I asked this question, while it's not a great question, the FAQ didn't say anything about it. Then a user said that this topic is discussed on meta and topics like mine will be closed. I didn't read the Meta. You can't expect users to search faq and metas and blog posts on SE before asking a question

I have a question on Meta.SE sites in general. When you guys decide to discourage something or add new rule, do you have to include it in the FAQ or not? Many users don't know that Metas exists, others know that meta exists but don't feel the need to search it, like me.

So if a rule is not included in the FAQ, can it be ignored? And if new rules are added, shouldn't they be added to FAQ?

When we close a question, we say reason x, please read the FAQ, we never said Please read Meta

  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/186731/178816
    – Travis J
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:09
  • 2
    In response to "this should be one of the bullets in the "don't ask about" list in the help center and about page", a nice comment by Robert Cartaino: "Please try not to anticipate too many problems before they are actually problems, otherwise you'll turn your welcoming 'help center' into a bulleted list of "here's all the ways you can go wrong on this site." Until such problems become prevalent, gentle and helpful moderation is best."
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:12
  • 1
    We can't add everything to the FAQ (or more accurately, the "what's on topic" help article). It's supposed to be a short introduction on the scope of the site. Of course, newer users will have no idea what Meta is, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it after you find out about it. There was a comment in your Pets.SE question that pointed you to the relevant Meta discussion. If you disagree with the points raised there, you can always post your own answer and explain why you think pet identification questions should be on topic.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:12
  • @Yannis At least the bold titles of the new rules, like this is discouraged, read meta for more info
    – Lynob
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:15
  • Perhaps a link to Meta discussions tagged FAQ and / or scope (or the help article that explains what Meta is) could be useful.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:17
  • @Arjan i disagree, archwiki is bigger than any wiki i have ever seen and stil has too many users - gentle and helpful moderation is best. really? then my question would become, should users be allowed to vote down and close questions without informing the asker that the topic has been discussed on meta, you do know that too many downvotes will ban you from using the site, so many people might get banned just because they didn't read metas
    – Lynob
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:21
  • @Yannis I agree, but before voting down the question, not after
    – Lynob
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:22
  • 2
    Voting down a question has very little to do with whether a question is on or off topic. A question can be on topic but useless or ill research, and off topic but useful and thoroughly researched. If people downvoted your question only because it's off topic, they are doing it wrong.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 16:24
  • 1
    If indeed "many people might get banned just because they didn't read metas" then surely it should be added to the FAQ. Until then I agree with Robert: no need to add it to the FAQ. And like you saw in your question: you were told about the Meta post, so it's just a single question for you, and gentle and helpful moderation worked well. (As an aside, Robert is an employee.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


You don't have to read anything. If you read nothing, and just ask whatever comes into your head, your question may be left unanswered and you won't get what you came for. It's also possible that you could lose (or at least fail to gain) reputation.

When people who don't know the rules and traditions of the site do something that doesn't follow the norms, people correct it. They edit, for example, or put questions on hold. They may or may not explain their actions with a link to the FAQ or meta. These links rarely mean "you should have read that first." It's more like "I am not arbitrarily targeting you or being grumpy, we have norms about this." And yes, once a user has asked a "bad" question, reading both the FAQ and the site meta (along with comments left on the specific question) might be the key to avoid a ban. That is not the same as insisting you read it all before asking.

The more you read the more likely you are to get the answers you want. So welcome to meta! One other thing you need to know is that unlike some organizations, this group of sites does not follow the rule "whatever is not forbidden is permitted." Therefore if the FAQ doesn't mention that a particular thing is off topic, that does not make it on topic. It just makes it not mentioned in the FAQ. It is entirely possible that something could be unmentioned in the FAQ, unmentioned on meta, and still be deemed offtopic by the community. Asking a question that is not specifically declared offtopic in the FAQ doesn't mean that you're "following the FAQ" or required to choose between following the FAQ or Meta. There is a consistent set of rules represented in the FAQ, the site meta, this overall meta, and community behavior. The key to realizing that the rules are consistent is to understand that not mentioning something as permitted is not the same as banning it, and not mentioning it as forbidden is not the same as permitting it.

  • Great closing paragraph.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 22:08

Sites are always evolving, especially new sites (Pets.SE has only been out of private beta for 2 months), so you can imagine the scope of the site is in a great deal of flux.

The guidelines for asking questions therefore change more quickly than the FAQ/Help Center is updated. This is due in great deal to community moderation. The community decided such questions do not make good questions so they decided to treat them as off-topic, whereas the FAQ may not reflect the precise reason for closure. Robert's comment referenced above is a pretty good explanation as to why. So the FAQ/Help Center is often left somewhat open ended to allow for these types of interpretations by the community.

Stack Overflow has a great example of this situation. Early in the site's history, recommendation and tool/library request questions were on-topic, but the community realized that they can be especially problematic to moderate and the community decided that they should be off-topic. However, the FAQ never mentioned this specific type of question being off-topic until very recently.

In general, you never have to read anything, you can just ask a question and let the community deal with it. Reading the FAQ/Help Center, and reading through the site's Meta can be useful for learning the guidelines and customs for the site, but it is not a requirements, nor are you likely to learn everything. Usually the best way to learn is to find out through experience.

  • Ah, I see you have a Pets account. I guess it would be nice if that specific Meta question were tagged "on-topic", to match the "direct discussions" link on pets.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic (And maybe the "on-topic" tag wiki needs a reference to its usage there too?)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:10
  • @Arjan I do have a Pets account, but I was only really active during the private beta. I haven't been a regular visitor since. But that idea is a good one and maybe something that should be part of all early beta sites since their scopes change so much. Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:13
  • I don't think it's a new idea; it's just that someone needs to retag it, so it's actually shown when following the existing link in the existing FAQ: "However, we're always in the process of refining and defining what makes sense for our site. In addition to looking at the types of questions already asked, please visit our Meta site to review similar questions and participate in direct discussions about this." :-)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:16
  • @Arjan opps, missed that. Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:17
  • @Arjan and done Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:20

The FAQ is precisely what it stands for: F.requently A.sked Q.uestions.

Every other type of question about a site is posted to that site's meta.

Just so you know, meta is a prefix that kind of means self-referential. metadata is data that describes other data. metastackoverflow is a stackoverflow-style site about the stackoverflow site.

What you encountered is the already-established newbie cycle:

while new:
  - asks a question (that isn't allowed according to site rules)
  - question is closed & user is referred to that site's meta

You'll be in that loop for a while until you get used to the site's rules.

Deletion of a question isn't a big deal. You're not going to be banned for asking an out-of-scope question.

  • Most newbies don't ask off topic questions, and certainly not exclusively. And just a small handful of deleted questions can mean a ban. You're not giving good advice here. Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 22:58
  • It's great advice! I don't mean newbies continually ask bad questions and have them closed, it's a figurative loop.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 23:17

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