9

I would like to settle this issue once and for all...

It seems to me that voting to close a question purely because it lacks a location tag is actively counter productive. When users think their location is relevant they're free to add it, but it really feels like we're trying to force people into culturally dependant answers when the majority of them aren't asking for them.

I've even spotted a question recently that specifically pointed out that the OP was open to answers from other locations and cultures because they found these answers helpful on their previous questions...

In my experience people from around the world have a lot more in common than they have meaningful differences.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it till it stops being true:

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 example of a situation where a close reopen cycle clearly didn't help

I don't think I've ever seen a case where the op seemed to indicate that the answers weren't appropriate because they came from users in a different location/culture. Maybe I missed it... If you have seen this feel free to let me know.

  • 1
    Thank you for actually asking about the thing you want to ask about, rather than dancing around the issue. This is what leadership looks like; I would like to see more of this. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 4:37
  • That said, you say "It seems to me that voting to close a question purely because it lacks a location tag is actively counter productive." This question would be improved if you could give specific examples of this. You haven't actually presented evidence that people are voting to close for this reason. I'm sure evidence of this exists; I recommend including in your question. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 4:39
  • @Hamlet this is one of many things I wanted to stir up in the previous post... I just knew that this issue would be less likely to be approached by someone else ;) – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 4:39
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    Let's be very clear: your meta post did not "stir up" this conversation. You asking a question about the thing you want to talk about started this conversation. Let's do more of this in the future. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 4:41
  • I'm asking for proof for the people other than me who will be reading this question and have no idea what you're talking about. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 4:42
  • Well... I think we've now established that it happens, thanks for your... Um... Help with that... @Hamlet – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 4:44
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    No, you have not. It takes five people to close a question. Have questions been closed? Are people other than me voting to close (if it's just one close vote, then why are you wasting time worrying about it)? Are there problems with these questions other than the fact that these questions have location tags? Some examples would be extremely helpful for having a productive conversation. Which I hope is your goal here, although your tone ("it's really cute that you're one who very often votes to close for this reason") suggests otherwise. – user288 Sep 22 '17 at 4:46
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    This meta Q too has received a close vote, which is a nonsense. Unclear what you are asking? Sometimes I wonder whether users aren't casting close votes irresponsibly. Why don't we have 'don't close' voting to counteract close voting? If so I would vote not to close, and this Q would have a 'net close vote score' of +1 -1 = zero. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 6:29
  • The link you added is not helping this discussion. It leads to more discussion under that post. Can you add specific examples in this post itself? :) – NVZ Sep 22 '17 at 14:32
  • @NVZ it seemed more expedient to link to the related meta answer than to re-explain what happened with the example Q/A I used there. – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 14:36
  • @apaul34208 Well, the Q was edited to be specific. And HDE wrote an A expecting the Q to be edited that way. I was the one coordinating both the process. And you'll see my fingerprints on both the Q and the A. – NVZ Sep 22 '17 at 14:37
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    @EnglishStudent "This meta Q too has received a close vote, which is a nonsense." Well, it lacks a location tag, so... – Anne Daunted Sep 22 '17 at 14:39
  • @NVZ so... In what way did adding the location make a positive impact? It may have made the question adhere to "policy" but it didn't seem to meaningfully change the question or the answer. – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 14:40
  • That explains it, @Anne Daunted -- but close-voting a meta question is the meanest thing on SE I can imagine, and also extremely stupid, whoever did it -- much worse than close-voting a regular question. It should be reserved for a truly off-topic meta question. – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 14:55
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    "I just tried to lighten the mood a bit (and I didn't vote to close)" That is understood, of course, @Anne Daunted -- and your effort is much appreciated because we don't want to become a deadly serious site like English.SE -- it's a notorious trick we sometimes play, online and in 'real life' (though I can't really see how online is any less real) pretending not to recognize a joke: so you keep up the good work here! – English Student Sep 22 '17 at 16:01
7

This isn't something we can make a blanket statement about. Questions here tend to be very broad and limiting them by culture may help combat that. Every limiting detail makes a question (potentially) more answerable, in the Stack Exchange format.

