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There are times when I have a question which is really really important for me but some users might consider it 'too localized" and then close it, in effect killing it for me. A disappointing situation.

Maybe the stackexchange site has little interest in it vs my own vested interest. How about letting the question live for a while like a week before it self-destructs/self-deletes? This way both parties, me and the site, are happy. I get the solution which saved my life and the site no longer keeps a question which has little interest to most users?

There are times a question is so important I would offer a bounty even if people consider it too localized.

I would like to feel that a stackexchange site is truly trying to help users and not only interested in accumulating questions of certain kinds.

While some people would suggest to me to try to edit the question to make it more general, in certain situations that's not possible because then the question will attract generic answers which will be of very little help and they will pollute the question. In addition, a more general question can also sway users to the wrong direction. I have been through this before and I ended up spending too much time telling these people, while their answer might be correct, they did not solve the problem.
Some questions need laser targeted answers.

Personally I have come across some closed "too localized" questions which were very helpful. Maybe these questions can go to some section which can still be accessible and active away from the main site and its statistics instead of killing them. Serving the long tail.

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There are plenty of sites, such as experts exchange, that will gladly accept very specific questions. Many of them require payment of some form or another, but that's fair because your question does not otherwise increase the site's value. The reason Stack Overflow is free is because the value of the site increases with every good question asked and answered. –  Adam Davis May 19 '11 at 20:46
    
Please provide an example of such a question. I rarely use the "too localized" option because most questions simply don't qualify. –  Cody Gray May 20 '11 at 0:05
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@cody Maybe asking about what's a good camera or cell phone which has a specific feature and it'll be closed because it's time specific. The camera or cell phone will be obsolete in a few months. or ask about some Arabic/Hebrew programming question about some right-to-left typing issue in Visual Studio 2005 and it gets closed because it's too geographical. This issue might be a big pain point for someone and there's no other place on the web for help and you get 5 users who close it in 5 minutes. Maybe he wants to offer 1000 points bounty. Users should be able to help that person. –  Tony_Henrich May 20 '11 at 4:18

5 Answers 5

There are times when I see a question which is really really important to somebody, but everyone else considers it 'noise' and gain no value from it, in effect wasting their time. A disappointing situation.

(I don't mean to sound like a jerk. But you need to consider it from everyone else's perspective.)

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That's why I mentioned offering a bounty. Maybe some users don't care a question is localized and they're going for the bounty. Be my guest. I am offering a reward. I tag the question as 'localized' and these questions don't show up by default to all users. They show up for people who want the offered bounty or are happy to help regardless. –  Tony_Henrich May 19 '11 at 21:39
    
@jinguy, while 'everyone else' might be 99.99% of the people, with as many visitor's as Stack Overflow has, this leaves a lot of people who might be able to help. –  Lance Roberts May 20 '11 at 5:12
    
@Lance, that is a really good point. Not sure how to address it though. –  jjnguy May 20 '11 at 12:29

On a site that gets 3600 new questions a day, letting an unsuitable question hang around for a week is not an option.

However, depending on what kind of questions we are talking about, the user may find help in SO's chat. People in chat are nice, and often willing to help out even with requests that would never fly on the site itself.

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"People in chat are nice" Well, I guess that explains it. I've just never been the type to participate in chat, and in fact haven't explored it on this site at all. I guess it's because I'm not very nice. ;-) –  Cody Gray May 20 '11 at 0:06
    
Makes some sense but chat rooms tend to have very few people and a localized question tends to be obscure and requires a big number of views before hitting someone who has an answer. –  Tony_Henrich May 20 '11 at 3:42

For every localized question that gets closed, there is a potential slightly more general question that would be of use to both the questioner and the community.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I transform my question into one that will benefit other people?

The answer may be a question that will have less instant gratification to you, but it will be better than a question with no answer at all, and that is only fair when you need to use the extensive resources of the StackOverflow community.

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I specifically addressed this issue! Did you read the paragraph before the last? There are situations when generalizing the question will completely mask what I am seeking. This post is targeting specific situations. –  Tony_Henrich May 19 '11 at 21:42
    
I know you said it, but you have try harder. For example, if your problem indicates there may be a bug in tools that other people use like a compiler or development environment, then your problem can be as local/specific as you want since it is merely a test case for the bug. The question "Is this a bug in the Yoyodyne compiler?" is then not localized. –  Rick Sladkey May 19 '11 at 21:50
    
@Tony_Henrich: I do apologize for skimming at the end. If I'm going to answer, I owe you the courtesy of very carefully reading the entire question. –  Rick Sladkey May 19 '11 at 22:10

How about letting the question live for a while like a week before it self-destructs/self-deletes?

