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I know the Stack Overflow FAQ goes to some length to delineate what questions can be asked and what questions can't be asked. Granted the emphasis is squarely on programming and anything that doesn't really appear to have a connection with this theme is deemed as off-topic. However, there are several situations where a question pushes the boundary of this and I fear there might be a tendency to be biased against these kind of questions. I'll explain.

I recently asked a question (https://stackoverflow.com/questions/16449987/how-do-i-use-private-use-area-characters-for-inkscape-icon-font-creation) that was adjudged by many to be off-topic and it was suggested that I post the question on Super User. I do agree that on the face of it, it does appear to be off-topic, but here is why I think it's not, and why it was a mistake to close it.

  1. The solution to the question (at least the one I found) requires some editing of the resulting SVG file, and hence I believe that qualifies it as on-topic. I know a possible question to this assertion might be 'Well, how would we know in advance that the answer is programming-related'. That's why I suggested a few features (see numbered suggestions below). We learn every day, and sometimes some of us use visual tools to do things that are much easier and quicker to do with code. If someone has been through the same thing and suggests a programming approach as an answer to a problem that the questioner has, I think it should be permitted.

  2. A Programmer has the best chance of answering this question, not a Super User. On Super User's FAQ, it says that you are NOT to ask questions about 'programming and software development'. I would imagine that if the answer to my earlier question required that you edit some code, then that would be deemed to be 'programming-related' and as such not in the area of expertise of a conventional Super User. A Programmer who has experience with Inkscape might say: 'Hey Chuck, I've tried, and there's no cool way of inserting Private Use Area Characters in Inkscape the way you want to. What you want to do is use regular alphabets and then later edit the SVG code after you've created the truetype font and converted this font using an online font-face generator, and here's how to do it' (It turns out that's the way I got it done). A Super User would never be able to answer my question this way, because a Super User is not a Programmer #conventionally (and by rule is not allowed to be) and would have limited knowledge of dealing with a problem that is better dealt with in code (or requires a code-editing task as part of the entire process).

I truly believe my question is valid and should stay on StackOverflow. However, this perception is subjective and there are some that would disagree that it should be on SuperUser. For that reason I would like to suggest the following:

  1. Grace Period: Putting the [closed] moniker on a question without enabling the questioner to clarify his/her intent is not the best approach #InMyOpinion. Users can vote to have the question closed, and all the votes to close might be acquired, but the question shouldn't actually be closed without a 'Question-Close Challenge', which is an opportunity for the Questioner to keep the question active. If the Questioner doesn't respond within a specific but short time frame, or his/her response is not satisfactory, then the question can be closed and the [closed] banner officially emblazoned on the question. This would also allow any initial answers to come that would not ordinarily get through after the question is closed. I haven't been on Stack Overflow long but I do notice every now and then some folks who are just itching to close questions without first trying to understand where the Questioner is going.

  2. Questioner-Override: People post questions on Stack Overflow and while they wait for any valid answers, they are still actively trying to solve the problem using other means. If they find an answer to their original question, I think it's only fair for them to say how they solved it, irrespective of whether the question is closed or not. I asked a question, I have an answer that is fresh in my memory, I know someone else might have this same issue in future, but I can't post the answer on Stack Overflow because the question is closed, and I can't post the answer on Super User because there's code in it and that is considered programming #WhatATragedy. If I posted the answer, and it was adjudged to be wrong, then I guess the community would reprimand me with downvotes or calls for closure, but not the way it's being done right now.

  3. Question-Forking: If someone thinks a question on Stack Overflow is a better fit for Super User, the question shouldn't be migrated it should be forked to Super User #NewFeature. The question remains visible on Stack Overflow and visible in Super User. This takes care of the subjectivity issue because if you have 4 answers from Super User and 2 from Stack Overflow and the Questioner selects an answer from Stack Overflow, then I guess we now know where the question originally belongs i.e. the selected answer would determine where the question is based. If someone on Super User suggests a point-and-click approach, and another person on Stack Overflow suggests a coded solution, why shouldn't the Questioner be able to determine the best approach to solve their specific problem?! These high walls we build across related communities belittles how far we've come as an intelligent society as well as how many approaches there probably are to solving a problem. I understand this might not be an immediate solution but perhaps something for the future.

The FAQ seems fine to me; although a one-page off-topic/on-topic visual matrix might help to quickly douse any confusion that might come up in the minds of users. Based on my interpretation of the FAQ I think my question goes, but I happen to be in the minority on this one and that is fine (downvotes and all).

Anyway, these are my thoughts, and I'd like to know what the community thinks.

