As a lurker/new user it seems like the actual rules for what questions are allowed to be asked are esoteric and arcane and are enforced either arbitrarily or with no feedback to the person asking the question. I believe this is detrimental to the site as a whole.

ID this game questions, comparison questions, build order questions, all arguably have value yet are off topic (possibly because they are similar to other question types which are not allowed, like shopping recommendations). This is despite the fact that strategy questions or questions requesting tips are allowed, though they involve a fair amount of discussion.

As a fairly new/inexperienced user I know am discouraged from using this site because questions that have measurable value and useful information are closed simply because they seem similar to a banned type.

Guidelines are fine, but when a question serves as a means of googling into the site, has a significant number of views and upvotes, and contains useful information then removing it from the site is detrimental, rather than beneficial. Isn't it worth judging these types of questions on a case by case basis, rather than deleting them because they are similar to a type of question that is banned for reasons that do not apply?

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    A -1 less than a minute after posting, surely in less time than it would take to read and consider my points. Welcome to Reddit. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:11
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    If you would give us examples of a question or two that "have measurable value and useful information" we'll happily either reopen them or tell you why they really don't. :) – John the Green Mar 24 '12 at 21:16
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    @RentheUnclean It took me less than a minute to realise you had taken no time whatsoever to try and understand why our rules are as they are. I haven't voted, but I don't hold it against the two who have. – user56 Mar 24 '12 at 21:19
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    "Do hostile questions worded in a negative manner benefit the site?" – Dave McClelland Mar 24 '12 at 21:26
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    Your tone (even in the title) is quite confrontational, which is likely yielding at least part of the negative response. – agent86 Mar 24 '12 at 21:27
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    @DaveMcClelland - This seems like an accurate description to me. There are sub-rules for the rules listed in the FAQ which you must have participated in the Meta to understand, this makes them esoteric. Questions are closed because of violating these rules by individual moderators or by group vote without explanation, this makes their enforcement draconian. My intention is not to be hostile, and I don't think this is. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:29
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    Rules, by definition, do not require context to be implemented, if a rule does not always apply then it's not technically a rule. – Ronan Mar 24 '12 at 21:30
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    @ArdaXi - I am familiar with the rules. I have looked at the discussions I am talking about. Applying a ban on game recommendations to questions comparing the feature set of two games is, in fact, esoteric. Not banning strategy questions is a case in which the rule banning discussions is ignored. I feel like your derisive dismissal of me is much more hostile than my original post. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:45
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    @RentheUnclean How is it esotoric? Comparisons are per definition subjective. Besides, your post didn't mention any specific examples, you're merely attacking our rules. If you make baseless accusations like that, you can expect to be met with some degree of hostility. – user56 Mar 24 '12 at 23:01
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    ... and examples – juan Mar 24 '12 at 23:10
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    @RentheUnclean You're not coming up with any examples, you're just providing weasel words. "Your rules are inconsistent! Every question has value, but you ban some questions, so you ban some questions with value!" etc. etc. Anyway, you're unlikely to respond? Good. Out of sight, out of mind. Besides, so far, you're the only one of maybe two or three "new user" who's complained in this manner for... roughly two years now? Saying "this might scare off users" is a bit baseless if it doesn't actually happen. – user56 Mar 24 '12 at 23:25
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    I actually linked that earlier. – Ren the Unclean Mar 26 '12 at 1:03
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    Man, Ren brings up a real problem with our system: there is a lot of history and decisions the community has made which it has trouble communicating to new users. I guess we have two options, we can track this by how often new users fall into these pitfalls and then change our methods of information distribution to help drive down that number; OR we could down votes this question and stick our heads in the sand. – tzenes Mar 26 '12 at 14:00
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    @tzenes I didn't downvote (or upvote), but I think there are two issues at play here and the one you mention is the one getting almost no attention. That is the matter of whether or not policy decisions are clear enough to new users. I agree that they are not. The other issue, though, is if we should even have banned categories of questions and how we go about banning related questions. That seems to be where most of the arguments are coming from. – Sterno Mar 26 '12 at 14:57
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    @tzenes - thanks for taking the time to think about my question and respond. I think you have hit the nail on the head, I am not necessarily saying that the whole system should be changed, but being unaware of what effect the system is having on users is surely detrimental, and that is the position I think gaming.SE is currently in. Thank you for taking my (relatively) outside perspective for what it is. – Ren the Unclean Mar 26 '12 at 18:11

10 Answers 10


So, I've already expressed that I think we have a problem; but do we really?

Maybe it's my training as a developer, but I've tried to live by a rule: if you can't measure it, it didn't happen. So let's see about measuring this.

