I don't like the fact that lately most questions relate to some software specific issues. I mean sure, thats where people get stuck probably, i asked some of them myself. But they re not those kind of questions which would perhaps shed light on some GIS concepts, methodologies, analyses,... questions that would make someone better at understanding GIS, carthography, and other related topics. I dont know what the aim of the site is, but i would like to see more of those. So, how could we encourage more non-software related questions?

  • 1
    Related: meta.gis.stackexchange.com/questions/383/…
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 18:23
  • Not that I entirely disagree, but "Information Systems" is right in the name..
    – awesomo
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:46
  • 2
    Yes, but do you also agree that questions of type "PLZ HELP What does Error 1453: invalid supersomething.xxzzy mean?" are important/interesting in the context of what GIS represents and offers?
    – U2ros
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 7:06

8 Answers 8


I agree that the most interesting questions are the ones where analytical problems are posed, rather than error messages. However, I think you are seeing trends in the field. Another issue specific to this site is that open-ended questions are discouraged when, in fact, they are often really interesting questions--yet, people are hesitant to ask them because they will be penalized and sent off to community wiki land (Example 1 and Example 2). Finally, you will notice that many of the most experienced people on this site exclusively answer questions and never ask them. I think these experienced GIS/RS professionals may be the best potential (and untapped) source of interesting and thought provoking questions.

  • 1
    Couldn't agree more with everything you said.
    – U2ros
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 13:46
  • 6
    +1 But I would like to suggest you reconsider your characterization of CW status as a "penalty": it's just different, that's all. True, your answers there will not grow your reputation, but on the other hand CW answers tend to be highly upvoted, leading to quite a few badges--which (when expressed in the form of badges per unit reputation) arguably are a better indication of the authority and reliability of community members, especially one of your experts who rarely asks questions (because then their badge counts reflect their answering abilities and community involvement) :-).
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:13
  • 3
    From what I see, we're also a very tolerant bunch. That can be new to many of our new users — quite a few will have experience from the main SE or the even more brutal Programmers. A reluctance to slightly deviate from the FAQ is therefore understandable. I doubt anyone posts open-ended/incomplete questions to game the community wiki system. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 22:35

If you go back through and look at some of the older questions with high vote, view and favorite counts you will find many "canonical" GIS conceptual/analytical/cartographic questions. Many of the kinds of questions that you are talking about have already been answered here and so new questions on some of those topics tend to be closed as duplicates.

Here is a StackExchange Data Explorer query you can use to find questions on GIS.se with > 10 votes and > 10 favorites.


Another option would be to ask the types of questions that you like to see more of. Sometimes, you just have to do it and hope that others will follow.


The AIM of the site is:

The Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is for questions concerning geographic information systems and science. We welcome cartographers, database administrators, geographers, programmers, and anyone interested in or using GIS.


Most users only have access to a specific GIS software platform. Hence the specific software is basing their question. Tags are used to filter your own favourites.

Yes there are a lot of ArcGIS/AutoCAD users - they are the biggest group(s) of users.

QGIS is gaining popularity as it matures and becomes more user friendly and customisable.

Concepts on GIS techniques are discussed.

Example: What are the geometric principles and GIS techniques that I can use to generate a postcode coverage of my city at street scales?


Upvoting is the primary method to encourage any type of question. Maybe we need a "non-software" tag to make it easier to browse these questions?

I figured people with vested interest in commercial drone operation would weigh in on this question. But that hasn't happened (yet).


When a popular open-source GIS software package, QGIS, uses GIS SE as a tech support forum, then software questions/issues will be frequent questions on the site.

This is simply an observation, and not meant to belittle QGIS or this practice.

  • 1
    Would you mind saying how you know the QGIS developers are using our site for their tech support? (I'm not suggesting you're wrong; I'm just not that familiar with the QGIS tech support procedures.) Is there a written policy that you could refer to, for instance?
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 18:51
  • 4
    @whuber I use a product called Mvvm Light. Their site encourages users to use StackOverflow. "We encourage the use of StackOverflow for questions regarding MVVM Light Toolkit. StackOverflow is an awesome site for questions related to programming. There is a huge community of developers answering questions there. Please use the tag mvvm-light to tag your questions." Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 21:14
  • 4
    @whuber if you go to www.qgis.org and click Questions in the menu, if goes directly to GIS SE with all the questions tagged "qgis". Furthermore, if you click the "Need help: find it here" button, the first option listed under Support is the GIS SE site. Again, I'm not finding fault with this practice; just noting it exists and will influence the number/type of software support questions here.
    – user3461
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 1:58

Opening up an old thread, but I had a similar question in mind, but decided not to ask after opening up a new question and seeing on the sidebar:

We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.

The word 'prefer' does not forbid open-ended or discussion type questions from being asked. But that statement highly dissuades me from asking such a question.

I would like a place to come for advice or direction from people with more experience. I am the only person in my office that works with GIS. Although I might not have a software/hardware issue to specifically ask about, sometimes I could greatly benefit by running a general idea by you guys.

Should I look elsewhere for a discussion/idea community, and use GIS.SE for asking/answering specific GIS questions?

  • 1
    I think that there is room for those types of questions; indeed some of the best questions on GIS.SE are more open-ended and not just "fix my problem" questions. The key is to frame the question in such a way that it invites good answers, which ties into How to frame a good Question?
    – blah238
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 18:05
  • I think that you should look to the GIS Chat Room for a discussion/idea community, and use the Main Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange for asking/answering focussed GIS questions.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 5:32

How am I supposed to ask questions on things that I don't know exist? Just my two cents.

To do what op is suggesting would make Stack Exchange sites in general about learning and that's not what SE is for. SE is for collecting good questions. That's pretty dumb if you ask me, but it is what it is.

It would help if there were some sort of learning element here though.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .