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As many of you know, on this site we try to encourage questions to include information about the location and/or cultural context that the situations questions are about take place in. However, there is some disagreement about this policy: some members of the site have indicated that they don't see it adding much value, or that the way it's been implemented (asking every question to include location or cultural data) is unhelpful.

To get a better sense of whether this improves the site, I think it would be useful to put together a list of some examples when

  1. People have written answers that are applicable to one culture/location, but since the question is about a different culture/location, those answers do not work.
  2. There is evidence that location/cultural information in questions improved the answers questions received.
  3. Examples when adding location/cultural information has caused some sort of measurable harm.
  4. Etc.

I think understanding to what extent this policy is helpful, and where it is helpful (only for specific types of questions? Are we able to identify for which questions this information will be helpful before hand? Etc.) will lead to more informed discussion about the policy. I also think understanding any downsides to the policy would also create a more informed discussion.

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  • Don't really know what the best format for answers to this question is: should there be one community wiki post? A different answer for each example? – user288 Sep 6 '17 at 19:37
  • Do you want to compile this list from all the 495 questions so far? And what is 'an answer that doesn't work'? How can I recognise one if I decide to help you make the list? – Tinkeringbell Sep 6 '17 at 20:13
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    A list isn't really necessary imho. A few selected cases can show how useful it has been. Some other examples can show the country tag didn't help much. So, there's that. – NVZ Sep 6 '17 at 20:16
  • @Tinkeringbell I'm sure Hamlet meant to demonstrate how it was useful to have such tags, rather than have a list of 300 questions. – NVZ Sep 6 '17 at 20:17
  • @Tinkeringbell I can think of a few questions off the top of my head where this was helpful. If you can remember some questions, then please write an answer, if you can't remember any questions, then there's no need to write an answer. – user288 Sep 6 '17 at 20:18
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    @NVZ I was just trying to get a feel of what should be on that list. We should imho either sort all of the 495 questions into 2 categories (not a location tag vs with a location tag), and then see whether having a tag helps or not. Otherwise, you can pick 10 with no tag and good answers, and I could go and find 10 with tags and bad answers, and Hamlet finds 10 without tags and with bad answers... – Tinkeringbell Sep 6 '17 at 20:20
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I think the best feedback on whether a question is really location or culture specific will come from the OP either approving or rejecting an answer coming from another culture.

Fictional situation:

OP: is it rude to wear your shoes inside someone else's house? Tag: India

Mike from USA: It's not rude and we do it all the time.

ABC from India: It's very rude in Indian culture.

OP's feedback: I asked my auntie and she said it is very rude in India unless the person specifically allows it. I was nicely scolded for wearing my shoes in Auntie's house. Sorry but you are wrong for India @Mike from USA; it seems this question is very much culture specific.

However the answers to many questions need not differ drastically depending on culture and location. Here is a direct example for you @Hamlet about a current question I have asked which carries an India tag as (correct me if I am wrong) you suggested?

How to get more co-operation from a teacher who discourages a student from asking questions to clear his confusion?

So I thought that India tag is probably not essential for a question about high school education in these modern times, and said so in the introduction.

I got the first answer only on the 6th day and it is my experience that questions with an Indian context are slow to get answers, probably because members are not very familiar with Indian culture.

Then I posted a 100 point bounty yesterday to draw members' attention to my question and specifically invited answers from all over the world.

Since then it has got 6 more excellent answers of which 3 posters have identified themselves as Indians.

I am honestly unable to judge which is the best answer and not at all sure that the India tag would influence that outcome.

Another user with an Indian background, such as @NVZ might be able to derive a better correlation between location tag and quality of answer in this case.