Graph of Close Rate vs Population type, over time

For my metric I chose: Percentage of Closed questions asked by users with <200 rep correlated by the month in which they joined. The 200 number was a bit arbitrary, but I felt it encompassed users who don't stay around much. I've also included the raw closed question rates so you can get a feel for the numbers. Now, as we can see closed rates have always correlated well with new users. This makes sense as the newest users will be the ones least experienced with stagesix gaming.se specifically and stackexchanges in general. The more interesting trend is the increase in percentages. Were this correlated by close date, we could just say that older users were learning not to ask questions which would be quickly closed. However, because I correlated by join date, what it actually says is that users who get a closed question are less likely to stick around and accumulate rep. This becomes progressively more true as time passes.

This leads me to my first conclusion: getting your question closed is a poor user experience for new users

Ok, with that inhand, let's ask the next important question: what percentage of new users are asking questions which get closed?

Percentage of Incoming users which ask Closed Questions

This graph is the percentage of users which join each month and ask a question which is closed. I've used a logarithmic scale, so the first thing you should note is that it's a very low number (1-4%). However, even if we ignore the last couple months we still see a trend of new users becoming progressively more likely to end up asking questions which will be closed. Since we already know that those users are unlikely to stay around, this means we're throttling our incoming user rate.

This leads to my second Assertion: Knowing that your question will become closed, is getting progressively harder for new users.

If I were the project manager on a team who's job it was to make sure GSE grows over time, these would be two metrics I would care strongly about: How often getting a question Closed turns users off to our site, and what percentage of new users fall into that group. Ideally, I'd want to drive down both of these metrics over time. Sadly, GSE isn't my project to manage, so I am left to send out my plea to the community. New users are having it a little rough, how do we fix that?

note, I drew my numbers off of variations on this query: http://data.stackexchange.com/gaming/query/65149/new-users-rate-of-asking-closed-questions

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    Couldn't both data sets also be simply reflections of our continuing efforts to define the on-topic boundaries of our site, and as a consequence broadening the criteria for what is close-worthy. So, maybe your data shows that we are becoming less tolerant of the kinds of questions that new users often ask. – murgatroid99 Mar 27 '12 at 5:57
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    Very interesting. In reply to @murgatroid99 this could be very true, but at the same time we have been so close happy these past few days we really haven't taught all these incoming users what the site is actually about. The premise that a closed question to a new user is a huge turnoff seems like a big deal to me. – Resorath Mar 27 '12 at 7:21
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    @Murgatroid Yes. However, the concern here is that is putting users off at a progressively higher rate. Ultimately, our problem is one of education. How do we teach new users that those kinds of questions won't be tolerated before they ask them? – tzenes Mar 27 '12 at 13:30
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    This deserves to be it's own meta thread. Getting our rules across to new users is a very real problem, and something worth a proper discussion place. – Wipqozn Mar 27 '12 at 20:21
  • We have tons of good content. We have tons of users constantly producing good content. Google users like our non-suck content. Why is it a problem if the not-good content is discouraged? That's what we want. – Ben Brocka Mar 27 '12 at 20:25
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    @BenBrocka What tzenes is saying is that if we could stop users from asking those questions in the first place, instead of closing them after the fact, they may be more likely to stick around the site and produce good content. – Wipqozn Mar 27 '12 at 20:27
  • <"let's ask the next important question: what percentage of new users are asking questions which get closed?"> Are we sure that the percentage of new users is the concern here, since many don't ask any questions at all and some users repeatedly have multiple posts closed? – Decency Mar 27 '12 at 20:29
  • I would actually like a bit more detail cause these last two months where we are trying to draw our 'Trend is going this way' stuff has been Contest Heavy. I do not think it unfair to say we are getting a fair number of people looking for a free something and while it builds our site content it is not a way to retain people at the site.. I have been sitting in chat for a while now and I do not see any new names in there really. (Granted I know that its rep limited but still). – James Mar 27 '12 at 20:34
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    The metric I would like to compare is what the questions were closed for, not just were they closed. Were the questions related to a contest going on? I mean if contest related and closed as a Duplicate as opposed to being closed as an off topic question.. Well I think there is some significant difference between those reasons. – James Mar 27 '12 at 20:35
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    @Wipqozn I think this thread is that thread; or, at least, to me it always was. I understand people felt the need to justify the current status quo, but I felt the more important discussion was why Ren felt the need to bring it up in the first place. – tzenes Mar 27 '12 at 21:14
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    I don't disagree with your conclusions, but you can't trend closed questions using data explorer, as closed questions eventually get deleted and deleted questions don't show up. Assuming most older closed questions are deleted, you would expect to see upward trends of closed questions in the near term. – au revoir Mar 28 '12 at 15:49
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    @tzenes You haven't provided evidence of a growing trend: you've created graphs that aren't even fully labeled and presented them in such a way that over exaggerates the sample size, which is in no way large enough to predict any sort of trend: 20-60 users with a 1-3% rejected rate, which seams to indicate one (!) new person a month is not coming back. The data you've presented does not support the conclusions you're reaching. – user3389 Mar 28 '12 at 20:28
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    @Mark I believe it is a problem for those 20 people (per month). Specifically because one of them is complaining. Maybe you're quick to dismiss other people as irrelevant, but I think they matter. – tzenes Mar 28 '12 at 22:25
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    @tzenes And this is all assuming there's a strong enough correlation between getting a question closed and leaving the site, never to return, which there isn't. Even if you ignore the issues with the sample size, the majority of people who get their question closed stick around and amass more than 200 rep. Instead, I'd propose a counter-hypothesis: given how low the number is for people who leave the site and have a question closed, they likely going to leave anyway for any number of reasons because SE is not their cup of tea. SE is not going to appeal to every single person who comes here. – user3389 Mar 28 '12 at 22:57
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    @Mark if you think these numbers show that 97% of people who create an account stick around, then you clearly don't understand the numbers at all (since nothing here shows that), and apparently I can't explain them to you. – tzenes Mar 29 '12 at 0:22

