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The first new member this site has had in a while, has asked his account to be deleted, because his question got closed for being 'not constructive' (a justification which is without merit, as it stems from fear of certain people that their style won't be validated, not because it actually isn't constructive).

That doesn't bode well for the survival of this site, and graduating to a full site. Try to argue your position all you like. MA.SE is going to get shut down at some point if this doesn't change. Area 51 stats has the site down to 0.6 questions per day, it was at 0.9 when I originally brought up this issue.

And guess what, we have another new member who's question was closed on a hair trigger, BEFORE, there was any chance to actually modify it based on additional information. Incidentally, he was checking back on the site quite regularly, until the question got closed. He hasn't logged in here since. 18 days and counting - despite the comment activity on his question that's pinging him repeatedly.

We've also got Mark C. Wallace's most recent question where he makes a disclaimer that the question isn't too localized. Evidently he doesn't trust the moderators to be able to reason that themselves.

  • With your permission, I'd like to edit this question to specifically call for revision of the FAQ per my answer, with this specific instance used as evidence. If you disagree, then I can start a new meta thread. – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 14:45
  • @DaveLiepmann sure, go for it! – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 14:49
  • A separate post would be significantly more appropriate–given the responses that have already happened–than changing this post. – David H. Clements Aug 23 '12 at 16:52
  • @DavidH.Clements After doing the edit, I see you're right. I've rolled it back to the original question and am asking the new question separately. – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 21:19
  • As promised, new question is over here: meta.martialarts.stackexchange.com/q/266/347 – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 21:37
  • Awesome, thanks. – David H. Clements Aug 24 '12 at 3:20
  • @DavidHClements De nada. – Dave Liepmann Aug 27 '12 at 1:30
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    The 'Related' sidebar caused me to notice that we are rehashing old ground: questions that need improvement are closed (justifiably) quickly (which pretty much everyone but DavidHClements and stslavik thinks is unjustifiable). meta.martialarts.stackexchange.com/q/36/347 – Dave Liepmann Aug 27 '12 at 1:34
  • I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the notion that I don't trust the moderators. I thought there was a legitimate question, and I sought to pre-emptively answer it. Or to put it another way, if I'd seen the question, I would have wondered if it were localized. I haven't been here long enough to comment directly on the issue that R. Ashe raises. (and given the complexity of the issue, I wonder how long I'll be here before I feel I understand the issue). – Mark C. Wallace Aug 27 '12 at 17:28
  • @MarkC.Wallace you wouldn't need to pre-emptively answer it if the mods didn't have a habit of closing a question on a hair trigger. You could leave that clarification if someone asks about locality, if the mods didn't have a shoot first, ask questions later policy. – Robin Ashe Aug 28 '12 at 1:48
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I presume you are talking about this question.

In case you were not aware, the StackExchange group of sites are not general internet chat style forums, they are Q&A sites. More specifically, they are Q&A sites aimed at producing definitive answers with a low signal-noise ratio. This is one of their key differentiators to other sites.

The example question in its original form was a bit of a doozey, breaking a few of the question guidelines, so the correct action was to close it. In this respect Sabyasachi is no more special than the thousands of other new people to the SE network who have made the same mistake. In fact his experience here will carry across and benefit his interactions on the other SE sites he is also a member of. His status as a new member might grant some understanding and sympathy towards the state of his question, but it doesn't excuse the question from regular community moderation.

The correct action for you as an established member is not to whinge and argue about it and try to get the rules/guidelines changed, your responsibility is to edit the question into a manageable state, or encourage the OP to do so themselves.

Edit:

this is to answer some of the points raised by Robin in the comments:

Someone new to martial arts asking for advice is someone who could potentially ask more questions over the years, significantly contributing to the content of the site.

Agreed. However their question must still fit within the framework of the site they are on. The fact that that question has been through 8 edits and was reopened is testament to the effort some people are willing to put in to save a question. If Sabyasachi is visiting anywhere on the SE network he will have been notified that his question has been reopened and has received answers.

created by people who don't understand enough about martial arts to be able to answer certain questions, so they choose to ban those questions rather than let people who know more than they do answer them.

