I believe the question is self-descriptive but I'll add some comments to it.
The guidelines of the forum state that you should "post only programming-related questions and answers" and "post general discussions and open-ended questions in your feed".
However, I sometimes see off-topic/opinion-based posts and people commenting things like "Please mark this Off-Topic", which seems a little bit against the guidelines.
Some might say (including me) this issue is resolved by posting off-topic questions in the activity feed but with it comes two problems:
1. If a user with few followers posts it then it's highly unlikely someone will see/answer it.
2. Activity feed is only available for Android users.
So my question is: Is it ok if people (both Android and iOS users) mark questions as Off-Topic? If not, what can we do about it?
I like this question. I feel it is well-formed and I'm glad someone is asking. 🙂
Our treatment of off-topic threads can seem confusing, but Fermi has a good grasp of how we mods generally see it (I can't speak for all mods).
A) Off-Topic threads are against the Content Creation Guidelines. This is regardless of whether the user posted it knowingly or not.
B) Mods not marking a thread for deletion doesn't legitimize its presence in the Q&A. This is also true for other types of illegitimate threads.
C) Reasons for leaving a post up might vary. Some possibilities...
- It could be in the gray area (sort of off-topic, could be on-topic), where maybe we could help reword it so that it is more clearly on-topic or maybe we couldn't.
- It could be a legacy post (before the Activity Feed feature was added to the Android app), as Fermi indicated.
//Hummm🤔🤔 Marking [OFF-TOPIC] doesn't mean he /she can post off topic posts,Because guidelines provided by sololearn says "only programming related questions" but as you said post feed is not available for "ios" user and they post General posts on forum, I DON'T in this case what to do🙄🙄
- It could be that we did not catch it before valuable responses were added to the thread and we feel bad taking down worthwhile contributions by answerers (even if the original post itself might not have been).
- It could be that SL (perhaps algorithmically) picked the thread for highlighting in one of their feed posts and we don't want to contradict or interfere with their activities.
- It could be as stated in (2) that the user is on iOS (or web only) and doesn't have an alternative.
... Whatever the thought was, we try to give community members the benefit of the doubt and preserve content that improves the "resource base" (Q&A).
Back to the actual questions:
Is it okay to self-mark a question as off-topic?
What can we do about it?
- Mods are looking forward to the day when (if?) we get a tool for moving off-topic threads into the Activity Feed. That seems to me to be the cleanest solution, especially once the website and/or the iOS version has the Activity Feed feature. Once that happens, don't be surprised if mod duties expand in those areas (which means further clarification of what is appropriate for the Activity Feed area and what isn't via an update to the Content Creation Guidelines).
I hope this helps!
D) I generally feel that not having sufficient followers is not relevant. Q&A's primary purpose is education, not advertising. Even when a post is marked for deletion, if the thread is reposted in the Activity Feed, nicer mods will upvote the relevant post in the user's Activity Feed and comment there, which provides additional exposure through the comment showing up in the mod's Activity Feed for those following the mod to see. That being said, I feel hesitant to do much more than that as I don't want to incentivize breaking Community Guidelines.
E) People who intentionally or unintentionally break Guidelines by posting off-topic threads in the Q&A don't get off "Scott-free." They still get reported, we still log them in our database, and we still track the offenses.
So, basically, we've been in a weird transition period since summer of 2018. But enough on the background stuff.
Having few followers isn't really a legit argument to post off-topic material in the Q&A. That said, I believe some open-ended questions are in the grey area, and moderators most likely give some leeway to healthy (albeit open-ended) discussions. If posting in the feed is available, it makes no sense to post it as a question and mark it as off-topic. It has never been stated in the guidelines that community members are allowed to do that to "legalize" their threads which do not conform to the guidelines. Marking threads as off-topic is more of a legacy artifact left behind by the old days when the guidelines are not properly enforced / before posting in the feed was an option.
P.S. I wonder what is taking so long to push feed posts to iOS. :<
There are two off-topic threads that I know related to: 1) challenges and 2) celebration of achievements that are long-running and considered legit. There is also a "let's stay safe" thread as well which gets occasional bursts of activity.
If you see something that's questionable, just report it. Here's why:
If the thread is confirmed off-topic, the report is categorized as an offense in our database. If the report isn't off-topic, the report is recategorized as dismissed. Gold mods and above make this decision. Regular ("gray/silver") mods report much like regular users might, except that those reports tend to be (in most cases, not necessarily all cases) higher quality.
That being said, it's really helpful to include notes in reports -- any evidence you have, which specific guideline is being violated and why you think so. Due to human nature, clear (high quality) reports tend to get processed relatively quickly because they are easiest and most efficient to parse.
I hope this helps alleviate concerns over potentially handing out unqualified demerits.
PS: My understanding is that mods are not (currently) privy to reports submitted using the in-app reporting feature, so I can't really say how SL administrators handle those.
Thank you all for your answers.
I still have one question (especially for the mods). As Janning said, the definition of off-topic might vary from people to people. What I sometimes do with non-sense questions is report them as off-topic, but I don't usually mess up with open-based or somehow interesting (yet off-topic) discussions.
So, should people report these types of questions based on their own criteria, based on the Community Creation Guidelines, or not report them at all and wait for the mods to take action?
Please keep in mind that reporting a question leaves a mark for the user in SL's database (or so I've read).