I wanted to ask a question about how other cryptography researcher's describe their work to non-experts with variable backgrounds in cryptography. I do not believe this is an open-ended question, as rather than soliciting opinions, it is gathering specific information. I have found such discussions to be quite productive on Math SE which specifically has a soft-question tag, and they often tend to be of broader interest. While one could look to Academia SE for generic advice, some questions (such as the one above) are perhaps best answered by other cryptography researchers.

Is there room for asking such soft questions here? Conversely, is there a reason to restrict such discussions?


1 Answer 1


I do not believe this is an open-ended question, as rather than soliciting opinions, it is gathering specific information.

In my opinion the question is clearly an open ended question. I think you can answer yes on the following:

  • encourage discussion: people will disagree on how to explain or advocate cryptography and will think that some approaches may work better than others;
  • subjective response possible: without research nobody can claim they can explain cryptography better than anybody else;
  • no single correct answer: obviously true - everybody their own way and
  • expansive answers: people could even explain how to handle specific types of person.

It appears that there is a perception equating "open-ended" with "opinionated"; however, while these terms are related, they are distinct. One could contend that the question in discussion leans towards eliciting an opinion anyway. The question could therefore be closed for that reason.

Similarly the open-ended nature of a question is not negated by its use for data collection; indeed, open-ended questions are typically crafted to gather a broad spectrum of information.

As such they are generally thought to be off topic on most SE sites, and until the community decides otherwise, they are off topic on Cryptography.

Usually we do allow for such questions on this meta though.

  • $\begingroup$ I see your point. Under what condition(s) would the question be allowed here on meta? $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2023 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ You can just post the question, and if you get into trouble then post a comment below. Posting here will probably get a bit less exposure than on the main site, but that cannot be helped. In general we allow these questions if they are on topic for cryptographers and students here, even if they are not about how the site works directly. Not sure if that's within the SE rules, but meta is a bit more loosy-goosy. $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ Strangely and yet again and again, over and over, anyone's support of new members asking honest questions has been censored. Why is that? P.S. Just how do you get "into trouble" asking questions? Just between us, is there external pressure? Remember this is just social media... $\endgroup$
    – Paul Uszak
    Dec 1, 2023 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ No, we're not social media. We're a Q/A site that has to play within SE rules. We're not allowing any question to be asked here. The user should not get into trouble when asking the question on meta, but I can imagine that other users may vote it off topic or such. That was just me trying to assure the user that I would try and back them up in that case. Is there external pressure? No not really. The only pressure that we are under is time pressure, pressure from SE to follow rules e.g. when it comes to AI and let's not forget that we tend to have a few very argumentative users ;) $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 21:01

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