Ouch. That comment makes it sound like you a) have a massive ego, and b) have personal issues with one or some of the members. Is that the attitude you take into the dojo with you?
I was around when this site was first proposed, I was there when there was a lot of discussion about what would or wouldn't be on topic. The rules and guidelines of this site don't mean that a question like "What's the best martial art for xyz reason?" shouldn't be asked, they simply mean that question shouldn't be asked here unless it is very tightly constrained to avoid 20 different answers all equally correct in their own way.

The rules and guidelines should be changed, they're flawed on several levels

Granted, it is harder to make a subject like martial arts fit within those guidelines than a subject like programming. Individual communities within the SE network can and do apply their own interpretation of the guidelines to fit their subject matter - the guidelines still exist, they just may not be as rigorously enforced.

But to get to the point: if you believe there is an issue with the way the guidelines are administered or with individual questions/answers, then by all means raise it here on Meta (like you did). But it is imperative that you do this in an even-handed and complete way. Lay out the problem, ask a question, propose a solution. Be critical, Meta is the place for that. But don't just make a couple of statements and end your question with a dire Try to argue your position all you like. MA.SE is going to get shut down at some point if this doesn't change. - with that your question is little more than a rant.

  • I am aware. In case you're not aware, it's difficult to have a Q&A site if there's nobody asking questions. Someone new to martial arts asking for advice is someone who could potentially ask more questions over the years, significantly contributing to the content of the site. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 5:37
  • Care to point out the newest member prior to Sabyasachi? Can you even think back to when that member may have joined? By driving him away, we've cut off MA.SE from new blood, while MA.SE is steadily losing members. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 5:39
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    No, the correct action is to point out problems. The rules and guidelines should be changed, they're flawed on several levels, created by people who don't understand enough about martial arts to be able to answer certain questions, so they choose to ban those questions rather than let people who know more than they do answer them. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 5:40
  • @Robin I've edited my question to address some of the points you raise, I hope that helps. – slugster Aug 23 '12 at 7:50
  • Sabyasachi has a reputation less than 101. He's only on MA.SE, and I'll bet he's just gone. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 11:14
  • "Ouch. That comment makes it sound like you a) have a massive ego, and b) have personal issues with one or some of the members. Is that the attitude you take into the dojo with you?" It's not a massive ego, I'm not saying I could answer all the questions, but someone could. I don't have a personal issue with anyone in particular, but the FAQ is extremely flawed and internally inconsistent. It's not condusive to the graduation of this site, and the exclusion of one type of question while allowing another is entirely arbitrary. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 11:16
  • "Try to argue your position all you like. MA.SE is going to get shut down at some point if this doesn't change. - with that your question is little more than a rant." It's not a rant, it's a warning. I think MA.SE could be very useful for learning about martial arts, but it's not going to be useful for anything if it doesn't exist. And whatever justification anyone might have for the decisions they made, driving more users away than are being attracted will mean that the site will eventually cease to exist. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 11:18
  • I agree with this part of your answer strongly. I don't think the mods do. "The rules and guidelines of this site don't mean that a question like "What's the best martial art for xyz reason?" shouldn't be asked, they simply mean that question shouldn't be asked here unless it is very tightly constrained to avoid 20 different answers all equally correct in their own way." – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 13:36
  • I also agree with your answer's last paragraph. The solution is to modify the FAQ to allow good questions of the form "what's the best choice for me if I want XYZ and the schools available are QRS?" – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 13:37
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Alas, this question is also in danger of being closed as "Not Constructive;" without any corroborating details, there is no possibility of a cogent discussion taking place.

I suspect that much of the angst could be alleviated by new users reviewing this, this, and this, as the community appears to have put significant effort into helping people make the transition from an unproductive forum environment to a productive Q&A one. I recommend that new users take advantage of these excellent resources.

In the meantime, as the community develops and evolves, what is considered constructive and topical on Martial Arts will become clearer. Remember, the site is still in beta, and the scope could change significantly between now and graduation. You can help the process by engaging constructively in the conversation; remember, it's your site too.

