I wanted to raise this for discussion so that we can get it out of the way, particularly because I don't feel like the balance of questions over the past few days has been appropriate.

I recall that a similar problem happening on the Theoretical Computer Science site initially, but they managed to control for it fairly quickly. The Artificial Intelligence site also had a similar problem, and it was closed within a week or two because it wasn't attracting the right community. If we can't get this right, it will be the death of our community.

As per the FAQ, our site is intended for:

professionals and traders working in investment banking, and academics involved in teaching and research

That's a pretty high bar; this site is not intended for beginners. In my view, it means that the following questions (as examples) are not in scope:

It's important to get the level of questions right in order to attract the right community.

I think that it's reasonable that a person asking a question should start with (a) a google search and (b) reading the relevant wikipedia page (if it exists). If the question doesn't imply at least this basic level of understanding, then it should be closed until it is improved.

What does everyone think? Do we need to change the site's scope to be more inclusive, or can we just agree that basic, beginner questions are not in-scope?

To the extent that people do not think that very basic questions should be allowed, I ask that you vote to close these questions as soon as you see them and leave a comment to reflect it.

It is very narrow point of view. Quants who don't deal with time-series analysis in their day to day work (credit default modeling or retail bank portfolio managers) may have significantly less knowledge and experience comparing to traders... I got impression that it is assumed that quantitative finance equates to quantitative analysis for trading purposes... I strongly disagree! – user40 Feb 10 '11 at 22:32
@user40 I disagree that, "quants who don't deal with time-series analysis ... may have significantly less knowledge and experience comparing to traders", especially since I'm a retail bank risk manager. Quantitative finance is not limited to trading. The issue with your questions--both here and now on CrossValidated--is that you ask for definitions of basic things. First look up the definition at Wikipedia and/or a textbook and ask questions about what you don't understand about the definition. – Joshua Ulrich Feb 11 '11 at 12:51
@user40 Please post your thoughts as an answer. The purpose of this question is to have a discussion about whether the current scope should change. As it stands, many of your questions are not within the scope. If you think that this is wrong, then propose a change and see if the community agrees. – Shane Feb 11 '11 at 14:22
Ok. The more I think the more I like QF rules... I'll delete trivial questions I asked. – user40 Feb 11 '11 at 21:09
What about non-trivial questions answered by wikipedia ? exemple: quant.stackexchange.com/questions/10761/… – Were_cat May 1 '14 at 15:00
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I agree with the comparison to Theoretical CS. It's a niche field with few actual professionals, yet tons of curious on-lookers. It's perfectly ok for those users to remain on-lookers only; the problem is when they ask what NP-complete means, etc.

Actually, it's still a problem on Stack Overflow, where a quick Google search would have answered the question (and usually via Wikipedia).

Voting to close.


I completely agree with your assessment. I too fear that those types of questions will not attract the types of people the site is intended for according to the FAQ. I agree that basic / beginner questions are not in-scope.

Any variety of "What is XYZ?" question immediately catches my attention, since they can often 1) be answered by a quick Google search or 2) are so broad that they're nearly unanswerable.

I agree that definitional questions are a bit iffy, but it is often the case that learning resources — from Wikipedia, textbooks, journals, lecture notes, what have you — fail to explain things in plain and simple terms. What would be your thoughts on providing informal, basic, intuitive answers to simple questions in layman's terms? I could see that being beneficial, personally, but then I'm still learning myself. – dysonance May 2 '14 at 8:02
@jamos125: The question is fine if it shows research effort and asks about a very specific portion of the definition that the person has trouble understanding. – Joshua Ulrich May 2 '14 at 11:04

While I agree with the overall gist of previous answers here, that anything that a simple Google search can reveal the answer to should not be asked here, I believe there are a number of topics for which it remains difficult to get a good answer by Googling alone. For such topics, it may be appropriate to post a question here even though the question itself is a "beginner" question to one who is familiar with the topic. Many of us who are not beginners in other realms of quantitative finance may find it difficult to know where to begin on a lesser-known part of the field.

What comes to mind in particular as an example of this is Stock analysis and forecast using chaos theory. @chrisaycock commented that this is not a good question at all. Yet my feeling is that, particularly as this comes up a lot in popular press and discussions, that even many quantitative finance professionals are not aware of some of the work that has been done in this area. Some of the academics working in this area are not nobodies, and for @chrisaycock to dismiss the questioner as someone who clearly doesn't understand finance seems harsh, to say the least.


Stack overflow seems to favor googable questions: How should we deal with Google questions?

That question is linked from the Stack Exchange FAQ: FAQ for Stack Exchange sites, so that makes it somehow official policy

Of course, each community decides it's own rules.

While I agree with your point, the question is about the level of the question, not whether an answer can be found via Google or on Wikipedia. Professionals and academics will not be interested in a forum filled with, "what's the definition of X?" questions. – Joshua Ulrich Feb 10 '11 at 22:12
Wikipedia will always have a higher Page Rank than Stack Exchange. So if a concept is already on Wikipedia, just concede to them since Google will pick them higher anyway. It's fruitless, from a search-engine standpoint, to duplicate Wikipedia. – chrisaycock Feb 10 '11 at 22:57

I have to admit that I'm sympathetic to people starting out. When I first got interested in finance (not even the quant side yet) the first thing I noticed is that people in forums and in general were consistently standoffish if not blatantly rude. For someone just trying to learn a thing or two, it never made sense to me. I couldn't figure out why everyone seemed so exclusive.

I definitely don't mean to imply that this is what you're post is trying to accomplish. Indeed, this is an important consideration. But what does this site lose if people with less exposure to the basics start asking questions? Sure, it may make it harder to find and answer the more complex questions. But this site could be an awesome opportunity for people that know this stuff to break down the fundamentals into understandable terms for the less experienced.

This site excites me for how big the opportunities are to foster a positive and welcoming environment for people, regardless of experience, to just learn something. Considering how active it is compared to other similar open forums, I think it would be sad to see this place suppress questions that fail to meet subjective standards for being hard enough.

What the site loses is the interest of experienced professionals. From their perspective, basic questions are simply noise. This forum has already lost many very knowledgeable people because they were tired of all these basic questions, and tired of those asking the basic questions accusing them of being standoffish and rude for considering their question off-topic. – Joshua Ulrich May 2 '14 at 11:00

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