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There was recently a question asking about tutorials on Reverse Engineering. I understand that this is something that will come up quite frequently and will probably be one of the most popular questions, however if you take a look at Stack Overflow 1* and 2*, you will see that one has this :

C++ Books List

And the other has this :

C Books List

Problems

What these indicate is that book (or tutorial) questions are not a good fit for a Q&A site because of many reasons :

Possible Solutions

So, in my mind, there are three possible ways we can handle such questions :

  • The first and best way (IMO) is by maintaining and curating a short list of the best resources in the Tag Wikis (as is now done for C) after discussing them here on Meta

  • The second way is to populate a list within the beta period and then get it Protected. We can then curate and maintain the best out of these in one single answer as is done for C++.

  • Third, is that we do neither of the two, but instead link to a curated external resource and point users there, both from chat as well as questions.

If you have any other ideas, please do post them.

*I am taking C and C++ as examples as their Tag Wikis are considered the best on SO


So, how should book/tutorial questions be dealt with ?

We should try to establish one standard way of handling such questions right from now.

  • 1
    Maintaining such stuff in a tag wiki sounds like a good idea. However, I would would suspect that new commers don't read or know about the tag wiki's. So I wouldn't mind one or two protected questions. – Jesper.Reenberg Mar 26 '13 at 9:01
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    @Jesper.Reenberg That is where users who do know about Tag Wikis come in. They can guide others to refer to the Tag Wikis. Its one of the underused features of the site because it isnt well known. – asheeshr Mar 26 '13 at 9:15
  • Three years passed, and a new (slightly different) question was posted. We still don't have a relevant tag wiki (that I could find). Time to reconsider perhaps? – NirIzr Oct 22 '16 at 1:52
  • @NirIzr: agreed. Also, tag wikis aren't just underused, but they are - in my opinion - not as visible as they could be. You'll find a plethora of questions that aren't a good fit for a Q&A site even on SO, for historical reasons. Many of them closed, though. But while the selection can be subjective, I think the fact that the community edits the selection can bring out the best (and keep it up-to-date). – 0xC0000022L Jun 6 '18 at 10:48
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Each one of these has its merits and demerits, however I believe that Tag Wikis are a great feature of the site, and can be used very effectively to help new users for general topics and intermediate users for other tougher topics, thus reducing a lot of the noise that may be generated on the site. They are one of the most underused features of the platform (in my experience), and we should try to use them effectively from the beginning itself.

  • 2
    I agree completely. This information is useful and deserves a home, and tag wikis are designed to curate lists of this nature over time. Feedback you have to offer from using tag wikis to handle this from the start would be extremely valuable to us in order to better identify ways we could improve the system overall. – Tim Post Apr 2 '13 at 6:45
  • @TimPost: is there something like the /privileges URI on SE to see and possibly improve the tag wiki, or is the only means to sift through the list of tags one by one? – 0xC0000022L Apr 6 '13 at 20:09
  • @0xC0000022L One by one. – asheeshr Apr 7 '13 at 2:23
  • @0xC0000022L One by one, and one of the quirks is tag wikis must also be bound to a tag, so the tag will need to exist. For instance, you probably don't want a books tag, but rather list books related to each tag in the individual tag wikis. This is part of what I meant about suggestions on how it could be improved as you set up your references, if you identify stuff that's unnecessarily 'quirky' and have ideas on how to make it better, please suggest them as features. – Tim Post Apr 7 '13 at 3:58
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I totally agree with you on this subject. I asked the windows books question here on RE, and after doing some reading on SO meta, I came to realize that these questions are essential, however they have to be treated carefully, and tag wiki is the solution.

I think we should take the content of the question, which have gained some popularity and port it to a RE training tag wiki.

Currently, the question only deals with Windows, I think we should add other subjects relevant to RE training.

  • I think we could let that post deal specifically with windows RE, so that the content can be directly added into the windows wiki. We should let that post be. About collecting lists of resources for other tag wikis, it could be tried out in a post here on Meta so that no unnecessary noise is created on the main site. Alternatively, we could do more posts like the windows one, but in a controlled manner, such as one a week, and each having only one CW answer, keeping it closed with a big notice saying that such questions should not be asked and this question is being kept for a special reason. – asheeshr Apr 24 '13 at 11:02
  • You can't really control how often it will be asked. if the information is not there, somebody will ask it... BTW, probably if the information will be also in tag wiki someone will post similar questions – Mellowcandle Apr 24 '13 at 11:14
  • What I was saying was, we could decide on Meta and then create one specific post per week for a specific tag and then work on it. Any other questions that come up will be dealt with in the normal way (closing). Only the pre-decided post will get special treatment. – asheeshr Apr 24 '13 at 11:39
  • I agree with everything up to the point "and port it to a RE training tag wiki". Please don't. Categorizing and structuring information would be contradicted by throwing everything into one big tag wiki and then shaking it ;) – 0xC0000022L Apr 24 '13 at 17:25
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Warming this topic up a bit, I think we've had our share of questions that aren't really a good fit for Q&A as such, because of this bullet list.

Take this question. Highly subjective albeit scoped a bit to disguise it as somewhat fitting a Q&A format. That question would have been a much better fit for Software Recommendations, although I am not sure that that existed at the time.

Regardless, by looking at the votes on the question and its answers we can tell that the community deems it a valuable question. And personally I agree with that assessment.

I'd like to propose an alternative to the proposed tag wikis. While tag wikis are kind of useful, most people see no more of them than the excerpt. It's a shame, but I think that the site mechanics don't really help making tag wikis more visible (and thus useful).

So while tag wikis are technically the right place for this kind of information, I think that converting this kind subjective and open-ended questions and answers to Community Wiki items may be a better choice.

Mind you, I am not saying we should do that all the time. But over time we have seen a number of questions and answers that weren't formally a good fit for a Q&A and yet contain valuable and on-topic information.

The questions usually stand out because of the number of answers and/or the number of votes on them.

Protecting these questions and combining all answers into one Community Wiki answer would be helpful, I think.


There's a potential downside and I am not sure how this can be tackled. SE staff may be better equipped to answer this part. When someone marks their own answer as "Community Wiki" the votes aren't counted towards their reputation.

I don't know how it works when a moderator converts a question to Community Wiki, though. Will the user who posted it lose the reputation from votes?

Because that would be unfair towards the individual community members who posted. Conversely it would be unfair to pick one of the pre-existing answers to such a question and combine all answers into that one. Effectively that would mean that the user who posted the highest-voted answer would end up accumulating upvotes for something they didn't post.

It's a bit of a conundrum.


All of the reputation-related issues aside, perhaps there could be some kind of "community" favorites which would be based on some kind of metric computed from the combination of votes, the number of bookmarks (favorites) and perhaps augmented with some kind of ability for mods to pin a number of especially noteworthy Q&As. This would then be shown on the right side, for example.

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