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It is becoming rapidly clear to me, partly through dating an American, partly through spending time on this site, that employee rights are very different in the US from Europe, or at least from the UK. I'm sure they are also very different from both in India, for example.

As a result, many questions have a very different answer in one country from another, because the risk of serious repercussions is very different.

Should we encourage people to clarify before answering? If so, do we not risk having multiple different questions, which appear exactly the same to the casual browser?

Or do we put up with having multiple conflicting answers, all of which are probably correct in the locale of the author, but the highest voted answer will depend much on who views it and (perhaps) at what time it was posted?

Any suggestions as to the best way to handle this?

For what it's worth, I was prompted to ask this as a result of HLGEM's answer to the office romance question, which is in stark contrast to mine but I suspect we may both be correct in our own country and the author's locale is unclear. But this is not the first example I've seen like this.

9

Should we encourage people to clarify before answering?

Yes. In case there is any doubt... you should get the question clarified BEFORE you answer. Otherwise you introduce noise. The biggest problem I see with The Workplace is noise. If you do not know enough about the question to answer wait until it is clarified. If someone answers before it is clarified do not reward them with up votes unless once the answer is clarified their answer still fits.

Assuming that the location is US is not correct unless you have researched the OP's other questions and they are all US. If you do research and find that a poster is consistently asking about a country edit the question to include that. The OP can correct but usually if they are asking about someplace other than their usual location they will specify that in the question.

7

I'd just like to explicitly speak out against localizing answers. I think the responsibility explicitly falls on to the question in these cases.

Why not do it in answers?

  • 99% of answers might be wrong for the asker if we just throw answers by location at every question
  • We're assuming, not reading what the problem is - that's a big enough reason to close the question. You can never know if your solution is right if you don't actually know the problem.
  • Each and every question on the site could have dozens of only slightly different answers explicitly for each nation, possibly multiplied by different solutions per nation.
  • It's suddenly valid to post the exact same answer with a different country "tag" just because what works for this answer in the US also applies in Canada.
  • Suddenly the people being the most generous (answerers) are expected to do more work for the asker for no good reason. That's just rude.
  • The accepted answer now means "Thank #$&^, someone guessed what nation I'm from!" not anything to do with validity to a specific situation. Suddenly generic questions have nation-specific accepted answers. What's up with that?
  • Votes are now slanted by nation; "Hey, this advice for the US sounds legit but I have no idea what these other 10 answers are about". Double god help me if my nation falls on page two or three and I have to search multiple pages!
  • I have to resort to Ctrl-F to find the answer pertaining to a nation I care about (and god help me if I search USA instead of "U.S." or "United States" or "America" etc.)

Making answers localized is a nightmare. Imagine if programming problems on Stack Overflow were all language agnostic and we played a guessing game of languages trying to explain every possible way to iterate 1. That doesn't help anyone except the exceedingly rare person who isn't actually interested in practical advice, just a list (a Bad Thing) of all ways to do something.

When localization matters, the burden falls on the question.

  • 4
    Don't try to compare this site to SO. Ever. That would be a serious error, if we ever want this site to take off (and I do). SO had an entire community of programmers rallying around it before it was even written. And even then, Programmers had to be created to handle those more language-agnostic questions. – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 15:15
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    @pdr it's an extremely valid comparison in this case, and SO has gone over the "tags for answers" thing and decided it's a bad idea. And language agnostic is different from "give me a solution in every possible language" hence my point. There may be one language agnostic answer but 500 language gnostic answers. – Rarity Sep 8 '12 at 15:17
  • I disagree that it's a good comparison. Find me a half-dozen questions on SO where it's unclear what language the author is using and where directly contradictory answers can both be equally correct, depending which language you're coding in. – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 15:25
  • You're committing a genetic fallacy and generally ignoring the other 7 (now 8) bullet points so I'm just going to ignore that. This proposed solution is completely unworkable and forces localized questions to be Not a Real Question. If you ask a question where we have to guess which answer is actually relevant to you, I'll close it. This is just like asking "why was I fired" and instead of the asker stating what you did before getting fired, we all get to list every possible reason and what to do in an answer. Just no. – Rarity Sep 8 '12 at 15:47
  • You really want me to argue point-by-point? I could, although I agree with a couple of them, but I thought it more valuable to question your dismissal by comparison. But look, you've clearly made your decision. I'm only trying to help solve a problem you don't think exists. That's fine, I'll leave you to it. – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 16:00
  • I think you're proposing a social solution to a technical problem. It is obviously beneficial to have a question with answers that address all or most localities. This answer says we shouldn't do it because, in short, it would be a pain to deal with. That may be the case, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem worth solving. – JohnMcG Sep 10 '12 at 15:04
3

I think, your question already contains the answer: very often, the questions are localized. Not all, however.

