There was a bit of discussion recently regarding the question

Where can I find daily spot prices of oil, gold, and US dollar index?

centering around whether it is acceptable for non-pros and non-academic users to ask for help finding data that is easily obtainable by a pro or academic using standard data sources (e.g. Bloomberg, FactSet). I recommend that henceforth all but the most esoteric of data questions, which even a professional would potentially find difficult (and even with access to professional data sources), be considered off-topic.

Data questions are invariably asked by new and/or low-rep users, and seem to be little more than a nuisance and distraction from the overall goal of this site of providing a forum for experts. In any case the vast majority of these users' questions can already be answered by viewing the data wiki, and the rest are probably not available for free.

A brief clarification: Questions about where to find unusual data that is not easily obtainable via the major professional services, and for which one may need to pay to obtain, remain acceptable.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are three questions that get asked all the time on here:

  1. How do I become a quant?
  2. What programming language should I use?
  3. Where can I find free data online?

Only amateurs ask these. I feel embarrassed for this site when one of these gets upvoted. Feel free to just suspend anyone who posts this garbage.

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Let me do the unpopular thing here and disagree. There are plenty of good reasons to have questions about data on here, so let's start by determining whether data questions are on-topic (I believe that they should be). Just because data is free does not mean that the person asking the question is an amateur.

There are many cases when I want to do an open analysis of data that I can use for teaching or to send to someone. I want to be able to provide all the code and data (preferably directly pulling the data off the web from within the code). As such, while I personally have access to all kinds of different data sources (Reuters, Bloomberg, FACTSET, etc.), there are still occasions when I will want an open data source.

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While I agree that a professional quant might want free data for the very uses you've described, most of the people who ask for free data on this site are not professionals. So it's an issues of theory (free data is pro-friendly) vs practice (free data requests have always come from amateurs) that has turned many of the advanced users against these types of questions. –  chrisaycock Jan 21 '12 at 20:56

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