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There are questions on the home page looking for research studies. Are these - like any other 'external resource' questions on the network - off topic?

The questions are

I should own some motivation here. I hear a dog whistle, and it says, 'isn't open source full of harassment/x/y/z?'

Mostly, though, google is a perfectly fine way to discover the existence of published studies. Why do we need questions here?

  • If questions are specific in the nature of information that they are seeking, then I don't have an issue with it. – Zizouz212 Jul 9 '15 at 15:00
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My initial instinct is to agree. But then, your second statement is overly broad when you say "on the network" (even assuming you are referring to the Stack Exchange network). The Software Recommendations site is, of course, explicitly set up for that purpose.

But to your point, it's hard to find another SE site where these questions would be accepted, and to which we could redirect them. Neither Cross Validated nor Data Science (the latter of which is in beta) seem to accept this type of question, and they would be the obvious alternatives.

But consider the relevance. This movement/community (dang it we have to find a term which covers software - OSS, FLOSS, Free - and everything else created in a "here's the source" manner) is not new - I was using GnuPlot back in the early 90's - but it has reached critical mass. It is beginning to accrue a body of case law; it is impacting the revenues and business practices of companies around the world; it is enormously influencing the lives (whether they know it or not) of hundreds of millions of 'ordinary' people through the products they use every day.

If research doesn't exist, then it darn well should. It's time someone started to quantify and examine the importance of our contributions.

Perhaps allowing these questions will prompt some research. Certainly, via google, it may direct researchers and journalists to this site. And if this site is to be something more than a reference on which license to use, then the questions offer one more way to expand its scope and make it relevant to the entire community of creators and users.

I would also point out that two of those questions have attracted quite a few votes (at least for this stage in the site's life). That implies that this community is interested in the answers

[EDIT]

It looks like the Open Data site will accept some types of "where can I find data about ..." questions. So part of my original answer is now slightly less persuasive to me. However, the second part (on relevance) still seems worth considering.

  • 1
    An excellent answer! However, I must add one thing. Open Data SE only accepts data as long as they pertain to the open definition. You may look for this data, but you will end up possibly leaving out anything that is not considered open on that site. As a result, we would lose out in many comprehensive research and studies. Otherwise, an excellent answer. – Zizouz212 Jul 9 '15 at 14:59
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Just because research might be available somewhere on the internet, doesn't mean that finding the answer is as easy as finding the right bit of reasearch. The research might not have had what is asked as a main focus, not be complete and need to be combined with other research that can be found on the web. Or it might need to be interpreted in relation to the question asked.

Our site could serve as a very good platform for putting together information gathered from research and putting it into a contex that people involved in FLOSS actually ask about, as well as explaining it in a way that an average open source contributor/enthusiast can relatively easily understand it.

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As the author of the first question linked above I can say that the intent was not 'I want an external resource.", but rather 'I want a literature review.'.

This happened for a number of reasons - all of which will, I suspect, generalise.

  • The underlying question (in this case barriers to contribution) is on topic
  • Asking the underlying question directly will, validly, be shut down as subjective or argumentative
  • There is a desire to ask useful questions that aren't about licensing (which is a topic well covered by Google-Fu)
  • The fact that the issue is so subjective makes the search for an objective, quantified view of the matter interesting and desirable
  • As academic attention is focussed on a topic the words used may wonder so far from conventional usage or usage in the FLOSS community that Google becomes useless to anyone looking for answers in this site's community's terms.

I agree with @kdopen's assertion above that if this research does not exist then it really should. If asking the questions there may help in that direction I'm in favour of them.

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