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Robotics is a really cool field. I think that anyone would agree to this--from engineers to sci-fi buffs alike. There will probably be a lot of fresh eager minds here who want to get started with robotics (and I am one of them), and we will probably get a lot of "Where do I get started with robotics" questions. Some of these questions may be more specific, but a lot of them will probably end up being identical, or can be best answered by giving a comprehensive resource list.

Essentially, what I'm proposing is a discussion about exactly how (or if) we should handle such questions. Should we have a meta post with a list of resources like the Japanese SE has, or should we have a single definitive "How do I get started?" question and close all later ones as duplicates?

Also, what would be an acceptable way for a greenhorn robotics engineer to ask where to get started?

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Could we have one getting started question as a community wiki? And then the rest I guess could be closed due to being open-ended/duplicates like you mentioned. This way the question will stay current by allowing people to edit it more freely.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like that idea. There's a few on stackoverflow that are locked, but those were from before meta existed. Having one on meta would allow it to stay updated. $\endgroup$ – Zetta Suro Oct 23 '12 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ by golly let's do it! $\endgroup$ – Tom Prats Oct 23 '12 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ done and done $\endgroup$ – Zetta Suro Oct 24 '12 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ What if you are an absolute beginner, with no idea where to start? The Resources question is helpful for someone with some basics idea, but otherwise not as much. Shouldn't there be a similar question or maybe an answer to cover this? I'm in this situation and I have no idea where to start. Should I buy a kit? Should I buy some tool sets? Should I start learning a certain programming language? etc. I'm not talking about explaining each topic in detail, just a sort of bullet list guide with things you should know or start researching $\endgroup$ – BBog Oct 25 '12 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ You may want to read The Future of Community Wiki. Even if it seems like a good idea for a specific problem, there are probably better ways of solving that problem. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Oct 26 '12 at 16:49
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Perhaps a great deal of these questions can be eliminated through a properly written community overview and FAQ (Electronics example: https://electronics.stackexchange.com/faq)

This can give examples of what good and bad questions are for new users, and provide good moderation guidelines for the people who run the community.

I also like the idea of a wiki-esque meta-question that can cover a large swath of the common getting-started questions.

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Having now seen Anna Lear♦'s comment on the resources for learning robotics question, suggesting that we use a tag wiki, I would wholeheartedly support that suggestion.

While we could create a getting-started tag and then tag getting-started questions with it, referring people to the tag wiki if they ask questions related to the general information already there, this might not be the best solution.

Much better would be to create tags for subject areas that people are likely to ask beginner questions about, and add in links in there to the answers to those beginner questions.

The C++ and Scala tag wikis on Stack Overflow, demonstrate how well this technique can work especially as anyone can suggest edits to tag wikis. Indeed it's actually a great way for people new to stack exchange to get their first few points of reputation if they don't feel confident to ask or answer questions.

So, looking at the questions I have answered so far, we could create a [PID] or [tuning] tag and add in links to general resources to help tuning PID parameters and related questions here, or create a [safety] tag and link to general safety system advice, as well as highlight important questions on robotics.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not a fan of the "getting started" tag idea... $\endgroup$ – Andrew Oct 25 '12 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ sorry for the delay, but work got in the way. Please see my answer. I fully support Anna's suggestion of the use of tags, but not a getting-started one which (IMHO) is too generic to be useful. BICBW :-) $\endgroup$ – Andrew Oct 25 '12 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yup... I think we're on the same page :-) $\endgroup$ – Andrew Oct 26 '12 at 18:53
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This answer is partly in response to Mark's suggestion of a getting-started tag, but also as a direct response to the question.

Other posters have already mentioned the FAQ, the use of tags, and eventually the Community Wiki. These are (IMHO) the correct approaches.

I accept fully that we need to have a simple approach to guide Newcomers to the site - but I question whether Robotics.StackExchange has to be the home to Robotics 101. As such I'd caution against a getting-started tag for the simple reason that really depends on where one is starting from... and anything beyond the absolute trivial could not be considered getting-started.

But where should we start? Robotics is a broad system, covering the integration and application of software, electronics, mechanics and more - and any getting-started type questions on each of the individual disciplines has a better home within the StackExchange family.

It is only when we start bringing those disciplines together, that Robotics is their proper home. At which point, they are no longer truly getting-started.

The StackExchange philosophy is a Q&A mechanism, and it expects questioners to do their research before asking... in other words, someone comes along with their problem, and the community offers solutions and answers. But do your own homework. SE (and we, its community) is here to encourage, but not to spoon-feed.

So, a "No" to a getting-started tag, but a big resounding "Yes" to enhancing the FAQs and to appropriate topic-based tags (maybe even with some semi-meta tags such as software, electronics, mechanical etc)

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General getting started questions should be covered in the FAQ.

However, I think very specific "getting started" questions can still be on topic questions. For instance, "How should I go about installing LeJOS on an NXT?" would be a good on topic question since it's specific and focused, even though it's in the "getting started" remit.

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