For background details see http ://www.fharrell.com/2017/08/integrating-audio-video-and-discussion.html

I am interested in using stats.stackexchange as a place to hold questions, answers, and discussion that are specific to subsections in my course notes. An example subsection is cubic spline functions in regression (or it could be a smaller unit such as knot selection in same).

Is it appropriate to create such topics that would be hyperlinked from my course notes for easy finding by students? Does anyone have a better idea? I'm currently trying http://slack.com for this purpose but people have to be invited to join my slack team, and linking to slack discussions is not as straightforward as linking to a URL for a stackexchange discussion. stackexchange also has the major advantage of profiting from a much wider user knowledge base.

I could start the process by linking my notes to specific existing questions (and this will be optimal for many questions) but specific places for knowledge-base building will be needed too.

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    $\begingroup$ A great idea on the face of it, but how would these "topics" differ from questions? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe just add a tag for the specific course? $\endgroup$
    – Peter Flom
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ The topics are only different from questions in that they may contain multiple questions that are moderately different from each other. Good idea re having a course-specific tag if the site is OK with that. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ Multiple questions juggling w/i the same thread sounds like they may be too broad. The tag idea may be better. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand I'd like people not in the course to be able to contribute to discussions about topics, so I'm still leaning towards a topic orientation rather than a course orientation. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ I am worried that if something is not manifestly a question, then it does not belong here. Also, this platform is not for discussions -- discussions are explicitly discouraged and sometimes deleted or moved into chat by mods. If you can think of a format in which you and/or your students post specific questions and specific answers, then it's clearly okay and might indeed be an interesting/promising experiment. $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ Good thoughts. But I have trouble delineating questions/answers from discussions, and like discussions. An answer without a discussion of the answer's downsides can be incomplete. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Well the Stack Exchange ideal is that pertinent addenda, amplifications, caveats, corrections, criticisms, &c. arising from discussion in comments are eventually digested & assimilated into well-crafted answers - no need to preserve the (often hard-to-follow) discussion itself. Of course we often fall well short of that ideal, but it's worth bearing it in mind. A chat room linked to the post can be created for open-ended discussions or extended dialogues. (An example below for anyone unfamiliar with these chat rooms) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ The text can be changed too, so it doesn't sound as if people are being told off. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


The question is pretty much answered in the comments (and complemented in the brief exchange in chat), but I'll compile all that here just to make sure the question isn't left unanswered.

Basically, we're not the best place for open-ended discussions. As the tour points out, our model is best suited to "[a]sk questions, get answers, no distractions" and that you shouldn't ask "[q]uestions with too many possible answers or that would require an extremely long answer."

Simply put, we're not a forum. Still, as Scortchi points out in a comment above:

pertinent addenda, amplifications, caveats, corrections, criticisms, &c. arising from discussion in comments are eventually digested & assimilated into well-crafted answers

That leads us to comments, then: the tour page also adds that "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat."

The different communities in the network all use the same model, but have slight differences on how they handle discussion in the comment sections, and when to clean these up — but as the above quote says, the approach that best suits our model is to avoid extended discussion in comments, and these are considered ephemeral and disposable.

That being said, as Scortchi points out in the same comment above, that doesn't mean the communities are fanatic (or sometime they're just not always extremely diligent) in enforcing these policies; especially if the discussion in question is actually a good and productive one.

All that being said, if you can find a way to frame your posts as actual questions that need actual answers, as opposed to posts that simply invite open-ended discussions, I believe this is a good place for you to do so. If the open-endedness is something you're striving for, though, maybe we're not the best place — Discourse might be a good alternative :)

With regards to how to tag these, should you come to the conclusion that you can find a way to make the discussions/questions fit in well with our model, I'll defer to you and the community — the community is really better suited to figure out how to categorize their content than I am.


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