New Users/Lurkers

So, let's look at both sides of the fence here. New users are the life-blood of this site. We are not exclusive and we don't want to be. Lurkers are great, and new users are even better. We want to encourage people to come and to participate in our site. And we make no assumptions that you should know all of the rules of our site right off the bat. Especially if you've never used a StackExchange site before.

Please do not bite the newbies

There is a policy at Wikipedia to not bite the newbies. Users are supposed to assume that newbies are just learning the ropes, and I for one do try to apply that here. And I know from personal experience a number of our mods do as well. When posts are closed, especially with new users, I often see comments by the mods here explaining why it was closed, usually with links to either the Meta or to our FAQ.

It's not a slap on the wrist

So, this is something that many users have trouble with, new or old. Closing a question is not meant to be insulting, nor is it meant to be a personal offense. Closing a question has nothing to do with the person, it is only about maintaining the quality of the site. But users new and old often times feel hurt by having a question closed. And this is one of the reasons comments are often left explaining things (led with a "welcome", not a "you're stupid"). We want to encourage users to learn to post questions that fit better with our site. Again, it is not meant to be a personal assault if we close a question.


Voting is our system for determining quality of a question or answer on things that are on topic. And often times I will not vote down a bad question immediately if it was asked by a new user. Instead, I will leave a comment detailing how to improve the question, or if I can improve it myself, I will edit it and leave a comment about what can be done better in the future. However, we do have votes for a reason. Our system is designed in a way so that we can vote quality posts up, and less helpful posts down, while still leaving them in the system. So while we can be lenient for a little while, it actually hurts the overall quality of the system if we are too lenient with how we vote.

Positive Reinforcement

Now, while this talks to your problem, and how you might be feeling, it doesn't necessarily address it. It says, "this is why you think we're jerks, but we're not." but doesn't try to help with the fact that "you think we're jerks".

It's hard to make a site-wide or community-wide policy that can fix this, but we, as some of the more vocal or experienced members can take steps to help improve this situation. Not that we will stop closing questions, because we don't want to do so at the cost of our quality, but maybe coming up with a way to help improve things.

So, I'm going to suggest the following for those of us who are a bit more involved in the community.

  • Make sure you go through Users' first answers and first questions and vote and comment on the good things, and inform them of what can be improved
  • Whenever a question by a user with < 200 rep is closed, be sure to comment and inform them of why (duplicates are maybe an exception)
  • Encourage two-way communication by linking to chat and saying "if you have any more questions, feel free to respond by leading your comment with @Ktash"
  • Give users upvotes if their answer is right, even if it is not the best answer (but be wary of doing so at the cost of burying a better answer)

I know that many of us here try to follow these guidelines already (or maybe just need a reminder to do so more frequently) but hopefully with these steps we can see an improvement for new users' initial experience in our system.

"Have you tried using an XML parser instead?"

One thing to consider is that we also have to deal with a lot of these, and sometimes that may make us a little curt. I think we all try to do our best to be as sunshiny as possible all the time, but sometimes things may slip through the crack on our 4th or 5th game recommendation close for the day. I'm not using this as an excuse, but merely pointing it out. New users see their one post get closed, and we will do our best to be friendly. But on the other side of things, our mods close quite a few in a day and that is on top of other moderation duties (as well as lives since many are volunteers).

We are a community

Please, come chat with us on the bridge. You will find that a lot of times, we would love to make game recommendations or strategize with you. We are all avid gamers, so we would love to talk about video games. It may seem that there are "powers that be" that dictate everything, but we are a community, and we can be a very vocal one. Many of our moderators are selected via elections, so we promote from within.

Those who don't say anything are hard to account for, so speak up and make your voice heard.

