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This site has an FAQ. However, recently it has been made clear that the community-created definition for this site, as expressed in its FAQ, does not always determine which questions are valid and which are not. Sometimes this is instead decided by high-ranking moderators on the StackExchange Network.

Therefore, could TPTB please specify which topics they have decided to override in the community-created FAQ as being ontopic and which are now offtopic, and give some example questions that should be closed now that this overriding has come into effect?

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Therefore, could TPTB please specify which topics they have decided to override in the community-created FAQ as being ontopic and which are now offtopic, and give some example questions that should be closed now that this overriding has come into effect?

I don't understand what TPTB have to do with this. I explicitly don't think they are the most appropriate people to decide what is or is not on-topic. I think their opinions are extremely valuable and should most certainly be listened to and processed and, mostly likely, absorbed into whatever decisions we make about topicality.

But goading them with words like override and even TPTB isn't remotely helpful. If you need to let off steam, do it in chat. Leave Meta clear for discussions that will actually help improve the site.


This site has an FAQ. However, recently it has been made clear that the community-created definition for this site, as expressed in its FAQ, does not always determine which questions are valid and which are not. Sometimes this is instead decided by high-ranking moderators on the StackExchange Network.

I completely agree with this and I think the first steps would involve something along these lines:

  • Who is this site for?
  • What level of English questions are we interested in asking and answering?
  • How should we approach questions that are below this level?
  • How can we explain why a particular question is below this level nicely and in a manner that encourages better questions?

The answers to these questions seem like a good place to start building a better and more clear FAQ.

  • can't provide any answer better than this one. – Jeff Atwood Jul 14 '11 at 11:45
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Therefore, could TPTB please specify which topics they have decided to override in the community-created FAQ as being ontopic and which are now offtopic, and give some example questions that should be closed now that this overriding has come into effect?

I am not sure it is possible to specify which topics will be not considered on-topic, if not using a generic description that has been already provided by Jeff Atwood in a previous post of his.
To make a simple example, we don't want questions similar to "My teacher keeps to correct me when I write 'Me wants apples.' Is she being pedantic?" If the question were about when "I've got me a job." started to be acceptable in informal contexts, then it would have been a more acceptable question (which doesn't mean it would be really accepted).

The problem is the level of the question, which should match the audience for which EL&U is for.
The other problem is when the same type of question keeps to being asked. For example, if a question about the etymology of the name of a town is on-topic, when you find forty questions about the etymology of a town name, we should ask if there is something wrong with those questions (which doesn't mean there is anything wrong). I know, the example is quite silly, but if I would see a predominance of those questions, I would start to wonder if I am on English Language & Usage or another SE site. The point is that a single question can be acceptable, but it could not be acceptable when similar questions become predominant in the site.

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After answering questions like those posed by MrHen, a clear faq should be made. The first section of the present faq has some problems in my view.
1) It doesn't specify how those selections were made, though it links here. However, it is not clear either that normative link is the base for all kind of questions to be asked on EL&U.
2) Following this ambiguity, a "high-rank moderator" introduced recently a new off-topic "Explain this joke to me" by ignoring the community voting.
This action may mean the normative link (that promoted community voting) is either an incorrect or incomplete method.
3) (minor problem) There is a writing ambiguity in "But please, don’t ask any questions about these topics. They are out of scope for this site." Which "these" topics?

  • The "these" topics that are listed immediately below that text! – psmears Jul 14 '11 at 22:02
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    FWIW... Community voting is usually a horrible way to determine what's on/off topic unless it's an edge-case and has already been thoroughly discussed. Discussion - real, "here's why I think it should / shouldn't be allowed" debate - is essential. – Shog9 Jul 14 '11 at 22:04
  • @psmears But it could refer to the previous topics. A colon after "these" followed by the topics would be more appropiate – Theta30 Jul 20 '11 at 7:44

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