Are Questions like "(Where) will I ever need Automaton-Theory / P/NP / ... after I finished my studies?" okay? They are kind of meta-y, but somewhat related to CS and I have no idea where you would ask these questions if not here.

Example Questions would be:

  • Where will I need P/NP-theory after I got my degree?
  • What are the practical applications of Petri-Nets outside the university?
  • ...
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't like these kinds of questions. They taste like "Please legitimate that I have to learn this.". On the other hand, they can be honestly curious, so I don't know what we should do. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Mar 17, 2012 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael they were obviously meant in the second way, but I figured the same as you did, so I wanted to try and clear things up before asking. $\endgroup$
    – malexmave
    Mar 17, 2012 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ I think it depends on the phrasing then. If the question proposes one or two ideas like "Do X and Y work, where can I find more?" or "I can't get theory X to work on problem Y like this [...]. What is wrong?" (I feel like an enthusiast should have such ideas) it is a good question, imho. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Mar 17, 2012 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael but if I cannot imagine anything "useful" you can do with, for example, automaton theory (outside of theoretical CS), how should I ask the question? Or should I just not ask at all? $\endgroup$
    – malexmave
    Mar 17, 2012 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ I think somebody interested in automata would "see" potential uses. Anyway, I guess that websearch should lead you to pointers quickly, which allows you to ask a focused question. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Mar 17, 2012 at 14:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For example: cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/8539/… $\endgroup$
    – Suresh
    Mar 17, 2012 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


I think asking for applications of a (theoretical) topic is completely fine. The issue is how to ask them so they don't end up being "non-constructive" or "too broad".

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this sentiment. I would extend by saying that these sort of questions are often easy to come up with, and so we should hold them to a higher standard of quality. We need to make sure they are unambiguously constructive and properly scoped. $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2012 at 1:17

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