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Disclaimer: this question starts out quite egocentric, but bear with me :)


I have the distinct notion questions that would really be considered too broad or unfocused for our website are not filtered out by the review queues.

I already lowered my bar for VTCing based on lack of detail, and just ask for additional information in the comments, but these are almost structurally ignored, and the questions answered anyway, allowing for an inconsistent reference of precedents for future questions.

Some recent examples:

  • DVD/Bluray Plastic Cover
    I saw this in the review queue, so without the answer, and thought it was too unclear what sleeve the OP is referring to. This was unclear to the one who answered, as well.

  • Planes of the head
    To clarify their problem, I had a discussion with the OP, but the question was never changed, and I think addressed in my comments. Still it receives answers that just repeat what's in the book (or what I said). Shouldn't this question have been closed as well?

  • Why does my Cricut cut some images in the right place, and some off to the left?
    I asked for clarification on the software and hardware, and suggested to take this up at Graphics Design.SE. Fixer1234 made me realize it was more on-topic than I had initially thought (not fully realizing what machine the OP was talking about) and I redacted my comments (feeling a little silly), but a question asking for more detail popped up once again. Shouldn't this be closed as unclear until it gets updated?

  • How should I clean these beach beds?
    This question doesn't seem to fit our scope.

  • What kind of paint should I choose to start painting?
    This seems overtly broad.

  • &c.

My question is: are we - either intentionally or unconsciously - too lenient on Arts & Crafts?
And if so, a follow-up question: should we maybe reflect these lowered standards in our Help section?

Also: could this be because there is too little activity?


P.s. still pondering on the scope, which might actually solve part of this problem.

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I've had the same question, myself. Arts & Crafts is still in Beta, and the posting volume is surprisingly low, especially for a pleasant site with subject matter that should have wide interest. We average probably on the order of one question a day, which I'm not sure is enough for a viable site. So there is probably some sensitivity about not being overly aggressive closing questions.

That gets compounded when a question goes HNQ (Hot Network Question). That drives a lot of viewers to the site, which can be good to build the user base. Unless a question is really bad, nobody wants to shut it down while it's attracting views. Two of your examples are in that category: Planes of the head and How should I clean these beach beds?.

On the first, maybe other people also just don't get it. The question received two helpful answers. I'm OK with that one in a generic sense, but it isn't my subject area.

The second probably should be closed now that it's no longer HNQ. I commented on it that it didn't seem on topic. But there is often a broader perspective where something might be. I gave an example for migrating it to the Home Improvement site, where lawn furniture isn't on topic but the same question applies to cleaning vinyl siding, which is, so the information is relevant to the site. I contemplated here that crafters could make something from plastic that lives outside and would similarly need cleaning, or they might upcycle some old plastic stuff covered with lichen and would need to clean it first. So it was within the realm of possibility that it could be on-topic if framed appropriately. Any thoughts on whether the question should be reframed or closed?

This site is one of the friendliest in the network. It's a stark contrast with many of the big sites, where the atmosphere is often downright rude. The active user base here is extremely supportive; people are here to help others and have fun. We often bend over backwards to improve poor questions so they can remain open, and we have a general high tolerance for questions that need work. Maybe too high a tolerance. The idea of putting a question on hold is to suspend activity on it while it's turned into a good question. No matter how you word it, though, it isn't the experience the poster expected when they came here. I've seen questions closed in the nicest way here, but we may be "too supportive" in not closing questions that should be.

Letting in a lot of low quality questions will degrade the site in the long run because good content gets diluted by noise. We probably do need to shift the balance a little, and be more willing to close questions that need it (while being nice about it).

That said, this site has a scope that can make that difficult. Arts & Crafts covers a huge territory. Most users have expertise in a few of the topics, but few users have more than a passing acquaintance with many other topics in the site's scope. Questions can seem overly broad or unclear (or even off-topic), to someone who isn't intimately familiar with the topic, but make perfect sense to someone who is.

I run into that a lot here. I don't have an art background, so many of the art questions seem to be low quality or unclear in one way or another. Then the question receives an answer or two, and the answers provide perspective in which the question makes sense. So I rarely VTC questions whose subject matter I'm not familiar with. OTOH, I was the first to VTC How to deal with artist's block?. Then Marian's answer demonstrated that the question was answerable, and it seems to be widely applicable. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and voted to reopen.

DVD/Bluray Plastic Cover was clear to me when I answered, only I was thinking of cases other than the style the OP had in mind. That didn't become obvious until the OP commented. I discovered that there is a case style in which the comment makes sense and have asked the OP to confirm. If they get back quickly, we can clarify the question and I'll adjust the answer. Since we likely now know what the OP is talking about, I'm tempted to give them a chance to clarify before closing the question. But if they don't get back, I agree that the question is a problem as-is.

I'm OK with the CriCut question. More information will help people answer, but I suspect people familiar with CriCut will be familiar with the problem. The problem I see is that our user base has little familiarity with CriCut. Something can be theoretically on-topic, but if we have no expertise here to answer it, those questions will either remain unanswered or attract guesses from well-meaning readers. Neither is desirable. The best solution might be to clarify the site scope and move the on-topic boundary, since that one falls in the gray area, anyway.

All that said, we seem to have attracted an unusually high number of questionable posts in the last month or two. The issue may be more that we're seeing a lot of them than that our standards have a problem (although when the main page is full of [Closed] questions, users may be more hesitant to close even more. We've had several HNQ questions, which is unusual, and people have been stuck at home due to the corona virus, so maybe more are trying crafting. Those kinds of things could account for a recent rise in visitors with little formal training, and questions of lower quality.

So bottom line? I recognize what you're describing and have had similar thoughts myself. It's a definite maybe.

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  • Thank you once again for a comprehensive answer. It seems then that this problem should be addressed with the scope revision as well. But right now, we have to find a proper balance between traffic and quality. If we choose the first, we might have to review a lot of old posts later on to 'fix the damage', but if we choose the second, we risk losing a lot of interest. Friendliness indeed is key, in any case. – Joachim May 1 at 22:04
  • I'd really like for one or more of the site admins to comment on this matter, as I wonder if there might be less obvious repercussions when we are being more lenient. – Joachim May 1 at 22:05
  • As for your question: I think your take on the question on cleaning the beach beds can indeed be very helpful and on-topic, but then I'd like to see it reframed, or, at least, retitled with a more generic title (as I'm assuming this will make it more accessible). About the CriCut question: troubleshooting faulty results of a specialized crafts machine should probably be on-topic, and, as you imply, we definitely shouldn't let the germaneness of questions depend on the expertise (or lack thereof) of our user base. – Joachim May 1 at 22:20
  • @Joachim, I took a shot at editing the beach chairs question. What do you think? If it seems like too much of a stretch, we can VTC. BTW, I think my point on the CriCut question was the opposite. For gray-area topics, the expertise of the user base may be germane. When there's no core of knowledge here, the questions tend to go unanswered or attract low-quality answers. I was suggesting to maybe rope in the scope for now, and if/when the site's pool of expertise grows to cover areas like that, expand the scope. But probably not worth messing with over one question. – fixer1234 May 1 at 23:24
  • I think that question looks good as it currently stands, yes. Regarding germaneness based on expertise: I think that's another good question to be raised here on meta: I'd like to pick more brains on that, as it is counter-intuitive to my conception of the workings of StackExchange (even though, I suddenly realize, Stack Overflow is based on the idea of experts exchanging knowledge). – Joachim May 2 at 12:50
  • Of course, you are talking about areas that are already grey, in which case I think that's a fair additional determinant. – Joachim May 2 at 13:07

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