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    "requires some editing of the resulting SVG file" ... care to define "editing"? The solution you outline still doesn't sound like programming to me. And if you were to have approached this problem from a programming angle from the very start, clarifying what you had done so far to programmatically approach you problem, you might have had more luck. – Bart May 12 '13 at 11:06
  • @Bart the .svg file that comes out of Inkscape is what I mean. SVG would qualify as programming-related if I'm not mistaken?! And if I was able to post the answer to my question, then I would be able to clarify. How do I clarify when the question is closed or migrated?! – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 11:14
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    See my answer below. And no, that it's an SVG does not mean it's programming related. I don't know why you think it would be. – Bart May 12 '13 at 11:15
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    @ChuckUgwuh: editing SVG (or XML for another example) isn't in itself a programming task. Writing code to read/edit an SVG file is a programming task. Creating an SVG file in Notepad is not programming, neither is creating a .bmp in mspaint. – Mat May 12 '13 at 11:21
  • @Mat So if I posted XML code explaining to someone the way to get something done, that would NOT be considered programming-related?! – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 11:23
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    Not necessarily, no. – Bart May 12 '13 at 11:25
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    @Chuck: define "XML code". XML is more often used to represent data than code. Editing an XML data file by hand isn't programming. Explaining how to fix an XML configuration file for, say, a GUI framework used in a program would be on topic on Stack Overflow, but that's note "because it's XML", it's because it's part of the program. – Mat May 12 '13 at 11:30
  • @Mat Oh really?! Sorry, I didn't see it that way. So where would I ask a question regarding XML hand-editing being that it's off-topic on StackOverflow?! – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 11:56
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    @Chuck: Super User, Ask Ubuntu, Ask Different, possibly U&L too, depending on what your exact question is and what your platform of choice is. XML is plain text (structured certainly, but still plain text). – Mat May 12 '13 at 12:03
  • @Bart One of the reasons KyleStrand made on a comment on my question to defend a previous comment was "The question Pekka answered is at least about CSS, which could be considered a programming topic.". But from what you just said, explaining XML (or CSS #ByInference) code to someone is not necessary a programming task (hence off-topic). Plus his [Pekka's] question was closed previously, and then suddenly opened when I pointed to it in my example...like it was NOT OK before but now it's OK?! Very confusing for me at this point, but I'll keep studying. – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 12:17
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    ..not necessarily a programming task, hence off-topic if it isn't one.. We can discuss all these vague hypotheticals all you want, bottom line is that the question you asked was not programming related. If that was merely a matter of your phrasing, you should have/could have adjusted it to be on-topic. – Bart May 12 '13 at 12:35
  • Your proposal number 1 has been made more than once in the past; see Shouldn't there be some sort of grace period before questions can be closed? and questions linked from the sidebar there. – jscs May 12 '13 at 17:04
  • @JoshCaswell Ok, didn't know that. Here here to the suggestion then...it has my vote! – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 23:25
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Your question was "How do I do X in Inkscape?". It was not "How can I programmatically achieve X for an SVG file?". The first question is most likely off-topic, where the latter might not be. That ultimately the answer is "Well, you can't do it in Inkscape, but here's how you approach is programmatically" doesn't really matter.

Putting the [closed] moniker on a question without enabling the questioner to clarify his/her intent is not the best approach

Closed does not equal "dead". You have proceeded to post duplicates of your question, which you were told not to do. Instead, you should clarify the question so it is clearly on-topic for the site where you post it. This is your option for clarification and might see your question reopened.

If they find an answer to their original question, I think it's only fair for them to say how they solved it, irrespective of whether the question is closed or not.

That brings us back to what I said before. The question matters. The answer no so much. If you found a programmatic solution to your problem, modify your question to be on-topic for the site. This might see it reopened and will allow you to post your answer. Allowing you to answer an off-topic question is not the right approach, even if your solution is a programmatic one.

the question shouldn't be migrated it should be forked to SuperUser

I see no need for this. Make sure your question is on-topic for the site where you're asking it and leave it there. Forking is essentially creating cross-site duplicates. Even if implemented (which might not be all that trivial) it's messy and confusing.

  • Like I said in my earlier comment on the duplicate question, I was under the impression that when a question was closed, then I had to post it again with modifications. So I think it's a tad misleading to say "You have proceeded to post duplicates of your question, which you were told not to do", that was clearly not the case. Forking isn't messy on Github so I don't see why it would be messy if executed properly. – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 11:21
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    This isn't github. You are proposing to fork (read "duplicate") questions across sites (read "cross-site duplicates") and still have them linked in a way. We already close such questions if we see them. Just ask a decent on-topic question on a single site. Problem solved. As for the "you were told not to do": stackoverflow.com/questions/16449987/… – Bart May 12 '13 at 11:24
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    Additionally the off-topic close reason, as well as the FAQ state: "Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope." – Bart May 12 '13 at 11:27
  • I didn't say this was Github. It was a suggestion, if you don't see the merit in it, it's ok, that's your opinion. Tomorrow someone could take that approach and tweak it and blow Stack Overflow out of the water #WhoKnows, that's the nature of disruptive innovation. I did not post any additional questions after the first one, which you commented on. The way you put it just now seems like I posted a duplicate after you told me not to, which I didn't do #JustClarifying – Obinwanne Hill May 12 '13 at 11:37

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