Lately a significant (to me) percentage of my flags have been declined by the mods.


  1. Compare Columns B and C then shift data
    flagged as: too localized

    This question is asking for a help with a very specific task. The chances seem astronomical that anyone else would have a similar problem. I fail to see how keeping this on the site benefits anyone.

  2. How to add default data to a new Excel worksheet?
    flagged as: too localized

    Same as above.

  3. Excel - Copy specified columns to a new sheet based on data in a column
    flagged as: too localized

    Same as above.

  4. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/395/how-do-you-migrate-a-large-app-from-visual-basic-6-0-to-vb-net
    flagged as: not a real question

    The question alone qualifies this as an overly broad question. It is an advice or poll question that doesn't present any specific problem.

  5. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/279/asp-net-visual-studio-and-subversion-how-to-integrate
    flagged as: not a real question

    My understanding is that asking questions like "What are the alternatives?" and "Does a better plugin exist?" are subjective questions that can't be answered. These seem to be the only questions in the post.

  6. How to have app automatically send log file to support?
    flagged as: not a real question

    "What would the best way" questions are asking for advice, without presenting a specific problem.

  7. How to obscure hard coded password in code?
    flagged as: not a real question

    "Is this possible?" questions are open-ended with trivial answers.

  8. How to obfuscate key for encryption function?
    flagged as: not a real question

    Another vague question asking for advice without presenting a specific programming problem.

So I am asking the community for a reality check to help me align my flagging activity with what the community considers content that doesn't belong. Is there something I am missing here? Am I flagging them with the wrong reason? Or should I not be flagging them at all?

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    +1 for asking how to flag. – juergen d Aug 7 '12 at 15:24
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    I strongly agree with your flag on that last one ("How to obfuscate key for encryption function?"). It should be closed. It's too vague (OP doesn't mention a language or framework) and the OP hasn't shown any effort on their part. – Josh Darnell Aug 7 '12 at 15:26
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    What?! No "evil mod declined my flags, I want his head on a platter"? ;P – yannis Aug 7 '12 at 15:29
  • @jadarnel27 Unfortunately, that is a typical question format for many folks on SO. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 15:32
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    @YannisRizos I prefer to assume that I am the one at fault :) – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 15:32
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    Maybe try asking questions in comments and editing if a question is borderline flaggable instead of the "shoot first, ask questions never" approach? – smcg Aug 7 '12 at 15:34
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    At first I thought 'too localized' was like your examples, but then 60%+ of questions will be like that. Not every specific problem that is posted that will mainly help only the OP falls under this category. I found this easier to understand after reading this – ajax333221 Aug 7 '12 at 15:37
  • @smcg Most OPs don't seem to care. They want their problem solved and don't understand why their q needs to be more (or less) generic. They aren't going to make the effort to do so, especially when others are willing to overlook the localization and simply post answers. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 15:38
  • @ajax333221 will (re)read that, thx – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 15:40
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    @smcg I like your approach, but really most OPs don't seem to care, especially after they've got a satisfactory answer. – yannis Aug 7 '12 at 15:42
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    While I understand your jadedness, there's still a gap between what the moderators think is a flaggable question and what you think is one. I'm not a mod so I can't speak for them but I doubt they're going to change their behavior much, so you'll have to work around them somehow. – smcg Aug 7 '12 at 15:53
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    @smcg That's what we are doing here, closing that gap. And speaking as a mod, we have absolutely no issue in changing our behaviour when it's appropriate. – yannis Aug 7 '12 at 15:56
  • @YannisRizos that's pretty cool and unlike most moderated sites on the internet. – smcg Aug 7 '12 at 16:02
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    I've added specific-question; while not about one specific question, it involves a set of specific questions which are not filterable by any other criteria other than "they were flagged by this user at this point in time". – casperOne Aug 7 '12 at 16:29
  • I always thought that "too localized" was a nebulous term. Maybe the administration should make the description a lot more clear. I mean, I like to think I know when to use it, but times like this, I question whether I really do. :P – Mystery Aug 7 '12 at 17:00

I declined the first three flags. I can comment on those.

In those cases this is simply a case of differing interpretations of "too localized"; all three of the questions were practical, answerable questions, and while the chances might be astronomically high that someone else might want to do the same thing, it's still a chance.

That said, I'm open to having my opinion changed on this, but if one person comes across those questions and finds them useful, then "too localized" doesn't apply anymore.

In reality, the longer Stack Overflow stays around, the more localized we're going to see a number (actually, we see it already) of questions, only because at some point all the basics will be covered.

That said, if the question is a quality question, where a user has a real problem, and shows some effort to make it a quality question (as in, not NARQ, NC, OT), then I don't think that they should be penalized by "too localized" just because we can't predict the usefulness of the question to others in the future.

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    Truth be told, "too localized" has as many interpretations as Stack Overflow has users. – yannis Aug 7 '12 at 15:58
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    Those are the three where I strongly agree with the decision to leave open. The others are borderline, IMO. – Bill the Lizard Aug 7 '12 at 15:58
  • Thanks for responding. Obviously I have more work to do to understand what "too localized" means. I still don't understand your criteria: practical, answerable this is trivially true, but just because a question is answerable doesn't mean the question or the answer will benefit anyone but the OP. Especially the first q, it is so specific to the OP's task. it's still a chance that's the whole point, if it's only a tiny chance that it will benefit anyone else then it meets the criteria. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 16:12
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    @JimmyPena NP. The way I see it is if we really stuck to "how useful it would be to others", about 95% of SO would be closed as TL (assuming there wasn't something else wrong with the question). – casperOne Aug 7 '12 at 16:13
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    "So you're saying there's a chance" – Adam Rackis Aug 7 '12 at 16:42
  • @AdamRackis Hey, with a little bit of luck, anything's possible. – casperOne Aug 7 '12 at 16:43

The first three are definitely not too localized, just very specific programming questions. They have good answers that other people might learn something from, so I can't see closing them just for being very specific problems. If we do that, then 95% of the questions on the site would have to go too.