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  • That's a great example. You included a lot of detail in that question--not just the india tag, but a lot of great background information about the problem. You got less answers, and the answers took more time, but my humble opinion is that the answers you did get were really good: specific to your situation, well written, they explained the why behind their suggestions. One of the answers did a really good job of giving an explanation of the teacher's perspective. Personally, I would rather have less answers but the quality of the answers be better, but that's just me. Thank you for sharing! – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 0:46
  • Oh it was very satisfying indeed to read those excellent answers coming in at long last, @Hamlet: you are most welcome; that bounty is more than worth every point I put up; and my cousin now has so many good ideas, but I shall struggle to pick the best one to award the bounty! – English Student Sep 8 '17 at 0:49
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    I don't understand if this is pro-location or not. I've seen users from India specifically say that teachers in India are treated with utter respect but in the US this is not the case. – Catija Sep 8 '17 at 1:26
  • That is the main difference, @Catija. Should I amend that to 'teachers in India expect to be treated with utter respect', because not every student is internally very respectful, for sure! My point was I am not sure that an answer to my question by an Indian is much better than any other answer, is what I mean. It's my feeling that education related questions are probably not so culture specific as those related to manners, personal relationships and social expectations. – English Student Sep 8 '17 at 4:22
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Early on we decided to be a multicultural site, which is great. On the other hand, from what I've observed so far, we have users consistently accepting answers written by users from other cultures and locations without batting an eyelid. It seems like we solved a problem we didn't really have by adding a hurdle that the majority of users don't think about when they're posting questions.

Here's one of my personal favorites, an accepted answer written by HDE 226868:

How can I convince my parents to respect my privacy?

The question was closed by another moderator, after the answer was accepted, and the location/culture tag was added later... See the revision history here:

https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/posts/2541/revisions

This is probably the most glaring example of this policy going wrong that I've see so far, but I'm sure there are many others.

Personally I agree that there are occasions when a user's culture/location is significant to the question, but it looks like most users who think their problem is culturally isolated are either wrong, or they include that info in the body of their post like this one did:

Is it appropriate for a non-Japanese person to wear a yukata when going to fireworks?

Let's not badger people, and let users decide for themselves if their location/culture is relevant to their question.

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    What exactly is the demonstrable harm here? A question was closed, changes were made to the question, and a question was reopened. Did the changes to the question lead to, say, worse answers? Did adding the information make the question worse? I'm certainly open to the idea that adding location/cultural information harms the site, but either these aren't good examples, or I'm not understanding your explanation of what harm has been caused. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 2:31
  • @Hamlet would the person who wrote the accepted answer still have written an answer if the tag was there to begin with? – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:32
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    @Hamlet And yes needlessly closing questions harms the site. Wastes a whole lot of time all the way around. – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:34
  • An accepted answer just means that the OP found the answer helpful. Answers aren't just for the OP, they're also for other readers with the same or similar issue. This isn't to say that the accepted answer is a bad answer, just to say that the fact that the answer is accepted is not evidence that the answer is a good one. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 2:34
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    That reminds me: another thing I find confusing about your answer is it's not at all clear to me that the example questions you list were closed because they lacked location data. Maybe I'm missing something; could you elaborate on this by editing your answer? – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 2:35
  • @Hamlet If I remember correctly, the only difference between the closed version and the open version was the additional location info. – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:38
  • @Hamlet If the person asking and the person answering and all the people voting feel that it was a good question with a good answer.... Why are we closing? – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:39
  • @Hamlet it wasn't just an accepted answer. It was accepted, top voted, and written by a mod. – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:41
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    "It was accepted, top voted, and written by a mod." None of those things mean that an answer is actually a good answer. I can think of plenty of examples where Stack Exchange mods write horrible answers (take a look at my profile :D). Rather than the quality or correctness of an answer, votes are often more influenced by the HNQ, or by whoever posts first, or by how an answer is worded, especially on a site such as this one... I've already talked about accepted answers. I'm not saying that you are wrong in your opinion about location information, but you could build a stronger case for this. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 2:46
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    @Hamlet ok... Could you offer some other measurable criteria for "good answer"??? – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 2:48
  • Your answer makes it sound like the other mod (me) closed it unilaterally... I cast a fourth close vote... three others had already voted to close the question. Also, I know that I have answered questions that I "shouldn't have"... that doesn't mean that the question shouldn't be closed. – Catija Sep 8 '17 at 2:51
  • @apaul34208 here is a pretty good explanation of what makes a good answer: islam.meta.stackexchange.com/q/598. Not everything in that link applies to this site, and I don't agree with everything said in that link. I could talk for hours about what makes a good answer, but I don't have time at the moment, so that link will have to suffice. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 2:57
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    @Catija Granted it wasn't a unilateral closing, but you did cast the deciding vote in that case. What did adding the location add in that case, other than adhering to a policy? – apaul Sep 8 '17 at 3:02
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    I think apaul34208 is making the point that the location tag made no difference to the highly upvoted and accepted answer which was written and accepted before the location information was edited in, @Hamlet -- which shows that for OP at least, the location/culture wasn't crucial to this Q -- apaul34208 then goes on to add that the answer might not even have been written if the location tag was already present,which would mean that the tag inhibited a good answer for no good reason. Whether the question was really culture-specific is certainly still open to discussion and interpretation. – English Student Sep 8 '17 at 4:53
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I would strongly recommend that the OP posts an answer illustrating the benefits of including the location within the actual question, along with its corresponding tag, and the drawbacks when neither is included.

