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I have used Stack Exchange sites on and off for awhile and recently I have encountered a lot of discussion of scope and off-topicness.

In my experience it all just seems far to specifically and technically applied. It does not matter if a question is posted in the most relevant SE site if it not obviously allowed in the FAQ you have to have a 2 day discussion in the comments on "is this off-topic".

You cannot categorize everything, and there are always edge cases that fit nowhere. I think moderators have to be aware of this and work more to find the best fit then to argue against anything that does not fit perfectly.

So where do un-categorizable questions, edge cases, and questions that do not fit in their technical category go? Nowhere? Or is there a way to make room for them in their most relevant SE site?

To reiterate: There is no perfect set of rules that can account for all circumstances, so relevancy and if this group of people are the best group to answer the asked question should be the biggest consideration. (This is somewhat assuming a finished SE that hosts all major categories, of course if no relevant category exists yet, you simply cannot ask the question). Specifically the on-topic rules of any community are only a few sentences long and of course they cannot cover every case, that does not make these cases any less spiritually on-topic. Look at any legal system there are hundreds of books just to describes a few simple rules like don't kill other people or steal their stuff, you cannot use a general few paragraphs description as the ultimate deciding factor for anything without using some common sense (or 80 percent of the relevant stuff will not apply).

This is the section to discuss changes to SE right? If I am using SE meta wrong now, and have to ask a question it is: how do I post a question that tactically fits nowhere but is very very relevant to an existing SE site.


  1. I just wanted to ask a question about the Myst comics (classic adventure game). These are very little known comic books based on the Myst franchise. Even if a comic book or literature SE site existed neithers members are like to even know what I am talking about, let alone be able to answer the question. The people over at Gaming will know what I am talking about, but the FAQ does not specifically allow game adaptation discussion. In my opinion, assuming a Myst SE never exists, gaming is the most relevant site. Add to this that a Myst-franshice tag already exists in Gaming, and this questions is firmly within that topic, and I think it should be allowed and that this should be obvious. I actually posted the question and one person has already admitted that: The question probably is off-topic everywhere, gaming is quite possibly the most relevant site and always will be, but it is still technically off-topic.

  2. A cutscene film. This clearly is a film, this cannot be denied. So it is off topic in gaming. But the entire film is made up of cutscenes from a real existing game, does this really belong in film SE? It is entirely possible that it is only available to people who have bought the game so film aficionados will have no idea it exists. I would say that it clearly belongs in Gaming.

I think I could go on and on like this.

share|improve this question
Do you have any examples? – Bill the Lizard Jan 4 '13 at 0:31
Not everything has to go in. – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 4 '13 at 0:43
But assuming some future where all major categorised have a SE site why would you want to exclude questions that are relevant but technically edge cases or uncategorizable? – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 0:45
What does relevant but technically edge cases or uncategorizable mean? This is why a specific example would be useful. – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 4 '13 at 0:48
why would you want to exclude questions that are relevant... -- For essentially the same reason that you don't let your neighbor park their car in your garage. – Robert Harvey Jan 4 '13 at 0:49
I have a feeling he's talking about this question:… – murgatroid99 Jan 4 '13 at 0:58
@murgatroid99 you sleuth you – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 4 '13 at 0:58
You might notice that I just closed that question – murgatroid99 Jan 4 '13 at 0:59
Yes and I am asking on meta Gaming if this type of question should be allowed now, but in general I have encountered this technicality fascism a few times on SE sites, and I just think it is the wrong way to run this site. – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:01
Relevant = "easily answered by the member of that site" and "falling within the spirit of that site" Edge Case or technically = "The question is not specifically allowed in the faq or disallowed. No one has come up with any reason to ban this type of question but no one has really considered it for inclusion either" – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:04
You know, people are less likely to want to help you or change their rules for you if you call them fascists. – murgatroid99 Jan 4 '13 at 1:05
I did not mean to call anyone a fascist, just thought it was a good descriptor. – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:12
It's never a good descriptor. – Robert Harvey Jan 4 '13 at 1:17
I don't understand why any and every question must be on topic in at least one Stack Exchange site... – Jack Maney Jan 4 '13 at 4:15

Questions can be loosely categorized as follows:

  1. On-topic questions.
  2. Good questions that are on-topic somewhere else.
  3. Questions that are unsuitable anywhere in the SE network

Type 1 questions are the ones we want. SE site contributors spend a lot of time figuring out precisely what constitutes topicality, so that they can explain it to new members and enforce the site scope.