Say, the question about an office romance. Let us assume there was no country specified.
In a Western culture, it does not lead to immediate layoff, but it is so in many Asian countries.
So someone may answer something like "never ever disclose the fact of your office romance if you are working in a Thai company".

More similar examples:
"Never ever disclose your side projects, even on weekends" (in a context of Russian I.T. company).
"Always tell people what they want to hear, not how the things are in real" (in a context of India)

As I understand the ultimate purpose of SO, it is not that much about answering a particular question. (don't kill me now, let me explain myself) Instead, it is a resource of clear, low-noise information.
Hence, the selected answer only reflects the fact it was most useful for the asker. And the most upvoted answer only shows its usefulness for the voters. No less, no more.

In this context, let's get back to the sample above. Is this answer valid? Yes. Will it be the most upvoted? No. Is it still useful? Certainly, yes. It will be searchable, and the future visitors will use it for their benefit.

On the other hand, the asker may restrict their question, in order to direct the community to answer in terms of a specific area or location. And of course, if the area is too wide, it will reduce the overall quality of the answers.

What can be done? Tags and social pressure, as stated here: How should we handle cultural issues?

  • Ok, but ... Say I'm a casual browser who's never heard of this site or StackExchange. I'm worried about my office romance breaking down and I'm Googling for advice. I see the page I referenced and click on it. I'm probably going to read the top-voted and/or the accepted answer. Is that useful to me? If there were locale tags, would I notice them? Would it help if I did (I saw one question recently with a united-kingdom tag and lots of USA-centric comments)? – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 11:26
  • @pdr You are very correct, people are lazy. But googling works in a different way. If you google for "office romance India", and the search engine finds a certain Q@WP.SE, it will also show up what exactly it found. When you're on the page, simply Ctrl+F and type an exact phrase. It will scroll to a specific answer, even if it may have been downvoted into oblivion. Make sense? – bytebuster Sep 8 '12 at 11:34
  • Yes, makes total sense. To me. But I'm a software developer, I find information on the internet for a living. Unfortunately, most of the answering members of Workplace.SE are also developers. What I'm talking about is drawing new people in from other industries to open up the gene-pool, as it were. – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 12:21
  • @pdr I think, there are three steps: (1) build a quality, low-noise, highly-searchable and highly-linkable content (in fact, it's called SEO); (2) attract the newcomers to stay here (become members); and (3) train them to use it properly, e.g. search prior to asking, etc. I have no answers on (2) and (3), but a reasonable variety of localized A's would help (1), I believe. – bytebuster Sep 8 '12 at 13:05
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    I think you're right about the three steps. I'm beginning to wonder if a good solution to all of them is to prefix ANSWERS (mostly posted by people who understand the site) with a location and remove the localised tags for questions. This way you'll get better SEO on the question and hits on any locations that have been answered. It might also encourage people from other locations to sign up and add a different perspective. What it would certainly do is avoid situations with completely conflicting correct answers. – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 14:55
  • @pdr tagging's pretty easy for people on any industry. Just ask people with comments what nation/region when it matters – Rarity Sep 8 '12 at 15:06
  • @Rarity: First, how do you know where it matters? It would never have occurred to me that there are regions where you can easily get fired for an office romance, for example. Second, localising the question rather than the answer will hurt your SEO. Instead of having one good question with 10 good answers, you'll have 10 good questions with 1 good answer, linked to by different subsets of people. Is that not a concern? – pdr Sep 8 '12 at 15:09
  • @pdr well if the asker doesn't, someone else probably does, and should comment. Just like we improve every other problem with questions. And no I don't think the latter is a problem, I think the former is, see my answer. – Rarity Sep 8 '12 at 15:13

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