I'm actually quite happy with the answer I wrote here on the question How much should we be enforcing specific and regional questions?

So, the question is, which end of the spectrum do we want to be on. Do we feel that Interpersonal Skills are more broadly the same across cultures or do we assume that they're so vastly different that we practically require every question to have a locality tag... personally, I think we are somewhere in the middle.

Two and a half months haven't changed my thoughts on this. I still think that we're in the middle - for a few reasons.

  • People are often unaware when or that their culture is different. This is proven to me time and time again on posts here. Some questions make it obvious to me (as an American) that they're from a completely different culture, such as Is it possible for my friend to resume communication with his unofficial sister without earning her husband's mistrust? Without some marking of where this is, the entire question would be quite confusing to those who've never heard of this concept.
  • There are, quite simply, a lot of things that are similar between cultures or that don't change so specifically from one nationality to another. They may be common among most of Asia or all of South America or the English-speaking world (excluding India)... And I'm sure that there are some things that are universal (respect your mother!).

The problem with the latter point - which relates to the former - is that unless we find someone who is a cultural expert on all of the cultures of the world, we can't know when it matters what culture someone is from, we can only guess.

I'm sure I can think of some other reasons but, for now, I'm going to move on...


HDE's answer here emphasizes something that I've been trying to keep in mind while writing this answer... questions do tend to be quite broad and, as I said at the start, any additional details will help questions be more answerable... but I also wonder how many answers actually write from any amount of cultural awareness. It's impossible to know since most users don't identify where they are from in their posts but I'd bet that many answers are written by people from outside the tagged culture.

BUT we don't generally set rules for questions based on the answers they receive, so I'm not sure it makes sense to say

No one pays attention to culture tags, so we may as well pitch them.

There are definitely questions that have attracted answers from both outsiders and people from those cultures and, in the cases I can think of, the insiders generally do well: How should a person be told to apologise when he thinks he isn't wrong? Outsiders may also do well if they write responses in a way that shows knowledge of the culture (as aonongoodnurse's answer does here) Is it possible for my friend to resume communication with his unofficial sister without earning her husband's mistrust?


So, that leaves us with a few options.

  1. Be strict. Require cultural tags on all questions.
    This potentially will hurt us. Some users may have otherwise excellent questions that we really want to include here but they are unwilling to state a location. This would be a loss for the site. Please note that this is me saying this... I have a protectionist streak... "Do what's best for the site"... but losing an otherwise interesting, detailed, well-written and defined question because they won't stamp a tag on it... that's not in the site's best interest.
  2. Ban cultural tags.
    ANARCHY!!! I think I've explained already why these are definitely useful, though, see my final note at the end of this post for a caveat.
  3. Require them on questions that are about specific subjects
    We pick a list of subjects that are more likely to have cultural concerns - marriages/weddings or religion or politics for example - and we require that anything that is about one of these topics has a tag but the rest of it we only "recommend" a tag. This would be really complicated to remember and enforce. Maybe in a year or two after we know more about other cultures this will be easier but right now, this could be a chore.
  4. Only request/require cultural tags if the answers start showing that they're not being helpful to the OP.
    If the OP posts something on an answer along the lines of "what you're saying doesn't apply in my culture" we should probably stop the question (put it on hold) and get some cultural information. This may require that some answers be deleted because they're now invalid but I think this may be the better path.
  5. Request cultural tags everywhere but never require them.
    We won't close a question that is lacking a tag but we will still ask people to include them. We have a meta question that explains why these tags are valuable and we link to it when we ask people to include them. If the question has other quality problems, it's closed.

If you have additional "solutions", I'm happy to hear them. One and two seem too stark, three is my favorite of them but seems really difficult to implement and four seems like it might do more harm than good... five but it's about what we're doing right now, so it's the path of least resistance. I suppose we could combine four and five:

Request cultural tags everywhere and put questions that don't have them on hold if it becomes obvious that answers aren't culturally appropriate.

