EDIT: It has been over a year since the "vote" has been counted and the vote total no longer has any useful meaning.

As noted in the comments, the vote total while the question was current was: Yes:7, No:6 . Assuming no one voted for both options, we had the participation of 13 members after a few weeks.

The rather dramatic change in vote totals since then has prompted the creation of a new discusison.

This very question has already been asked: Can this site include questions about resources one would use to learn the Japanese Language?

Despite Rob's answer getting a majority of votes, it falls short of establishing clear guidelines for how Resources questions should be handled (for a start, it seems to answer in the positive, but then goes on excluding the very example given by the OP).

I feel this is a very important point, that will dramatically affect the content and tone of JLU and should be the object of clear, unambiguous consensus. A consensus that should be respected, once it has been established (yes, that means no longer closing these questions if the change is voted in).

Let's settle this once and for all.

Please have a look at all the examples below and cast a vote on whether these two sub-categories of questions should be allowed or not:

1) Resource-question that follow SE's format closely ("practical, answerable questions based on actual problems"):

Written resources for scientific and philosophic japanese?

Is there an online list of frequently used words in the news?

Free, online resource for kanbun readings of particular texts?

Children's audio books good for listening practice?

2) Resource questions that might not have a satisfying answer:

What should I look for in a dictionary to help me study?

What are good sources for streaming Japanese language television?

What techniques/resources do you use to learn Japanese?

What's the best utility for identifying kanji?

Appropiate anime or media to learn japanese

Feel free to add more examples, or revise them to make them clearer

Also feel free to amend the answer posts with your arguments for/against, but please abstain from splitting the answers beyond the 3 existing ones

  • What about answerable technique questions? For example, "How do Japanese school children learn kanji"? (Perhaps this should be a separate discussion, but the third example for category 2 hints at it.)
    – Troyen
    Mar 31, 2012 at 7:22
  • I've written some comments on some of the resource questions at gist.github.com/2260875 . Patches welcome!
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 31, 2012 at 8:33
  • -1 to the question because I don't think it should be settled "once and for all". I'll write a discussion post explaining why at some stage.
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 1, 2012 at 23:38
  • @AndrewGrimm: we've already discussed that in the chat. If you can't understand the meaning in context of "once and for all", and why we are not gonna revisit every single element of FAQ every other month, I can't really help you.
    – Dave
    Apr 2, 2012 at 0:11
  • @Dave when we discussed it, you made some claims you couldn't be bothered substantiating. There's no way the discussion could be resolved.
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 2, 2012 at 1:00
  • One important note about this vote... please look at the expanded vote totals, as (at least at the moment) they paint a different picture if you only consider the +1's.
    – jkerian
    Apr 3, 2012 at 5:02
  • OK. Few people expressed enough interest in the question to vote it up, scores are roughly tied: 7 yes, 5 no + 1 (my own that SE does not let me cast for being the poster) = 6 no. Unless this question magically starts attracting the attention (and votes) of more members, we are pretty much stuck on the status quo (= No).
    – Dave
    Apr 8, 2012 at 16:55
  • Meanwhile, please feel free to ask resource questions in chat. We've also recently created a resources meta question that has been added to the FAQ.
    – jkerian
    May 4, 2012 at 19:29
  • @Dave: Is this really a good candidate for faq-proposed?
    – jkerian
    May 15, 2012 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


YES, Resource questions are fine as long as they conform to SE's guiding principles (category 1 above): practical, answerable questions based on actual problems

Arguments in favor:

  • We can encourage new learners and/or new users to ask honest questions about Japanese without being shut down, yet avoid becoming diluted with off-topic and open-ended questions.
  • We do not have to blindly disregard useful questions and answers that could help the site grow.
  • We can maintain the air of professionalism by still closing clearly unhelpful questions.

Argument against:

  • This is going to be HARD. Consider whether you actually agree with my decisions on off-topic/on-topic in the examples below. If we move the boundary, there will be quite a bit more contention over anything that sound vaguely like a 'resource question'.

Here's the main rule from our FAQ on questions: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face."

  • Practical : The question has to have some point. A decent (though not foolproof) guide to this is "would this question ever help anyone else?"
  • Answerable : Most resource-questions fail this. There should be an answer. Any rational person (not just the original person asking the question), should be able to come by and say "yes, this single answer answered the question". Virtually all "what's your favorite ___?" questions fail this.
  • based on actual problems : Given that this is a language site, the usual "problem" is "I would like to express X", or "What does Y mean?". "I would like to learn to read kanji" may be signs of an underlying psychological problem, but the important thing to note is that the "problem" in this case is the person, not the language. The problem that you are trying to solve is the bit that we're arguing needs to be related to the language.

