for us (sites are allowed to have some overlap with other sites) 2) It would require us to either know all the rules for every other site on the network or to ask the users of every other site on the network to examine every question we have to see if it belongs there (both of these are ridiculous and impossible tasks)...
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 11:40
  • ... 3) We're supposed to be experts in "hacks", not "everything nobody else on the network is an expert on". That just makes us EverythingElse.SE, and you can't be an expert in "Everything Else". That doesn't make any sense. At all. 4) It would mean our scope would redefine every time a new site was added, removed, or had a rules change.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 11:43
  • I've removed my downvote due to your removal of your fourth point
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 14:14
  • 1
    We've discussed your 2nd bullet point (user states what they've tried and why it doesn't work) a bit here and found closing for that reason to be problematic. And, in many cases, requiring that information did not seem to improve the question. The middle route might be that when it really does seem necessary, to vote to close as Unclear What You're Asking, since we are unsure what the asker is looking for or why they think a hack is needed.
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 19:29
  • I would add suggest to add to the second point: “[…] the standard way of solving the problem (for their area) is unavailable, undesirable or does not exist”.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 18:19
  • @Wrzlprmft Being unavailable means, "not able to be used or obtained" which includes not existing :) Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 18:34
  • @ZachSaucier: If you interpret those words that way, yes. But you could also say that something must exist first in order to be “not able to be used or obtained” (which are not the words you are using, by the way, not that it matters for this). With other words: If I do not even know a standard way to solve a problem and cannot find one, how shall I explain why this way is “unavailable or undesirable”? Either way, it does not hurt to include this case.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 18:41
  • @Sterno I've updated my points to match the current thinking, including the replacing the second bullet with something similar Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 23:54

There are two rules

  1. ''DO'' provide specific examples on the problem, detail why common sense or commercial solutions are unsuitable.

  2. ''DON"T'' ask general questions; hypothetically speaking, and what if, type questions are not appropriate for this site.

  • This an attempt to simplify the general ideas put forth by Zach Saucier & liebs19 in their answers. Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 12:48
  • 1
    These aren't very good close reasons. Were liebs and I's answers too complex? If so, please comment so that we can simplify them Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 14:41

There is an extremely (IMHO unnecessarily) downvoted answer with a similar response but here are my thoughts.

What's wrong with waiting for an "accepted" answer and if that is not a hack then we close and delete the question (even better just that answer if it is not the "accepted" answer).

If I do not know the answer, and genuinely trying to find if there are hacks to solve the problem easier than the routine common sense approach, if someone feels there is none and closes the question, where is the chance to "discover" new hacks, or spread knowledge of hacks that experts can provide? How will this site sustain itself.

We cannot look at every StackExchange site as a clone of StackOverflow and apply the rules as it is, every topic needs its own tweak to make the site work and this could be one for this topic (and such other topics if any).

I know this close votes will become rarer once we make it to public beta and graduate (if and when that happens) and so 5 close votes would make it rare, but right now in private beta, everyone with an association bonus gets the privilege and it is bound to be misused when there aren't sufficient guidelines.

  • 8
    There are a lot of problems with basing the on-topicness of question based on the answer. Here are a few: 1) We could never close a question until some arbitrary time limit has passed where no "hack" solution was posted 2) We'd need to re-open any question where a user comments pointing out they discovered a lifehack solution 3) We could never delete closed questions since they would need to be re-openable and viewable in the event point 2 occurs 4) Users would need to actively seek out questions which are X amount of time old so we can close them if they lack a "hack" solution"...
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 11:49
  • 5
    ... 5) If a new question was posted which is dup of an old one which was closed due to lacking a "hack" answer, and the new one gets a hack answer, then we'd need to track down the old question, re-open it, and then dup one question to the other 6) Enforcing all of these above criteria would be a lot of work for our user base. Too much work, in fact, which would just result in our site being very messy. A messy site is going to be more difficult to use than one which is well maintained.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 11:54
  • 3
    Then I guess, unfortunately this site would never work unless the asker knows of a confirmed hacky solution.... unfortunate but true... this would probably never make a good SE site
    – skv
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:44
  • @skv I'd love to hear more feedback on my answer above on how it won't work Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 14:36

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