Type 2 questions are eligible for migration, if they are not too old. But they are also the most rare. Questions that are asked on the wrong site (predictably) suffer from other quality problems as well, and are often not migrated, but simply closed.

The kind of question that you are talking about is Type 3. A question can be unsuitable because:

  1. A site does not exist on the SE network for which the question is on-topic, or
  2. The question is Not a Real Question, Not Constructive, or Too Localized.

The first reason is the one you are concerned with. Unfortunately, there isn't an overarching rule that says "If a question is posted on a site where it doesn't fit, find the site that is the closest fit." It doesn't work that way; if a question is not a good fit for any site, it is simply closed.

Of course, the second category of questions are clearly off-topic everywhere. To be eligible for inclusion on any SE site, the question must be answerable and of potential benefit to others.

Why are we strict about this? Because traditional support forums are essentially useless as a source of relevant information. That's why you're here.

share|improve this answer
But I am trying to say that a Type 4 exists. Type 4 would be questions that are real questions that are constructive and general. And that experts in the field in real life would consider normal. These question are also questions for which the most relevant SE site already exists, but because the on-topic rules do not comprise an entire book are no specifically mentioned. Are you denying that we live in a world of analogue ideas where not everything is easily categorised in simple one sentence descriptions? – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:11
I am saying that SE doesn't cover all possible subjects. Part of the reason that SE works is that sites are limited in scope, and that scope is defined by the subject matter, the site's overall topic. That's what draws the experts in the first place; they are interested in the specific subject matter which the site addresses. – Robert Harvey Jan 4 '13 at 1:16
Yes, and all genres or categories are of a very limited scope. But it is also impossible to perfectly describe them particularly in only a few sentences. I am saying for any set of rules that try to describe a category there will be many questions that obviously fall within that category but are not included by that description. There are some things that are just not perfectly describable in less then an infinite amount of text, and these things have to be approached with common scene as well as a set of general rules. – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:21
@Wisnoskij You were asking a question about comic books on a site about gaming. There is no way you can argue that into an on topic question. – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 4 '13 at 1:27
I disagree, but than what about a cutscene film. It is technically a film but it is made up completely of cutscenes from a video game. Does this really belong in film.SE? What about the script of a game. The script is not a game it is literature. If a gaming studio creates a comic book adaptation of a game it is 100% more part of the game than part of general literature or comic books. – Wisnoskij Jan 4 '13 at 1:35
@Wisnoskij: I don't think it belongs on either of those sites. – Robert Harvey Jan 4 '13 at 6:31

Quoting one of your comments:

As for the "it is not a game". Well the people on a literature site will have no idea what I am talking about. The only possible people who know anything about game based literature, like the Halo novels or some comic books based on Myst will be on the gaming site.

If you find a number of SE sites where your question is off topic, this does not automatically mean that your question has to be on topic on some other site. SE doesn't hold the sum total of all human knowledge, so it makes sense that some questions will not be on topic anywhere.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Propose a site that has a scope encompassing your question. If enough people want it, it shall be so.
  2. Go through the process of asking the community to re-examine what is on topic on their meta.
  3. Realise that SE owes you no answers, and that there are other sources of information on the internet.

The guidelines for a site are dictated mostly by the community, and they indicate what sort of questions the community wants. Please don't try to ram your square peg through a round hole: the definition of "on topic" is unlikely to be revised simply to accommodate your question.

share|improve this answer
I don't think sending people to area51 in cases like this is really tenable going forward, at least not until the next incarnation of it is in production. The resulting proposal would likely be closed, fizzle or languish sufficiently that anyone backing it has long lost whatever motivation they had. Yes, we should encourage people to propose new sites, but I'm not sure if it's really helpful in the context of providing some sort of recourse as it's very likely to just compound frustration. My opinion only, though, good answer :) – Tim Post Jan 4 '13 at 4:01
@TimPost True enough, but in this specific case I feel a site for comic book fans is not unreasonable. It seems like a broad enough field, and potentially has a significant overlap with users we might already find on other sites here. You can already find forums for manga and comic enthusiasts to ask questions about characters, plots and story arcs, authors and issues, so the demand is certainly there. /speculation – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 4 '13 at 4:14
Yes, definitely a grounded suggestion. Your answer just made me think (perhaps out loud). – Tim Post Jan 4 '13 at 4:33

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