I didn't see this started elsewhere, so I thought I would give it a shot.

Perhaps while it's being worked out, not yet posted as the official FAQ, we can even point people to this meta post. That way they can at least read what's here and get some direction.

Please limit each answer to one FAQ topic.

  • I'm confused what the difference between this and meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/110/… is. That is the generally used format for FAQ discussions.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 15:37
  • I thought the thread you referenced was only for compiling a list of what's on-topic and what's off-topic to be one part of the FAQ, as opposed to compiling a list of everything to go in the FAQ. Aug 12, 2010 at 15:43
  • Ah, I see. I think that's because that's the section that is generally considered site-specific. The rest is boilerplate.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 15:46
  • 1
    But could we not have our own FAQ that covers what we want it to? Or, since you've noted that it may be best to keep the FAQ as short as possible, then maybe have it direct people to a more complete FAQ that addresses the rest of this? I just think we're going to (and already do) have a lot of non-programmer people who will want explanations of how things work, b/c they won't be familiar with StackOverflow. I personally have been crazy-frustrated at the lack of explanation. I keep getting pointed to explanations on SO that don't make sense to me, the non-programmer. Aug 12, 2010 at 16:03
  • 2
    Don't know where to note it, but I get it now, and I agree that we should have a simple FAQ and then at the bottom link to FAQs here on meta. I just am very concerned that the information be somewhere, and be in non-technical language; I'm happy with meta being that place. Aug 14, 2010 at 2:33

7 Answers 7


On-topic and Off-topic Questions


  • Cooking and Food Preparation Methods
  • Ingredient Selection and Use
  • Specific Fixes to a Recipe or Cooking Problem
  • Food Handling and Storage
  • Kitchen Equipment


  • Recipe Swapping
  • General Health and Diet Issues
  • Career Advice
  • Wine-making, Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation
  • Food-growing or Foraging

See this thread for the examples compiled so far.

  • I listed those that we all seem to be in agreement on. Perhaps in this part of the FAQ we could do just that - give the primary examples we all agree on of what's on- & off-topic, then put the link to the meta thread where they are all in discussion, so if they're interested they can see the complete list of what may or may not be on topic. Aug 12, 2010 at 15:51
  • I don't think we really need any more than this. I give specifics in my comments to the question above.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 16:49

My comments above got so long that I think they fit better as an actual answer.

The answers to this so far seem to indicate a desire to make our FAQ as comprehensive as possible so that new users have an easier time. This assumption, that an all-encompassing FAQ makes things easier, is false.

First, I speak as a person with a fair amount of knowledge in software usability. My degree had a strong focus on human-computer interaction and usability engineering. I've used and expanded this knowledge professionally. I don't intend this to be interpreted as some type of trump card that makes my opinion "better", but rather an indicator that I'm not just pulling it out of thin air. (I still consider myself "just a developer" and don't have a "usability engineer" title.)

I'm going to drastically over-simplify our sites user-base into two demographics:

  • Regular users - These users have below-average to average familiarity and experience with computers, the web, and online forums/wikis

  • Power users - These users have above-average to expert familiarity and experience with computers and all things web

Now, a scenario:

Robert, a regular user, has a question. Robert, however, has not read the FAQ, and quite possibly doesn't even know what a FAQ is. Robert will do one of two things: (1) make a decision/assumption and go forward or (2) ask for support/guidance. In either scenario Robert will be given an answer by another member of the community, either in the form of a direct answer or as a correction to whatever erroneous assumption he may have made (if his assumption/decision was correct it will go unnoticed and he will subsequently continue to do this correct action).

Now, what happens after the scenario:

Robert will almost always (at least more often than not) say, "This should be in the manual/FAQ/somewhere", oblivious to the fact that he never read it in the first place. Robert thinks that because he had a question it must be common/frequent enough to warrant being in the FAQ. This is just normal human egocentric behavior. However, Robert ignores the fact that he never read the FAQ/manual in the first place. Robert isn't even the type that enjoys doing that. He has a very low threshold for when he deems something too complicated to bother with, yet he advocates adding complication to said document.