  • The Mods know which user and which question I'm talking about. New users may not know about those resources. Someone with 101 reputation obviously is familiar with SE and knows where to look. Someone with 1 reputation is clearly new to the format entirely, and should be given more leeway. That said, meta isn't held to the same standards as main. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 4:52
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    Presumably, your post has a greater audience than just the mods. – Robert Harvey Aug 23 '12 at 5:19
  • It does, but it's been edited by other people so much that it has limited semblance to its original state. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 5:36
  • A comprehensive revision history for the original post can be found here: martialarts.stackexchange.com/posts/1384/revisions – Robert Harvey Aug 23 '12 at 5:43
  • Thanks. Evidently it has been mangled far more than I had thought. Even with 3 answers there, there's no way his original question was even remotely asked, and he got dogpiled for giving as much info as he knew to give. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 6:24
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As a regular on Fitness.SE, I regularly see terrible questions. The mod policy, which I think is very fair, is to leave a comment first, give them time to revise the question, and only close it if there's no hope of getting it to a usable state. Usually this takes several failed revisions by the user as well as by experienced users. If there's no kernel of usefulness, it gets closed.

In addition, revisions are made minimally, with the intent to preserve the original question as much as possible. I think what happened here with Sabayaschi's question was that many of the mods have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that could remotely be construed as comparing styles. This is not only misguided, it is a misapplication of several SE concepts.

Asking which style (of a specific subset of schools available to them) would be a good fit for a particular situation is clearly not a shopping recommendation if asked properly, which the new user was frankly very close to doing. Even if we follow the (misguided) FAQ, it's just not a violation of "Recommendations for schools or teachers in area X (too localized)" because he was clearly not asking for a blanket recommendation, but rather for some advice on what would be appropriate.

However, he was violating the (again, overly broad and misguided) FAQ stipulation against asking "What martial arts system is 'best' or if you should practice art A instead of art B (not constructive)". Yes, "what's the best martial art" is a terrible question. (He wasn't asking that.) My contention: he violated the letter but not the spirit of that part of the FAQ.

The issue is that I fail to see how "should I practice art A or art B given these specific preferences" is not constructive. That's very constructive! It's perhaps the best way to elucidate the differences between arts and schools and teachers. We're seeing that in the answers, which discuss general tendencies of arts, while clearly stipulating (as any adult can) that the individual school or teacher might vary to a degree and therefore one should ask certain questions and watch for certain things. That's a very productive discussion, both for him and for future visitors, and it answers the question clearly.

  • In addition to leaving a comment, it also wouldn't hurt to just leave the question open and see what kind of answers it gets. By the time it got closed, it already got 2 answers, and some upvotes on them. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 14:13
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    @RobinAshe I disagree. The original form of the question needed cleaning up. I answered it, but I also left a comment so that we could get a better idea of what the underlying on-topic question was. He answered my comment and the question very quickly became on-topic and useful. – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 14:21
  • I could have answered the original question, prior to the first revision, quite well. Obviously it would have involved providing some information that he didn't know he needed to ask, but that's not a problem. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 14:36
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    @RobinAshe True, but SE is not just about answering questions. We have standards. I know you bristle at many of the misguided rules in this SE, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the well-worn guidelines that produce quality. (See paleohacks for what happens to SE without such standards.) The FAQ admonition against comparing styles is ridiculous. The FAQ admonition against "what's the best style" or "out of all the styles in the universe what should I do" is perfectly reasonable, productive, and fair. – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 14:43
  • but he wasn't asking anything remotely close to that. He was asking if there was something he could study by himself at home because at the moment his parents wouldn't allow him to seek instruction (most likely wouldn't pay for it and he doesn't have his own disposable income). That's not exactly an unusual situation, and it is answerable and that answer would be useful for multiple people. – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 14:48
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    @RobinAshe I was not aware of that, but looking at the edit log, he drastically edited the question himself within half an hour. Was that due to a comment that's since been deleted? Or did he just change his mind about whether to ask about self-study or choosing a style? – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 14:55
  • I didn't see that one originally either, so I don't know for sure what prompted it. I could make a variety of guesses, but that actually wouldn't be constructive – Robin Ashe Aug 23 '12 at 15:04
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    @RobinAshe Then I think it's fair to say he was OK with the second version. It was the closing, and the slurry of comments saying that his question was intrinsically unwelcome, that pushed him away IMO. – Dave Liepmann Aug 23 '12 at 15:07
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http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/

Keep the site reasonably on topic by closing, migrating, or removing blatantly off-topic questions.

See that? Moderators are supposed to only close blatantly off-topic questions, not slightly off-topic questions that could be modified and happen to rub you the wrong way. It's not just a problem with the FAQ and that the moderators are implementing the rules according to the FAQ properly.

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