Speaking of speaking up

Our system is ever changing. It has to be, honestly, to keep up and to maintain a quality. We vote on new policies and do our best to address new issues. We often have large, site-wide (and sometimes very heated) debates about what content will and will not work on this site and why. And as with any community or group, we don't always agree exactly. Sometimes we take votes, and sometimes our moderators take decisive action. I know this may seem draconian, but democracy doesn't work in all cases (just like the Q&A format for this site). Sometimes momentum just needs to be force and a decision needs to be made. For example, the Identify-this-game vote that was held recently was within 1 vote for a majority of the time. Had it been split down the middle, I'm not sure what would have happened, but likely it would have come down to our more experienced users coming to a decision on the matter so that things can move forward.

(Seemingly) Inconsistent rules

I know it may seem that our rules are a bit inconsistent. And, you know what, some of them very well might be. But, as stated above, we are always changing, and truth be told, usually arguing about some big site-wide decision like 's or questions. And you'll find a lot of arguments for both sides. Please, I implore you to check out the ITG voting page for links for arguments on both sides. Many of which use existing policies as a basis.

The truth is that it isn't black and white, just like life isn't. Some of us are going to say that questions are completely on topic and A, B, and C are why. While others of us are going to say that it's not because of D, E, and F. And you'll likely see both sides citing existing policies as well as making compelling original arguments. But this all brings me around to one simple thing: speak up. If you think something is inconsistent, say so. But do know that there are times when we don't want to revisit a discussion. For example, I wouldn't recommend bringing up the questions. We have come to a collective decision about it for now and that is just where things are going to stand. Sometimes, rules are going to be there because they have been. That doesn't mean at some point in the future they can't be reopened, but it usually needs to come with either

  1. something that is not working with what was decided or
  2. something that is demonstrably missing or wrong with what was decided.

We all want to make this site as good it can be, and we just are doing our best to collectively decide what that means.

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    Great response, thanks for taking the time to write this up. I think this addresses the issue of draconian enforcement I brought up. It is understandable that you guys are doing the best you can, but can't be perfect. I get that. I think the rules being applied inconsistently is slightly more insidious and would love to hear your take. The banning of certain types of questions seems arbitrary (even if you have had discussions about them) in the face of other questions that have the same problems, but remain. Strategy rec vs. comparison and game rec for example. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 0:23
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    @RentheUnclean - Have you actually read the posts concerning the banning of those questions? They were certainly not arbitrary. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 0:31
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    The banning of certain types of questions seems arbitrary (even if you have had discussions about them) in the face of other questions that have the same problems, but remain. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 0:38
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    @RentheUnclean - We work to address this problem on a regular basis. We can't just say "Since Type A is banned Type B must be banned too!" Each question type has to be looked at based on its own value first. Parallels to other problem questions are taken into consideration. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 0:44
  • @RentheUnclean I've added two new sections to my answer addressing this. Basically, as Origami Robot said, it comes from a lot of deliberation and while it may seem arbitrary, it is a lengthy process. Many of the Tag wiki's for closed questions actually link to these discussion pages so that users can find more info. – LoveAndCoding Mar 25 '12 at 0:47
  • @OR But... you do say exactly that: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/2853/… The reasoning for this meta discussion is essentially that since Rec or Bear vs. Shark questions are banned, then comparison questions should be banned. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 0:48
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    @RentheUnclean - That is not the issue. The argument is that comparison questions like that are only useful for an already off-topic subject. It isn't like comparison questions are banned by association. That post is to make that decision. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 0:56
  • @Ktash thanks for the update. Unfortunately from your description it boils down to mods having the ultimate say, which doesn't foster a good community. The ITG topic you linked is listed as having 27 for keeping them and 34 against, meaning 44% of users thought these topics had value. They have since been entirely deleted, which is the most drastic action possible for something barely more than half agree with. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 0:57
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    @RentheUnclean - You have no idea how long the ITG discussion went on. Everyone acknowledged that they had problems. The only thing that was voted on was in what manner to solve the problem. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 0:59
  • @RentheUnclean This is just the final vote. In fact, a previous vote was closer IIRC but it boiled down to action needed to be taken. And those were the extremes. I was in favor of keeping them, but the decision was made by the community, and I am going to follow through with that decision. Mods don't have the ultimate say, they only really step in when needed. But sometimes, it is needed, and they do need to take action. This is just a part of any community or process, and is why we have things like elected leaders. If we always talk about things, nothing will get done. – LoveAndCoding Mar 25 '12 at 1:03
  • @OR - If you are banning something because it is perceived as being related to something else, then you are banning it by association. You said that each question has to be looked at based on its own value, blanket bans are the antithesis of this idea, that thread is a proposed blanket ban that is supported by the meta users. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 1:10
  • @RentheUnclean - Each topic has to be looked at for value. We are not banning by comparison. We are analyzing because certain parallels exist between the topics. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 1:12
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    @RentheUnclean - If you think the rules are inconsistent and/or unfair, please help us to correct this problem instead of simply saying there is a problem – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 1:44
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    @RentheUnclean - I have not seen one specific suggestion on how to fix any problems here. Granted it is difficult to find anything in the discussion. You seem completely unwilling to consider any reasoning we offer or research these bannings any further. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 1:55
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    @RentheUnclean I am coming into this discussion late but it is very unclear to me what your proposal, if any, is. The best I can glean is that no question type should be banned, for fear of us inconsistently banning that type and not some other. "allow everything" is not a solution. So to make things better, we need specific problem areas. One thing I am not sure your complaint takes into account is the idea of "good subjective" vs "bad subjective". You seem to be stuck on the idea that all subjective questions should be treated the same without understanding that distinction. – Sterno Mar 25 '12 at 12:29

We're a questions and answers site, which brings certain benefits but also means that some kinds of topic just don't work well in this format. The big advantage of the Q&A format with our strict moderation is that the signal to noise is very high, you don't have to wade through a forum thread dozens of pages long to get to the answer, the most useful answer should be at the top of the list through voting here.

Removing those questions that don't fit on the site is important to keep the site focused and to avoid misleading users. We don't want to be a big search target for "identify this game" questions if we decided to not allow those anymore.

Build order questions are still on-topic here, but they can easily become problematic. If you're asking what everyones favorite build is, you'll get a big list with no criteria to judge the usefulness of the answers. Those kind of questions just don't work well with the Q&A format, they lead to questions that are extremely hard to maintain and just don't contain a lot of useful information. If you want your build order question to work here, be specific about your requirements.

The restrictions you encountered are a big part of why this site is useful, they are consequences of the Q&A format. If we would lift those restrictions, this site might become more newbie friendly, but it also will become less useful over time.

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    +1 For "If we would lift those restrictions, this site might become more newbie friendly, but it also will become less useful over time." If we removed our restrictions we'd essentially be Yahoo! answers. – Wipqozn Mar 24 '12 at 21:40
  • I like this response. I am not suggesting that the restrictions be lifted, more that they are clearly spelled out and enforced uniformly with feedback to the users affected by that enforcement. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:41
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    @RentheUnclean The important stuff should all be in our FAQ, if it's not then we're doing something wrong. There are aspects that are hard to explain succinctly in the short FAQ, but the essential stuff should be in there. But as with most sites I find that observing the actual content is usually more informative than any FAQ. – Mad Scientist Mar 24 '12 at 21:44
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    @Wipqozn - I think that is a fallacy. There are questions that do not exactly fit the format but still add to the usefulness of the site. Questions about strategy and build order fit into this category, and as pointed out, are judged on a case by case basis. This is the right way to do it and should be applied in more instances, rather than using blanket bans with no explanation. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:46
  • @RentheUnclean There is no blanket ban on strategy questions, if you think that a specific one was closed wrongly, just post it in chat or open a meta post for it. I'd go the chat route, if the questions is salvageable it'll be quickly reopened. – Mad Scientist Mar 24 '12 at 21:49
  • @RentheUnclean We do have explanations, which are found in the FAQ and in our meta. – Wipqozn Mar 24 '12 at 21:50
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    @Wipqozn - Expecting a new user to check the meta for an issue they don't know the name of is unrealistic. If it is important enough to ban and delete a question type, then it is important enough to add it to the FAQ. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:16
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    @RentheUnclean Which is why we often will link said meta when a question is closed. We don't expect new users to know all the rules of our site right from the get go, we expect them to learn by reading the FAQ and using the site. – Wipqozn Mar 24 '12 at 22:22

We have rules for reasons, if you would like specific reasons please look through our meta as all our decisions are made there.

Guidelines are fine

Guidelines are just unenforced rules. Are you suggesting we just sit here and say "Gosh these questions are really bad, let's think about how bad they are"?

The structure of the site is what sets us apart from forums and Yahoo answers, we have very specific rules to avoid us descending into chaos or going off on tangents.


It seems like the actual rules for what questions are allowed to be asked are esoteric and arcane and are enforced either arbitrarily or with no feedback to the person asking the question. I believe this is detrimental to the site as a whole.

This is certainly concerning, especially given the kind of exposure we're going through during these very hours. If there's a way we can make our policies any clearer I'm all for it.

However, it's really hard for us more experienced users to guess what rule(s) it is the FAQ does not make sufficiently clear by virtue of the fact we've written the rules and at least part of the FAQ. Please do go into more detail if you can muster the will to :)

ID this game questions,

These have been explicitly disallowed for different reasons than shopping recommendations. ITG have been shot down mostly because there's no way to authoritatively provide the answer that is in the asker's head. Game-rec have been shot down mostly because they just don't work in SE and are a source of cheap rep and badges: "OMG PORTAL +1"

comparison questions,

Comparison questions aren't per se evil, but honestly do you want to see questions asking the difference between the X game and the Y game for every X, Y games in the same genre? What's the difference between FIFA 2012 and FIFA 2011? What's the difference between FIFA 2012 and PES whatever?

