Closing too many topics drives users away. Should we be more open, since we are in beta?

Closed questions should be commented with suggestion what kind of similar question would not be closed.


2 Answers 2


Being in beta is not reason to ignore the scope of on/off topic as defined by the community.

The point of the beta period is to establish a self-regulating community. Part of this process is defining what types of questions are or are not good fits.

This decision making process is assisted by the accumulated knowledge of all of the stack exchange websites, in that some types of questions have been shown time and time again to simply not be suited to our platform. These types of "poor fit" questions are pretty clearly identified in our faq:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”

  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Temporarily allowing these types of questions simply to draw people in during beta is both misleading, and counterproductive.

If people join the community, and see that these questions are allowed, only to have them no longer allowed once we graduate, many may feel frustrated.

More importantly, though, the factors that make them a poor fit don't magically go away because we're in beta, and the results will be questions that simply are not quality content.

What is more attractive to building a community? Letting people ask whatever they want once they find us, or ensuring that new visitors will see nothing but useful, high quality content?

If you are asking about expanding our topics, then by all means, make a meta post identifying specifically which topics you think would be a good fit.

Questions like "what are some good websites for finding fun apps for my kids?", though, will never be a good topic, for a number of reasons:

  • Any answer that lists a website may wind up pointing to a dead link, if the website shuts down or changes names. It won't be a lasting resource.
  • Answers that just list one or more websites aren't good because they don't provide any useful information about why the person likes those websites. Adding "please include why you recommend the sites you list" to the question has been shown time and again to simply not work: some people will, but more will ignore it, and just post links with no accompanying text.
  • It promotes spam from people who run their own website, and mistakenly decide that we are a free advertising platform.
  • It's not even really about parenting, any more than "what's a good store to shop for mittens at?" would be, or "where can I get the cheapest poptarts online?".

I love feedback! However, good feedback needs to be specific, otherwise we don't know what you think we need to change to make you happy.

I believe that closed questions nearly always (nobody's perfect) get adequate comments about the reason for closing. Same with duplicates. I think we moderators are careful to follow the established community guidelines.

If you disagree, some specific examples (and your complaints) will help us understand your point of view. Could you please edit your question to include this?

with suggestion what kind of similar question would not be closed.

I think this is one aspect we're pretty good at, actually. Here's an example, taken from memory -- it's probably not exactly as I state it here, but you can tell how we try to give very useful help when a question is closed:

One question asked "what are good computer games for kids?" This was closed as being off-topic because:

  • it's basically a shopping recommendation,
  • it's not timeless (WinXP games from 2006 will be useless on Win8 in 2013), and
  • it will become a list of suggestions, each of which may be equally valid.

We suggested to rephrase it into "What factors or aspects should for in computer games to find good ones for primary-schoolers?" Benefits:

  • asking for timeless factors or aspects,
  • specifying a target age group.
  • there should be tools and policy to manage the aging of advice and SE should be able to "forget" certain answers (e.g., would be downvoted if no longer working)
    – user12363
    Jan 16, 2013 at 2:48
  • even medical advice deemed best in 2008 can become obsolete and people still wanted to hear it in 2008
    – user12363
    Jan 16, 2013 at 2:50
  • @user12363 Feel free to suggest that on meta.stackoverflow, which is the site for discussions of how the stackexchange platform works. However, be aware that the idea of "managing the aging of advice" is far more difficult to implement than you may think. Essentially, it would require that the community go back through thousands of old questions on a regular basis just to make sure they aren't out of date. This simply isn't very practical.
    – user420
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:23

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