Guided by Robert's post: The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta (Copied, with tiny edits):

Much of the FAQ will be somewhat boilerplate: “be nice,” “how to create an account,” “how to ask questions” — it’s all pretty static. Even the sections about “what kind of questions should I (not) ask here?” comes primarily from the Definition phase of Area 51.

But the questions we want to discuss here are those issues specific to our site that need to be mentioned in the FAQ.

Take the Super User FAQ as an example:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about:

  • computer hardware
  • computer software

And it is not about:

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except in so far as they interface with your computer
  • a shopping or buying recommendation

It took them almost a year to figure out the list of “we want these sort of questions” and “we don’t want these sort of questions” on Super User. Area 51 gave us a head start but we should also be working out other FAQ-related issues specific to our topic and our community.

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1 Answer

SE sites in general frown upon recommendations because the valid solutions are highly context-dependent, becomes out of date quickly, and not practical for a large community to maintain or repeatedly answer.

For Personal Productivity, however, I suggest it's vital for us to include a shopper's guide to tools (and not only those in the form of software) that a shopper can reference to identify possibly useful features, issues that are important to consider for the user's case, etc.

For example, information on features should first be classified into categories like those I listed in this answer.

I envision pages like those on Wikipedia that list several packages and their notable qualities.

We could even provide package-specific "pages" where details of releases can be posted.

This way, we can offer visitors evidence that we're a community that's actually quite well-versed in productivity matters, where we value our time and aren't prone to padding time cards, and one where their time isn't wasted waiting for answers to appear.

We raise the signal-to-noise ratio because members don't need to ask information we've already provided.

We're also freed from having to answer such an obvious and common vein of questions, and have a resource to point posters to when we close their questions.

Please note that a shopper's guide is different from shopping recommendations, let this be an example. But recommendations accompanied with comparisons and features could indeed be useful for this community... :) –  Tom Wijsman Jun 23 '11 at 13:58
@TomWij, exactly. During this beta period in particular, we should pro-actively consider how the site will be used and the questions that'll be asked. Our own productivity will not improve if we're repeatedly dealing with the same ? s. Guides for Details to consider in contexts in which the tool will be used, Features that aid/hinder productivity, and Feature comparison charts for categories of tools should be a given for the faq and community wiki. Then ? s for recommendations can be shepherded to the guides so shoppers can make informed choices related to their particular context. –  Huperniketes Jun 23 '11 at 21:00
Please note that expert questions don't have a tendency towards being general. Duplicate questions are there to prevent having to give the same answers over and over again. The FAQ also outlines this by asking for questions based on actual practical problems, although guides are welcome if they aren't already covered by general references like a quick Google search. We should mainly be giving advice on how to choose rather than recommendations based on an incomplete view of what the OP actually wants, unless they are of a certain detail / expert niche. –  Tom Wijsman Jun 23 '11 at 21:07
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