As I read the meta page, I see increasing number of "Should we allow...?" questions.

We're in a phase when we are creating rules about the site. The natural reaction is that we see a question which arises our doubt - seems poorly written, barely on topic, common knowledge, not specific enough - and our reaction is to write a meta asking if we should make a rule regarding this type of questions.

Which is fine and dandy if there's a bunch of the questions like this one really cluttering the site and we are really helping set shape to it.

But if this is a single question unlikely to reappear in another year, we should take a step back. We are creating a rule. Something there to stay, something to be learned by all who want to keep contributing to this site meaningfully.

If we make the corpus of rules too big, very few will ever want to learn it. Important rules will go unnoticed because the user reading a twentieth minor peeve forbidden will just stop reading and trying to remember.

So, before you ask whether given type of questions should be allowed or forbidden, take a step back and consider whether given type of questions is worth being regulated at all.

If they are to appear once a year, maintaining the general rule will be more hassle and introduce more disorder (by making the whole corpus of rules harder to learn) than deciding if the question belongs, ad-hoc and case-by-case.

My suggestion for questions like (1), (2), (3): leave unregulated.

  • You're right. Too much rules will (and actually in my opinion are) suffocate the community before it come to life. Rules seems to have a bad impact on real-world questions (a minority now) when question about fictitious universe (a majority) are blooming mostly unregulated.
    – chirale
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:22
  • For question 2, it is reasonable to want to regulate. Even the one to 'start' the first-person-question-asking admits that it may cause confusion and frustration in the future as this site progresses. As for the other 2, I'm a bit on the fence as you are.
    – Souta
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 16:53

4 Answers 4


I understand what you mean, but there are a few things to be considered.

It's easier to set the rules now then having more people understand them. If they are ready by the time we reach public beta, the site will work better.

Second, the rules can be changed anytime, if deemed necessary. We're not carving anything in stone. Just setting a few parameters that we can always fix later.

By the way, if a question is not welcome, it should not be welcome even if it comes once a year. If that means having a specific rule, then let's make one. We must not allow questions just because they're rare and so one rule is "a waste"... We need to separate good questions from bad ones. That's our job as a community.

  • 1
    Rules are not set in stone but I don't think there are established procedures of removing rarely used and unnecessary rules - moving issues into "unregulated" area. And while I can agree with your sentiment, you going to remember 200 new rules per every site you visit? Are all users going to try to remember them all? A rule is not "a waste" - it's something to be learned. Active effort for all involved. And while one rule is a minor effort, getting 200 users to remember 40 rules (each) is more effort than 15 minutes of discussion once a year if given question pops up.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:17
  • 1
    @SF. The procedure is the same: asking a Meta question. That works both for setting and removing a rule. If the majority accepts, that becomes the new rule. And yes, I remember all the rules more or less, that's because there is a set of rules that is common for all SE sites. And the per-site rules are less in number. But anyways, the FAQ is there to keep track of these rules, you don't need to remember them by memory only.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:19
  • We have to try to keep both a community of enthusiasts and real-world questions before we reach public beta. Following the trend of the last days, enthusiasts will pop off as fast as their real world questions are closed without any real suggestion on how to improve or reformulate these. Please consider the general interest, keeping a SE site appealing to experts of specific topics.
    – chirale
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:36
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    @SF. Are you seriously suggesting there's going to be 200 rules? There will be 10/15 at worse for this specific site. :P That's not hard to remember, and if it is, users can read the FAQ. We're not supposed to make less rules just because users can't remember them. Remember: what will make this site succeed is the order. Chaos will drive users away.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:40
  • 1
    @Alenanno: If there are 10-15, that's fine. I'm trying to prevent a situation when there's 200. We are only a few first days into private beta and we already have about a dozen with new ones suggested daily.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:53
  • 1
    @SF. Yes, but most of them can be grouped in a single one. If we're really creating too many and above all unnecessary rules, I'll be there to say no as well. You did well to ask, by the way, no-one should shut up as we're here to discuss. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:56
  • 1
    @Alenanno: Thank you. I just thought it would be worth bringing to attention of the community that besides "yes" and "no", "unregulated" -is- a valid option too.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 11:06

There are a couple of points you need to consider.

First of all, most new users do not care about these at all, and a lot of them don't know what meta is/that meta exists. They will ask questions regardless of the rules we make or do not make here.

Second, each rule has exceptions. Of course if we agreed that "questions X should be forbidden", and then, once in a while, an absolutely awesome question of type X arrives, it is not going to be closed just like that. It's the spirit of the law that's important here, not it's letter.

Third, the rules are not set in stone, that's why we have this: . Don't like something? Feel free to discuss.

Fourth, all those clarification posts "should we allow XXX" are really not for those new users who have just come to the site to post those questions. They are for us, more experienced users. They are there to help us understand whether or not a particular question should be closed, or how to act if a specific question appears. Note that most of the times these discussions end with common sense winning.

So yeah, don't take them too serious, just use them as guidelines when you are not sure how to act with a particular question.

  • 1
    Yes, "They are for us, more experienced users." And once you have too many, you'll start getting lost. An interesting question will get closed because some discussion on a single, horribly written question on similar subject led to decision this family of questions should be forbidden, and then you're jumping through hoops to overturn the closure against the established rule... While I completely agree with the notion "use them as guidelines", not all feel that way about them.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:32
  • @SF., I personally trust in the community enough to believe that a really interesting question is not going to be closed like that. Of course, having 1000 discussions like "omg should we allow questions about XXX douhinshi?" sucks. But if you look on other SE sites, there are a lot of meta discussions concerning even if some one particular question is on topic. I don't think such questions will be in large enough numbers to do any harm. That's my personal opinion, though, I may of course be wrong. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:37
  • 1
    If you want your faith in "not closing interesting questions" shaken visit meta.english.se
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:52
  • 1
    I disagree with clarification posts being just for more experienced users. If a new user has a valid point, that's great and I hope they post it. How will new users ever become "experienced" if they are shunned from meta?
    – atlantiza
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 16:37
  • @atlantiza, by "experienced" I was meaning to "experienced with the stackexchange". Of course, it's only good when new users come with interesting questions and opinions. I was just saying that most people who is completely new to stackexchange don't know about what meta sites are for, and how they work. And of course I don't want them to be "shunned" from meta. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 16:51

(I'll skip the points others already made)

An other advantage of these rules/discussions on Meta is that they can be used by (well-read) users/mods to point out new/other users that their question is not allowed/undesired on this site.

So, one does not require to remember them all, but they can be used as a reference.

I think, this works best if the rules are established in front and not when 'it is too late'. So I personally do not mind that there are a lot of 'Why this/Why that'-questions asked on Meta lately.


I don't think we should leave it unregulated. You are right, these questions maybe won't appear again, but if they do, it isn't bad that there's a discussion about the topic + an explanation. A new user doesn't need to read them all, therefore we have a FAQ.

For everything else, read the other answers, they were too fast for me ;).

  • A new, responsible, welcome user should read the FAQ. Whole FAQ. Make the FAQ too long and that won't be happening.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:34
  • @SF. I think I should reword my answer; these discussed "rules" should not appear in the FAQ. The discussion should be the only place where it is, so there's no problem in my eyes.
    – looper
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:42
  • @looper The site-specific rules should appear (even if in concise form) on the FAQ... The FAQ is there for that reason. We can always expand on Meta if things get bigger. :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:44
  • @Alenanno: I just thought that leaving the really specific questions on meta (like these SF. posted) and just putting the real important rules in the FAQ would be the most organized way. Maybe I'm just wrong :D.
    – looper
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:50

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