I here tell that some people answer questions in the hopes of being rewarded with rep points and/or badges. Now would those people be interested in answering a question knowing that they would lose any rep or badges gained from answering those questions?

My guess probably not. So in my opinion if a question is going to be closed/delete the earlier the better.

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Then delete the question and keep the reps. It's a pity if a user only offers help if they get rewarded. –  Tony_Henrich May 19 '11 at 21:30
    
@Tony_Henrich Well keeping rep from deleted questions will probably never happen. And while I also don't think people solely answer questions for the rewards I do think that the reputation system does in general have a great deal of value. Its also the #7 most popular tag on Meta –  Some Helpful Commenter May 19 '11 at 21:43
    
The reward system works and can work just fine. If it works for many users, that's great. I am saying it shouldn't direct any new features or proposals. If someone approaches me in real life for help on an obscure problem, I offer help. I am not thinking of any reward system. I am not going to brush him off and say 'that's too localized'. Our discussion is confined between the two of us and it's over after a few minutes. The same thing can happen online. –  Tony_Henrich May 20 '11 at 3:56
    
As far as I know, bounties earned do now survive deleting of the question. –  Hendrik Vogt May 20 '11 at 9:59

Addressing some of your specific examples (since I asked for them):

Maybe asking about what's a good camera or cell phone which has a specific feature and it'll be closed because it's time specific. The camera or cell phone will be obsolete in a few months.

This certainly wouldn't be on-topic for Stack Overflow, but might be a reasonable question to ask on Super User or Photography. As I mentioned in a comment, it very much depends on how you ask the question. There's a right way and a wrong way of doing it. The Stack Overflow blog has an entry that addresses a very similar issue:

You could ask the question this way:

What's the best low light point-and-shoot camera?

Or, you could ask the question this way:

How do I tell which point-and-shoot cameras take good low light photos?

When asked the smart way, you'll be likely to get some very good answers that still solve your problem, with the added bonus of them being relevant almost indefinitely. Shopping questions are indeed taboo, widely considered to be off-topic across the Stack Exchange network. But that doesn't mean you can't get some very good shopping advice from your well-informed fellow users.

Thus, when it comes to shopping questions, don’t ask us what you should buy — ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy.


Or ask about some Arabic/Hebrew programming question about some right-to-left typing issue in Visual Studio 2005 and it gets closed because it's too geographical. This issue might be a big pain point for someone and there's no other place on the web for help and you get 5 users who close it in 5 minutes.

This question is not off-topic, and it is not considered "too localized". Configuring Visual Studio (or especially applications created using Visual Studio) to work properly with right-to-left fonts is something that is applicable to a large number of people. There are entire countries with giant populations of people that use languages read right-to-left.

Assuming it's well-written and answerable, anyone who closes a question like this does so in error. Personally, I'd vote to re-open it in a heartbeat, and even flag for moderator attention to make certain that it gets re-opened.

The bar for "too localized" is that the answers to the question will not be helpful to future visitors. That's simply not the case here, despite what some of us living in the United States might impulsively think (myself, of course, included).


Maybe he wants to offer 1000 points bounty. Users should be able to help that person.

I don't think the fact that you do or don't offer a bounty is or should be relevant. Reputation is used both as a measure of specific, targeted knowledge, as well as a measure of community trust. But it's only a secondary goal of the site. The primary one is to build a comprehensive repository of useful and accurate answers to topical questions.

You shouldn't be able to (literally or figuratively) "make a deal" with someone to ask an off-topic question in exchange for you awarding them some rep points. That goes against the purpose of the site, and the primary guideline in assessing whether a question should be closed as off-topic: that is, it's potential usefulness to future visitors.

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@Cody, while I agree the 2nd point shouldn't be closed as too localized, that is exactly what happens. The OP has a valid point. The text for localized is: "his question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet." Notice the geographic reference, and narrow situation one. –  Lance Roberts May 20 '11 at 5:11
    
@Lance: I've never seen this happen. Too localized is hardly ever used, in my experience. Do you have a link to any examples? –  Cody Gray May 20 '11 at 5:29
    
    
Google lists 321 questions on Stack Overflow that are [closed] and have the text `too localized in them. There are probably many more that have been deleted. –  Lance Roberts May 20 '11 at 5:46
    
@Lance: Except the first one? Why exactly would you not close the first one? And all of those questions are candidates for other close reasons as well, namely "off topic" and "not a real question". User groups, software development training, and open source project joining are all clearly off-topic. –  Cody Gray May 20 '11 at 5:49
    
@Cody, I already said I would have closed the others. I would have left the first one alone because I think SO is shortsighted in not allowing foreign language questions, IMHO. –  Lance Roberts May 20 '11 at 5:56

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