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If you haven't read, we are extending this private beta another week to see where this site is headed. During last week's evaluation, I shared some thoughts (internally) with the Community Team about what to look for going forward.

I thought that perhaps sharing this guidance with you (publicly) might actually help you look at your own content more critically and with a bit of self-reflection so you can evaluate each question as we see it.

Lifehacks SE Private Beta Evaluation

Extended one week with meta post.

As this 2nd week progresses, we'll have to re-evaluate this site from a fresh perspective. There's a lot going on behind the scenes and we have to decide if this site is heading in a sustainable direction based on their most recent activity. Be sure to take the time to read the most recent questions before writing up your thoughts going into next week.

For each question, ask yourself:

  • Does this question look like it needs a "lifehack"?
    Is it an interesting problem without an obvious solution? The site should be self evident by looking at the front page.
  • Are the answers written within the context of this site?
    Do the answers themselves look like lifehacks? Or are there too many obvious/"common" solutions specifically designed to handle that problem?
  • Does this questions belong on another (even non-existent) site?
    If the information is interesting/useful, would this be a better fit in any category of "expertise" we are likely to cover? Or could this be an interesting repository of questions that would fall between the cracks even if we created thousands of Q&As?
  • (!) Does the average new user seem to "get it"?
    Is the purpose of the site self evident? Or are new participants being lead into a poor/confusing experience because the purpose of the site is unclear?
  • Are "misses" being managed?
    Is the community providing thoughtful guidance (and managing the cruft) when users get it wrong? Or does it take a lot of badgering to get people to use this site correctly?
  • Are they making progress?
    Are meta resolutions making it out to the actual site? Are problem areas even on their radar?

Not every question is going to be awesome. We don't want this to be a foreboding site. But if they get it mostly right early on, this sets up a pretty good framework to move forward. But if we're not off to a good start, we cannot move this into public beta simply hoping for the best. Establishing the basic framework for a site has to be a private beta activity.

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For reference, here are 30 recent questions to see how this applies:


  1. How to stop red marks from wearing ballerina shoes?
  2. How to get rid of the 'farmyard' smell from a goose down pillow?
  3. Prevent Smelly Sponges
  4. https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2432/how-to-adjust-for-water-temperature-with-separate-disjoint-water-taps
  5. How to make my batteries work for a short time, one last time
  6. How can I keep cookies from going stale as long as possible?
  7. How do I separate multiple 5-gallon buckets efficiently?
  8. How can I keep the roll of plastic wrap from falling out of the box?
  9. How do I avoid wrinkles in dress pants placed on a hanger?
  10. How to clean crevices of electronics without compressed air?
  11. How do I remove the chewing gum stuck in my shoe?
  12. How can I get rid of my sneakers' stench?
  13. How can I not burn my hands in hot water when doing dishes?
  14. How to lessen / dampen the noise of creaking floor boards?
  15. https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2382/how-to-repair-broken-dymo-d1-tape-roll
  16. https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2362/how-to-remove-a-nail-hammered-in-a-floor-parquet
  17. How can I fix my car key when the rubber buttons fall off
  18. How to seal the plastic bags airtight after opening without using rubber band?
  19. How to keep sticky foods from sticking to measuring cups?
  20. How to quickly cool off a room without a fan?
  21. How to get mice out of the ceiling
  22. Get the rest of the mayo from the jar?
  23. How to unblock a blocked drain without acids/chemicals?
  24. How to naturally keep bugs away?
  25. How do I separate 2 drinking glasses that are stuck?
  26. How can I keep guacamole from turning brown?
  27. Keep razor usable longer
  28. Changing a lightbulb high up without a ladder
  29. How can I affix pictures/photos to a wall cleanly without damaging the paint on the wall?
  30. How can I reduce the chlorine smell on my skin after swimming?

Does this question look like it needs a "lifehack"?
Is it an interesting problem without an obvious solution? The site should be self evident by looking at the front page.

None of these questions look to me like they need a lifehack. I think that almost everyone is just assuming that because it's been asked here that they're asking for a lifehack. I'm not sure I agree with that sentiment. On other sites, I see a question and I don't even think twice about where it belongs. It belongs on that site, or it doesn't.

For example, here are recent questions from other sites, see if you can guess which sites they're on:

On this site, there seems to be a constant battle of what questions belong here, and what questions should be migrated to another site. The questions that get closed because they're off-topic, many times seem arbitrary. We still have too many questions that are being closed simply because they're on-topic somewhere else.

  1. Let's have some cake and eat it too
  2. What's the difference between a Lifehack and a DIY solution?

Are the answers written within the context of this site?
Do the answers themselves look like lifehacks? Or are there too many obvious/"common" solutions specifically designed to handle that problem?

