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Okay I changed my mind on making canonical questions. Although I am still not in favour of fabricated questions, I can see their value.

I know of two resources that are valuable for a majority of questions asked here, being rome2rio and IATA's visa and health resource. We could go for the obnoxious lmgtfy answer, but that is not fair since pointing to existing resources is a valid response.

Could we introduce or submit a feature request for a canonical question section, similar to this meta section, where trusted users can migrate or compose canonical questions to which specific visa, budget, or route planning question can be classified. This way people can still ask any question, but we could point in the FAQ to first check to the canonical section.

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I don't think the IATA travel centre is a useful alternative at all. You need to fill in a lot of irrelevant information only to receive information like “Visa required” without detail or reference.

I think I know the Schengen visa regulations pretty well and I just tried to enter all the parameters from a question asked on the site. The answer I received is, to the best of my knowledge, incorrect and I can't figure out why a visa is supposed to be required or what I entered wrong (the most likely reason).

One alternative is to use one of the few “raw” interface to IATA's Timatic database. It's a secondary source but I never noticed any mistake in it. The problem is that it's barely readable and leaves much for the reader to decide.

So the information is available online (after all, the EU regulations themselves are also online but figuring out how they apply to a particular situation is precisely what visa questions are about) but that's also the case for most things asked here or even on Stack Overflow.

The whole point of the site is presenting the relevant information in a high-quality problem-oriented Q&A format. Pointing to general resources is not a good way to achieve that goal.

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You are absolutely welcome to post a feature request about a "canonical section." The most important thing about your potential request is that it should be very detailed regarding how the section would function. The broad concept of a place for canonical questions has been raised before, on Meta Stack Exchange and elsewhere, but so far, nobody has come up with a system that's both workable and popular.

It might be helpful to try using a somewhat more ad hoc solution first, so you can have a better idea of what sorts of canonical posts the site should actually contain and so you can identify the "pain points" that a new feature should address. Some sites already have canonical questions that are just regular posts. New users who re-ask questions on those topics get pointed at the canonical posts by tag specialists, power users and/or mods. The questions may also be listed in the appropriate tag wikis and/or a post on the site meta.

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For the record, I am leaning in support to this proposition but I think it could be implemented with Meta as well.

The Good Side :

After a discussion with @andra, I do see some positive points behind this, but I think this concept could be well utilized with the Meta instead of a separate feature, even though a separate feature would be nice.

Chain of arguments which I feel are for this idea/concept:-

  • Allowing a separate section in the FAQ which can link to the canonical questions.

  • Providing reasonable and short explanations for how to easily check information on commonly asked questions using resources already on the internet.

  • Using these resources can be complicated and a step by step solution can be provided in these canonical answers with an effective TL;DR

  • Using these resources teaches a man "How to Fish" rather than providing him with a fish

  • Allows us to fish out bad quality content from the website while avoiding unnecessary traffic, thereby adhering to Quality vs. Quantity

Users don't particularly enjoy fishing out the right answers and neither do the frequent users enjoy seeing visa questions everyday. It would be nice to have something like this which allows us to easily avoid the answers which could be answered with a link.

The Bad Side :

My opinion on this is still the same as on the question you linked earlier.

Chain of arguments which I feel are against this idea/concept :-

  • When @Relaxed tried this, Do I need a visa to transit in the Schengen area? it lead to a giant wall of text. Even though I did up vote his efforts when he made this.

  • No matter how hard you try, there are always going to be little nitty grities which are going to be specific to one nationality or country. Eg. Traveling to the US or I'm an Indian citizen (Visa-free transit in almost all Schengen countries except some).

  • Even though answers to these nitty grities are available on the websites you mentioned, searching them again and again, I think that's harder than reading an answer which has already been created.

  • Not supportive in terms of the amount of traffic it can generate to be website. People see complicated things, they don't read. Simple. (Remember the TL;DRs? I doubt a useful TL;DR can exist for such questions)

  • Some rules are liable to change very fast, this would require a lot of maintenance by us on this question. Croatia and other countries are in the process of joining the Schengen Area, they have complicated rules.

So, in my opinion, I'd rather answer a fresh question where I'm sure that I'm not providing someone with stale information. Rather than try all my might trying to maintain the stale information and marking every other incoming question as a duplicate.

  • The difference is that I propose a different subpage, similar to meta.travel.se, being for example canonical.travel.se. So the canonical questions would not be part the main page. Canonical questions could be migrated to this section. In stead having to answer see Iatatravel on every visa question, you close the question and point to the canonical page – user141 Jul 16 '14 at 8:39
  • @andra Not a bad idea, but as far as I can see right now, it'll only include things like Wiki Travel, Iatatravel or Matrix. Plus, I feel we will be directing traffic away from the website in this way, I'll reflect my answer to take care of the new details though. :) – Aditya Somani Jul 16 '14 at 8:41
  • Re: Traveling to the US or I'm an Indian citizen (Visa-free transit in almost all Schengen countries except some. As far as I know IATA's health and travel advise page even answers that specific "except some" – user141 Jul 16 '14 at 8:42
  • Also canonical question don't need to be complex. You have a visa question check iata, you have a question on directions check rome2rio – user141 Jul 16 '14 at 8:43
  • Cluttering also directs traffic away. – user141 Jul 16 '14 at 8:45
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If you are asking for a feature to be added, you have to put in mind that this feature must be used by all SE sites, not only travel. The proposal has to be so good to the point that SE team will think of implementing it. I do not think your suggestion fits that. Also, most of SE sites are technological sites and these topics have no canonical questions, they keep changing so quick.

In my opinion, we have two options here (considering that the OP's suggestion will not be implemented):

  1. Keep it the way it is with little improvement, we pick up one good question and enhance it and make it more like "catch all" question (A.K.A fabricated questions), then all questions that fall under this "catch all" question will closed as dups to it.
  2. Add more close options, for example:

    Questions about visa requirements are off-topic, to check visa requirements for any country please visit the up-to-date IATA's visa and health resource.

This second option can cover majority of the trivial visa questions, e.g. "Do UK passport holder need a visa for USA", while more complicated questions can be left open for answers. I am a big fan of option 2.

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    -1 I don't think option 2 is a good idea. We already have a rather tight scope, clear rules about what makes good questions and not that much activity. What's the point of reducing it even further with completely arbitrary restrictions? – Relaxed Jul 16 '14 at 22:10
  • @Relaxed visa questions are useless, they can get a better more up-to-date answers from IATA's website. that's my opinion only :) – Nean Der Thal Jul 16 '14 at 22:15
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    But that's precisely my point, we shouldn't exclude questions based on personal preferences. What if some group of users claimed that questions about trains are useless because they use such and such site? Or that questions about South America are useless because they don't like the place? Visa question don't seem useless to the people asking them. I don't ask you to agree with them or with me on their usefulness but I do think we need more than that to get as far as banning a topic. – Relaxed Jul 16 '14 at 22:25
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    (Incidentally, I don't find IATA's database particularly easy to read or authoritative so it may be what airlines use but it's not unambiguously “better”.) – Relaxed Jul 16 '14 at 22:25
  • My opinion is not enough to change, but the majority's opinion is what change. I was just sharing my opinion because lately visa questions are getting too much, most of them are dups and are "google-able"... – Nean Der Thal Jul 16 '14 at 22:28

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