Are we being a bit too closed minded to what belongs to graphics design and what does not. Sometimes life hits you with a curve ball that requires you to step a bit outside your comfort zone. The design part does indeed have surprises in store for us. So should we relax our expectations a little?

We are a bit inconsistent when it comes to discarding questions. For example we accept this question:

The question itself is ok by my standards. Unfortunately

  • It is overly broad
  • It's subjective
  • It's not directly related to graphic design and would fit better on freelance.SE
  • We tend to close very many questions on the grounds that they are asking software recommendations that should go to software recommendations SE.

So some of the more interesting questions do go over the border. So in a way we should be a bit more tolerant on what we accept the design aspect does not need to be obvious.

The problem is that from an external observer's point of view, it seems like we are favoring certain persons. So just because you don't see something as directly useful does not mean it cannot be valid.

  • 3
    Yes that question is off topic.... but I admit, it's one I'm interested in. Also that question was posed while still in beta I believe. Traffic today is much different.
    – Scott
    May 10 '15 at 17:55
  • 1
    @Scott still i mean we could retain Stackexhange quality questions that may even in small part enrichen us. But if we can not handle them then we could just say so.
    – joojaa
    May 10 '15 at 17:57
  • Do you have any more examples of inconsistent moderation (open question to anyone)? A few more would be helpful to the discussion May 10 '15 at 18:11

I agree, sadly. We are trying to regulate what seems hard to get a grasp on in the first place. I too welcome more open and even more opinion based questions. The problem is that when we "open up" we are flooded (or it alt least feels like that) questions that we would even avoid at work. Tech support, mundane tasks and tutorial requests.

So the challenge is to find a way to be as open as possible to conceptual and even opinion based questions without becoming the help desk again. Because I saw some great questions here that were more "guidable" than answerable, but a lot of design is just that.

  • +1, but how open we are to interesting non-tutorial/tech questions has no baring on how many low quality "I torrented Photoshop, how cn I makes teh graphics" type questions we get. People asking lazy questions don't study our question history, and even if they did, the ones we want to show we're strict on are the lazy ones, not the unrelated interesting ones. Increasing the number of interesting questions gives interesting users a reason to stay. May 12 '15 at 13:30
  • Do you have some examples of questions that have been closed that you think should still be open? May 12 '15 at 16:22
  • 1
    No, that wasn't really my point either.
    – KMSTR
    May 12 '15 at 19:39
  • @ZachSaucier Tons of examples. A lot of time the mod will consider a question as a duplicate while in fact there could be a lot of specific information to add to that question but would be out of context for the other one or too much information out of nowhere. Eg.: "What kind of printer is best for greeting cards" VS "What printer is better to print on textured paper". Not the same question but the second one was considered a duplicate. The question is not "closed" but there isn't much room to add more information when only the comments are opened.
    – go-junta
    Jun 18 '15 at 14:37
  • @KMSTR I agree with what your saying completely. However, as you said a lot of design is more "guidable" than answerable. There's a lot of outsider influences in the design world forcing design into a binary or "scientificized" area; this helps when it comes to enforcing marketing research, I'm sure. But the beauty of a platform like stackexchange is that with every useful open question, perhaps we can come to a closer, more succinct approximation on what is usually a difficult and broad answer.
    – johnp
    Oct 24 '15 at 16:36

I've changed my stance as of today....

Allow everything and anything regardless of any technical aspect.

I can't fathom a site where some of the technical knowledge I feel is invaluable receives close votes. I posted a question this morning at the urging of a moderator... it was indeed technical in nature but not application troubleshooting. The fact this question got close votes and I even felt I was in a position where I had to defend it's merit showed one thing clearly to me... Some users have a very different perspective as to what is and is not valuable technical knowledge to a designer. It seems anything which even remotely touches on some technical aspect is garnering close votes. And heaven forbid it's slightly technical and mentions an application by name. There's no chance that question will survive. I deleted the question I posted this morning, even though it was very non-application oriented, due to the unyielding attack on it's merit in spite of all my efforts to explain why I felt it was valuable.

So in light of all this.... I'm in favor of never closing any question as Tech support. Remove that close reason. Allow all technical questions to remain. Let this site devolve into an "Adobe help" stack. At least that way Google will still find the actual diamonds hidden among the mountains of dirt which will surely grow.

I've reached the end of my capacity to try and explain the difference between "My Adobe be broke" and actual valuable technical knowledge. It would appear some users see no difference between application technical support and anything remotely technical. Either my vocabulary is severely lacking, my mental capacity to explain has failed me, or I'm speaking some foreign language.

I'm stepping back... let others sort this because clearly I'm making no headway.

