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The following is not my own opinion so much as it's my rendering into words the unworded guidelines that I think Mi Yodeya has been following for quite some time. It's posted without my moderator hat on. I welcome your comments (arguments for/against rendering the guidelines into words altogether; arguments for/against the inclusion of any part of what I've written; suggestions for refinement of the statement; rotten tomatoes; etc.) in the answers below.

I'm hoping a refined version of this can be a FAQ entry. (Please also comment in answers below on why it shouldn't be, if that's what you think.)


Suppose a question post can be interpreted as seeking practical guidance, whether halachic or other, about a scenario. And suppose the scenario in that post combines two (or more) aspects into one, not because they're intrinsically or frequently related but, seemingly, only because they happen to coincide in a case that has arisen. Then we should close that question (and perhaps can use the p'sak-seeking standard closure reason).

I have three arguments for this; in no particular order:

  1. Questions should be of general interest. A question that's specific to an individual's situation just isn't interesting to others.
  2. Askers shouldn't rely on Mi Yodeya for practical guidance. A question that's specific to an individual's situation is more likely to be used to that end.
  3. Questions should invite answers. When a question involves multiple unrelated issues, potential answerers will be tempted to address only one or some of those issues and thus give partial answers.

However, an exception can be made if the situation that has arisen and led to the question is a famous one. There, my argument #1 fails (the question is of general interest), #2 fails (the question is about a famous case, not the asker's case), and #3 stands.

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    I think furthermore, questions about too specific an unusual situation are unlikely to have source-able answers because no one recorded has ever (likely) really talked about that case before. – Double AA Oct 20 '15 at 17:35
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    @DoubleAA, yeah, and that's kind of the same as my #3: each aspect of the complicated scenario may have relevant sources, but the whole thing won't. Therefore, people will be tempted to answer only one aspect. – msh210 Oct 20 '15 at 17:44
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    Note of caution: It would be a shame if a standard like this became the basis for people reflexively voting to close any question that's at all complex. Also, I think there probably ought to be explicit dispensation for when the question post contains clear motivation for why one may expect the two (or more) aspects to interact uniquely, which could justify their combination independent of the case that brought them together. – Isaac Moses Oct 20 '15 at 17:55
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    I agree with both your points, @IsaacMoses. I suggest you post an answer (or two) below. – msh210 Oct 20 '15 at 17:56
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    @msh210 I'll post an answer eventually. Quick-taking right now. Do you want one answer per point, or should I put all of my thoughts into one answer? Next thought: depending on how this policy ends up, it may be worthwhile to tweak the wording of the RfP closure reason to explicitly encompass it, to reduce confusion when that's used for this. – Isaac Moses Oct 20 '15 at 18:05
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    @IsaacMoses re "Do you want one answer per point, or should I put all of my thoughts into one answer?": I'd think the former, but whatever you deem best. – msh210 Oct 20 '15 at 18:06
  • I disagree on principle that famous scenarios should get exceptions (or, more to the point, that non-famous ones shouldn't)--but not sure of a way around it. – SAH Nov 26 '15 at 1:56
  • Similar: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1786 – msh210 May 13 '16 at 15:32
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My "gut" impression (meaning, that I may well change my mind on this after my Shabbat chulent :-) - I'm not keen on the VTC reason. It seems that readers may be too judgmental on terming something "complex". Specifically:

Criteron 1 - I get that general rule. Then again, a unique scenario actually MAY be useful to the public and it may well be exactly for the reason that it IS unusual. It gets readers to analyze and think about such situations. Who says that this site has to answer only what is "common" and what we readily know how to answer? How many "unique" scenario questions have we had to research and we learned something while doing so? I think we need to keep an open mind to unique scenarios and evaluate how that MAY happen to others. And, who will or how can that be decided?

Criterion 2 - OK. I think we state that in our overall policy, and I think many (most?) participants understand that. How would we know either way?

Criterion 3 - This is the only one I completely agree with. But, see my comments to criteria 1. Also, I think you need to view the bigger picture, here. The voting and commenting on a Q already seem to do a lot of the job on questions. (Sometimes, commenters and moderators "nag" and get annoying, and I include myself in that group.) But, when a question is closed, that ends the chance to answer at all, and stops the question, pretty much, in its tracks. If you do that enough to new-comers, or new-comers browse through questions closed for that reason, I think, you may scare away a number of potential well-qualified participants. We're not such an "elite" group, here, are we?

I may be way wrong on some or all of these points. As stated - pre-chulent gut feeling.

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