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In the Help Center, we have the standard Stack Exchange verbiage:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

However, in the context of Law.SE, "questions based on actual problems that you face" are likely to constitute requests for legal advice, which are off topic. The contradiction was noted by user jez.

Should we change the "actual problems" text to something more appropriate to this site?

  • I've featured this because I'm hoping that if we can change this to something more appropriate, fewer questions will be closed :) Please review each suggestion below. – jimsug Feb 28 '16 at 13:53
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    It seems clear to me that there needs to be some clear indication that hypotheticals are allowed. – Shelvacu Mar 9 '16 at 18:48
  • Cross-link to the same question on Meta.Parenting.SE, which may have some useful perspectives. – WBT Mar 22 '16 at 20:12
  • @WBT, There's also a meta thread on this in physics.SE. – Pacerier Mar 23 '16 at 16:51
  • @Pacerier Do you have a cross-link handy, to add here & on Parenting? – WBT Mar 24 '16 at 4:00
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How about going from:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

to:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that could exist in the real world.

The "could" clearly allows for hypotheticals, but the rest of the clause limits the set of hypotheticals in a way that seems consistent with the intended meaning (if that limit isn't needed, just end the sentence after "questions.").

  • This, if I remember correctly, is the same answer as the one on meta.physics.SE. Though theirs is more of "actual problems that could exist in a world". – Pacerier Mar 23 '16 at 16:54
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I think the current text is good. If you don't know how the law would apply to a particular hypothetical and want help with the analysis, that is an actual problem.

The "problem occurring in real life" is that the asker (possibly a student of law) is having trouble analyzing how the law would apply to a particular hypothetical.

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    I feel like the average lay reader is more likely to interpret "actual problem" as "problem occurring in real life" - the exact opposite of "hypothetical". – Nate Eldredge Jan 31 '16 at 21:25
  • Okay, well, as long as we're not closing questions simply because they present a hypothetical, it won't be a problem, I think. Based on this meta question/answer, I don't think that confusion is happening here. – user3851 Jan 31 '16 at 21:26
  • @NateEldredge But I see what you're saying about "actual problems" inviting more than just hypotheticals... – user3851 Jan 31 '16 at 21:34
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Okay, so I've had some time to think about it, and I wonder whether anyone would be amenable to a slight change:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual legal problems or issues, but please note that nothing here constitutes legal advice.

The phrase "legal problems or issues", I think, allows for both pure hypotheticals and hypotheticals based on real-life scenarios - even that users may actually be experiencing - but the addendum makes it clear that nothing here is legal advice - to make it clear that if it's based on actual legal problems or issues, you're not getting a lawyer to work on your matter here.

Thoughts?

  • "I think, allows for both pure hypotheticals..." and I think it doesn't, it's very unclear. When I first read it I thought you had simply combined the contradiction into one sentence. – Shelvacu Mar 9 '16 at 18:50
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I suggest that we delete the entire paragraph:

First, make sure that your question is on-topic for this site.

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

[…]

Nothing of value would be lost. The "reasonably scoped" paragraph that follows would already exclude impractical, unanswerable, chatty, or open-ended questions.

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I propose we change:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

To

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based upon reasonable facts.

  • I don't agree with that limitation. Analysis of hypotheticals with fact patterns that are unlikely to be true is an important part of the study of law. I found this: meta.law.stackexchange.com/questions/34/…, and this: meta.law.stackexchange.com/questions/105/… – user3851 Jan 31 '16 at 21:22
  • @dawn you're right, maybe propose some of your own text? – Viktor Jan 31 '16 at 21:24
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    Also, the facts themselves are sometimes unreasonable even when true. – WBT Mar 22 '16 at 19:48
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I am not sure whether it is the most appropriate place, but also update the tour. I think that the tour is actually a place where confusion comes from.

In particular, it states that

Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered

Are ON-topic. However, these are OFF-topic.

I suggest to remove this sentence and, to add the following sentence to on-topic:

Hypothetical situations that can be analysed using the law.

Add the following sentence to off-topic:

Real-life problems; ask a legal advisor instead.

These sentences need a lot of rewriting, but they give the idea I want to give with the answer.

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