Now, a scenario for a power user:

Pamela is a power user. Pamela likely has read the FAQ, or at least has enough general web/forum knowledge and experience to make educated guesses. Pamela, being a typical egocentric human, has assumptions and expectations that other users, including Robert have read the FAQ, or will read it when directed to. Pamela will tend to see a question and do one of two things: (1) if the question is new, answer it or (2) if the question is in the FAQ, direct the user to read the FAQ.

Now, after this scenario:

Pamela has foresight. She can see other new users asking Robert's question again. She comes to the conclusion that Robert's question should be added to the FAQ so that future Roberts don't need to ask the question. Pamela has a high tolerance for web complexities and can thus tolerate, and read (enjoyably) a comprehensive FAQ.

Letting this scenario play out over time will lead to a larger, more comprehensive FAQ/manual that is read by an increasingly smaller population of both Roberts and Pamelas. Robert, because he never read it in the first place, and when directed to a document of increasing complexity is less likely to even when directed. Pamela, because as the complexity increases the subset of Pamelas willing to read this decreases.

If you'll look at the StackOverflow FAQ you'll see that is very minimalist. It answers the very high level questions covering only the basics of how to get started using the site. It closes with a link to a more comprehensive set of FAQs which are housed on the meta site. This is the proper solution for both Pamela and Robert. The information is appropriately minimal enough that Robert will read it, at least when directed to it, and has a link to more comprehensive FAQs which a subset of Roberts will follow, or at least remember is there, giving them a pseudo-Pamela familiarity with the site. Pamela is much more likely to follow this link as well, and tolerate the added complexity/verbosity, or at least remember that it exists for future reference.

We already have the tools in place to manage our own community-editable FAQ: the meta site. The [faq] tag is intended to serve this purpose, it's even highlighted differently to stand out from other tags. Additionally, the search functionality searches the questions and answers of the site, not the FAQ. We should be encouraging as many of our users as possible to feel comfortable coming to the meta site to ask their questions instead of increasing the amount of knowledge they are "expected" to have. (While not expressly intended, the FAQ does imply that a user should know what's in the FAQ at least).

Encouraging users to ask in meta, or at least directing them to a meta FAQ that has already been asked reinforces their participation in the meta site. This reinforcement is invaluable because it translates to a larger percentage of community participation in the meta, as opposed to a "select few".

The ability to manage our own FAQs using meta, with all the feedback tools provided, is simply better than a rigid FAQ that requires super-moderator (Jeff, Robert, etc.) intervention to change.

