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While it's a small sample size, I tried a little experiment today.

Question 1: https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1576/how-do-i-keep-pots-of-water-from-boiling-over

  • No comments.
  • No votes.
  • Never voted to close.
  • 3 answers.
    • 1 with 2 votes (1 was from me), others with no votes.

Note: This question was actually borrowed from the front page of the cooking site.

Question 2: How can I efficiently plant seeds in my garden without placing them by hand?

  • Immediately told to go to gardening.se (spawned a total of 9 comments).
  • 2 upvotes, no downvotes.
  • Closed by Phlume, Shevliaskovic, Jon, nicael, and Sunshine.
  • 2 answers.
    • 6 and 1 upvotes respectively.
  • Reopened.

Question 3: https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1584/how-can-i-make-a-positive-impression-during-an-interview

  • Immediately told to go to workplace.se (spawned a total of 7 comments, people were starting to catch on).
  • 5 downvotes (Oddly enough, it seemed hated more than a question about snuggies).
  • Closed by Origin, QuNguyen2013, Shevliaskovic, J. Musser, and Matt Giltaji (Received feedback from J. Musser that he considered it a psychological lifehack).
  • No answers.
  • 2 votes to reopen (none by me).

Question 4: Is there a way I can take a macro picture without a macro lens?

  • Immediately suggested to look at photography.se.
  • 3 upvotes.
  • 1 answer from myself (4 upvotes).
  • No close votes.

Question 5: https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1593/whats-the-fastest-way-to-ferment-juice

  • 5 comments, 2 asking why there were close votes, 1 suggesting a "common-sense" answer, 1 asking for more information, and my response.
  • 3 upvotes.
  • 1 answer with no votes.
  • Closed by Jon, Phlume, King Shimkus, QuyNguyen2013, and michaelpri.
  • Reopened.

Note: This question was a copy of: Fastest way to boil water? which has been readily accepted.

Question 6: https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1611/is-there-a-better-way-of-doing-multiplication

  • 1 comment giving close reason.
  • 3 upvotes.
  • 2 downvotes.
  • 3 answers.
    • 2 have 2 upvotes (1 from me each), the other none.
  • 2 close votes for being a psychological hack.

It really seems to me like we're all working as individuals, trying to collect only questions that interest us. It's a joke when the only reason given for closing questions is that they're off-topic, but we haven't even defined what questions are off-topic or not.

It becomes really clear when you look at questions like:

How to eat barbecue ribs without getting covered in barbecue sauce?

  • Closed by Angelo Fuchs, iliveunderawesomerock, Jon, Shevliaskovic, and Adi Bradfield.
  • 3 upvotes.
  • 1 downvote.
  • 4 answers.
    • 5 upvotes, 4 upvotes and 2 downvotes, 3 upvotes and 1 downvote, 2 upvotes and 1 downvote.
    • (1 of each downvote was from me for being too short of answers to be good quality)

Compared to these questions:

Note that both the mango and the apple question now have 3 close votes after the barbecue sauce question was reopened. The orange question still has no close votes.

As of the following morning after originally posting this, we've apparently decided to close the first three questions as duplicates of each other.


TL;DR

  • I asked a question that was copied from cooking. It was accepted with no opposition.
  • I asked a question that could also fit on gardening. It was closed as being off-topic, then reopened for not being off-topic.
  • I asked a question that could maybe fit on the workplace (I doubt they'd actually want it), it was closed as off-topic.
  • I asked a question I'd seen on photography before. It was accepted with no opposition.
  • I asked a question similar to another question on this site. It was closed after I made this post, then reopened for not being off-topic.
  • Someone asked a question about how to eat ribs without getting sticky fingers. It was closed while three other questions appear without opposition. They were closed as duplicates of each other after I made this post.

We can't pick and choose questions like this, that isn't how this works. Either a topic is in our scope or it isn't. It makes us seem like we just want to be an extension of the cooking and possibly photography site.

First: We need to stop closing questions for arbitrary reasons and wasting votes on reopening them because they can't be defined as off-topic. It's a waste of time and votes (you can only vote once), and it just makes it clear that we have no clue what we're doing.

Second, if we are going to choose certain topics to allow on this site, we need to choose now and make it clear that these are the topics that are allowed. Luckily We have an entire list to choose from.

