Twice recently I've answered questions that seemed clear and answerable to me, and then later the questions were put on hold as too broad. I try to be a good SE citizen; I don't knowingly answer questions that ought to be closed instead, and I try to avoid making assumptions that need to be clarified by the OP before a good answer can be written. These post-answer closures make me wonder if I'm misunderstanding some of our guidelines, or perhaps just not thinking creatively enough about things that ought to be clarified.

How to have a religious discussion with someone when you're not religious? deals with a skeptic (the OP) having a conversation about religion with a deeply-religious person and asks how the OP can approach bible discussions without either of them becoming irritated. That seems answerable to me, and in my experience lots of people have that problem so it seems like a valuable question for the site.

In How to explain that you're upset that your girlfriend prefers to stay with her family at Christmas?, the OP and OP's girlfriend disagree about how to spend a holiday and the OP wants to know how to explain his position. In the question I see an OP who's a little too self-focused and insufficiently perceptive of how the other person might feel about what he's doing, so -- without calling it out explicitly (hey, I could be wrong) -- I wrote an answer that tries to help the OP see the bigger picture while still (of course) answering the question. How to share major holidays is a common problem that couples have, especially when kids are involved, so this also seems like a useful question for the site.

In neither case do I believe my answer is the be-all and end-all of things. I think my answers are good, but that other people could provide good answers maybe better than mine, too. Except they can't because the questions are closed.

What am I failing to understand about breadth in questions?

1 Answer 1


I don't have any strong feelings that either of these questions should absolutely be open or closed but I thought I would at least share some info that might be invisible to most users here.

How to have a religious discussion with someone when you're not religious?

With this question, it did start out quite broad. apaul's comment saying such came in before the first edit. That said, no close votes were cast until after it was edited to its current state. By the time you posted your answer, there were already three close votes. It attracted the further two for closure later that day but also two leave open votes. It also was voted to reopen by two people.

The initial version of the question was quite broad and lacked a specific example, making it difficult to know what the specific problem was. My comment, I think, is relevant, though... I don't know if it's why people voted to close it. I would think that knowing whether this friend even wants to have these discussions (and how) drastically narrows the question. Without it, we have to cover both possibilities.

But, considering that the answer to "she has no interest in these conversations" or "she has no interest in having non-persuasive conversations" (using your terminology) is "find something else to talk about", it seems like we can ignore that possibility and focus on both parties wanting to have these conversations is a fair assumption and the question could probably be edited to reflect this - if that's why people think it's too broad.

How to explain that you're upset that your girlfriend prefers to stay with her family at Christmas?

In this case, only three of the close votes were "too broad". Two of them were "unclear" and I'm guessing that's because there are problems with the question content that are confusing, likely due to a language barrier:

In previous years she has spent the holiday with her family. She invited me, but I do not know if it was education.

I'm not really sure what that means. Maybe it's irrelevant to the question but it does make me wonder what I'm missing.

We also don't have any sort of culture tag - which may or may not be valuable information - and we have an OP who seems very emotionally invested in wanting to go to a personal family event but hasn't explained why it must be on his terms, at his family party rather than at hers. If there's some explanation for why he can't go to her family party, other than "But your mother was going to be sad.", we are not privy to it.

I'm not sure I understand the three "broad" votes here, though. If we're missing details and contains content that is difficult to comprehend, that seems like "unclear" not "broad".

I do think that both of your answers do a really good job of explaining the situations but, as with any site, answer quality or even answerability doesn't make a question safe from closure. On a site like IPS, what someone considers too broad is going to be very difficult to ascertain, particularly so early in the process.

There are users here who vote to leave open on every review they do, and some nearly the opposite, voting to close nearly every question they review. Neither of these are necessarily bad things but I do think that we need to come together to see what makes a question a good fit for the site in the terms of breadth, clarity, and topicality.

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