This is my pet peeve with stack exchange betas. The proposal questions are vote up, dozens of times, then when they are asked in the first few days of beta, they get closed as being off topic.

I request that the moderators exercise some mercy when it comes to closing questions largely identical to the top voted proposal questions. If those aren't safe harbor, then what is?

5 Answers 5


The purpose of asking an "example" question in Area 51 is quite different than the actual site.

In Area 51, you are asking example questions to help define the boundaries of the site. As such, questions tend to be very basic test cases, as not to add too much complexity to the issue of scope.

When it comes down to actually asking these questions on the site, the bar on the quality and forethought is raised considerable on the actual, live site. More often than not, these "example" questions are closed because it is evident the question was asked for the wrong reasons. They asked "because I saw it on the proposal" rather than "I actually have a question about a problem I face."

Having said that…

We are in the process of reconfiguring the voting interface of Area 51 so it closer mimics the actual experience of a Stack Exchange site. Example questions in Area 51 will be "closed" in much the same way you can on a Stack Exchange site. The purpose is to weed out all these closeable questions early in the definition phase, so they don't end up cluttering up the final proposal. The new interface will also mimic the familiar up-vote/down-vote interface you see on Stack Exchange sites. Overall, these changes should improve the quality of the "definition" phase passing through Area 51, and better approximate what the actual site will become.


I suggest that any close-voting wish (whether accompanied by actual votes or not) should be accompanied by a discussion what would constitute a similar acceptable question and would constitute a similar good question.

The definition phase format does not lend it self to detailed differentiated questions, so often definition-phase questions get closed because they are too vague. There are other reasons, too, but this is a reason that I see as quite legitimate and as easily adressable by discussing what the "good" question corresponding to "What is a phoneme?" is.

Maybe "What are good online dictionaries of linguistic terms?".

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    Early close voting and downvoting during SE betas can be seen as hostile and can drive good contributors away. I would strongly resist both at first and then ease into them as the site matures. In the meantime constructive suggestions is the way to go to help a new site grow. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 8:48
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    This is ideal: it's important not to come out of the public beta with a glut of poor questions, and equally important to use them as a springboard for discussion when they appear: it is the discussion that forms the basis of the real site definition during the beta, and will eventually feed into the site's FAQ.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 19:23

A number of the committers don't yet understand how StackExchange works. Bad questions should not get a pass due to ignorance, and some of the proposed on-topic questions are sure to be bad.

A major purpose of the private (and public) beta is to flesh out the scope of the site. The proposed scope is incomplete. Not only were there relatively few questions, but they had little detail. They also weren't truly a scope. The scope determines what questions are on-topic; the reverse doesn't work (the questions should not determined the scope).

You'll find that most questions from the proposal that get closed won't be off-topic, however, but rather will be closed due to being unconstructive and so on. The proposed questions only have titles; many that could work won't due to their bodies.

  • Please note and use the tag I created after experience in other SE betas: scope. Use it to tag questions covering what might be on-topic or off-topic. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 8:49
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    @hippietrail This is an answer, I think you meant to comment on the question. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 15:03
  • No I commented on the answer because it specifically mentioned off-topic whereas the question seems to address our personal preferences, opinions, or tastes. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 17:29

I'm not the one who cast a -1 vote on this Meta question, but I can see the reasoning behind it and its applications to the idea behind this Meta question.

Namely, I see the connection between this Meta question and an example from the proposal that I might consider voting to close: What is a "phoneme"?.

In both cases, the questions are important and can be addressed in an expert way, but I am inclined to believe that properties that them so can be better fulfilled in more poignant sub-questions.

For this Meta question, figuring out what questions to close is incredibly important, but this question and answer format may not be correct place to assemble and carry on discussion in such a list. It might be more productive to open Meta discussions on specific questions that we are considering closing.

For the phoneme question, it's interesting because underneath the dictionary definition, there are plenty of intriguing issues such as "at what usage threshold does a borrowed phoneme become a phoneme" and "what is the balance between having a phonemic representation with a cross-linguistically canonical relationship to the corresponding surface form and having one that is more theoretically suitable or minimalistic". But those questions ought to be answered individually, and not in an elaborate discussion as an answer to "What is a phoneme". That question in itself has a simple answer, and it's a Wikipedia/FAQs answer.

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    Yes I agree "What is a phoneme?" can easily be seen as a hard question masquerading as an easy question. Imagine if somebody asked "What is a language?" or "What is a word?". Would those be easy questions or hard questions for instance. (Those are just examples and intended to necessarily be on-topic for this particular SE) Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 8:46

The beta phase is intended to flesh out the details of the definition phase with real live questions rather than speculative ones. It could be that the people who show up now disagree with the relevance of the original.

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