Looking at the answer to How do you migrate a large app from Visual Basic 6.0 to VB.NET?, I see that there is indeed an entire book on the subject, which is one of our defining criteria for "too broad." I'm closing that one.

I think ASP.NET, Visual Studio and Subversion - how to integrate? is a little closer to being a borderline case. I think the implied question is "How do I make these two work together?" That makes it narrow enough, but it is essentially asking for a list of alternatives, so I'll close that one too.

How to have app automatically send log file to support? looks like an okay question until about halfway through when it starts looking around for alternatives. This is sort of a whiteboard question, so I'll see if they want it on Programmers.

I don't really see anything wrong with the last two except that they might really be asking the same thing. I don't see anything wrong with asking "Is this possible?" If it is, the implied next question is "How?" If not, it's still an answerable question.

  • They have good answers that other people might learn something from I understand that, however is that the criteria for judging the question? – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 16:18
  • @JimmyPena Just reword to to "Would plausibly result in answers that other people might learn from" to handle any un-answered questions. Here we're referencing a few specific questions that already do have answers. – Servy Aug 7 '12 at 16:22
  • @JimmyPena That's not the only criteria I mentioned. These questions are simply not too localized. – Bill the Lizard Aug 7 '12 at 16:23
  • @Servy Would plausibly result in answers that other people might learn from -- this is trivially true. Even Why is there a green Honda Civic parked out in front of my house? might produce an answer that others could learn from. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 16:57
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    @JimmyPena There's a difference between "might possibly" and "would plausibly". Asking about a honda civic could "possibly" result in a good answer, but it wouldn't "plausibly" or "probably" result in a good answer. – Servy Aug 7 '12 at 17:19
  • @Servy My point is, you don't know that until you get the answer in order to retroactively judge if the question stays or goes. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 20:21
  • @JimmyPena You can't know for sure, no, but there is a subjective aspect to moderation, and too localized is a place that really brings out that subjectivity. Users need to use their best judgement to determine whether it seems likely to them that there will be answers useful to others. There is a reason that you need several thousand rep to vote to close, and it's [partly] so that you are able to learn the criteria on which the community bases it's subjective decisions. – Servy Aug 7 '12 at 20:30
  • @Servy Wonderful. Well, I'll keep re-reading this until it sinks in or I simply stop flagging things. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 20:33

Here are my thoughts on the NARQ flags (I think casperOne has covered the "too localized" flags quite well):

I agree with these three:

  1. How to have app automatically send log file to support? - No (apparent) effort by the OP. Plz-send-teh-codez type questions almost always gets a "not a real question" close vote from me.

  2. How to obscure hard coded password in code? - Same reasoning as the previous

  3. How to obfuscate key for encryption function? - This one is not specific enough. The answer would be highly dependent on the framework and other factors (as one of the top-voted answers indicates). There's also a pretty significant lack of (apparent) effort here.

The first two are kind of borderline in my opinion:

  1. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/395/how-do-you-migrate-a-large-app-from-visual-basic-6-0-to-vb-net - I don't think a question like this would make it if asked now, but it has generated some very useful responses that appear to still be relevant. And as VB6 gets older, more people are going to be migrating old apps, so I think it could possibly still generate useful answers.

    I do agree that the topic itself is rather broad, but I think the quality of the answers, and the relevance of the question to real problems people face makes up for that.

  2. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/279/asp-net-visual-studio-and-subversion-how-to-integrate - I think this one is marginal as well. The quality of the answers isn't as great, but it is a problem people face with "tools used by software developers". I could actually get behind closing this as "not constructive". But it appears that that OP did try some things before posting, so at least there's some effort on their part being shown.

  • but it has generated some very useful responses that appear to still be relevant I am flagging questions, not answers. You and Bill have both brought up questions having good answers. Why are the quality of answers being used to judge questions? – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 16:25
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    @JimmyPena I think that if a question generates good answers, it's a signal that perhaps the question just needs to be improved / edited. Looking at the answers is a metric I use to try and "follow the spirit of the law" (providing useful information that shall remain on the Internet for future visitors), rather than sticking exclusively to the letter of the law (removing / closing any overly subjective, broad, or vague questions). – Josh Darnell Aug 7 '12 at 16:45
  • I see it as being hypocritical. "Useful" answers -- to whom? Keep bad questions that generate good answers? These questions only generate vague, open-ended discussions. – JimmyPena Aug 7 '12 at 16:50
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    @JimmyPena I understand that perspective. I just think there is a balance that can be struck. If a marginal, open-ended type question produces good answers, it seems like a good idea (as far as "making the Internet better") to leave it open - assuming that it's worth the effort of maintaining it (discouraging / removing short, discussion-y answers in favor of more involved ones). – Josh Darnell Aug 7 '12 at 17:18

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