The general rule I've seen around Stack Exchange is that a community is sovereign in deciding its scope¹, as long as it makes a modicum of sense. Stack Exchange employees may enforce quality requirements, for example by closing questions that are “bad subjective”. But scope — deciding what questions are on-topic or off-topic — is decided by the community, through meta discussions.

As a moderator on several Stack Exchange sites, I've always felt that it was within my mandate to crack down on low-quality questions whether the community acted or not, but that deciding the scope was solely the purview of the community. I do of course participate in debates about the scope, but I'll enforce whatever the community decides. This is what I've seen practiced on other Stack Exchange sites except sometimes on the Trilogy (SO/SU/SF).

Yet, one week into the private beta, with no prior warning that I am aware of, a Stack Exchange employee closed at least 15 questions (about 1/8 of the questions to date) with the following comment:

"Hardware Recommendations" was created for questions seeking a specific hardware products given a set of definitive requirements. If your question involved general computing or hardware issues, it can likely be asked on Super User; but nevertheless, it is outside the scope of this site.

This statement about the scope directly contradicts the meta consensus around

Are “What should I consider when buying” questions allowed?

(…) I think, they should be allowed and in fact be encouraged.

After prompting, the employee expanded on this statement in a meta answer on the aforementioned question, rejecting any debate around the scope:

But what we absolutely cannot allow to happen is to turn this site into an "alternative Super User"… a site where you can ask your hardware questions which also happens to allow product recommendations too. That just cannot happen.

Some of the questions that the employee closed were reopened by the community, but the employee closed them again (despite the meta opinion not having changed in the meantime).

Why are we not allowed to decide our scope? To use Stack Exchange's own language, why are we not respected? As far as I'm aware, it's a unique departure from the general rule.

And why does the crackdown happen without any prior discussion?

¹ Excluding content that's inappropriate, e.g. NSFW.

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    I'm just wandering in here because I was feeling guilty about not paying attention to this private beta. Without any context at all, this seems a bit personal. It makes it real hard to read this question objectively. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 22:20
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    @JonEricson I've removed the parts about the debate itself, to focus on how the debate is (not) being conducted. I can hardly avoid naming Robert, since he's the one person who took this action. My post is not personal: I'm not saying anything about Robert, I'm only discussing his actions. Do you really think my question would really be improved if I wrote “a Stack Exchange employee whom I shall refrain from naming”? Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 22:42
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    @Gilles That might be a good idea to do. At some point, it will probably encourage more constructive discussion. I would do that.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 23:49
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    @JonEricson There you go, the employee is now nameless. Hopefully you can now detach your eyes from the finger and look at the moon? Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 0:06
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    I didn't mean personal in the sense of ad hominem (though that's a symptom). Rather, this seems less like a reasoned debate over site scope and more the outpouring of a personal conflict. Instead of a level discussion of what role (if any) employees have in defining scope during a private beta, this reads like an indictment. Redacting Robert's name hardly fixes the general tone and message of the post. It would really be helpful if you filled in the background of why you think Robert closed those questions. I'm pretty sure it isn't for the reasons that are implied in this post. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 0:25
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    @JonEricson If Robert didn't close the questions for the reasons he described in his meta post, how am I to know? Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


I agree, that the community should be the ones casting close/reopen votes themselves: it's a community-driven site after all. However, I want to throw a couple arguments that I think are important, and missing. Here are some examples:

Hardware Recommendations is for... Recommendations.

I think the main reasons why these questions have been closed is because they don't explicitly ask for a recommendation. Instead, they really seem to be asking whether a certain feature or component of hardware is worth having. This is arguably not a recommendation: the community can't recommend a product.

But isn't this implicit?

I would like to believe that it is. My question, which is the first mentioned above in the examples, isn't explicit asking the community to recommend a processor. However, I think that it more asks the community to recommend why I should have a processor. I stand on the argument that although the community doesn't recommend a hardware product, it recommends for/against the use of a specific feature that is specific to a hardware product.

Should these "implicit questions" be allowed if they don't ask for a product?

Quite personally, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue in particular. I feel like questions can assist askers to determine the nit-bits of a product that they want. For example:

Should I find a fridge to keep things cold? Of course you should!
What's a good fridge to keep things cold? There's this and that fridge!

I can see these "smaller" questions becoming excellent questions in the end, when the author has full information on what they want.

Aren't we making Software Recs a model here?

I think this is another important issue to consider here, that is potentially extremely relevant to this situation. I'm not active on Software Recs, so I don't want to make a definitive argument here, but I feel that we made be trying to hard to make a near exact replica of the SR model. This is good and all, but it's like this site should be closed as an "exact duplicate", if you catch my drift. If the reason why the "implicit recommendation" questions are closed, then is it a result of the SR scope? Like I said, I'm not trying to discourage any efforts, but I think this is a valid point to consider when looking for barriers in the community-determined scope.

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    Speaking as a moderator of Software Recommendations, I don't think we should blindly follow its model, for reasons outlined here. For one thing, SR's scope is a lot broader in terms of expertise, and harder to classify by tags. A site about computing hardware in general would make perfect sense (the only reason we don't have it is that SU carved a big chunk of that cake first); a site about software in general would be far too broad (it would encompass all of SO, most of SU and much more). Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 21:52
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    But your answer should really be here or here rather than on this question. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 21:53

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