  • I forgot to mention that while our user-base is probably 80% Pamelas now, as we grow and attract more expert and professional chefs we will likely trend towards an 80% Robert population.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 18:14
  • 1
    I admit that I skimmed this - will read it in full later - but the first thing that strikes me about this is that we're essentially re-inventing the wheel for every Stack Exchange site. I do think there should be a community-editable FAQ that works more or less like the meta, but it ought to be more structured and user-friendly, like Wikipedia's. You know, actual documentation on the stuff that isn't site-specific. Unfortunately, I made exactly this request on MSO and it didn't seem to be too well-received...
    – Aaronut
    Aug 12, 2010 at 18:17
  • 1
    What is someone supposed to do when they want to learn more about how the site works? What if they don't have a specific question, but just want information? Where should they go? Aug 12, 2010 at 18:30
  • 1
    @JustRightMenus: We can start our own. They can come here. This is what meta is for.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 18:38
  • @JustRightMenus: For example, I turned your recent question into a FAQ question.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 19:03
  • 1
    1) What makes something an FAQ question? The one you just tagged is now the only one. 2) I have had many questions that are answered on SO but I have trouble following the answer on SO. Is it inappropriate to ask the question here, knowing the answer is already out there on SO, just so I can get a less techie answer? Aug 12, 2010 at 19:13
  • 1
    @JustRightMenus: Do you mean MSO? In that case I'd say it's not inappropriate, but also don't be too surprised if somebody decides to link you back to MSO. If you're finding that the MSO post is full of jargon or things you don't understand, then you would likely receive better answers here by explaining what parts aren't clear.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 12, 2010 at 19:33
  • 1
    @JustRightMenus: I agree with Aaronut. It should never be inappropriate to ask a question here. We can't reasonably have an expectation that our users would read MSO of their own accord.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 19:57
  • @JustRightMenus: Diamond mods can apply the [faq] tag to questions on meta.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 20:08
  • ONE: Thoughtful post, but I think its identifying problems we don't have. For one, its possible that this thread is the template for the more through FAQ, and that we can simplify or drastically edit it for whatever concise version we prefer afterward. It makes sense to let people write, discuss, brainstorm, and synthesize before trying to cut, shorten, and segment away. We need to do this to establish consensus and see what is there in one place.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 12, 2010 at 23:12
  • TWO: In my mind Roberts and Pamela are both users who need answers: concise, clearly written, well-organized answers. We can serve all levels of interest, starting with the things everyone must know and pyramiding out to the long tail of miscellaneous details which few users will need. Robert and Pamela are both lazy humans who will predictably read from top-to-bottom, focus on bold headings and bullet-points, skim for italics and short sentences, and links to sub-questions which explain in more detail. There's no reason our FAQ can't leverage these features to make both of them happy.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 12, 2010 at 23:20
  • THREE: Thinking along the lines of these two user-categories results in an FAQ that is so simple it doesn't answer or explain anyone's question satisfactorily and a comprehensive FAQ that is so long that no one wades through it. I don't think the MSO FAQ is as good as it could be. If we can do better than it, we should.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 12, 2010 at 23:34
  • I think this should be a comment, or if too long, a separate meta thread about having an FAQ. As it stands, I think it's making it difficult to vote on the separate answers. If you don't like a section for the basic FAQ, you can just vote it down.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:43
  • 2
    This seems like a good solution, which we can be in control of. The FAQ page contains minimal high level information and a link to a search on meta.cooking for the FAQ tag which will list all the questions tagged FAQ. this will allow us to expand & edit the detailed FAQ easily and the question titles will effectively be an index, so hopefully the users will be able to see the thing they want to know more about just through the title.
    – Sam Holder
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:55
  • 1
    Another thing I forgot to mention is that MSO even has a section on the right sidebar for the FAQ topics. There's no reason we couldn't have the same
    – hobodave
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:59

All this points to a need for two levels of FAQ, as has been suggested here. So, something like:

FAQ (the one linked to at the top of every screen) High-level overview of SE, like the one linked to at the top of every page

The Manual, a more detailed FAQ than the regular one for users new to the site (and probably new to SE). It can be called anything, but it's be good to avoid using "FAQ" in the title to avoid confusion. Perhaps call this the Site Cookbook.

Whatever solution the community adopts, it should avoid duplication with existing resources where at all possible to avoid errors due to transcription or site updates.

  • 1
    This is more or less what I'm suggesting Neil. We already have the functionality for a two-level FAQ via meta - it's natively supported via the FAQ tag. I do think having an intermediate non-site-specific manual would be ideal though.
    – hobodave
    Aug 13, 2010 at 6:08
  • I think this should be a comment so users can vote on actual faq content without interruption. If you think a passage is too technical for the basic FAQ, you could vote it down. Or, if you want to make a separate meta thread about having our own faq, that would work as well.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:41
  • @hobodave: Yes, I was trying to distill this all down. @Ocaasi : Yes, maybe my answer should been a comment. Aug 13, 2010 at 17:23

Accepting Answers

If you're satisfied with one of the answers to your question, click the green check-mark to the left of the answer. You don't have to choose the answer with the most votes if it's not your favorite. You don't have to accept an answer for every question. There's a time limit before you are allowed to accept an answer.


Communicating With Users

Communication is encouraged, but not in answers themselves. Underneath each answer is a space to add comments. If you want to get a user's attention, put @ in front of their name, and they will be notified (@topchef Great idea!). If people have left you a message, the envelope at the top of the site next to your name will glow yellow.

Extended discussion about the site itself happen on Meta. Click the link in the menu-bar at the top of the site to go there. (Click the same link that says 'parent' to get back). The url is http://meta.cooking.stackexchange.com.

