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A few recent questions have asked about how a specific IoT device should be constructed, like so:

How could I create an LPG indicator?

It's almost certain that these questions will be too broad, but it's worth considering whether these are actually on-topic at all - are these questions really about IoT or are they just software and hardware design questions in disguise?

I propose that we create a canned off-topic reason for these sorts of questions; something like this would be ideal:

Questions asking about how an IoT device should be constructed are off-topic at Internet of Things because they are often not related to the topic of IoT, rather they are questions regarding hardware and software design. Consider asking about specific design choices rather than asking "how should I build this?".

As I discussed in a comment below, I think that a lot of software/hardware questions are beyond the scope of this site anyway:

  • questions about problems with code are on-topic at Stack Overflow
  • questions about hardware problems when designing a circuit may be on topic at Electrical Engineering
  • 'shopping' questions asking us to find resources or the best tools/devices/libraries to use are off-topic on all Stack Exchange sites.

There is certainly precedent on Stack Overflow and other SE sites to make certain classes of questions that are mostly closable anyway off-topic completely. Take, for example, the "debugging help" reason on Stack Overflow:

Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers. See: How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example.

These will often be 'unclear what you're asking' anyway, but Stack Overflow make it clear that this class of question is inappropriate by providing an off-topic reason.

The reason I chose the wording, 'Consider asking about specific design choices rather than asking "how should I build this?"' is because I would imagine there are some questions that can be good and on-topic for the site. Questions asking "Why should I use _____ for an internet-connected LPG indicator?" could easily form a great question, but could start out as something like the example I linked at the start of the question.

In summary:

  • making "build my device" questions off-topic sends a clear signal that these aren't within the scope of the site
  • although most can be closed with too broad, questions about software/hardware might be out of scope anyway, so explicitly calling these questions off-topic could help to define the site (although this needs more discussion)
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I disagree with this approach. If I understand your proposal correctly, it sounds like questions which are initially off-topic (how do I build...?) can become on-topic by actually building them, identifying specific issues, and then reposting. That sounds like moving from too broad to answerable, rather than off-topic to answerable.

If you're going to accept specific questions on hardware/software, but not huge 'spec my whole project' questions, the distinction is one of scale, not of the questions being on- or off-topic.

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    Good analysis. It is about scale. We cannot be a specification service, but we can help out with specifics. – Helmar Dec 7 '16 at 17:06
  • So the canned response should be ... are considered too broad ... – Sean Houlihane Dec 7 '16 at 17:33
  • @SeanHoulihane That's what I would tend to do. It's still an effective means of closing a question, but it provides a means of pointing a user towards possibly, maybe rendering their question answerable by rewording to focus on specifics rather than providing a giant hand-wavey brief. – goobering Dec 7 '16 at 17:36
  • @goobering I see it in the same way as Stack Overflow's close reason "Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself." Perhaps I've expressed it poorly, but I think the majority of software/hardware questions are off-topic (e.g. "why doesn't my hardware work?" should be off-topic in my opinion), though asking more generically about "device X" can be on-topic. I'll try to clarify the OP so you can take a look. – Aurora0001 Dec 7 '16 at 18:40
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    After Robert Cartaino's comment on another answer, it seems pretty much official that off-topic isn't the best for things that are probably just too broad. – Aurora0001 Dec 7 '16 at 21:28

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