If the tag is added to the question, it can be reopened and we should consider deleting the answers that were posted that are inappropriate to the culture in question... or whatever the answer to this question ends up being: What should we do about answers based on the 'wrong' culture? or I guess this question's top answer says "delete them as NAA": "Just the facts, ma'am." OR Reining in answers.


Also, I'd like to emphasize that I'm still not convinced that location tags need to be on every question but I do think that mentioning the location is valuable in the question.

I actually have a concern about how we're tagging these questions. We're an increasingly global society. Even if something is culturally appropriate in one place, that doesn't mean that the people follow that culture. For example, America is the "Great Melting Pot". That means that all of those questions we have tagged don't really necessarily tell us much if the people that are being discussed are first-generation immigrants trying to deal with their parents. Our tags need to focus on cultures, not countries... but that's likely more complicated to implement.

  • Also limiting the questions by goals seems way more effective. Yes it's a broad site, but we have better metrics to look at. – apaul Sep 23 '17 at 6:31
  • No. The last paragraph is irrelevant to the question asked. I think you're misunderstanding it. – Catija Sep 23 '17 at 6:31
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    SE should really hire you as a Community Manager. This is a great answer. – NVZ Sep 23 '17 at 7:21
  • Point 5 seems reasonable to me. Feels like a healthy compromise. Although... Anarchy is more fun... – apaul Sep 24 '17 at 5:16
  • I've been looking at this a lot today, as I saw someone voting to close a half dozen questions (including my own) that didn't have a location tag. I really like what you've emphasized, and think that unless the "general public" (or someone the OP doesn't know well enough to give us concrete details on) is involved in the interpersonal problem/solution, there isn't an explicit need for a cultural tag. Why should it matter what culture the OP is from if they can lay out how all involved parties already feel about the problem at hand? It doesn't. – Jess K. Dec 7 '17 at 22:12
-3

I think it might be worth stepping back and taking a look at the different ways cultural information is helpful.

  1. Someone literally just asked a question today where they noted that while the specific situation is similar to an older question, the cultural and location is different, and that as a result they needed different answers.
  2. I can think of plenty of questions where answers were written that would be true if the OP was from one culture, but that weren't true when applied to the OP's culture. Here's one example. Here's another really interesting example: because two cultures were involved in the question, the OP got two answers that came to two different conclusions.
  3. People have mentioned that they would write an answer, except for the fact that the location specified in the question made their answer unhelpful. Here's an example:

    In Europe the stereotype I am aiming at is that "every person looking like he is from Pakistan, must be a programming guru", as that is the job that a lot of people from Pakistan are here for... So naming someone a programming guru could probably just be joking and using that stereotype over here... This will not work in Pakistan itself...

Cultural information is one piece of information out of many. It is not the most important thing.

At the same time, I think cultural information is crucial for several reasons:

  1. It helps people reading the question decide if the question is applicable to them, or if their culture is different enough that they need a new question. The OP may personally with a question and answers about "people"; that doesn't mean everyone else reading the question is.
  2. It has in some cases lead to better answers. I expect that as we get more experience as a community answering questions, culture will work its way into answers more and more frequently.

I think getting most questions to add cultural information (something more specific than europe or southern europe or middle asia) is worth it.

Should these questions be closed? It depends on the question. Often, questions lacking location information also have other problems associated with them. There are some cases, such as questions about forums, where the culture isn't associated with a location but the fact that the OP is participating in an online community. But... we've learned that one reason to close a question is that it doesn't have enough detail, and culture is an important detail, so... yes, these questions should be closed.

  • The two questions in your first example seem completely unrelated other than roughly asking "how to get someone to stop talking?" The locations being different seems like a very minor detail at best. Beyond that I've acknowledged that I think that adding location can be useful in some cases, I just don't think we should make it a requirement for every question. – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 16:07
  • I've also acknowledged that location can be helpful in some cases on this question: "When users think their location is relevant they're free to add it, but..." – apaul Sep 22 '17 at 16:11
  • I'd suggest quoting the linked comments here. They're ephemeral as comments. – NVZ Sep 22 '17 at 16:13

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