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There's a problem I've noticed with most questions we close (and some we haven't yet): most of them are either too localized to be useful to more than one person, or they're too broad to be usefully answered.

For Too Localized we have questions about specific contracts, which really require legal help, not Workplace Expert help anyway. Then we've got some questions that could be good, but are too unfocused to answer.

I think this is making it hard to know how to word your question; when does it stop being not constructive, when does it start being too localized?

I think we eventually need some guidelines for the FAQ to help people construct their question so that it's focused and answerable. The main thing I've noticed is that people tend to omit what field they're in (which makes it hard to infer the office environmental--or maybe they're not in an office!) or how laid back or formal their environment is. Without these little big details, answers can be guesses.

Where is that middle ground between not constructive and too localized? Workplace really needs to find it.

  • Too broad to be answerable == Not a real question (most of the times). Not constructive is something else entirely. – yannis May 1 '12 at 18:25
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    @YannisRizos they're sort of married in the problem questions we've had, if you ask a broad question about "is X appropriate", there's no way to tell which answer is most applicable. – Rarity May 1 '12 at 18:29
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    Regardless of the close reason though, this is about how well defined the question is. I'm not including totally 100% NC things like straight up polls/recommendations. (stupid editing window) – Rarity May 1 '12 at 18:35
  • Not disagreeing with you, but people tend to vtc as NC when NARQ applies, and for the few people that actually bother to read the close notification it may be completely misleading as to why their question was closed. – yannis May 1 '12 at 18:52
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    I would post an answer, but I suspect you wouldn't like it :) My answer would be that the majority of these things are valid workplace questions, and shouldn't be closed. If someone has a question about the workplace, we want them to come here and ask it. If they have to sit around for a long time trying to figure out how to write the question in a way that's not too localized nor too broad so it won't get it closed, then we're failing our users. Crack down on the questions that are truly bad or off-topic, and let the rest stay. – Rachel May 1 '12 at 19:10
  • @Rachel Right on the money. – maple_shaft May 1 '12 at 19:24
  • @maple_shaft Thanks. Since that comment got 3 votes, I guess I'll expand it to an actual answer, although its probably going to get downvoted... :) – Rachel May 2 '12 at 15:00
  • I agree with @Rachel. A new person comes here, asks a legitimate question, and someone swoops in and closes it as either too local or too broad, or too subjective. The face is that >most< workplace related question have significant subjective elements, and reflect the local experience of the questioner. People won't enjoy having to play these word games to try and morph a question about human relationships into something that looks like a SO overflow question about C++ templates. – Jim In Texas May 3 '12 at 20:46
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If someone has a question about the workplace, we want them to come here and ask it. If they have to sit around for a long time trying to figure out how to write the question in a way that's not too localized nor too broad so it won't get it closed, then we're failing our users.

Why should they spend a lot of time figuring out how to ask a question, and possibly have it closed anyways, just to post on our site? We're almost all volunteers here, and we participate because we like helping people.

Providing we can tell what is being asked, and it is on-topic for the site, leave the questions open so we can answer them and help people.

To me, the not-constructive and too-localized definitions are:

  • Not Constructive

    Question is not constructive in the workplace world. May also be used for questions that poll for answers, or that are extremely broad. By extremely broad, I mean questions that are better answered by a book than a person.

  • Too Localized

    Question will probably not ever help anyone but the person asking the question, or is unlikely to be answered since the scope of the problem is so narrow that our experts have not likely encountered it before. It shouldn't be used for all uncommon questions, but only ones that are so uncommon that nobody has ever heard of it before and will probably never hear of again.

Anything in between that which is an on-topic, non-duplicate, and is a valid, identifiable question should be left open

So my opinion is, crack down on the questions that are truly bad or off-topic and let the rest stay

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Here's an example of a question that I think was closed way too early, and without any attempt to edit/improve until now:

Should I take an related-but-not-ideal job with a company in hopes of moving into my ideal job?

It could easily be edited to be useful to a broader audience, and I believe easily meets with the "middle ground" criteria proposed by Rarity in this question. So, I've edited the question and cast my vote for re-open.

This is a perfect "middle ground" question, I think, where we're jumping the gun simply because the specifics of the situation as stated in the question appear to be industry-specific/OP-specific, but in reality the details simply serve to illustrate the example, and the example itself is applicable to pretty much any industry.

  • But the edits have now brought it around to not constructive again – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 2 '12 at 15:42
  • This has turned into quite the debate in the chat room, should anyone care to join us. – jefflunt May 2 '12 at 16:20
  • I actually disagree on the question being closed "too early". It's never too early to close a question. This actually gives the community time to edit and improve it before it gets answers that may make it not make sense to change the question anymore. Closing is kind of a way to say "no answers yet please! We're still trying to write a great question." I think it's important for everyone to understand that closing isn't a permanent action. It just means there's more editing that needs to be done to possibly reopen the question. – jmort253 May 7 '12 at 6:10
  • With that said, if you think that question can be salvaged, you should totally edit it and make it a good question, then flag it to see if we can reopen it. :) – jmort253 May 7 '12 at 6:14
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Is X appropriate?

It is more than just broad and Not Constructive, it is also potentially Too Localized.

It really is up to the discretion of the moderator because it isn't very clear, and we all know that as liberal as a moderator can be, they eventually become pretty literal with the laid out rules.

This is a site in beta, so the literal interpretation is still being hashed out and could be subject to change. That really makes it hard for somebody toying with a question in their head to come up with a good question that they feel will benefit the site.

Are games and puzzles at your desk a sign of unprofessional immaturity or quirky intelligence?

I understand it isn't a good question and most of the community felt it should be closed.

  • I tried to think of ways to edit it to improve where it can be reopened. I struggle to imagine asking the question differently

  • jcmeloni suggested a different but similar question, but I really don't want to ask it because when I really think about it, it would be NC as well.

  • I struggle to think of quality answerable questions to ask on the site. Extraordinarily few good questions are being asked lately.

I imagine that others must be sharing my struggle because of the large drop in content. We certainly have the views and interested users, but in the end we need a steady stream of questions to keep the site alive.

My prognosis isn't good so far, I think we are running out of questions because when it comes to the workplace things are just too subjective.

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    @Chad I don't care about getting "shot down". I am a big boy, I can handle it. I literally do struggle to think of a good question to ask, even if it DOESN'T pertain to me. – maple_shaft May 1 '12 at 19:23
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    @Chad What maple_shaft said. Also a big boy, really accustomed to closures and without any fear of them, but all my workplace related questions are not answerable by a bunch of random people on the internet. – yannis May 1 '12 at 19:26

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