Those questions are cheap to ask and very hard to answer in a way that doesn't sound like an advertisement for either game; otoh, an excellent answer can help people that are good at a game transition to the other painlessly understanding the differences in philosophy (something that would likely be agnostic of the version number du-jour). I wouldn't ban them all, just like I wouldn't have banned all ITG questions, but certainly I don't want to encourage more of them either.

build order questions,

We have many like these and as far as I'm aware they are welcome. Then again I'm not active in tags where those questions are typically asked.

Strategy questions or questions requesting tips are allowed, though they are essentially discussion questions.

Not really. A good answer to a strategy question doesn't necessarily trigger a back and forth between asker and answerer. If it does, the outcome of the discussion should be integrated in the answer itself. The end result should be an answer that tries to be that: an answer, and not just a stem for further back-and-forth about the topic.

As a fairly new/inexperienced user I know am discouraged from using this site because questions that have measurable value and useful information are closed simply because they seem similar to a banned type.

What I can suggest is this:

Closed questions are typically salvageable through editing. If you ask "what should I buy to do X?" your question will probably be closed, but editing it to "How can I do X?" can make it acceptable again. Try to engage with more experienced users either through comment and chat and see if somebody with experience can help give the questoin the right nudge.

Guidelines are fine, but when a question serves as a means of googling into the site, has a significant number of views and upvotes, and contains useful information then removing it from the site is detrimental, rather than beneficial.

No, quite the contrary. Such high-reward questions are invitation for others to post more questions like it. Just look at all the reps and the badges he got from this one question!

If we don't want questions of a certain kind, the single most effective things we can do is remove all questions of that kind from the site. It's painful but necessary.

Isn't it worth judging these types of questions on a case by case basis, rather than deleting them because they are similar to a type of question that is banned for reasons that do not apply?

Absolutely. Guidelines are not a tool to shut down your brain and just close questions mindlessly. However, do give us the benefit of the doubt and assume that when we close your question chances are it does need that nudge into being the kind of question we do want more of :)

  • Thanks for the well thought out response. I think a better metaphor for what is happening might be that you are deciding to remove all the green windows, since 90% of them are broken and then deciding to remove all the blue windows, since blue is sort of like green and 60% of them are broken. You guys will surely keep doing things this way, to the detriment of the site, in my opinion. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 1:29
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    @RentheUnclean - The fact that blue is merely similar to green never the full reason for these decisions. And don't call us Shirley. – user9983 Mar 25 '12 at 1:37

It's not a matter of the questions being useful in general, it's a matter of the questions being useful on this site. The FAQ dictates questions be answerable objectively because that's the only way that the StackExchange engine really works. If questions weren't objectively answerable, then up/downvotes can't reflect an answer's quality. How can someone upvote a good answer when only the asker's opinion matters?

Raven dreamer once compared subjective questions to a "bring me a rock" command. The community in general can't judge what kind of rock the asker wants. Upvotes/downvotes allow the community to help judge question quality. The SE engine breaks down when the community can't effectively do this.

At the heart of it, that's why game-rec, ITG, etc questions are all banned from the site. It's not that they're not useful, they just aren't answerable on this site.

  • NB: I misattributed Raven's post to Jeff in an early version of the question. I corrected it with a link in the answer – Dave McClelland Mar 24 '12 at 21:25
  • Many of the questions I am referring to are not subjective. What is the difference between X and Y has a definite answer that is useful to at least some people. There are also many examples of questions that don't get closed, but are subjectively answered. Basically any strategy question, which makes up a significant portion of the content on this site fall into this category. I don't think these should be removed, but their presence means that the enforcement of the rules is based on what the people enforcing the rules happen to dislike. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:34
  • While certain strategy questions are subjective, questions about game theory and winning strategies can be objectively answerable. And the great thing about StackExchange is that the community itself has a huge say in what is on and off topic - if a user with sufficient rep believe a question has been closed unfairly, he or she can vote to reopen. It happens fairly often, actually. The scope of gaming.se is very dynamic and can change with user feedback – Dave McClelland Mar 24 '12 at 21:40
  • I think you are right, that they can be objectively answerable. I also think they can have multiple right answers. My understanding is that this is almost as bad for the format of SE. (Again, I don't think strat questions should be closed, but they point out an issue in rule enforcement/creation) – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:17
  • @RentheUnclean It is important to understand that subjective answers on the site are not inherently bad. There is the idea of good subjective vs bad subjective which was a concept I struggled with as a newbie and still sometimes have trouble with. I think a lot of this discussion is getting muddled by the incorrect idea that either all subjectivity is bad, or it's all fine. That can definitely lead to a newbie feeling that things are being handled inconsistently. – Sterno Mar 25 '12 at 12:42

There are some specific question types that are not allowed on the site, and these are enumerated in the FAQ. The FAQ goes into the "why?" a bit as well, and you'll find discussions here on Meta that expand on the reasoning behind some of the more specific decisions.

