A user on our site just asked When should you form a union? Because of the issues faced with a recent large corporation and a union in the United States, there is a lot of activity on the Internet about this topic, and many people are searching for it.

These are opportunities to help generate awareness of the site. Sam Brand, a Stack Exchange employee and member of the CHAOS team, made attempts earlier this year to help promote several Stack Exchange sites based on posting questions that involved trending topics.

He had varying success, as some of the questions were shut down by the community for not following certain guidelines. Others made the cut and ended up becoming helpful inroads to the community.

In Can Stack Exchange Capitalize on Hot Trends, Sam gives some advice on how to help capitalize on these trends, based on his experiences:

Sometimes a site’s rules can get in the way of creating the sort of topical content that would make the net a better place. What happened with Question #1 illustrates this well. A couple Mondays ago, investing in Facebook seemed like a pretty good idea. So, like thousands of others I googled: “How can I invest in Facebook’s IPO?” What resulted were a jumble of links that referred to E-Trade’s involvement in the initial public offering, but no stories that told me directly whether I was eligible to bid on the shares at the IPO price. I just wanted an answer. So I took the query to our Personal Finance site, where the question was quickly closed. The reason for the closure? A similar question had previously been asked at the site, but about Skype’s IPO. Needless to say, Skype is not Facebook, and neither question will ever answer anyone’s question about getting in on any upcoming IPOs. Lacking a canonical answer, this is a case where a site should really learn to love the duplicates.

Sam also asks an important question:

Q: So, what can we do? How can Stack Exchange improve in cases like these when a good question with a hot proper noun gets shut down?

A: Vote to reopen. Not enough rep? Ask your friends to vote to reopen. Flag for moderator attention. And make your case in the comments. If you want an expert answer, put in a little work to deserve it.

In addition to Sam's advice, I don't think the rules need to necessarily be fully bent or broken in cases like this. In the question that's currently open on our site, we should ask ourselves what changes, if any, the asker should (or could) make, to help it comply with the rules a bit more. Perhaps the answer isn't to only bend the rules, but to also find a middle ground, via editing, that allows the question to exist on the site while also bringing it closer to the blurry line that is the site's boundary.

If the only problem is that it's a duplicate, then maybe we let that slide, since it's not like the "What language should I learn next?" questions on Programmers SE, where there exists an endless stream of duplicates. We should ask ourselves if an occasional, or one time duplicate, to take advantage of a trend is really more costly than the potential rewards.

In summary, if you look at this question, and your first instinct is to vote to close, I encourage you to look for ways to find value in this post. It's questions like this that have potential to increase participation in Workplace SE, and I hope we can find a way to make this question work.

  • 2
    Related (on History.SE): Asking Timely Questions - My Naval Question Explained
    – yannis
    Nov 19, 2012 at 0:59
  • 2
    @YannisRizos - Thanks for the link. I hope it's clear that, even if these ideas don't work for this particular question, that it at least gets people thinking about how current events + a real actual problem faced could be used strategically.
    – jmort253
    Nov 19, 2012 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


I was hesitant to not vote to close this initially. But I realized:

  1. This question is nearly the exact same question as the other linked question. The only meaningful difference is the "last resort vs first move" idea, but this is also fundamentally tied into the question of the benefits of unions. There is an amazing answer on the linked post as well.
  2. This is a seriously complicated question which imo is reasonably outside the scope of this site. The question of, "would a union be a good idea?" is not one which can be easily answered in any sense which makes it difficult to be constructive.
  3. This is (and will probably become more) a hopelessly politically entangled question. All the non-political discussion is directly contained within the duplicate and linked question.
  4. The last paragraph of the question basically says, "I don't think there is an answer but I want guidelines a poll."
  • 3
    Fair enough. Maybe this question is just one of those where this idea just won't work out, but I do think we should keep our eyes peeled for questions that are on-topic and that also are about current events. With the right mix of 1) the right question, 2) the right topic, and 3) a visionary asker or editor, such a question could be valuable.
    – jmort253
    Nov 19, 2012 at 3:54
  • Great points; the original question is sort of broad as it is, but the great comprehensive answer on the original sort of salvages it.
    – Rarity
    Nov 19, 2012 at 15:37

I can't agree. Honestly I find that blog post of dubious use. It really doesn't have an answer beyond "on topic questions which were hot button were fine, off topic or duplicate ones aren't". So hot button is nice, but largely irrelevant to how the sites work. Gaming for example gets huge bursts of new traffic when a new hot game comes out...but they don't relax their quality standards one bit when it happens. Gaming is one of the largest and most active sites on the network still, so I don't think there's much evidence of need to break rules just to beg for SEO.

Additionally, this is a duplicate question, not a question that needs other improvement. It hasn't been shut down because it's a hot-button issue. I don't find those parts of the blog post relevant.

The question as asked isn't really about the focus on the debate, either. The real debate is whether the union overstepped their bounds or if the management was being unreasonable or some combination of the two. The "problem" wasn't just a union but a strike. This isn't directly related to the problem at all. The union was already created; whether or not one should form unions is irrelevant to the hot button issue.

I'm not inclined to leave open a duplicate (of a question of already dubious constructiveness) just so we can get some temporary SEO keywords in there. I seriously doubt they'll be useful in growing our community anyway. We're a community about workplace issues, not politics. The interest in this case (as I've seen) is almost entirely political, and mostly mudslinging in either direction, not well structured debate about whether one should form a union.

  • 1
    Hi, I don't want to restart our debate here again. ;) But I want to make sure people can see the relevant discussion from this transcript.
    – jmort253
    Nov 18, 2012 at 23:14

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