Context is always important, and knowing the cultural background of a querent can only help users in suggesting (potentially) better solutions. Since I joined on August 14, I have answered 11 questions, I don't answer if I don't have an idea or a solution to propose. Knowing the location can influence my answer but the fact I am not Dutch, Indian, Australian or German does not prevent me from empathizing.

We are all acutely aware of cultural differences and political opinions that separate people living in the same nation, let alone different countries and continents! For example, the north versus the south in Italy.

But first and foremost, we all have something in common, we are all people sharing the same planet. And as a result, this online community has the single most important and relevant resource. People. The day an SE bot answers a question posed by a living human is the day I quit SE. What's more, maybe that day is not far off! Seriously, recently there was talk on SE about bots being able to assess whether a new question was a duplicate or not. :)

... some members of the site have indicated that they don't see it adding much value, or that the way it's been implemented (asking every question to include location or cultural data) is unhelpful.

Summing up, extra information is always nicer, but let's not harass users over their nationalities, location, profession, age, gender, and their level of education. If a user wants to reveal that sort of information. Good. Excellent. If not, then that is their affair.

Assess the quality of the question or answer posted, not the person behind the post.

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    +1 and not only for the raw content, but for pointing out (or, at least, I read it as an underlying statement) what I consider being a bad habit: willing to enforced at any cost and no matter if it's relevant or not, the tag/culture/location/gender policy. Similar to Grammar Nazis. IF culture/country helps, then it should be either put in OP, or in edit after request from comments. Not mandatory when posted. – OldPadawan Sep 8 '17 at 10:26
  • @OldPadawan and almost immediately the answer has also been downvoted. But thank you for your support. And yes, I absolutely agree that questions should not be obliged to have the relevant nationality/gender/culture etc. tag if the OP does not want to reveal their country of origin or adoption. – user3114 Sep 8 '17 at 10:34
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    If the community thinks it can't be answered without some clarification, and OP doesn't want to disclose/narrow down a bit, then it should be closed as too broad or unclear, that's one rule of the game here. But enforced... well... ¯_(ツ)_/¯ – OldPadawan Sep 8 '17 at 10:38
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    This really doesn't answer the question asked, which asks for examples of when location/cultural information improved or caused harm to a question. If you want to talk about the policy in general, I encourage you to create a new meta question to do that. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 14:34
  • @Hamlet what part of "I would strongly recommend that the OP posts an answer illustrating the benefits of including the location within the actual question, along with its corresponding tag, and the drawbacks when neither is included." did you not understand? – user3114 Sep 8 '17 at 14:36
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    @Mari-LouA the part about how (1) the OP is not the only person who can/should answer questions, and (2) anytime someone answers a question (regardless of whether they are the OP), they should make sure that they're actually answering the question. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 14:37
  • @Hamlet you asked users to provide examples where citing the location was helpful, and where its exclusion was harmful. I strongly suggest that you provide these examples yourself, three or four will suffice so that we can all see with our own eyes. What's wrong with that? May I remind you also that you tagged your own question <discussion>. – user3114 Sep 8 '17 at 14:41
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    @Mari-LouA that is a suggestion you should make in a comment, not an answer. Maybe I will write an answer, maybe I won't. But I asked this question to give others an opportunity to provide examples as well. So far, very few people have done that, which is disappointing. – user288 Sep 8 '17 at 14:43
  • @Hamlet the lack of response is "disppointing" your word not mine, so... my suggestion, posted in an answer is to actually illustrate the difference between using a location tag and not using one. If this is something you care about, and it seems it is, then give these three or four examples. The discussion can then really take off. I am trying to be helpful here, you may not believe this, but so be it. – user3114 Sep 8 '17 at 14:46
  • The answer also argues that tagging the location is not absolutely necessary nor should it be imposed (in the comments) forcibly. Show the community examples where the tag was omitted, or where the poster gave no clues as to their origin, and how this affected negatively in the answers. @Hamlet you've been a member longer than me, you know where to look for these examples. – user3114 Sep 8 '17 at 14:52

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