This reasoning behind each prohibited type of question may seem impenetrable to new users, but it's the result of long discussions, sometimes lasting years, which led to the policies being created that way.

The Stack Exchange model lends itself well to certain types of question, and does poorly at other types - this is very much unlike a traditional discussion forum.

Give it some time and invest some effort, and you'll quickly find precisely how useful this site and it's community can be. :)

  • My point is not necessarily that prohibited questions should be allowed. It is that enforcement should be uniform, transparent, obvious, and helpful to the new user. If something is banned, add it to the FAQ. If a question is closed that doesn't strictly fit a close reason, add a comment explaining why. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 21:38
  • @RentheUnclean, you'll find that by and large we attempt to do this - I always comment on questions I must close. Sometimes we don't have time to hold hands, but I'd like to say we do it more often than not. We actively seek out and destroy "subjective" close criteria - this is one of the reasons why identify this game questions ended up banned. – agent86 Mar 24 '12 at 21:45
  • I think what makes it hard is that the reasons are not universally obvious, agreed upon, or enforced, even in the cases where an explanation is given. The obvious example to me is the difference between discussion questions that are accepted (such as strategy recs) and discussion questions that are not (such as comparison questions). – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:01
  • @RentheUnclean, I won't say that we're doing a perfect job - everyone with sufficient rep can vote to close or downvote a question. By and large we manage to sort the "good" from the "bad." But, if you're passionate about making it better, as you gain in rep you'll slowly gain moderation powers over the site, and posting constructive topics on meta is a great way to help us hash out odd corner cases in the policy. – agent86 Mar 24 '12 at 22:25

I hope you didn't take my recent meta discussion as inspiration for this post. My passionate defense of a single question that is on the inner edge of the rules does not mean that I don't understand the rules or don't agree with them. It was more of an example of a community divided issue, and a great example I think of how a community can ultimately resolve an issue through these meta discussions.

My only criticism for how things are run here is that we over anxiously delete questions, because it doesn't show the type of questions that are harmful to our format. However, I believe the argument for deleting questions which have fallen outside of the scope of the FAQ is specifically targeted at new users. Users would come to a Google searched result of, for example a game recommendation, and ask one of their own - even if it was closed with a reason saying "these aren't allowed here anymore". This type of cleanup is necessary to deter users from asking questions which have not characteristically fit well in the past (identify-this-game questions are a recent example).

I'm sure we actually greatly suffer from diminished SEO as a result of these cleanups, but they are necessary all the same.

The best thing to do if you don't agree with a decision on your question, the first to;

  • Search meta for a relevant discussion that matches why you think your question was closed. If there is no discussion, or the discussion did not reach a consensus then,
  • Post a meta discussion about your specific question

I feel every meta post better shapes the site in the end due to the community discussion that results from it.

I think Ktash said it best when referring to closed questions:

It's not a slap on the wrist

On a closing note, don't let the vocal minority on some issues deter you from making your opinion heard. Just keep a positive tone.

  • Nah, I didn't take your post as inspiration, though I agreed with you. I have tried to start up with this site on multiple occasions, and become frustrated and quit silently for always this same reason. I decided to finally post something about it. Unfortunately, the response has convinced me that this is basically a problem that won't be recognized and is therefore unsolvable. – Ren the Unclean Mar 25 '12 at 0:44

As a lurker/new user it seems like the actual rules for what questions are allowed to be asked are esoteric and arcane and are enforced either arbitrarily or with no feedback to the person asking the question. I believe this is detrimental to the site as a whole.

Rules are not enforced arbitrarily, we close questions when they don't confirm to our FAQ, or after (in many cases extensive) meta discussion. We don't just close questions because "we feel like it."

A user is always able to give feedback either through commenting, chat, or meta. If a meta discussion is held on a question, the discussion is almost always linked on the relevant question. Furthermore, the person asking the feedback has no more say in whether their question is allowed on the site than anyone else in our community, so even if they disagree with the closure, this doesn't matter if the rest of the community disagrees with them.

ID this game questions, comparison questions, build order questions, all arguably have value and are maligned mainly because they are similar to other question types which are not allowed, like shopping recommendations. This is despite the fact that strategy questions or questions requesting tips are allowed, though they are essentially discussion questions.

I'm not going to discuss the policy on each of these questions with you, if you want to see the discussion on them you should look through meta and voice your opinion there. A post like this is not the proper way to do this.

As a fairly new/inexperienced user I know am discouraged from using this site because questions that have measurable value and useful information are closed simply because they seem similar to a banned type.

Our site has a learning curve, and the only way to learn is by using the site, and as such I'm sure new users can feel overwhelmed at learning all of our rules. However, this doesn't mean we should start giving new users a free pass, but should help them learn how the site works. That's why close reasons contain a short explanation on what they mean, and users will often comment on why the question is a problem. It's not meant as an attack on the user, but to help them understand the site.