Personally, I think this site is full of obvious solutions. It's gotten so bad that I've actually written a Meta post asking people to point out the answers that are considered hacks.

But what I think is worse, is that I can write answers that I don't believe are hacks in any form, and they get upvoted.

  1. How can I keep the roll of plastic wrap from falling out of the box?
  2. How can I get rid of my sneakers' stench?
  3. How can I keep cookies from going stale as long as possible?

When I write answers for other sites, I know what I'm writing is within the scope of that site and that my answer is going to be useful and help anyone reading it. I don't get that feeling here, and I don't know if I'm hoping that no one else feels that way, or if I'm worried that no one else feels that way.

Does this questions belong on another (even non-existent) site?
If the information is interesting/useful, would this be a better fit in any category of "expertise" we are likely to cover? Or could this be an interesting repository of questions that would fall between the cracks even if we created thousands of Q&As?

I honestly don't see any reason why the questions here actually need to be here. I'm starting to think that Stack Exchange is really just the wrong format for this subject. I think that people asking questions are really going to want the correct way to do it, and people interested in lifehacks are going to want to read a blog sharing ideas. Which is why the sites like lifehacker.com work so well for the subject.

(!) Does the average new user seem to "get it"?
Is the purpose of the site self evident? Or are new participants being lead into a > poor/confusing experience because the purpose of the site is unclear?

I'm not even sure I "get it" and I've been on the site since it was released into private beta. Granted I wasn't around when in was in Area 51, but I don't think that should matter, new users can't be expected to have to start in the area 51 definition in order to figure out how to use the site.

Quite frankly I don't think anyone really "gets it", or that anyone "gets it" in the same way. I think we're all either just pushing along hoping that it will eventually all straighten out, or we all have our own idea of how it should work. The problem is that everyone should be on the same page and it doesn't feel like anyone is. When I look at questions that are closed, the only ones that make sense are the ones that are closed for being unclear.

Are "misses" being managed?
Is the community providing thoughtful guidance (and managing the cruft) when users get it wrong? Or does it take a lot of badgering to get people to use this site correctly?

Absolutely not. There are only two close reasons that are used on the site, either the question is closed as unclear, or it is closed as off-topic.

When questions get closed for being off-topic no one explains why the question is off-topic. Which helps no one. Maybe it's because people are tired of the arguments that spin off from the comments, but if there's an argument every time a question is closed as off-topic then there's something wrong with the site. Part of everyone "getting it" is understanding why questions are being closed.

I think it's a bad sign when people still vote to close questions as off-topic because they're on-topic at other sites in the network. It's just another sign that this site isn't clearly separated from the other sites.

  1. How to lessen / dampen the noise of creaking floor boards?
  2. https://lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2382/how-to-repair-broken-dymo-d1-tape-roll

Are they making progress?
Are meta resolutions making out to the actual site? Are problem areas even on their radar?

It's my opinion that the site has only seemed to get a little better because the initial surge of users has dropped. There aren't as many users left on the site, so there aren't as many problems that are showing up. But I still see the same problems that were occurring on day one. Nothing feels resolved to me, maybe it's just me but I'm still getting the sense that this is just an elaborate catch-all site.

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  • +1 I agree 110%. Right from the get go I didn't think this topic was a good idea for a Stack Exchange site, and the implementation of it has so far gone terribly. One of the worst parts is that a lot of most active users don't appear to understand what problems the site has, or that it even has any major problems at all. If those most involved in the site aren't aware or understand the problems, then they're not going to get fixed [...] – Wipqozn Jan 7 '15 at 11:58
  • [...] If the site has any chance at success, then the most passionate and active users really need to step back and ask themselves "What's wrong with this site, and how can we fix it?". It won't be easy, it will be a lot of work, and even then I don't see the site succeeding. The existence of sites like Skeptic and Code Golf, along with a few posts made on meta, are the only things which make me think this topic might have a chance of existing in the Stack Exchange framework. It is, however, a very slim chance. – Wipqozn Jan 7 '15 at 11:59
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    ALso, I'd like to comment on this too: "But what I think is worse, is that I can write answers that I don't believe are hacks in any form, and they get upvoted.". This is the biggest problem the site has. On a lot of questions the best answer posted is a non-hack answer, and that's why it's upvoted. However, since it's not a Lifehack, some users (understandably) don't think the answer belongs or should be upvoted. But you've got to ask yourself: Does a site where the best solution to a problem should be deleted/downvoted really the kind of site you're going to trust to solve your problems? – Wipqozn Jan 7 '15 at 12:03

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