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Coming fresh of another private beta I'm looking a bit worried on some of the meta posts over here. For starters I'll quote what has also been pinned in our chat, what Robert Cartaino the director of community development for SE posted after releasing the recent Internet of Things private beta into the wild.

[...] There's no need to force "rules discussions" where there is no actual problem. Folks are more than willing to point out problems where they show up in actual practice, so tackle the problems when/if they become prominent in actual use [...]

(Full Source post)

In that spirit I'll reiterate myself from chat with all the stars and pins, Let our definition of literature grow meta decision by meta decision and not force it into one giant post about what constitutes literature. (Link)

Now looking at this meta, by any normal meta consensus we made operas in general just on-topic. I'm explicitly not taking any stance on the issue there, but we have no idea what operas are on-topic even means. The comments under the answer make it clear, without any actual question on operas we have simply no idea. I could now ask a question on the beat of the drums in a certain stanza of some opera and point to meta where a question shows a great agreement for operas being on-topic. I could also ask about the choice of hair color for one of the actors, since operas are on-topic. Operas are by far not the only topic that seem to be tackled without any question on the main site.

Long story short.

We have a month before anyone will even edit the help center. We have at the absolut minimum 90 days of beta, looking at recent betas more likely years until we need to finish our scope. And every active member from other sites will know, the scope is never truly finished.

So let's not try to solve everything in the first week and please, let's not define any scope without at least one question on the main site that falls into that category.

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    Hear hear. I'm happy to even leave talking about whether our scope includes a topic until we've had several questions about it to help us establish a clear pattern over whether they will or won't work here and why. Specific questions may have problems that aren't generally symptomatic of the topic, and on RPG Stack Exchange through the benefit of experience we've been able to identify question categories where certain question formulations work and others do not. We can handle questions on a case by case basis now and take it to meta later. – doppelgreener Jan 20 '17 at 19:03
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    @doppelgreener I agree, one question is only the absolute minimum. That question might be flawed or good for reasons that have nothing to do with the topic that's made on-topic or off-topic by meta. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 19:05
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I support this concept in general, but with one caveat:

It's OK to ask if a specific class of works is in scope if there are no questions about it yet but you plan to ask one imminently.

Why?

  • Reason 1: because doing so works out 100% same as far as defining site scope, but avoids wasting a lot of time and generating a lot of drama and bad feelings and work for moderators, which comes when people use a first-of-its-kind question as an excuse to argue out site scope on main site instead of Meta. I have seen it happen repeatedly, with the same issues, on SciFi.SE.

  • Reason 2: Because there's a tangible risk that someone will post an objectively bad question in an area that should be within scope, and people will use the specific issues with that specific question as arguing points why the whole type of work should be out of scope (Faulty Generalization Fallacy be damned). Again, I saw this happen - unfortunately, successfully - in the past.

  • Reason 3: Because the main objection to asking on Meta first is that it's unclear what the questions would look like. That's trivially avoided by:

    • giving a summary of your proposed question as specific example, included in Meta.

      I'd like to ask a question about Opera. "Was Wagner's Ring Cycle text written in imitation of Northern sagas, or was the style of the lyrics wholly original?"

      This immediately lets people know that the question is about opera text and not clothes worn by an actor.

    • People answering on Meta explicitly listing which aspects of types of work in question are OK and which aren't. I know that I would answer "opera" Meta question immediately with "Opera librettos and lyrics are ontopic. Opera music, and other production related stuff, is offtopic".


Examples:

Scenario 1A:

  • User X wants to ask a question about a specific content aspect of an empathic projection by Coocoozoid creator MZZZ*&JHM.
  • User X asks on Meta if empathic projections by Coocoozoids are ontopic. (giving a summary of their proposed question as specific example)
  • The community settles on the fact that empathic projections by Coocoozoids are offtopic, since they don't contain words. Or narrative. Just emotions.
  • User posts some other good question instead.

Scenario 1B:

  • User X wants to ask a question about a specific content aspect of an empathic projection by Coocoozoid creator MZZZ*&JHM.
  • User X spends 2 hours researching and crafting a question they are interested in. Asks on main site.
  • People who dislike the idea of treating empathic projections as literature VTC.
  • User takes VTCs personally - either because they wasted 2 hours of effort, or because they take VTCs personally in general, or because people VTC without a meta discussion which is not cool.
  • After much time and effort spent commenting, arguing, and flagging (total spent time: couple of hours, total drama generated: large), someone creates a Meta question asking if empathic projections by Coocoozoids are ontopic.
  • The community settles on the fact that telepathic projections by Coocoozoids are offtopic, since they don't contain words. Or narrative. Just emotions.

End result: 100% the same as far as scope definition. But much time and effort was spent unnecessarily by all, generating bad feelings all around.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scenario 2A:

  • User X wants to ask a question about a specific content aspect of AI-generated text "Colors of palette".
  • User X asks on Meta if AI-generated texts are ontopic. (giving a summary of their proposed question as specific example)
  • The community settles on the fact that AI-generated text are ontopic, since they contain words. And AI shouldn't be discriminated against.
  • User asks their question
  • If anyone disagrees with it being ontopic, a comment is posted pointing to Meta consensus - or even before any VTCs, preventively.

Scenario 2B:

  • User X wants to ask a question about a specific content aspect of AI-generated text "Colors of palette".
  • User X spends 2 hours researching and crafting a question they are interested in. Asks on main site.
  • People who dislike the idea of treating AI text as literature VTC.
  • User takes VTCs personally - either because they wasted 2 hours of effort, or because they take VTCs personally in general, or because people VTC without a meta discussion which is not cool, or because they are passionate about AI rights.
  • After much time and effort spent commenting, arguing, and flagging (total spent time: couple of hours, total drama generated: large), someone creates a Meta question asking if AI-generated text are ontopic.
  • The community settles on the fact that AI-generated text are ontopic, since they contain words. And AI shouldn't be discriminated against.
  • A mod has to process a flag to VTRO and clean up the comment mess from main Q&A.
  • User's main question is irrepairably damaged from several downvotes from people who decided to accompany VTC with a DV despite being wrong on site scope.

End result: 100% the same as far as scope definition. But much time and effort was spent unnecessarily by all, generating bad feelings all around, damaging a good question.

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    -1 ask your intimidate question first, if you think it needs a meta post, then have the meta discussion with it as an example. – James Jenkins Jan 21 '17 at 11:19
  • @JamesJenkins - How many questions of yours were subject of heated scope discussions? – DVK Jan 21 '17 at 12:14
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    Over many beta launches lots,, I can't count. But having them posted gives something tangent to talk about. it's not hypothetical when the questions are posted. – James Jenkins Jan 21 '17 at 12:39
  • @JamesJenkins - did you read Reason #3 I gave above? – DVK Jan 21 '17 at 12:46
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    The thing about reason #3 is, it's actually less effort to just ask the question than meticulously describe what kind of question you want to ask. That means (a) more effort for the asker, and (b) still a chance that meta readers misunderstand. – Helmar Jan 21 '17 at 15:51
  • @Helmar - from personal experience, it's far more effort. – DVK Jan 21 '17 at 22:22

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