So, are we limiting our scope to certain subjects, and if so, what subjects are we limiting it to?

  • 1
    For the "how can I eat ... without messing my hands" problem: I think we should create one canonical Q&A and then close all the others as duplicates. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 10:14
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    @AngeloFuchs But is there one solution to all food-eating-messy-hands problems other than 'wear gloves' or 'use utensils'? There are different methods (hacks?) for eating different foods. – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 11:30
  • @TomMedley 1) cover your fingers 2) eat carefully 3) use gripping utensils 4) cut food in proper form - each with two examples, I can't imagine what should be left missing. Yes this is one long answer, but it would be of high quality, useful for future readers and most importantly: conclusive. There is nothing left to say after that point. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 12:08
  • 3
    @AngeloFuchs But now we're onto a different issue, is "Eat your food carefully with the correct tools" a lifehack? – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 12:08
  • 2
    @TomMedley "eat carefully" is only there for sake of completeness. "use tools" should not include the correct tools (using corn holders to eat corn is not a hack. using corn holders to eat steak is.) – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 12:11
  • @AngeloFuchs "Eat carefully, with not the correct tools, but other tools that kinda work"? – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 12:12
  • Did you mean eat crow? – Jon Dec 12 '14 at 12:12
  • @jon From the saying "You can't have your cake and eat it too" – GimmeTehRepz Dec 12 '14 at 14:25
  • 1
    @MattS. I appreciate your experiments. So is this question about listing topics that are on topic for Lifehacks? It's not clear, perhaps changing the title would help – Zach Saucier Dec 12 '14 at 14:40
  • @ZachSaucier yeah, I tried to make it more clear now. – GimmeTehRepz Dec 12 '14 at 14:53
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Yes, we're limiting our scope to physical lifehacks.

Our new scope defines a lifehack to be as follows:

A lifehack is a technique that can be implemented quickly and is used to make one's physical life more efficient when a more standard approach (as defined by that area's experts) or a product is either unavailable or undesirable. Lifehacks are creative, meaning they use materials that are on hand for uses besides their intended use.

Thus, all questions should be seeking a lifehack alternative to a "more standard approach" when that approach is "either unavailable or undesirable" and describe why that is the case.


So let's go through the questions you made and see which ones fit under our new scope.

https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1576/how-do-i-keep-pots-of-water-from-boiling-over - This should be closed because it fails to describe why the "more standard approach (as defined by that area's experts) or a product is either unavailable or undesirable". In this case it doesn't talk about why you can't leave nor about why tilting the lid, lowering the heat slightly, or using a bigger pot doesn't work. The answer dealing with using a wooden spoon seems quite hacky to me.

How can I efficiently plant seeds in my garden without placing them by hand? - (It originally was unclear but has since been edited to be clear) This could be on Gardening.SE, but fits our scope because it's looking for an alternative to the conventional solution. A homemade lifehack could be used as a work around if the proper tools were not around.

https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1584/how-can-i-make-a-positive-impression-during-an-interview - Off topic, not about a physical problem.

Is there a way I can take a macro picture without a macro lens? - This could easily be on Photo.SE, but does seek lifehack solutions, also providing what's wrong with the approach their currently using. Thus it's on topic for our site.

https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1593/whats-the-fastest-way-to-ferment-juice - (We're still deciding this one) Possibly closed as not a physical problem because it's more about how to quicken a solution, not seeking a solution itself. Possibly valid due to the current solution not being good enough.

https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1611/is-there-a-better-way-of-doing-multiplication - Off topic, not about a physical problem.


Since a couple of these test questions could fit on Lifehacks as well as other SE sites, some of you may say that our scope should be made smaller so that there is no overlap. However, I disagree as this happens on other SE sites as well. As Robert Cartaino put so well in his answer regarding overlap:

A question is either op topic here or it's not. But that is determined by your mission statement; not by whether it can be asked somewhere else.

  • What happens when a, "How can I…" type of question becomes, "What's a better way to…" one? Does that invite a different (more desirable) response? I, for one, become discouraged from giving a question my best shot when I think the OP is not sincere, lazy, or shallow. – Stan Jun 26 '16 at 23:03

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