I see "build order" questions frequently, particuarly for starcraft 2. While often the answers are good, these questions can easily be answered by a simple google search. Liquipedia has a far more comprehensive answer on build orders than anyone can post, and comes up first in search results. Why is it acceptable to ask and answer these general reference questions that are not permissible on other SE sites?

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    General reference is not a close reason anymore. – bwarner Jun 15 '12 at 20:21

The Internet is a chaotic place: you can find information about almost anything if you search hard enough or synthesize data from disparate sources.

Stack Exchange, on the other hand, is intended to be a structured repository of useful information that fits the Q&A format: if there's a chance for us to provide a better answer than the rest of the Internet, even if it's been covered to death elsewhere, we're going to do it, because it makes the Internet fundamentally better.

But we're not trying to be GameFAQs or Wikia: we specialize in specific questions. While yes, you could read a whole strategy guide to find out the answer to a specific problem, we work under the premise that if one person has a specific problem that requires the synthesis of a specific, tailored answer, other people are probably asking the same thing and would benefit from seeing the tailored answer instead of getting linked to a whole guide that covers everything.

So asking questions that are so-called "general reference" is fine here, and it's fine on all but two sites on the network (English.SE and SciFi.SE). In fact, after the field trials on English.SE and SciFi.SE, the plan to roll out the "general reference" close reason to the rest of the network was scrapped due to its potential for abuse.

To that end, I highly encourage you—and anyone else who thinks closing things as general reference is a good idea—to listen to at least minutes 14:00–20:00 of Stack Exchange Podcast #20, where Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood (founders of Stack Exchange) discuss its benefits and drawbacks.

Now, of course, there are questions that seem like general reference, but are bad for other reasons and should be closed:

  • Questions that would require a whole book to answer: close as not a real question.
    Example: "Can you walk me through all the levels of Super Mario World?"

  • Questions that don't define a problem or correctness criteria: close as not constructive.
    Example: "What's the most fun StarCraft II faction?"

  • Questions that are easily answered by a general reference, but define a problem in such a contrived or specific way that prima facie invalidates any obvious answer and would be useful to pretty much only the asker: close as too localized.
    Example: "Diablo III says it's PC/Mac only. How can I get Diablo III to run on my TI-83 calculator?"

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  • I feel that its a waste for people to give answers of reasonable detail and quality, when even better content exists on other sites that are easily available as the first hit on a simple google search. Is it really considered the best solution to create duplicate content of specialist sites, especially when the formatting limitations of SE ensure that answers posted here can never reach the accessibility of another site, due to lack of HTML anchors and other features? I feel like a lot of answers I see are given where a link to an outside specialist site would be superior. – Lawton Jun 15 '12 at 21:50
  • @Lawton Our goal isn't to duplicate other content, but to provide better, more easily accessible answers to specific questions: to be a Wikipedia of Q&A, not to duplicate Google search results. Regarding providing nothing more than a link elsewhere: what happens when the link dies? – user3389 Jun 15 '12 at 21:55
  • The problem is that to me it appears many questions are being answered with worse content, because because its harder to navigate a massive wall of text on SE sites rather than a wiki containing related SC2 Zerg builds. As far as when a link dies, sites with long histories could be argued to be as reliable if not more reliable than any content located here. – Lawton Jun 15 '12 at 21:58
  • @Lawton If you can provide a better answer than what's there, you're encouraged to answer yourself. But since you don't seem to see the value, I guess it just comes down to Stack Exchange is not for everyone: if you think other sites are better, more power to you to use them instead of SE. – user3389 Jun 15 '12 at 22:01

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