In the continuing saga of trying to define what a lifehack is (What is a lifehack?).

We've had a few questions where the answer has been extremely simple.

For example:

Question: What is the best method of cleaning up broken glass?

  • Solution: You use a broom, or vacuum, and sweep or suck it all up.

Question: Check for electricity in a socket without tools?

  • Solution: Try plugging something in, if it doesn't work, there's no electricity.

Question: How to put a slipped bike chain back on the freewheel without getting dirty?

  • Solution: Put something between the bike chain and your hand.

Granted, once we have a question for something, any questions following can be closed as a duplicate. But are these lifehacks in the first place? It seem like they're more of how-to's really.

Are these questions included in the scope of lifehacks? If not, what distinguishes them from a lifehack?

  • Great question. I'll look forward to the community's answers.
    – hairboat
    Dec 10, 2014 at 3:52
  • I think if "common sense" questions aren't on topic, you'll find yourself throwing out....basically the scope of the site. What is a life hack if not a shortcut for doing simple common task more easily or better than the "common sense" approach? Dec 10, 2014 at 5:51

5 Answers 5


I think yes.

It's hard to say because for instance the broken glass you mention I do have a trick for; use wet paper towels, picks up all the tiny slivers leaving nothing behind. Some things we can't know there's a shortcut for until we ask.

But the bigger problem with saying "common-sense advice" is not allowed is, that's about as loose and ambiguous a thing as you can lay out. I see what you're getting at and perhaps there should be some line we need to draw, but it needs to be more clearly defined than "common sense" because there's no way to apply such a rule consistently.

  • My thoughts exactly. The general reference close reason suffered from the exact same problem: inconsistent and arbitrary application. See here for more detail on why general reference failed. I think a "common sense" close reason would suffer the exact same problems.
    – Wipqozn
    Dec 11, 2014 at 13:29
  • 1
    @ZachSaucier If you think the question is stupid, then down vote it. I don't see how your example is any less valid than any of the other questions on the site. It's an "everyday annoyance" people face, after all.
    – Wipqozn
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:25

I think the problem with "common-sense" is that what accounts as that differs widely. For example: I lived half my life in the country side where "go to the shop" is highly unpractical so solving stuff with a knife and some wood is common sense to me. After moving to a city I noticed that people found it odd that I carry a multi-tool with me all the time because "going to the shop" and buy whatever you need is common sense to them.

So while I would argue that overly simplistic questions shouldn't be on topic, I fail to see how that could ever be defined in a way that makes sense to a heterogeneous group.


A hack or lifehack should be non-obvious. Otherwise it's not a hack but common sense.

There is no clearly defined border, and to make matters more ambiguous, you can't always tell if there is a hack by just reading a question, because by definition hacks are non-obvious, because you or I are not able to think of a hack, doesn't mean one doesn't exist.
This makes LifeHacks different from sites like StackOverflow, where it's easier to determine if a question falls within the scope of the site...

Also remember that people can leave comments even on closed questions and can request the question to be re-opened. so if you do think of a super new cool hack for a closed question, you can always do that.

We should take care that:

  1. Questions aren't too broad;
  2. A good question might attract a lot of obvious & common-sense answers, the problem here is with the answers, not the question.

Specifically, the examples you give:

  • "What is the best method of cleaning up broken glass?" might be better off as "Is there a way to pick up broken glass without cutting yourself?" or something to that effect, since the former is too broad.
  • "Check for electricity in a socket without tools?" seems too obvious; but perhaps someone has a good answer (unlikely), and they can always request to re-open a question.
  • "How to put a slipped bike chain back on the freewheel without getting dirty?" seems okay to me, although the answer is perhaps "too obvious"...

No, these should not be lifehacks.

They should be off-topic for the site:

Such problems can be solved using conventional solutions, and do not require any workarounds or hacks.

  • 2
    We need to be careful with the phrasing of the close reason as many hacks can not be hacks if the "proper" tools are accessible Dec 10, 2014 at 4:29
  • The phrasing should be improved. We need a "lacks common sense" close reason for such posts.
    – user19
    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:32
  • 2
    This sounds like a terribly subjective reason to close something and smells of "This can't be answered" which is no reason people shouldn't ask questions, they have no way of knowing whether a question has an answer or not without asking it. Questions should be topical based on their merits, not their answers. Dec 10, 2014 at 5:33
  • 3
    You might as well close half the questions on the site with the "do not require any workarounds or hacks" clause.
    – Origin
    Dec 10, 2014 at 20:07
  • 6
    I challenge someone to find a question on this site which actually requires a hack.
    – Sterno
    Dec 10, 2014 at 20:31
  • Additionally, just because a common sense solution exists, it does not mean it is the best solution. One example is eating a cupcake. There is already a common sense solution (bite it repeatedly until it is gone), but there is a more hacky solution of ripping the bottom off, pushing it against the frosting and eating it as a sandwich that reduces the "frosting-moustache" effect.
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:29

I think a lot of these posts revolving around the scope of questions are looking at it the wrong way round.

Penalizing an asker because there is a common sense solution ignores the possibility that a lifehack exists that is better than the common sense solution (and that's without getting into the sticky task of defining common sense).

Instead we should focus on penalizing answerers who post common sense answers. If a question doesn't get an answer, then fine, there are no lifehacks for that question, for now. Leave it open and maybe a lifehack will come around in the future (as more and more gadgets and tools become available).

  • Why would you penalize a common sense answer if it is actually a better solution than the more creative ones? If someone asks what to use as kindling for a fire, and I say "use some paper" and someone else says "use Doritos", and the Doritos one is upvoted while the paper one is downvoted, simply because Doritos are "hackier", we've got a problem. Which kind of points to the entire problem we have on this site at the moment... everything about lifehacks seems to be defined around the answers rather than the questions.
    – Sterno
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:10
  • You're assuming the common sense answer is a better solution. Note the italics in my answer. And the reason to penalize an answer for being common sense is because this isn't the "Common Sense" stack exchange. The answer is off-topic. Secondly, as I say, penalizing the asker is the wrong way to go because we cannot know that there isn't an on-topic answer until one is presented.
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:25
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    I have never seen a SE site with the concept of "off-topic answers" that actually answer the question. I do agree with you on the question side of things, though.
    – Sterno
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:41

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