This was triggered by the question: Medications for asthma

It has been raised that maybe it’s too broad because of the side effects bit. That may be. In a prior iteration it also asked for “best” medications and people felt that may be too subjective. I actually think that part was fine, but that’s not the issue I’m raising here.

My (overlapping) concerns about this question*:

  1. It’s trivial. The OP could have found an answer with a google search. Or whatever “manual” you prefer.

  2. It’s not interesting to experts. I’m not an expert in the area. However, if I was answering it, I would be irritated that I needed to come up with references. I imagine this would be even more true for experts.

  3. It’s too broad (even excluding the side effects bit). A good answer would be too long for this format.

  4. The published literature is too good. Are we going to do better than this?

  5. It opens up a can of worms. Are we going to have a question for every disease, “how do I treat X?"

On the other hand:

  1. Not everybody thinks so.

  2. How do you know?

  3. A good summary is possible.

  4. Meh, nobody reads that stuff.

  5. Why not?

    • Is this sort of thing OK here?

    • If not, should we have a close reason: "This is a general reference question."?

* The purpose of this meta discussion is not to deal with this particular question. I think this is generalizable to any of the zillion possible questions that will likely arise asking similar general reference questions.

  • "[...] if I was answering it, I would be irritated that I needed to come up with references." - Of course, you are a doctor, so this is part of your job. The same way, you don't have to back up what you tell your patients with references. But here on SE we have no other way to determine the reliability of the source (meta.health.stackexchange.com/questions/5/…)
    – Shlublu
    Apr 24 '15 at 11:50
  • @Shlublu Right, and in general that requirement is not cumbersome at all because there is a lot to be gained in the process of locating them and learning what they have to say. It's just, when that information is so easy to find, it seems like a silly use of time. Please realize that I'm not by any means arguing that we shouldn't be required to come up with references. I just tend to think that if doing so is a vapid exercise, the Q&A probably isn't doing anybody any good.
    – Susan
    Apr 24 '15 at 12:07
  • I can see a good argument for wanting to have such answers here. I just question whether having such questions is likely to attract the experts that are needed to provide such answers.
    – Susan
    Apr 24 '15 at 12:11
  • Reading the question again plus these comments, I'm wondering whether such a (main site) question doesn't fall under this (which is still unanswered): meta.health.stackexchange.com/questions/214/…
    – Shlublu
    Apr 24 '15 at 12:16
  • @Shlublu My impression was that that one was targeting questions looking for a single data point and not eliciting any sort of explanation. However, looking at it now, the comments do venture over in the direction of this question.
    – Susan
    Apr 24 '15 at 12:44

Personally, speaking as both a medical professional and a user, I don't find these kinds of questions to be of good quality. They show no research effort; they are of passing interest, but little more. I know this doesn't sound very generous, but if an OP can't do some research first, are internet points worth the effort required in answering?

I agree with your points except maybe #4.

As a community, we need to set the standard for questions (and answers). What we decide depends on what we want to be, and what kind of users we want to attract. This kind of question will not (in my opinion of limited worth) attract health care professionals.

On the other hand, if someone asked (e.g.):

If a 25yo, moderately athletic man's asthma is not well controlled with albuterol (beta-agonist) and ipratropium bromide (anticholinergic) at maximal doses - he still has bronchospasm with exercise and sometimes has to take meds for attacks in the middle of the night - what is the next step? We've removed all the carpets, have had his mattress hermetically sealed, have an air filterer running full time, and banished the cat to the garage. What other drugs or life style changes can we try? What are the pros and cons of each?

I'd be happy to do basically all the same things the original question asked - what drugs are used to treat asthma - but I'd feel I might actually help the person who asked the second question.

I don't mind long answers (and your example, to be answered well, would need to be a very long answer). But it's not very rewarding to do all that work for rep. Call me a grinch. But I'd rather you called me with a problem I might actually be able to help you with.

  • 1
    My concern with your proposed question is that it would be subject to closure for "ask your doctor", but I agree in theory that it's a more interesting question.
    – Zaralynda
    Apr 24 '15 at 12:28

I do not think we should be retyping information that's available on commonly known medical summary sites like WebMD, MayoClinic, your country's health site, etc. If we cannot add any relevant information beyond what's available on these popular sites then we aren't adding anything to the scope of knowledge available on the internet.

I believe this is similar in intent to What to do when a question is precisely answered by a Wikipedia page?

If the way that we need to stop that from happening is by limiting questions, I'm on board with that.

  • Yes, similar in intent to What to do when a question is precisely answered by a Wikipedia page. But apparently even in 2015 a 10-page WP article isn't enough. Apr 24 '15 at 13:15

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