  • I actually close voted to mess with your head :P Sorry about that but ,my point exactly.
    – joojaa
    May 15 '15 at 19:00
  • I think part of the problem is that some people think "we've made it!" because we graduated. In my view, our "graduation" was more like a coming-of-age. We were trained up and then officially released into the wild with our rudimentary skills. Now, much like the Spartan boy in 300, we're finding ourselves up against beasts. The way I see it, we can either be devoured by them, or learn how to deal with them so we can grow into a proper Spartan warrior. Essentially, there's more to be done here, if we can shake the idea that we'd created a perfectly working finished product at graduation.
    – Dom
    May 15 '15 at 22:46
  • It's not really that in my perception, @Dom. I have a pretty clear line in my head as to what is technical support, what is simple application knowledge asking for more experienced input, what is a flat out lazy question,, and what is technical knowledge. Apparently I merely suck at explaining those difference as I see them. Or, others simply disagree with my expectations.
    – Scott
    May 15 '15 at 23:48
  • I think it's probably mostly to do with different implied views. The only real way of fixing that is doing some strenuous thinking to build a proper definition. I don't even try to pass judgement anymore because I'm not even sure what exactly my personal definition of on-topic is.
    – Dom
    May 15 '15 at 23:53
  • 1
    Based on some chat discussions I've had over the past few weeks... Some users follow the exact words used in a question and do not interpret anything. Others try and read the intent of a question, realizing that an uninformed user may not actually know the proper words to use. I think this may be the largest vacuum. However, as stated, I've given up trying to solve it. At least for now.
    – Scott
    May 15 '15 at 23:55
  • On a slightly different note but still related, I think SE should make editing more worthwhile, because it's a thankless task that nobody can keep enthusiasm for forever. I've already mentioned it a few times elsewhere, but haven't heard a peep back. If I could measure and display the impact my edits have had, I'd probably keep doing it. Not everybody cares to do it well, and those that do, don't have any reason to continue doing so. That is one of my pet peeves, and an issue with the system imo.
    – Dom
    May 16 '15 at 0:04
  • I think going back to the absolute basics would help to define what a good question consists of for everyone. Categorising questions by "Platonic", "Positivistic" or "Kantian" would help to decide a more consistent next step for a start.
    – Dom
    May 16 '15 at 13:06
  • Platonic theories say that characteristics of a phenomenon can only be approximately realised and measured in reality. Positivistic theories say that characteristics of a phenomenon can be absolutely realised and measured in reality. Kantian theories say that characteristics of a Phenomenon cannot be realised or measured in reality. I think each of these even helps to define a way to answer (or that there is no answer), and gives a more clear next step.
    – Dom
    May 16 '15 at 13:06
  • @Dom are you referring to Kant's Critique Of Pure Reason? If so I think this might be based on a common misunderstanding - what we normally mean by reality isn't noumenal and therefore unobservable; when we talk about 'reality' we mean idealised phenomena as would be experienced by a viewpoint with unlimited empirical experiences; the closest we humans ever get to even thinking about noumena is theoretical physics and that's all steeped in phenomena-based metaphors and assumptions. But yeah, if a question hinges on routine non-graphics IT knowledge (operating systems, RAM), it's off topic. May 19 '15 at 10:41
  • @user568458 I've only briefly studied the three indirectly in a behaviour logic paper. I tried to simplify, as the info I read stated that Platonic/Positivistic/Kantian theories take as their point of departure.. what I stated above. I doubt they translate perfectly to what I'm suggesting, but those particular core ideas seem like a good starting point for categorising questions.
    – Dom
    May 19 '15 at 12:33
  • @Dom ah, I'd assumed you were joking :-D May 19 '15 at 12:43

I hate that you asked this, because now I feel like I should write an answer. And posting answers on SE sites is like getting up on a stage in an auditorium packed with the most critical people on Earth when each one is armed with a bag of rotten tomatoes. But since the managing of questions is the topic at hand, here goes.

The problem with StackExchange. Once upon a time it was decided that every topic must have its own subdomain. And each is defended by mods against "intrusion" from irrelevant posts. So unlike a typical forum where moderators can move a question to a different sub, the mods on SE sites basically tell question contributors to get lost when their questions don't quite fit. Well this doesn't exactly leave a first impression that makes content contributors want to return. Meanwhile all the "irrelevant" questions, some of which would have been very on-topic and valuable if categorized correctly - get tossed out.

A solution? Keep more questions, but organize the data differently. The either-or mindset that an idea either belongs in THIS BOX or THAT BOX is doomed to hit limitations like this. Ideas can be categorized more naturally into Venn diagrams that they can into file folder hierarchies. Why not let the users choose whether to filter out graphic design questions that pertain to freelancing? It is a mistake to guess at what users will find relevant because then you fall into the trap of having to generalize, which means you are only catering to the majority audience.

Let's step back and compare SE with other sites where ideas are organized by topic. Reddit, for example has countless "subreddits", each of which can be subscribed to by its users, meaning that if a user cares a lot about something really specific, let's say for example the VW MINI, they can subscribe to that sub and topics posted there will be more likely to show up on their custom front page. I'm not saying Reddit gets everything right, but you don't see them discarding or disqualifying user-generated content in bulk. They built a system where the right topics are likely to meet the eyes of the right audience.

