I have seen a few questions that sound more or less like a full design problem description. In essence the poster is asking somebody to do the work for him.

Now the question is when does the question move over form being interesting/filtering your options? When do we wander into the land of actually needing to consider instead billing the user (when do we say ask a consultant)? For example asking for options that exist is one thing*. Asking us to choose from said options is really the job of the engineer. As is enumerating the options.

So how far are you willing to take it. I'm all for asking. Just wondering why I would answer a question that I get asked every 2 months and get paid 1000 euros for my effort**? Are there any guidelines?

The problem as I see it is that there are less parts in mechanical engineering than code. Everything is just more coupled. So the questions are much closer to the whole problem than specific programming questions.

* Asking for an authoritative list of everything that exists is a bit too much asked too.
** In fact I do think engineering disciplines would benefit from more openness.

  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.engineering.stackexchange.com/questions/121/… $\endgroup$
    – user16
    May 5, 2015 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7 yes its similar indeed, im just looking at it form the other end. This is slightly ifferent problem tough.. ista bout how far should on be willing to go. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    May 5, 2015 at 11:36

1 Answer 1


Whether or not these kinds of questions are on-topic or a good fit for the site is discussed on our Naive Design Questions meta thread, and our homework problems thread. I think the community has staked out fairly explicit and reasonable positions on these; namely that we need to meet certain levels of specificity and detail. So partially, your question shouldn't matter much. If someone comes to us asking a question that would require weeks or months of work and would normally be fit for a consultant, that should be closed as too broad.

Beyond that, the choice is really a personal one. I wouldn't spend more than a couple hours on a question, and for me to spend that much, it has to be something that truly piques my interest; something that makes me say "Yeah, that's a good question. Why is that/How would you do that?" At that point, I'm answering as much for myself as I am for the person asking the question.

However, I'm not going to stop somebody from putting what I might consider a crazy amount of work into an answer, so long as the question is appropriate for the site.

Perhaps my favorite example of this is the diesel fuel in a gas engine question. As you can see, I answered the question with a couple paragraphs giving the highlights of what might happen, and some links that go into more detail. My esteemed fellow moderator Air writes a small dissertation that goes much more in depth, and I assume it took him much longer to write. There are probably a few different reasons behind this, but whatever the case, there's no reason for us to tell him he spent too much time on the question. I'd even argue that it's beneficial to have multiple types of answers to certain questions, because some people will be looking for more background, others might just want a quick and direct answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Well what about questions that are too specific. Take for example the joint question with a bounty. It is very specialized an i can not for earth of me understand why anybody would want to answer the question. I mean if he was asking options for different joints sure, maybe broad. But giving out your entire design constraint and expecting us to do the research... I have written 3hour posts in the past. But that is on me... Anyway iys also bad for the site if lot of questions remain unanswered $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    May 5, 2015 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ In that case, as I said, it comes down to personal choice. Nobody has felt they've had the time and knowledge to answer it. If it goes unanswered, it goes unanswered. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2015 at 13:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @joojaa Some solutions are more obscure than difficult. If someone has solved a similar problem to the one described in the narrow joint bearing question, they may contribute something useful that the author might never find in the course of their secondary research. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    May 5, 2015 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Air yes true, obsucre is more common than difficult. Its possible that somebody has done this before thus its easy to give the answer. The problem is that the site needs to operate until this person walks in. In this case the asker should share their research. (in any case i know how to do this just dont know where he can acquire the solution so its of no particular use for the asker) But pont being getting lots of no answers just increases the likelihood that the site becomes defunct. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    May 5, 2015 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @joojaa I think we're doing okay right now in terms of how many questions are being answered. We just need to make sure that questions are categorized well by their tags and identified well by their titles so that new users can find unanswered questions that might be in their areas of expertise. You could ask the author about their research and/or post an answer that might be helpful to other users with the same problem. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    May 5, 2015 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Air possibly but the problem is that asking proper questions on this site is considerably harder than on most other sites save physics. take this, the question is sort of valid but without understanding the nature of the system its impossible to say why the sensor is not steady. So its hard to suggest a physically measurable phenomena to exploit when all i know is that the system wobbles but that might be electromagnetic interference. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    May 5, 2015 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ @joojaa Yes, it's hard. For the record, the sensor question has some downvotes on it, probably for the same reasons you identify. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    May 5, 2015 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ @joojaa Relatively early in the site's history I asked a question that that seems to speak to the point that you are making. The responses there might be applicable. $\endgroup$
    – hazzey Mod
    May 5, 2015 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @hazzey now that is mostly a duplicate question! $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    May 5, 2015 at 18:25

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