Guidelines are fine, but when a question serves as a means of googling into the site, has a significant number of views and upvotes, and contains useful information then removing it from the site is detrimental, rather than beneficial. Isn't it worth judging these types of questions on a case by case basis, rather than deleting them because they are similar to a type of question that is banned for reasons that do not apply?

The argument for questions giving entry into our site has been brought up and shut down more than once. Simply put, it doesn't matter. Either a question belongs on our site or it doesn't. We don't decide whether or not a question should be allowed based on how many hits it will bring us. We're supposed to be a Q&A site for knowledge, not a content farming site.

As for your second point, we do judge questions on a case by case basis, but if the question falls under a type which is now allowed, we shut it down. Certain questions simply don't work on our site, which is why we ban them.


Pretty much agree, OP. The powers that be here don't really care, though.

I go elsewhere for any useful discussion and suggest that you do the same- you won't find much, here.

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    This is excellent advise, since we don't support discussion here (other than in chat of course). This is by design: gaming.stackexchange.com/faq – juan Mar 24 '12 at 22:47
  • I think your wording (consciously or not) points out a major problem with how this site works. "Powers that be" does not imply community collaboration. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:49
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    @JuanManuel Unless the mods find those discussions interesting. My classic example, strategy discussions. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 22:52
  • @JuanManuel, that's perfectly fine, but just understand that if all questions that were open to interpretation were actually closed you'd lose at least half of them. The newest generations of games are designed to be replayable and versatile. Any question with a simple answer can be found far more easily on Google or a game-specific wiki than here, so why be here? Ren, If I felt that the community actually collaborated, I wouldn't have used the term. A select few people lead every discussion and the time investment to pick apart their antiquated positions is not one that I'm willing to make. – Decency Mar 24 '12 at 22:57
  • @Decency So, you're complaining that the "power that be" don't listen to you, but you do not even take the time to voice your opinion anyway? That's a bit contradictory, don't you think? If you want your voice to be heard, then you must at least say something. – Jupotter Mar 24 '12 at 23:05
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    @RentheUnclean, "mods" don't make this decisions, the community does. If you want, you are free to join discussions and make your voice heard -- if you, on the other hand, want to be "lurker", that's fine but then don't complain when things work in a different way than you'd like -- or you can follow Decency's advise. – juan Mar 24 '12 at 23:06
  • @Jupotter I don't care if my voice is heard. It's not worth my time to improve this site: I have other places for great discussion that don't have ass-backward rules that need to be tiptoed around. For example, you'll notice that no one has attempted to counter Ren's very straightforward point about the inconsistency of rules on "discussion": strategy questions are allowed. – Decency Mar 24 '12 at 23:13
  • @Decency Maybe we've been around here for long enough to automatically see the distictions that newer users can't see. There are definatly reasons why some questions get closed and others don't. Maybe our explaintion of them should be improved though. – Ronan Mar 24 '12 at 23:21
  • @Juan But they do, since they are the ones that close or vote to close. Most community members have no recourse other than voting or commenting on a meta discussion that is a year or two old and will most likely result in a "We already decided that, check the meta" response. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 23:38
  • @Ronan I have never seen an explanation of why discussions of strategy are not completely banned when every other type of discussion is, other than "maybe some of these could provide good info", which is true of every discussion. – Ren the Unclean Mar 24 '12 at 23:39
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    @RentheUnclean Here's your explanation about why 'strategy' questions are allowed. In short, we expect answers to them to conform very strongly to the 'back it up' principle, with a notable exception to that principle because of the specific problems found in direct shopping questions. – LessPop_MoreFizz Mar 25 '12 at 1:12
  • Cool, if the criteria is simply "back it up" can you go back and unclose every Dota2 topic that has ever been closed for being too subjective? I assure you I can back up every single one of my answers with references to professional players. – Decency Mar 25 '12 at 3:05
  • But now we're just seeing the moderators closing topics for being "too localized" because things can change over time. Guess we need to completely disallow questions on games that get patched over time like StarCraft, LoL, and others. Half of the questions from 2011 for SC2 don't apply accurately anymore, those should never have been allowed to stay open and in order to remain consistent I'm afraid I have to demand that they be closed. – Decency Mar 25 '12 at 3:08
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    @Decency If you see some examples of posts that were improperly closed as too localized, please bring attention to them in a meta post. If it's not worth your time to help bring attention to and fix specific problems, then I would argue it's not worth our time to listen to your vague and inflammatory complaints. Clearly if you take the time to post here and haven't just left, you care a little bit. Care a little more and call attention to specific examples troubling you. You might be surprised by the results. If not, at least you'll know for sure that this community is a bad fit for you. – Sterno Mar 25 '12 at 22:12
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    @Decency You can put closed:1 in your search string to see just closed posts. So if you're looking for closed DOTA2 posts, you could do closed:1 [dota-2] – Sterno Mar 27 '12 at 17:42

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