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What should this community's policy on "explain like I'm five" and similar statements be?

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Several questions have been posted recently where the user asking the question points to an extremely limited knowledge of the relevant field by asking of others to "explain like I'm five" (years old).

How does the community feel about such qualifiers on questions? What should a community policy on them be? Is such a policy even needed?

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2 answers

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My opinion is that such qualifiers, especially when combined with very general questions about specialized subjects, are not helpful.

Generally, the tone of the question will be indicative of the level of expertise of the person asking the question. For example, if a question asks about quantum physics and links to peer-reviewed literature, then it's reasonable to assume that the person asking has a fairly good understanding of the subject matter, perhaps unless the question is specifically about a statement made in the linked material; if there is something about an answer that someone does not understand nor cannot figure out on their own, clarification can be requested (or a new question posted, whichever is more appropriate in the specific case). Similarly, if someone uses very simple language when posting a question about variation in colors in clouds, then using advanced meteorology and optics terminology in the answer is probably uncalled for.

This community is already small, and struggling to grow. If the front page is filled with questions specifically requesting extremely simple answers to complex phenomena, that seems unlikely to attract the experts that are so desperately needed in order to provide quality content and quality curation (not least through simple acts such as voting based on the quality of the content of a post).

Thus "explain this like I'm five years old" is at best unnecessary noise; and more likely actively harmful. Matching the apparent subject matter knowledge level as demonstrated in the question should be sufficient.

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+3
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This site is not for five year olds. We are not kindergarten teachers.

Asking a bunch of volunteers on the internet to explain physics to a five year old is a waste of time. Explanations at that level are out there and widely available.

Imagine if we actually did answer appropriately for a five year old:

Q: What does F = mA mean?

A: The more you push, the faster it goes.

Q: Mommy, what is relativity?

A: It's about things that go really really fast, much faster than your bike or throwing a ball. It doesn't matter here on Earth. You'll learn more about this in college when you grow up.

This is not what we want our site to be cluttered with.

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