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The question https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/q/1589/111 got asked recently.

I initially closed it as a duplicate or Lists of linguistic resources but since it's not exactly the same thing, I reopened it.

But it presents a dilemma: while on one hand, the question is encouraging lists which is not exactly what we're looking for, on the other hand it's an interesting and important question.

What do you think? Share your opinion! When we reach a consensus, we'll act accordingly.

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My proposal is to make it a Community Wiki and let everyone contribute different resources for different fields on how to get started.

We can decide how to organize it later.

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The current status of the question is bad - specifically because it's geared as a user opinion poll. It's not asking merely for a list of resources, but specifically as a list of what resources interest you, the community of this site. Whether or not the accumulation of a set of resources is acceptable on the site, it is important that it should be framed in a way that is not a poll or survey. Otherwise it gives the impression that polling and surveying the interests of users here is an appropriate form of question.


Some background reading on my recommendations for handling resource repositories in general can be reviewed in this answer from UX. Note that my comments on Community Wiki specifically are about using it as an excuse for acceptability. If you are leveraging the lowered-edit-barrier on an answer, that's fine and also has nothing to do with acceptability. Also it has no need for community wiki to be applied on the question itself. Focus less on that point, more on the parts about framing and expectations of a question.

I'm generally opposed to these "repository" style questions because they never quite do what they must properly do. The more maintenance that is required for a repository, the less tends to get done in order to keep it in top shape. To quote from my UX answer,

The solution to a list question is a complete list of all the items that could possibly apply to the author's needs in an expert manner. This is something that has never really been successfully accomplished with how these list questions play out.

Unlike the UX example which is a lot more broadly approached (as it is about repositories in general), this example is specifically targeted at the problem of "Getting Started in Linguistics". That is a topic which has the potential to be a powerful resource on this site, if properly maintained and constructed.

I'd still prefer that this be done in a fashion other than listing reading material on the subject matter. Focus more on the overall concerns of getting started, not just on books. There's no reason that book recommendations can't be a part of this process, but making it the goal of the question just tends to open up a lot more problems than it solves.

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My proposal is to:

  1. Start a community Wiki with an annotated bibliography on different topics (starting with introductory materials), and
  2. Leave the question locked as it is now, just add a link to the wiki in a visible place (i.e. not in a comment).
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  • This is a most excellent suggestion, and I would upvote it multiple times if allowed. – Mark Beadles Mar 7 '12 at 21:35
  • @MarkBeadles Oh, you are being too kind :) – kamil-s Mar 7 '12 at 21:52
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My vote would be to make it community wiki (as @Alenanno also suggested). As @jlovegren pointed out, the question ask for a specific category of book, not just generic recommendation. It's better as CW because the answer will be subjective, so the normal notion of answer and rep wouldn't apply.To avoid generic open-ended list which we dread, why not encourage people to answer only with at least a paragraph of explanation and the explanation must be related to why it's a good book for starting point in learning linguistics (not just a generic "This book is good blablabla").

Note that we should be careful in allowing CW, it is not something to be done freely. If you're interested, read http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki/

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  • Yes yes, I'm aware of that. But we can't just block this one, it's too useful for the site. – Alenanno Mar 7 '12 at 14:56
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I just noticed a similar kind of question on the Stats Stackexchange site. It just showed up in the list with all the other questions, but was labeled Community Wiki, so being a Community Wiki didn't hurt its visibility. Is that how Community Wikis work generally? If so, then I say go for the Community Wiki option.

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  • So your proposal is...? :P – Alenanno Mar 7 '12 at 14:49
  • I like the distinction you're making -- between a list of books we actually got started on and a list of recommended books. But I think I've got exactly the opposite opinion about which would be appropriate. Asking for book recommendations is clearly within the purview of the site. Asking how we actually got started is potentially interesting but still a bit chatty and not necessarily a good match for the helpful-answers-to-factual-questions thing that SE tries to do. – Leah Velleman Mar 7 '12 at 17:15
  • ....which, I should add, is a bit frustrating, because I think "how did you get into linguistics?" would be a fascinating topic for conversation. But my sense is that the site guidelines aren't really about setting up interesting conversations. – Leah Velleman Mar 7 '12 at 17:17
  • @DanVelleman We can set up a chat event for that. :) – Alenanno Mar 7 '12 at 18:05
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The question has been closed.

One problem was the "got you interested" which is subjective (too personal-dependent), but that's easily fixable. We could replace it with something more objective.

But a problem arises: how do we know objectively what book is best for starters? If we can answer this matter, it'll be easier to fix and reopen the question. Until then, we're forced to close the question as Not constructive. If anyone wants to fix it or wants to provide some help, then please do!

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