So I stopped using Stack Overflow, Super User, and Stack Exchange maybe a year after Stack Exchanges came into existence. I recently had a need to start reusing the sites again and asked this question on Super User. At the time that I stopped using the website, this was definitely the appropriate place to ask the question as there were no alternative places to ask. There weren't even that many promoted Exchanges yet and certainly none that were Windows Phone specific (I was fairly active on the early Area 51 website). So it came as a bit of a shock that I was immediately downvoted and told to post elsewhere.

This may seem like a niche use case, but shouldn't changes to the intended usage policy be told to the user in a banner of some sort? Especially when it comes to Super User since that was basically the de facto place to post most non-programming questions prior to Stack Exchange existing.

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    I'm pretty sure Super User has always been explicitly for computer software and hardware. Mobile devices were only ever on-topic insofar as they relate to interfacing them with your computer. At least this question suggests it's been that way as far back as 2010.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:54
  • @animuson It suggests it, but I know from old questions such as this one that these questions weren't always closed and usually answered because there was no other place to ask them. It was the prevalence of such "off-topic" questions that prompted Area 51 to be created. But I do know from participation that most questions were still ok until a given StackExchange progressed enough to be promoted into a site. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:00
  • Also, the fact that all of the tagged & answered Windows Phone questions haven't been moved to the correct site makes this extra confusing since searching for related tags was the first thing I did (and used to do) to make sure that a more appropriate StackExchange wasn't recently created. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:01
  • @Michael To make my statement chrystal clear: youtube.com/watch?v=e7qQ6_RV4VQ Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:02
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    @MichaelCheng But that's not a purely mobile device question. "I need to download some text messages (including date and time and sender information) on my WP7 phone, on to my desktop computer." Seems to be on-topic to me. Your question does not seem to have anything to do with a desktop computer.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:02
  • Hmm perhaps that was the case. I don't remember it being as strict before StackExchange existed though as questions often did get answered before being closed. Or maybe a more helpful feature would be to auto-suggest more appropriate StackExchanges alongside questions while the user creating their question/adding tags. Edit: Looks like that suggestion already exists and is quite old. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:13
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    If a banner were to be added, the only reasonable thing I can think of would be a blanket "It looks like you haven't been here in a while, don't forget to check the Help Center!" or something. But even with that as an FR you get into the "is it worth it for this edge case" territory, and you can still make a convincing argument that a person should reasonably be expected to do this anyways, or that a person will just quickly learn from any mistake even if they don't do this, and so it's not really necessary. And I'm not convinced that would actually drive users to the Help Center anyways.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 18:34
  • Superuser isn't a place for "everything that isn't a programming question" I suggest reading the help center to Superuser it is very informative. Just because the tag exists and questions were not closed or not migrated doesn't mean a thing, your question that you asked is it's own thing.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


So, ignoring your specific example and focusing on:

shouldn't changes to the intended usage policy be told to the user in a banner of some sort?

No, I don't think so, for a number of reasons.

So, what your asking is technically difficult. Site topicality policies are not updated incrementally or discretely. There is nothing that anybody could run a diff on, changes aren't logged or summarized, and so there is no real way to know what the differences were between the last time you visited the site and now. That is, what do you display to a user who hasn't visited in 6 years vs. a user who hasn't visited in 3? What would you even display, period? And who maintains that banner text?

Also it may be difficult to adequately summarize community policy changes, even limited to topicality changes, in a banner. You'd essentially be attempting to distill many qualitative meta posts and social behavioral changes into a banner. It could potentially be difficult to do justice to any changes that may have occurred.

But, most importantly, regardless of the above points:

If you haven't been to a site in a while, consider yourself to effectively be a new user. You are expected to do what new users are expected to do:

  • Check the help center before asking.
  • Check the close reasons.
  • Browse through other recent well-received questions.
  • Look/ask on the site meta.
  • Heck, take the tour again.

You are asking for a banner to notify you, but the real solution is for you to take it upon yourself to familiarize yourself with changes given that you know you haven't been around in a while, and that you understand that communities change over time. Being an old user and not visiting for a while is not an excuse for not understanding site rules any more than it is an excuse for new users, because that information is already available. Everything you seek is available. The help center, meta, etc. are as visible to old users as they are to new ones.

