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I don't mean to pick on any of our users or mods, but I must admit that I do not see the merit in answering this question when it showed zero evidence of research: Within or inside? (it has since been edited by someone else.)

We all know that a lot of questions are contentious, with no clear amount of required research or no easy way to try to do that pre-asking research. But "Within or Inside?" is not one of those. It's a very simple question. Maybe not all dictionaries would raise the issue of the different parts of speech, but we don't require question askers to be successful in their research, only that they show they've attempted to do some. (That's why it's different from the old general reference close reason, which was about the intrinsic merits of the question, and was necessarily much more subjective and harder to judge.)

There are lots of high rep users who disagree with closing these questions. They have the right to disagree and also to answer them if they wish. But shouldn't the mods be modeling the site standards? Shouldn't mods raise an issue on Meta if they disagree with them, rather than blatantly ignoring them? If a mod has answered that question then we can only conclude that the standards have in effect been changed, in which case, let's just remove the close reason entirely.

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    Did you not find the Meta question How much research is needed? – Andrew Leach Nov 21 '16 at 11:47
  • @AndrewLeach I have read it, but it predates the current close reason. As you wrote in your answer: "It's perfectly reasonable for reviewers to assume that a common expression can be explained by consulting ordinary reference works. They shouldn't have to do that search. If it can't be, it's up to the asker to demonstrate that it can't be." – curiousdannii Nov 21 '16 at 11:57
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    It predates the current close reason because the current close reason was predicated on that answer (among other things). – Andrew Leach Nov 21 '16 at 11:58
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    Should I raise the issue of non-OP's adding in token research in a new Meta discussion? Because to quote from @AndrewLeach's excellent post "Don't just link to it: if it doesn't explain what you want to know, quote the relevant bits and explain why they don't. Doing this also helps the asker to sort out in his own mind what the problem actually is in order to express it clearly." -- if non-OPs add in research without the OP's feedback the whole system is shortcircuited. We won't know if the question is useful to anyone. – curiousdannii Nov 21 '16 at 12:13
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    That might be worth teasing out. One of SE's principles is that improvement of posts (for example, to get a post on-topic) is always A Good Thing. If there are some circumstances where that's not the case, then the community should be aware of it. Alternatively, it could always be A Good Thing regardless of who does it. – Andrew Leach Nov 21 '16 at 12:56
  • In my view the real question should be, should high-reputation users or mods add some basic research before answering questions like this? – Helmar Nov 21 '16 at 16:01
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    @Helmar That is an important question we need to have, but leaving that aside, I still want to understand the mod's actions. They should never have answered the question in the state it was, and should have either asked the OP to edit their question, closed it, or both. – curiousdannii Nov 21 '16 at 16:04
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There are lots of high rep users who disagree with closing these questions. They have the right to disagree and also to answer them if they wish. But shouldn't the mods be modeling the site standards? Shouldn't mods raise an issue on Meta if they disagree with them, rather than blatantly ignoring them?

I don’t think it’s obligatory for any user, and definitely not for mods, to close a question just because an applicable close reason exists. To paraphrase Jesus, “the close reasons were made for the voters, and not the voters for the close reasons.” Everyone is expected to use judgment and not just robotically vote to close a question. The standards are set by the community; as that linked post says, the text was changed because the "new reason more adequately conveys why the community was closing general reference questions." My interpretation of that: it's descriptive, not prescriptive. The way the community sets standards is by its actual voting patterns. Our site has plenty of high-rep users with closing privileges; I don't think we need to rely on mods to close questions that break the rules.

In addition, the system is set up to allow anyone to post an answer to an open question. This is the standard for ordinary users. I don’t see why mods should be held to a different, stricter standard, when as you point out, there is not even a consensus among high rep users that having such a strict standard is a good thing.

I think raising issues on Meta is good for mod actions that go against an established community consensus or that are unremediable by ordinary users. But a mod answering an open question that other people think should be closed is neither of these. After the mod's answer is posted, if you still think the question is not useful, you’re able to vote to close it, and then vote to delete it. If you don’t think the mod’s answer is useful, you can always downvote it.

I think it would be legitimate to object if the community closed a question like this, and then a mod re-opened it without discussion to post an answer. But that would be a different situation.

If a mod has answered that question then we can only conclude that the standards have in effect been changed, in which case, let's just remove the close reason entirely.

I think this close reason should remain. It seems to be used fairly often; I don't understand how it would benefit anyone to remove it.