Here's our current FAQ sections on questions to avoid:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where:

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?” (fails all 3)
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?” (actual problem?)
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.” (actual problem, practical... in my perfect world, these questions would all have one single-word response "Yes")
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?” (practical, actual problem)
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?” (fails all 3)

Now let's turn to some of the questions

1) "Answerable" resource questions:

Yes Written resources for scientific and philosophic japanese?

Practical: Yes, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: Yes ... Note that the title could be better

Yes Is there an online list of frequently used words in the news?

Practical: Yes, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: Yes

Yes Free, online resource for kanbun readings of particular texts?

Practical: Yes, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: Yes (problem is reading old japanese, language related)

Probably Yes Children's audio books good for listening practice?

Practical: Partly, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: Maybe. This one is similar to the "streaming japanese TV" question. "Actual Problem" is perhaps better because these resources are actually harder to find. Ironically, this question's most on-topic section is the resource question, the rest of it starts asking for generic recomendations.

2) Not "answerable" Resource questions:

No What should I look for in a dictionary to help me study?

Practical: Yes (but only on the surface), Answerable: No, Actual Problem: No

This one is a thinly disguised "What's your favorite _____ ?" question. It's not answerable in this case because the author made it so generic as to be absolutely useless. There is no actual problem here, unlike several of the other dictionary-related questions.

Probably No What are good sources for streaming Japanese language television?

Practical: Yes, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: Maybe. I have to say I'd be more sympathetic to this question if we were living in pre-youtube/nikoniko days, where finding Japanese tv programs was even remotely difficult. Given that we're not suffering from a lack of native-produced television program, it's hard to see where the "liveness" is an issue. How would you declare this to be on-topic, but exclude "Where can I find episode 14 of pokemon, season 3?"

No What techniques/resources do you use to learn Japanese?

Practical: Maybe, Answerable: Yes, Actual Problem: No. This might be our textbook example of “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

No What's the best utility for identifying kanji?

Practical: No, Answerable: No, Actual Problem: No. Clearcut "What's your favorite ____?" question.

No Appropiate anime or media to learn japanese

Practical: No, Answerable: No, Actual Problem: No. I attempted to answer this question by reframing the question "What are the pitfalls of learning Japanese from anime?" which I believe partly redeems it, but the question itself is simply not a question.

  • 6
    The guiding principle should be "Is this question objectively answerable?". "What is the best _____?" should be forbidden, but I can see even a few textbook or JLPT-prep questions actually passing this rule if enough thought is put into it.
    – jkerian
    Mar 31, 2012 at 6:40
  • Can someone explain briefly what a corpus is?
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 31, 2012 at 8:27
  • @AndrewGrimm: Basically, it's a large collection of speech in a particular language, used by linguists to figure out if a particular construction occurs in a language. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_linguistics has more. Think of it like a real version of the "google search test".
    – jkerian
    Apr 1, 2012 at 0:31
  • 2
    What about some hypothetical questions like "What are some resources for writing a [letter/resume/etc] in Japanese"? Would they be covered by this option?
    – cypher
    Apr 1, 2012 at 3:30
  • @cypher: I think jkerian's simple test would apply. Such a question as you phrase it has no objective answer (only possible list of links), therefore I do not think it would be covered.
    – Dave
    Apr 2, 2012 at 3:14
  • 1
    @cypher Some of these could probably be rewritten to ask for help refining search terms in Japanese. e.g. "What are some resources for writing a resume in Japanese." → "Is 例 the best translation for 'example' as in 'example resume'.
    – nkjt
    May 25, 2012 at 15:46
  • What exactly does this mean? ' "I would like to learn to read kanji" may be signs of an underlying psychological problem'
    – user1478
    Oct 12, 2012 at 8:25
  • @snailplane: I've been surprised no one else objected to that. It's a lame joke on my part... was getting frustrated with a kanji hump at the time. Was getting kinda curious if anyone who was voting for it was actually reading!
    – jkerian
    Oct 14, 2012 at 20:30

YES, all resource questions should be allowed on JLU (examples from both categories above should be re-opened)

Some people feel that JLU should let such questions be.

Arguments in favour:

  • A lot of JLU users are students of Japanese and would benefit from sharing tips for resources on learning Japanese.

  • Many users would prefer to be able to make an effort to work out the answers to their questions themselves, without asking JLU. Partially for their own convenience, and partially because asking questions you can work out yourself is regarded as inconsiderate.

  • Many of the people interested in resources are beginners. If they aren't allowed to ask such questions here, or on any other Stack Exchange, then they may leave the Stack Exchange network for other web forums. Even when they reach the stage of being able to ask questions that would be accepted here, they will probably stay with the web forums they have already used.

  • These kinds of questions tend to be popular; they may be likely to bring in new users and increase traffic to the site.

