This question is spurred by a recent question on the main site: Why does some coffee "hit me" harder than other coffee?

The original (see the history) was specifically about one brand; it received several close-votes for "opinion-based" reason.

I edited the question in an attempt to make it "more objective" -- e.g., what affects coffee's stimulation? I provided an answer about the tangible aspects of caffeine, which turned out to be more of a survey, predominantly with links to other questions about factors that affect caffeine content in coffee. The question was closed, but it has now received re-open votes, so it looks like we have disagreement (at least in part, a good thing)!

Such "survey" questions and answers are not always on-topic, and are often controversial (another example is this question of mine from Stack Overflow, in which I summarized a handful of other questions). That question was closed and subsequently re-opened, meaning that it probably received several close- and open-votes.

I happen to (personally) appreciate those kind of question/answer when appropriate; I value them as an index and summary of several questions, often comparisons of (or distinguishing between) questions within a certain tag.

To the extent that this represents an example of a "survey of other questions" answer: Are such "survey" answers (and the related question) reasonable? Or should such questions be discouraged, and limit to more narrow, on-point questions about a similar topic?

2 Answers 2


tldr; keep it case by case, let the community decide.

I can't speak for everyone but I gave one of the initial close votes and also gave the first re-open vote.

I felt that in this case your edit accomplished two things. It played down company brands in the question and made it answerable. I may have also had the bias of wanting to not reject someone's first question to the site if it could be saved.

That said, I can see problems with opening the door to all "summary-like" questions, many of which may instead belong as wikis or just good chat discussions. Instead I think we just need to weigh each question as it comes in. Maybe eventually we'll have a list specifically for coffee.se to show which borderline questions survive and which don't.

  • Good points; and thanks for the personal account. Also agreed about the "first post" factor. +1 for balancing adroitly on the fence!
    – hoc_age
    Mar 3, 2015 at 18:16

Setting aside the "primarily opinion based" reason to close Questions, the concern raised by "summary-like" questions is a potential need to manage a set of nearly-duplicate Questions, varying only in minor details but all asking essentially the same thing. Joel had an early blog post about this.

At Math.SE we might treat these as "abstract duplicates", and a list of them, List of Generalizations of Common Questions is maintained on meta.

For example, we get a lot of posts asking things very similar to: why is 1+2+3+... = -1/12? (It makes a little more sense than one might suspect at first glance.) Rather than run through the basics each time, it was thought expedient to have one well-answered post of this kind and then be able to refer new Questions to that one as an "abstract duplicate".

Something of the kind seems to be in the spirit of "summary-like" questions. Although it is early days, we might see such repetitive trends emerging. If so, I'd recommend keeping track of those with a meta thread, so that finding those "canonical" answers can be easy enough (and it would admit some discussion on meta whether a topic deserves "summary" treatment).

  • I hope we get to the point where we have such a reference; this would be a huge help! And +1 for the simple fact of blowing my mind with 1+2+3+...+n=-1/12... did you forget the minus-sign or do I misunderstand?
    – hoc_age
    Mar 5, 2015 at 17:04
  • @hoc_age: Heh, thanks, yes I did forget the minus sign, which of course makes the Question even curiouser.
    – hardmath
    Mar 5, 2015 at 17:21

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