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    Can you reconcile this opinion with Andrew Leach's answer to "What is the community consensus on answering trivial questions and responding to those who say we shouldn't", and especially the part that states "If a question is closeable, it should not be answered"? That seems to be part of what is at the heart of this question. – Tonepoet Nov 22 '16 at 3:05
  • @Tonepoet: I guess I would disagree with that. It depends on what it means by "closeable." It's technically possible for anyone with the close privilege to vote to close a question for any reason--the most common reasons are listed as pre-defined options, but you can also enter a custom reason. I would say instead "If a question should be closed, it should not be answered." – sumelic Nov 22 '16 at 3:24
  • I enjoyed reading your answer, but I can't upvote it. As @Tonepoet mentioned, the core issue is whether you want to award a hungry bear with an answer when there is no answerable question. No answerable means the Q doesn't (1) show research efforts, (2) state what the OP knows, (3) state what bothers him most. The right procedure should be asking the OP to show some research efforts so that an answer could be more definitive and to the point. I seriously doubt what good will come out of answering this kind of question on ELU when it claims it is not a discussion forum like Yahoo Answers. – user140086 Nov 22 '16 at 6:33
  • If a question is not easily researchable, I understand. However, the answer is just a click away and Help Center clearly mentions "Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!". In other words, if a question doesn't mention the research and what you're still hoping to learn, a question should not be answered. A question should be "I read this and that, but is it OK to use within/inside in this context?" rather than "what's the difference between "within and inside"? Actually the ELL post answers the question (not fully though) and ELU shouldn't be ELL. – user140086 Nov 22 '16 at 6:38
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    In other words, ELU should have a higher standard for questions and it is very ironic that the ELL question shows research efforts "I opened google translate and translate both words to Indonesian, and the meaning was same. It was said dalam.", but the ELU one shows nothing other than "I've read a lot of letters" which is irrelevant. I think the key issue is here. If users answer this kind of question on ELU, why do we need ELL? Also, if a user wants to show off their grammatical or linguistics knowledge, they are welcome to ask and answer their own Qs instead of answering off-topic Qs. – user140086 Nov 22 '16 at 6:42
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    @Rathony: I agree with you; I think this question was not answerable. I don't like focusing on if the OP "deserves" an answer in these kind of cases because I think it's beside the point. But as you said, it's not clear what the question is when it's so general like this so people should ask a new question rather than editing it to try to make it what they think would be an interesting question to answer. – sumelic Nov 22 '16 at 6:45
  • @suməlic I would upvote your answer if you incorporate this comment into your answer. Thanks. – user140086 Nov 22 '16 at 6:46
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The close-reason "more research required" is meant to be a means of closing questions that require more research to be useful and interesting questions. When users ask questions that are self-eminently useful and or of interest to any linguists or language enthusiasts, these questions should not be closed.

It is NOT the case, that reviewers should look at every question and ask has the Original Poster shown their research?, but rather, does this question require more research to become a decent question.

None of this is a comment on whether the question in question should have been closed or not.

Close-reasons are not meant to stand in for common sense. We are still required to apply some critical evaluation of a question's merits in terms of their benefit to the site and to other users.

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    "The close-reason "more research required" is meant to be a means of closing questions that require more research to be useful and interesting questions." [citation required] No, instead it was meant to stop this site from duplicating information easily accessible elsewhere for lazy question askers. It was meant to stop this site from being a substitute for asking your native English speaking friend if you're using a word correctly. – curiousdannii Nov 21 '16 at 10:44
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    We don't require research so that questions will be useful or interesting, because that is not a requirement to stay open. The downvote tool tip on every site in the network says that downvoting is what you do if a question is unresearched or unuseful. Closing unresearched questions is specific to this site because we get swamped with questions that could be easily answered if the OP had simply looked up a dictionary or two first, questions that are usually poorly phrased (and so are not even useful to other people searching for answers). – curiousdannii Nov 21 '16 at 10:46
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    "No, instead it was meant to stop this site from duplicating information easily accessible elsewhere for lazy question askers. " <--- That is good grounds for closing a question, for which you need to apply your common sense. The "research" close-reason means you can apply that common sense - but that if the OP has a genuine reason for asking the question which is not apparent to you, they are able to edit it to show why the question is still worth asking. – Araucaria Nov 21 '16 at 11:04
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    @Araucaria Anybody who has discussed policy with me in chat can say I've been working under this assumption for a long while now after reading Are Some Questions Too Simple, which you should probably cite in your answer, but that's an older post from 2011, and the post Kit Z. Fox made in 2014 suggests that the rule became stricter when the close reason was changed from General Reference to More Research Required. The former was designed with the principles you have in mind, whereas the latter is based upon proving research. – Tonepoet Nov 21 '16 at 16:04
  • @Tonepoet Please link to Kit's said 2014 post. I have carefully checked all Kit's 2014 posts. I cannot find anything similar to what you are claiming she said. You aren't misattributing information to users, I assume. – Araucaria Nov 22 '16 at 1:14
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    @Araucaria I didn't provide a link, since I figured you would've read curiousdannii's before posting answer, and I ran out of room for it. I'm discussing the first one he provided. This is the portion of interest: "This new reason more adequately conveys why the community was closing general reference questions (because more research was desired), it provides the same rationale for other questions that might not be considered general reference but are still lacking information …" This seems to be less discretionary and more applicable. – Tonepoet Nov 22 '16 at 2:56
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    @Tonepoet: the way I read that is that close-voters don't have to take the effort to demonstrate that the question is general reference. But it's not mandating that interesting, non-general-reference questions have to be closed if they don't show research. – sumelic Nov 22 '16 at 3:27
  • @Tonepoet Yes, what Sumelic just said. – Araucaria Nov 22 '16 at 11:52
  • @suməlic that they don't have to be closed doesn't mean that can't be closed in good conscience anyways. Strictly speaking (almost) nothing has to be closed. From a standpoint of precedence-avoidance I'm quite happy with the added research to the question. – Helmar Nov 22 '16 at 12:14
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While I generally agree with Araucaria's opinion that a certain leeway is necessary in judging the required research for a question I do think that any research effort should go past this:

I've read a lot of letters with these words and the people say that[sic] mean the same.

That last half of the sentence is just not a valid basis for a question. It's certainly not any sort of herculean effort to at least look at a dictionary. That should in my view be the minimum bar for any word meaning questions: Have at least one look at a dictionary.

I admit there is a bit of impression about the asker's effort involved. If there had been the added sentence, I looked in the dictionary and the definitions didn't help me, I would likely not have voted to close. In my opinion a question regarding meaning of a word should include information about why looking at a dictionary did not help the asker.


P.S. I happily voted to reopen the question with the added research. After all, post improvements are always a good thing.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Nov 22 '16 at 20:44

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