  • How about pointing people to the unofficial FAQ on meta stackoverflow? Or is that meant for too different of an audience than will use the cooking and food site? It seems a shame to duplicate all that. Aug 13, 2010 at 4:51
  • I have been pointed to that site quite a bit and, honestly, had started to feel like this whole site is simply meant for tech people, regardless of the name. I understand that it's not, but it was starting to seem that way as I continually found myself wading through tech explanations I did not understand, when I really had a simple question. Aug 13, 2010 at 13:57

Using Tags

A tag is a label that groups a question with other similar questions. You can put up to 5 on each question. Combine multiple-word tags with dashes (french-cuisine, storage-method). Separate tags with spaces, commas, or semi-colons.

Favor existing and popular tags over creating new tags. Don't use synonyms; just pick one. Don't use tags which discuss the type of question (discussion, beginner, opinion) instead of the content (bread, baking, flour).

  • I'm not sure this level of detail is necessary for a FAQ. Presenting new users with an even larger wall of information can actually discourage them from reading it.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 15:48
  • Tagging is basic. They have to do it on every single question. Don't we want them to know how?
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 12, 2010 at 16:03
  • 1
    @Ocaasi, yea, but those instructions should go in the box to the right of the "ask question" form, not the FAQ Aug 13, 2010 at 4:15
  • @Mike Sample text. Takes up little room, is non-technical, helps introduce the concept up front.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 8:46
  • I think it should be in both places. The area to the right of the question blends into the background pretty easily (unlike the similar question drop-down which catches attention well). I don't see a good reason not to briefly include it in the FAQ.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 13:34
  • @Ocaasi, the more you add to the FAQ, the less likely anyone will read it. Aug 13, 2010 at 17:44
  • @Mike Then we just need to write it better and shorter, emphasizing only the most important pieces. But not just ignoring whole sections of tips and guidance directly relevant for new users, I think.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 18:28
  • @Ocaasi, I respectfully disagree. My experience with user interfaces during my day job has taught me to engage the user with help and guidance in place when they need it, not in some monolithic document. Only the most frequently asked questions go in a FAQ. Aug 13, 2010 at 23:52
  • @Mike I think we're not disagreeing as much as it sounds. There is a boilerplate FAQ which is not specific to this site. Then there is the MSO monster-FAQ which is comprehensive and unruly (and which we should eventually emulate). I am proposing something in between, and much closer to the short version. Consider it a third type of FAQ, which has what new users need to know to get started right away but with specific tips for Food&Cooking. It wouldn't need to be longer than a page. It could be called (since it's not really an FAQ), Everything you need to get started on one page.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 14, 2010 at 3:28
  • 1
    @Ocassi, I do think we disagree a lot. Users do not read full pages before they use a site. They read FAQs when they have a specific question. When they have a specific question, it's usually after they've been using the site even for a little bit. Having things like how to properly tag is something a user will almost never come to the FAQ seeking clarification on. Calling it something other than a FAQ is confusing. How many sites in the world do you know that have complex user guides on a big page? Aug 14, 2010 at 15:23
  • @Mike You can call it an FAQ, I was just using a different name to get across the point of having a short, clear, and functional introductory help document. I'm not sure what you mean by complex user guides on a big page? I wasn't suggesting that. Just because people won't read the FAQ from the outset doesn't mean when they look for an FAQ it should be like the unofficial manual at MSO, which is enormous and unlikely to be convenient for beginners. The whole point of this page was just to write a basic FAQ that would be like the current FAQ but geared specifically towards Food & Cooking.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 14, 2010 at 16:58

Question Status

Occasionally question will be problematic. A protected question isn't open to low-reputation users. A locked question is not open to any users except for answer-voting. A closed question will not accept answers and doesn't effect reputation.

:note, this is close, but probably needs clarification

  • 3
    I'm not sure this level of detail is necessary for a FAQ. Presenting new users with an even larger wall of information can actually discourage them from reading it.
    – hobodave
    Aug 12, 2010 at 15:47
  • But there is nowhere a typical user can go to find these answers - where would this be appropriate, if not in the FAQ? Okay, they can go to StackOverflow, but only if they know it exists and can find their way to this post: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7931/… Aug 12, 2010 at 15:53

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