Introduction: I was looking at few SE sites and comparing 'How to Ask' instructions in the right sidebar that appear when you click 'Ask Question'.

What I found is:

  • Stack Overflow: Is your question about programming?
  • Serverfault: Is your question about servers, networking, or desktop infrastructure?

Both of these have a relation between the name of the site and the main filtering question.

What happened for me is that a pair (Stack Overflow, Programming) caused me to ask: Is it really only about stack-overflows? Checking the sample questions made me realize it is not, and that (among other things) lead me to read the FAQ eventually. I consider this a good thing.

With Server Fault something else happened: I thought I didn't need to read the FAQ. Another interesting thing happened there, too: I really did not have to! The filtering question is almost a perfect digest of what is on topic and what is not, with only few minor details cleared up in the FAQ. I consider this a good thing, too.

On EL&U we have:

  • English Language and Usage: Is your question about English language and usage?

In the context of a newcomer, which means that the FAQ has not been read and fully digested and that only a sample of questions have been seen, I am wondering if this sentence is implying that any question about the English language and usage can be asked.

  • NOTE: I know that I could have asked it on meta, but I feel that it is on-topic and I am not interested in meta aspects, but in linguistic aspects.
    – Unreason
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:08
  • 5
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but what linguistic aspects? I don't see how this can be interpreted as anything other than a meta question. (And even then, I'm not sure what your actual question is.)
    – Marthaª
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:28
  • Questions about the site itself are questions for the meta site. @Martha: Unreason is asking if "Is your question about English language and usage?" shown to who ask a question on EL&U should not be changed with something less confusing for the new users.
    – apaderno
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:49
  • My question is: someone who I consider superior in use of English language told me that the above question does not imply that you can ask any question here. I'd like someone to explain it to me so I could agree.
    – Unreason
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:56
  • 3
    The only issue I see if this were asked on the main site is whether and could/should be interpreted as or, or and/or. Nov 23, 2011 at 16:07
  • @FumbleFingers, I re-formatted a bit. One of the arguments that I am trying to establish (or disprove) is that there is a pattern regarding the labels (site names) and the illustration of what they designate (the filter/check question) that is established on SE sites and that this sets the initial expectation of the new users more than anything else.
    – Unreason
    Nov 23, 2011 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


In the case of Stack Overflow and Serverfault, the site names do not tell the asker what the site is really about, so the question following appears different from the site names.

In the case of this site, the site name does tell the asker about the nature of the site, so the question following happens to be of the same flavour.

It does not imply that all questions of this nature can be asked, in the same way the questions following on the other two sites do not imply that, but serves only as an initial filter. The FAQ still needs to be read even in the other two cases as a further filter.

  • 1
    higher powers are in the details; my claim is that in the first case name does not tell you so you don't presume and read the faq; in second case you presume and presume right, in third case you presume and presume wrong.
    – Unreason
    Nov 23, 2011 at 23:11

The sentences you report have the only purpose of reminding to the users what the general topic is in the site; they don't assure the question being asked is on-topic, nor that the question would not be closed for any reason.

Server Fault uses, "Is your question about servers, networking, or desktop infrastructure?" but that just gives an idea of what the question's topic should be. What reported in their FAQ more exactly says:

Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity. If your question is about …

  • Servers
  • Networks
  • Desktop PCs that you maintain in the workplace

    and it is not about …

  • Networking outside the professional workplace

  • Running servers at home for personal use
  • General personal computer troubleshooting

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

On-topic questions on Server Fault are not questions about your own computer that you use at home. Reading the sentence they show you when you ask a question on Server Fault, you could think that any networking question is welcome, but then the FAQ says that questions about the computer you use at home (and not at your workplace) are off-topic.

In the same way, on EL&U, the general topic is English language and English usage, which means that questions about a different topic are off-topic. When you then read the FAQ, you discover that questions about proofreading are not on-topic.

That sentence is not implying that any question about English are on-topic, in the same way the sentence used by Server Fault doesn't imply that all the networking questions are on-topic there.

  • Yes, I considerd all of your arguments. Still I can not, otherwise, explain the fact that their close ratio is ~3% and ours just shy of 10%. Also, I am not sure they apply the 'home' criteria for closing rigidly.
    – Unreason
    Nov 23, 2011 at 23:19

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