Another (broader) example: Google search. If I typed my keywords in and found what I was looking for on the first or second page, do I care what was on the other thousands of pages of results? No. Is it a problem that all those other pages exist? Of course not. Someone searching a little differently will find something a little different. So it seems ridiculous and counter-productive when I see some of these mods on SE striking down a question with the wrath of Zeus because someone's question contained the phrase "best practice" (happened to me), or because someone posted something technical in a non-technical sub, or something non-technical in a technical sub, or whatever the petty reason.

There is overlap and there is grey area when dealing with ideas. This is what ideas are about. They can bleed together, or diverge unexpectedly, like watercolor paints. But on SE they are expected to fit neatly and rigidly together like Lego blocks, and this is not how the mind thinks. Okay, I'm done. You can all mark my post as off-topic now. I don't expect StackExchange to change, but I do expect someone to eventually come along who does it better.


There is a dichotomy here.

In my opinion, yes, but I understand one thing. I am new to the forum so I have to respect the intrinsic dynamic of it. But at the same time, it is an open forum and new people should participate in the way that it grows.

Questions that are just related to graphic design are very interesting. Less interesting are ones asking just what button to press in Photoshop.

I participate on this forum and sometimes it is a challenge to be more methodical, and that is good. But being too strict, avoiding "opinion based" questions for example, removes the most interesting parts, reading different opinions.

  • I edited your post a bit to try and clean up some English. Please feel free to edit it again if I have messed up any of your thoughts May 10 '15 at 18:08
  • 5
    The problem with "opinion based" questions is that they do not fit the SE model well. We're interested in specific questions with real answers, not a bunch of people's opinions on a subject with no real answer. That's why we have accepted answers in the first place May 10 '15 at 18:10

Personally, I see the Stack Exchange model as a framework.

I don't think it's intended to be a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead a set of broad rules, upon which individual communities can build what they need. If it is intended to be a complete solution, I see that as a flawed idea, in that it's highly unlikely to accommodate the needs of 100+ huge subjects with a single set of rules.

If we're seeing an overwhelming need for something, why are we fighting it, instead of finding a way to accommodate it within our framework?


Even though I'm the one who suggested the GD Software Support Stack, I have to say I am becoming exhausted of the My Adobe Be Broke (™ @Scott) questions. I don't know what anyone else sees, but in the last week the Review queue has been anywhere from 25 to 50 questions, and I know more than half are "Close this because it's tech support." I can't even bring myself to go through the queue.

I drop by the site, I see the first dozen questions are My Adobe Be Broke, and I don't open any. I can't imagine what Scott, Alan, and DA01 are feeling.

I genuinely don't know what the answer is. My suggestion of the GDSS stack was meant to reduce the reason for the close votes. Maybe we can't separate the wheat from the chaff because we never had all that much wheat to begin with.


I don't think so... generally.

The SE model is setup to have specific questions with real, correct answers. That's why answers can - and should, generally speaking - be accepted. SE sites are not a forum to discuss, they are a Q&A listing. This makes primarily opinion based questions off topic. There are other options available to just discuss these subjects, whether it be in chat or some other forum.

This site specifically deals with how graphic design, "the process of visual communication, and problem-solving through the use of type, space and image"[Wikipedia], is carried out, both in theory and in practice.

From what I can tell, the vast majority of questions that are good and on topic are left open and the ones that aren't generally get closed. That's what should happen. No system or person is always perfect in carrying things out, but we're usually more right than wrong. Meta and flags can help catch the mistakes that do occur.

If a question fits the requirements above along with those mentioned in the help center, it is on topic for this site.

With that being said, let's look at the question mentioned.

It is overly broad

It doesn't seem overly broad to me. It's asking for an offline, non-cloud based, non-subscription program that works on a Mac to keep track of billing for a freelancer. That's pretty specific to me.

It's subjective

It's not asking for the best program (or even a good program, though I think it's implied), it's asking for recommendations matching the specified criteria. That's not subjective, it's objective.

It's not directly related to graphic design and would fit better on freelance.SE

The first part of this statement is where I have the most doubt about the question, but as it deals with how graphic design processes are carried out it should stay.

As for the second part, what does it matter where it fits better? If it's on topic here, it shouldn't be closed or moved for any reason.

We tend to close very many questions on the grounds that they are asking software recommendations that should go to software recommendations SE.

I haven't seen that many questions moved to software recs in my (relatively short) time here. I'm not speaking about any in particular, but it's possible that some questions have been moved when they actually were on topic here. Mistakes happen. As mentioned, meta and flags can be used to help catch these mistakes.

Overall, I think we do a pretty good job. It's good for us to continue to be watchful of how we act to make sure we do the best job possible, possible as for how we actually are doing, I can't complain. The fact that you only have one question linked (and how it is still open, even currently having a bounty) is representative of that - on topic questions are being rewarded.

I think we need to analyze more than just this one question to judge the state of the site. If you have any other examples of questions that have been closed that you think should still be open please link them (this is an open request to all readers).

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