I discovered Lifehacks a few weeks ago and loved the idea. I posted a question, started to tell a friend about it, and then my first question got closed as "off-topic". ...I decided not to tell my friend.

I like the idea. There aren't any other Stack Exchange communities that encapsulate anything similar. But the moderators are preventing it from becoming what everyone wants it to be.

Google says that a Lifehack is:

A strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one's time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

This isn't up for debate–this is what the dictionary says it is. This is what people think of when they hear "lifehack".

However, the manifesto appends phrases like:

  • solve an everyday problem in unexpected ways
  • unexpected solutions to the stubborn problems
  • A life hack is a seemingly intractable, stubborn problem
  • solved by thinking "outside the box".

and applies contrived restrictions like:

it is NOT about…

  • conventional "how to…" questions about skills that can commonly be learned elsewhere;
  • using products in the way they were designed to be used (e.g. keyboard shortcuts, obscure features, how to get your smartphone to do {x});
  • "mind hacks" including personal productivity & self-improvement tips, memorization & learning techniques, etc;

That last bullet point defining what NOT to do is darn close to BEING Google's definition. This discussion links to the Wikipedia article that even mentions "computer shortcuts" in the first sentence–but keyboard shortcuts aren't allowed?! It's akin to creating a landscaping SE and prohibiting asking about plants.

Literally the most upvoted answer on the whole site is in direct violation of the second bullet, but got deemed "OK" because it's not common knowledge. Maybe we can reword it to just prohibit common knowledge?

I suspect that the source of the restrictions stems from this assumption I see again and again:

we cannot create a catch-all site about everything

but a Lifehack is inherently about life. How can this site NOT be about everything? What's wrong with hacking everything? What do we gain by down-voting and closing so many questions?

I've read that we get 5000 visitors but not even 2 questions every day. The Lean Startup hammers in the fact that you never know what your product is. You need to be free to pivot. If 5000 customers came into your store but only 2 of them bought anything, wouldn't you try to figure out what the other 4998 people came in looking for?

Why does the scope need to be so obscure?

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    You say "This isn't up for debate" as if Google were the ultimate arbiter of the English Language. It is the community on this site that defines what a Lifehack is and is not. – Chenmunka Nov 16 '15 at 12:31
  • The referenced sentence "Google says ..." is kind of vague, but is actually based on the article on lifehack from Oxford Dictionaries. So it has some validity, besides being found here and there... – holroy Nov 21 '15 at 0:04
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    Stack Exchange exists to gather experts in a particular topic. Nobody is an expert in literally everything. – Unionhawk Nov 25 '15 at 20:06
  • I would change the word from 'obscure' to 'pedantic'. I have had answers removed that would have given totally new insight to the person asking the question. It was removed because it was a new idea. – dwilbank Mar 24 '16 at 13:23

A dictionary doesn't define what a community is about, and more importantly, it doesn't it redefine the purpose and type of content for which Stack Exchange was created. Stack Exchange was designed with a very specific focus in mind, somewhat different than a typical discussion forum. Sites center on a quantifiable, specific area of expertise by asking singularly answerable questions. We don't guarantee you can ask a question about anything you want on a site, and we don't create sites about "everything".

When a Lifehacks site was proposed, it wasn't exactly the dictionary definition of a subject we would likely host. If we wanted a site on this subject, we would have to narrow down the scope to what we can handle and run with it. But we wouldn't have created a site about anything in life or how to be more efficient at anything. That's just not what we do.

When you have an idea for a site, you pick the subject space; then you determine if Stack Exchange is the right tool for the job… and then find the best possible title to fit it. But the title you chose doesn't wholly rule the scope of the site. You wouldn't go to DIY and ask "What color should I paint my walls?", yet that is the very definition of "Home Improvement." That type of question just doesn't fit the purpose for which Stack Exchange was created.

When we pick the sites that can work on this network, we have some tough choices to make — you can either stick to subjects that only have objective answers like "will this compile?", or you can expand into much more diverse topic space, understanding the limitations of how these sites are designed to work. We chose the later.

  • Who is the "we" in "That's just not what we do"–SE or the Lifehacks community? Is there a set of rules somewhere that I can read for myself? – adamdport Nov 19 '15 at 16:57
  • @adamdport We in this case refers more to the Stack Exchange way of doing things than this site specifically. I would suggest starting with the links under the 'help' menu at the top of this site. – Robert Cartaino Nov 19 '15 at 16:59

A strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one's time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

That's just a tip or a way of doing things. Not everything is a hack. Using the term hack implies an unexpected, innovative, or improvised workaround, often ugly but nevertheless effective.

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