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It's been a while since the Arts & Crafts scope reconsideration topic was active. I still feel it's an (or the most) important step in shaping this website into a more consistent and mature platform.

In this post, user Webhead ('user24') gave an overview of possible solutions to our platform's idleness (edits between brackets):

  • We can make a comprehensive set of faq questions to direct new users to. This fundamental tag [] is currently empty.
  • We can alter our description ["Arts & Crafts Stack Exchange is for artists and crafters, from professionals to hobbyists, who are interested in creating handmade, tangible works"] to be more clear about what types of questions fit (instead of just who we expect to ask them).
  • We could reconsider our scope and explicitly expand it to include topics we think people will ask about. Examples:
    • Questions on subjects that aid in one's progression as an artist/crafter, even if not necessarily about a specific item being made [such as style description].
    • Questions involving techniques or skills that have value across disciplines, regardless of the asker's intended result.
    • Questions about certain topics currently considered strictly off-topic such as history
  • We can update our [on-topic and off-topic] pages to have more relevant and helpful guidance.
  • We can create a comprehensive, but not all-inclusive, list of art/craft forms and subjects that would be allowed under current/future scope (to be added to the []) to alleviate any second-guessing.

As these seem to be promising practical, realistic, and relatively easy steps to start crystallizing the scope of the Arts & Crafts website, I'd like to propose we start tackling them.

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I think the easiest clarification of our scope is that Arts&Crafts is about tangible objects. Our current scope definition strongly hints at it, but doesn't clearly state that fact. This puts all forms of performing arts, digital arts and photography out of scope. I even suggest explicitely putting all questions related to digital files (like printing on paper, 3D printing, laser cutting and help using certain software or printers) out of scope. There are other Stacks where these questions are more likely to get good answers.

The next clarification could probably be that we answer questions about the physical or chemical properties of those objects, meaning the creation, modification and preservation of them. (I'm honestly not 100% satisfied with this phrasing, but that's what discussions are for.) This puts questions about the cultural, historical or aesthetic value of artworks out of scope.

And lastly we value any and all forms of crafting, be it folding a paper plane or the most complicated Origami in the world, crafting a kid's costume from cardboard or making your own wedding dress.

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To aid in the discussion, I want to give an overview about Arts & Crafts within the StackExchange universe.

Where do we stand?

  • The current scope is "about a variety of arts and crafts". Whether these are considered "art" or "craft", "professional" or "hobbyist" is subjective.

  • The site partially overlaps with Anime & Manga SE if the question is about drawing Manga style

  • The site partially overlaps with Graphic Design SE if the question is about art theory, color theory or layouting

  • The site partially overlaps with Home Improvement SE if the question is about furniture or wall decoration

  • The site partially overlaps with History SE if the question is about a historical artwork

  • The site partially overlaps with Woodworking SE if the question is about tool selection or woodworking as an artistic expression

  • The site is currently not clearly separated from Music SE, Writing SE, Computer Graphics SE, Photo SE, Video Production SE and other sites about artworks that are no tangible objects. I haven't seen many questions related to those sites here and it seems users find the correct site to ask their question intuitively. There is a note in the on-topic help page that states that some forms of art are off-topic, but this is just a non exhaustive list of examples without an objective rule:

Some arts, such as photography, graphic arts, and performing arts such as dance and the dramatic arts are not on topic.

The current definition of our scope

The help page currently states:

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

We welcome specific questions about a variety of arts and crafts. These topics are welcome on our site:

  • Tool usage, upkeep and selection
  • Material selection and usage
  • Asking for clarification of a specific tutorial step ("why isn't this working?" or "what do these instructions mean?")
  • Attributes of different media and how they interact
  • Proper media storage and final product preservation

The following subjects are considered off-topic for our site:

  • Asking for inspiration ("What craft can I do with ...?")
  • Broad questions like "where do I start", or requesting a tutorial for a larger project
  • Discussion or critique of works, whether your own or another artist's
  • Product and service recommendations ("Where can I get [product]?" or "Where can I find someone who does [service] in [area]?")
  • Art history and art appreciation related questions

The problem is that we don't define our scope objectively. We ask the user to look at examples and existing questions and figure it out on their own.

The questions we currently accept

The tags with the most questions include (non exhaustive):

  • drawing, painting, water coloring
  • adhesives
  • material selection, paper, paint, fabric, plastic, wood, metal, acryllic paint, colored pencils
  • tool selection, medium selection
  • sewing, knitting, crocheting, clothing, sewing machine

Some tags that do have several question and stand out from the above list include (non exhaustive):

  • preservation, restoration, maintenance, storage
  • safety, allergy
  • terminology
  • style identification
  • mold-making
  • chain mail
  • makeup

The Goal

StackExchange has very strict rules compared to other internet sources like forums. On one hand, this creates high quality content, on the other hand, it means that people seeking help are disappointed. There are several scenarios for questions to be closed:

  • Someone is not willing or able to find the information on Google and asks here instead. This includes "do my homework for me" questions.
  • Someone has encountered a problem and doesn't have the vocabulary to find answers on the internet.
  • Someone doesn't know on which Stack they should ask ther question.
  • Someone wants feedback on their work.
  • Someone has no idea where to start and asks too many or too broad questions. This includes people who see a picture somewhere and want to recreate the object without any knowledge about the object or technique.

When redefining our scope, we should agree on a common goal. Whom do we want to help here? If we define our scope too narrow, we might have to close good questions that fall outside this scope and don't seem to fit anywhere else on StackExchange. If we define it too wide, we might not have objective reasons to close poor quality questions.

I observed on other Stacks like IPS how a too narrow scope leads to masses of closed questions and frustrated users. My impression is that half of all submitted questions there are closed, often because they weren't phrased in a certain way. That creates a very negative first impression and deters new users from returning to StackExchange and using it in a constructive way.

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    Just for accuracy, furniture and decoration are off-topic at Home improvement (limited to the building, its infrastructure, and to a limited degree, major appliances that typically convey with the house. Also, from the Help section, "Some arts, such as photography, graphic arts, ... are not on topic". I'd interpret that to mean Computer Graphics SE, Photo SE, and Video Production SE are clearly separated. I can't lay my hands on it but I'm pretty sure that somewhere there's guidance that the site focuses on tangible works. – fixer1234 Aug 26 at 10:08
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I've added the following questions to the tag. These (may) come up frequently to get more clarity on potentially ambiguous aspects of our scope:

For now, these might serve their purpose.
We can either add completely new or old questions, or replace these with more comprehensive ones once we have a clearer idea of aspects that need more definition.

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