  • 1
    I'd like some commentary here from the upvoters of this answer. From the above: "What are good sources...", "What techniques/resources do you use...", "What's the best utility...", "Appropriate anime or media...", "What should I look for in a dictionary" all fail other guidelines for questions on the SE network. Do you intend that these questions should be allowed? Or only question such as "I'm looking for a website with free audio recordings of Japanese children books."(borderline, in my view), and the other 3 dictionary questions listed above.
    – jkerian
    Apr 2, 2012 at 17:10
  • Let's be clear: the examples are there for a reason. If you vote this particular answer up, you consider that all these examples should be allowed on JLU (despite being against standard guidelines). There was some room to discuss the formatting of the question, but so far nobody has done so...
    – Dave
    Apr 2, 2012 at 23:02

NO, resource questions should not be allowed on JLU (examples from both categories above should remain closed and all future questions on similar topics, closed as well)

Seems to be the current "practical consensus" so far (in accordance to the initial scope proposal on Area51): Resources questions have been consistently voted closed by core members (even when admins are not around, they quickly reach their 5 closing votes).

Arguments in favour of disallowing all resource questions:

  • They do not, usually, have a single decidable answer, making them unfit for SE's voting system and question guidelines. Any answer to questions about media, textbook or method is likely to be highly subjective and will not lead to any useful consensus.

  • Countless other websites and forums exist that already discuss such resources.

  • JLU Meta (and the chat) can already be used to discuss these (by creating single Community Wiki entries for each type of resources, for example), without compromising the scope of the Main site.

  • JLU is not exclusively designed as a Japanese-studying website but a resource for discussing points of the Japanese language. Many of its core members are native or advanced speakers and have no use for the type of resources being discussed.

  • The reputation system awards popular questions. Open-ended subjective questions tend to be popular because it's easy for everyone to share their opinion and gain reputation. JLU would risk encouraging and rewarding people for asking and answering resource questions at the expense of language questions.

  • In the case of links to websites, some believe that answers on this site should be as self-contained as possible in order to reduce the associated risk of websites going down. There is also a risk that external resources may become out of date or out of print in the future.

  • Despite being a language-learner and the author of multiple websites/software that could benefit from the exposure, I personally feel that the main strength of JLU is its clear, narrow focus on matters of language, at the exclusion of any other.
    – Dave
    Mar 31, 2012 at 2:14
  • I think if we clean up our community-wiki resource lists on meta, we can just redirect people to them if we continue to close resource questions on JLU.
    – Troyen
    Mar 31, 2012 at 3:33
  • @Troyen: agreed (and there's a point above to that extent). Please do keep in mind that the goal of this question is to come to a decision on that matter, so do cast a vote one direction or another.
    – Dave
    Mar 31, 2012 at 5:50
  • @Troyen: feel free to suggest a re-agencing of the examples... but I feel keeping it down to TWO sub-categories at most (the ones that might be OK, the ones that are definitely not) is essential to reaching any useful consensus.
    – Dave
    Mar 31, 2012 at 6:43
  • 1
    With regards to the "no use for the type of resources being discussed", users can put the resources tag into their ignored tags.
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 31, 2012 at 7:32
  • 1
    @AndrewGrimm: by that reasoning, there's no need to even define what's "on topic", people can just put whatever they are not interested in, in their list of ignored tags.
    – Dave
    Apr 1, 2012 at 14:43
  • @Dave do you want to have a constructive discussion, or make a straw man out of others?
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 1, 2012 at 23:05
  • 2
    @AndrewGrimm: Please do not try to avoid relevant questions with Ad-Hominem attacks. If people are concerned about the type of environment that will result from allowing some questions, they're not going to be happy with filtering, which was designed to solve a much different problem.
    – jkerian
    Apr 2, 2012 at 19:19
  • Regarding the point that discussions of resources could compromise the integrity of discussion by allowing companies to showcase their products here, I'd point out that this isn't really a problem on other SE sites such as StackOverflow - they discourage such behaviour in their community rules.
    – ジョン
    Apr 3, 2012 at 18:30
  • In fact, many of the existing sites for Japanese language learning resources on the internet are riddled with such commercial interests. The userbase here represents many decades of Japanese study, and I think many would have valuable advice to share based on their own study experiences, to offer a resource that isn't really available anywhere else.
    – ジョン
    Apr 3, 2012 at 18:33
  • @ジョン Fair enough. I've removed that section.
    – cypher
    Apr 3, 2012 at 21:36
  • @jkerian I have "no use" (to quote the bullet point) for Ruby on Rails questions, but I don't dispute the right of such questions to exist on Stack Overflow. I put them in my ignored tags, and that works fine for me.
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 4, 2012 at 8:29
  • @AndrewGrimm: You're thinking of ignored tags as a kline in irc. That's really the wrong way to think about them. Instead think about "these are questions that I'm incapable of helping anyone on". Keep in mind that the basic implementation didn't even hide "ignored" tags, it just faded them out a bit.
    – jkerian
    Apr 4, 2012 at 19:49
  • @jkerian how is what I've described treating ignored tags as a kline?
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 4, 2012 at 23:25

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