You may make mistakes. That's totally fine. And you may be used to old ways, that's totally understandable. So if you do make a mistake, handle it gracefully, take that as a signal that you ought to spend some time familiarizing yourself with site policies, and just look at it as a learning experience.

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    Also, more of an aside, the worst-case outcome of potentially over-distilled banner text is that it becomes yet another thing for users to cite out of context when debating on meta or in comments...
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 18:28
  • Good point about communities changing overtime. > "So if you do make a mistake, handle it gracefully, take..." Well I was hoping that I was doing that as I asked what the proper course of action was and decided to post here as a point of discussion after doing a search to see if any similar questions had been posted. I guess what peeved me was that the SU question was downvoted instead of being flagged as a signal that it was on the wrong site. A behavior that is not in line with what is explained in the tour/help now that I've reread it. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 18:59
  • @MichaelCheng "Well I was hoping that I was doing that" -- You are doing that, and bringing it up here was totally the right thing to do. Don't mistake the downvotes here for meaning that your post wasn't appropriate for MSE. You posted a feature-request, they express disagreement with the request.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 19:24
  • The question on Superuser received a single downvote and it was issued because, it wasn't possible to know, the help center wasn't or was read and because the question wasn't on topic at Superuser.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 20:56
  • Well, I need to admit that I, as an old SE user, mostly didn't read the help center. I've thought there is some long, boring lawyer-language what the SE has to post everywhere to protect itself against some US laws. I've first started to read the help center pages as I've first experienced the massive content destruction what is so common on many SE sites, and I looked for intellectual munition against it - and I've found nothing.
    – peterh
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 23:51
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    @peterh For a new or long-time-absent user I'd say the most relevant link in this case is /help/on-topic (superuser.com/help/on-topic for example). Some of the HC articles are not as useful, but there's a few links that I always find to be particularly useful (/help/on-topic, /help/how-to-ask, /help/dont-ask, and the things in the sidebar on those pages). I concede that, for the help center option in my bullet list, "check the help center" is a rather vague instruction given the sheer amount of content that is on it.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 23:59
  • "Well, I need to admit that I, as an old SE user, mostly didn't read the help center. I've thought there is some long, boring lawyer-language what the SE has to post everywhere to protect itself against some US laws. " This is clearly because you have not read the help center. Its mostly in English, and not something quite similar to but not entirely unlike English Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 3:11

At the time that I stopped using the website, this was definitely the appropriate place to ask the question as there were no alternative places to ask

I'm a superuser moderator and I've been a fairly active user for 7 and a half years) - and windows phone has never been on topic for us. I've been a member since shortly after beta and this has never been the case.

There certainly have been some changes since you were last on.

We accept tablet questions (we didn't before!) due to windows RT (Which is dead), but phones have always been off topic.

I admit, many of the policies and their evolution's on meta. Stuff like our policy towards software recommendations and the workaround we prefer, or our policy towards hackintoshes are there. This though, is something that's fundamentally the same, and major changes in policy, and things in our help pages rarely change.

Its even explicitly in our "What types of questions should I avoid asking?"

electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer

This is also implicit in the original post that announced the site

At any rate, if you wanted a community where (almost) anything goes, you’re about to get exactly what you asked for in the form of superuser.com. If your question has to do with computers, it will be allowed there.

Its not really you. We've had that attitude a lot from SO in the past, and I admit, I have trouble keeping track of the new stack sites, despite actually having been using the site constantly for over a half decade. I do check the help pages before asking a question on a site new to me, or one I've not been on a while. I wouldn't blame rules changes here, but yeah, maybe a refresher would be nice for folks who have not been here a while.

And well, it comes down to people who use a community to handle cases like this. Downvotes are not the end of the world (and I suppose some may consider not checking what's on topic lack of research). Comments let you know precisely what's wrong. You were given alternatives (flagging for migration).

Feels like our "system" worked exactly as designed, with users helping (mostly) re-educate you, and things ending up where they need to be.

I'd add though, even to this day, I always take a quick look at what's on topic on any new site I post on.

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