I have in mind two questions, largely the same in content and approach, but for which I offered opposing opinions on voting to close:

Is this a known Interpersonal “Anti-Skill”, if avoided could de-escalate conflict—or could it be original? I call it “barking” was a request for a word (or verification of whether or not a suitable word exists) which I voted to close.

I commented on this in the question itself and the associated post on meta, but my essential position was that word requests are off-topic here, and the question could only be definitively answered by someone who happened to have appropriate subject matter knowledge which is not really associated with this stack. I further thought that the homemade descriptions used in the question would make it difficult for the question to be useful in the future. There was a fair amount of IPS members that felt the question was on-topic.

Male-male dominance/status challenge is essentially the same type of question. But in this case I happened to have the requisite background to know the answer.

I think that we should consider codifying a stack-wide policy on these sorts of questions. My main issue is that, with the right background, these questions may be on-topic in the end but that determination can only be made post hoc. A collective "No one here knows" is not a definitive answer, and so a question like the former example might dangle forever, unresolved.

In the case of the latter question, that I could supply the answer gives it (potentially) more value to future users as it now contains the correct term and (in my opinion) sufficiently general descriptions in the question itself that it might be found by someone interested in the topic.

There's a problem with questions that are valid for the stack only in the case of a correct answer being provided-- we've little ability to know in advance if this will ever happen, and so a question being invalid due to the lack of an answer at some particular moment might be closed even though it could become valid despite the question not being able to stand on its own. We won't be able to know which questions belong to which category and so dealing with this on a case-by-case basis seems like it will be messy.

My personal feeling is that we should formally decline these sorts of questions. The alternative would seem to be that lots of hard-to-value questions (not necessarily valueless) will suffuse the site. A "consensus" approach, as we seem to have now, will lead to cases where questions I can't answer seem like they should be closed, while those I can will seem "good enough". We presumably don't want any boat-programming style questions, but the line between sufficient and insufficient relation to IPS seems unclear.

Should we take a blanket stance on these types of questions, and if so what should that stance be?

2 Answers 2


Should we take a blanket stance on these types of questions, and if so what should that stance be?

I'm going to advocate against having 'identification-request' type questions. It's going to be hard to determine which ones are about identifying interpersonal skills, and which ones are just about situations or character traits. I think your answer to that other meta is pretty accurate. In the past, we've discussed terminology, research and theory questions in a few posts already:

I find the one on terminology especially interesting, as it mentions the reverse side of this: A word is given and the community is asked for the explanation. The answers to that seem to suggest people would be happy to do so, even though being an introvert or shy isn't a great example (neither are an interpersonal skill, though they may have their influence on your interpersonal skills).

Despite those discussions on having a more 'scientific' side to IPS, I really don't want this site flooded with 'I did X/Someone did Y, now how shall I call that?'. For me, they're not good subjective questions (more 'primarily opinion-based'), and they're not great 'objective' questions either, due to how language works. As answers on sites like ELU or ELL to e.g. 'word-choice' questions show, there's often still more than 1 possible word or phrase that can be used, so the premise of there being a 'definitive answer' doesn't really hold for questions asking to name a thing.

The example question shows this too: The words mentioned at the beginning of that question, IMO, can all be used to label what is happening in the described situation (I'm not a native speaker though), yet OP apparently wasn't happy with them. Still, they managed to describe a situation and we all seem to understand what they were talking about. So I don't see much difference with a phrasing request, with asking 'give me a/another way of saying this'.

Instead, questions like you're suggested in your answer might be better. The identification request may very well obscure an XY problem, so leaving a comment asking why they want to know this and if we can help them further with the situation instead of the word used to describe it, is always good.


TL&DR; These questions shouldn't ever be on topic here because there's already a stack for them, and making them on topic here would require considerable reevaluation of our rules and moderation.

Yes, there are circumstances where questions could potentially go either way (we often see questions about workplace interpersonal skills that could be valid both here on IPS and on the Workplace Stack), but in the case of language requests there are more concrete reasons as to why the answer should flat out be "no".

1. These questions are not about practicing interpersonal skills, which is what all of our rules, moderation, and premise revolve around.

The structure of this stack (rules, moderation, etc) revolve around the concept that questions/answers here are seeking help with the use of an interpersonal skill. Allowing questions that are essentially language assistance requests (themed about interpersonal interactions/skills) breaks a lot of those rules. For example, how do we enforce the 'back it up' rule for questions with definitive, one-off answers? We already have enough trouble communicating the absolute necessity of the back it up rule, imagine what kind of restructure and readjustment we would have to do to accommodate entirely different question types - it's just not worth it, especially because of the second reason:

2. There's already a stack that is excellent for answering questions like the ones above.

ELU is the best place for these questions, hands down. Not only is that where the most credible sources to answer questions like these reside, but this stack already has the proper rules and moderation in place for questions like these. When a stack already exists to do exactly what would take us considerable effort to put in scope on our stack, why would we change?

So no, I don't think there's ever going to be a situation where we should allow these questions. We have a lot of trouble defining our rules as is and having people understand and follow them - we don't need to introduce rules to allow questions that would be better suited for an entirely different stack.

  • I don't think your second point is a good reason that these types of questions should be off topic here. While I wholeheartedly agree that they shouldn't be on topic due to reason 1, the existence of a different stack where a question is on topic should not be used as a reason to make it off topic here. We have an entire tag of questions about the work environment. Those questions would be just as on topic on TWP, but that doesn't invalidate them being here. We've had a few instances recently where folks have tried to close work related questions because "TWP would be better". 1/2
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:09
  • 1
    All of these attempts have been stopped by the community specifically for the reason that whether or not a question is on topic elsewhere has no bearing on whether it is on topic here. 2/2
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .