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While reading the question

What were the main causal forces leading to rise of fascist movement and fascist government in Germany?

I see this now closed - after almost 4 years in "open" existence (let's ignore the very short closed for "primarily opinion based period)- with two answers posted, and the stated close reason now:

put on hold as off-topic […] 3 hours ago

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is too basic; it can be definitively answered by a single link to the relevant topic on Wikipedia or another standard reference source. If you are instead questioning the correctness of a reference source, please edit the post to supply a link and explain what you find unclear, or why you believe it to be wrong or incomplete." (list of five users, incl one mod)

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Well, I quite fundamentally disagree with this.

The recent edit to the question was in my opinion quite superfluous but it didn't change the question to now being off-topic. If the edit would cause this, it has to be rolled back.

The question quality is far from stellar. I further would now still agree to the first round of closing, that is, solely to the reason given: that answers will be quite heavily opinion based. But I wouldn't count that as a valid close reason either, since on SE there is bad subjective and good subjective. Reasoned opinion based answers that argue with valid data points and references are fine with me. That should really be a standard approach here. But enough of that bickering about the example in details.


The problem I see here is that we close a question (while often it's said that this is frowned upon if there are answers posted, btw) with such a reason given.

This question is in my opinion very far from too basic. It is a very complicated topic with very different schools of thought and varying approaches.

On the other hand, if it is so much "too basic":

  • Why aren't there answers that pick the easy fruit and answer it properly?
  • Why isn't there a comment indicating which single Wikipedia or definitive reference source answers this?

Neither do I see a comment explaining which single resource is meant with the close reason, nor do I get a satisfactory result if I put this question into a search engine.


Note: I do not want to argue over the merits of the question or the deficiencies of the answers. This is not about observing a 'wrong close reason' (but: it is wrong in this case). This is also not about the particular question as such. It is a mere example of the "single link" explaining the close reason better missing from the thread.

Shouldn't we strive to provide at least a comment that actually gives the

single link to the relevant topic on Wikipedia or another standard reference source.

before the first "too basic" vote goes up? Or at least after the fifth rolled in?


I am aware that this has a big problem: it calls basically for "a link only answer in comments." But for once this should also avoid a few things:

  1. it provides common ground for would be close/leave-open voters
  2. it explains the close reason better
  3. there are different search engines out there, and especially Google gives strange results (non reproducible, geo censored, alterations based on cookies etc), so the first few links of any given search with defined search terms aren't guaranteed to give the same results for everyone. Then it's often a matter of choosing the right search terms
  4. ideally it should not just 'answer' the question, but give further hints on how to improve the question?
    From memory, the most popular way to avoid "answering" the question in comments seems to be to re-phrase that 'answer' as "Isn't that fully addressed in [WP-link]?"

–––

On this: Why did Oliver Cromwell ban Christmas in 1644? I tried the proposed approach above (gving the single link), but since I as well really saw no way to improve this out of actual "too basic" territory, I stopped short before requesting more from OP. That there is now an "answer-as-comment" is a detriment. Still hopig for an idea that finds workable common ground for this.

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    From the first page of results returned when I copied & pasted the question into Google: The Rise of Fascism in Germany and Its Causes. – sempaiscuba Nov 25 '19 at 16:32
  • Yep. I read that and the account is 22 pages long but still missing vital angles of the analysis. It presents statistics, but misses out on interpretation. Even if it were "the link", it is nowhere in that thread? – LаngLаngС Nov 25 '19 at 16:35
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    Which I'd say is fair criticism of that chapter. But that should be included as part of the question. At least that would show evidence of prior research. As it stands, that paper appears to answer the question that was asked. And from our Help Centre, Questions answered by a simple Google search or to be found in a Wikipedia page are explicitly off-topic. – sempaiscuba Nov 25 '19 at 16:42
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    Also I agree this question should be rolled back. It has nothing to do wtih the original, is not even a question anymore and invalidates the only answer so far. (Q: What were the ingredients of [...] A: Definitely yes. WTF ?!?) – Bregalad Dec 6 '19 at 15:45
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I'm emphatically ambivalent.

On the one hand, providing that link provides an incentive to the behavior we want to discourage. It rewards more poor questions and wastes our time.

On the other hand, ... withholding the answer to a question because it is too basic is... perhaps the word I'm looking for is patronizing (the first word that came to mind was 'jerk').

That said, it is apparent that I come down pretty hard on the SE convention that all questions should show evidence of preliminary research or they should be closed early. @sempaiscuba's comment above is, I think, the right response:

Which I'd say is fair criticism of [ The risk of Fascism in Germany and its Causes ] . But that should be included as part of the question. At least that would show evidence of prior research. As it stands, that paper appears to answer the question that was asked. And from our Help Centre, Questions answered by a simple Google search or to be found in a Wikipedia page are explicitly off-topic.

Italicized portion edited to make a reference clear Quoted because comments are barn cats and Q & A should stand alone without reference to comments.

On the third (gripping ) hand, I find the structure of this question confusing. This question contains multiple interwoven questions that need separate answers.

  1. The question in the title is what I chose to answer. How should we deal with situations where we know the answer, but the OP should have looked it up on their own. @LangLangC reminds me of the distinction between a lazy question (OP expects us to do research because OP is too lazy to do so) and hapless question. Without diving too deeply into the second category, I will admit that if OP has made almost any effort to do research, or even just stated, "I tried to google this but drowned in the noise", I think we should answer. There are many things that can complicate research, and if OP has made an effort, I'm willing to leverage that effort to go further.

  2. The second question is whether the referenced question on fascism was too basic (I abstained from that one because I think that the sample size of fascism is so low that no answer is reliable). I think the referenced question should have been closed because in the absence of high quality scholarship it is subjective/opinion related. I had expected it to generate more discussion than education. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. (We could discuss bad subjective good subjective here, but doing so in the middle of a complaint that the question has too many components would be hypocritical on my part; I'll save time by stipulating that you'd carry the point.)

  3. The third question is how we should behave once the first answer arrives. In my opinion, assuming the answer is of any quality whatsoever, we should leave the question open. My issue with basic questions is that they waste time, but if someone has chosen to invest that time, then we should acknowledge the invested time. More generally how do we adapt our behavior in response to events like first answer, first comment, first close request, etc. I doubt that there is a good answer to this - it is a valid concern, but I don't have much hope that we can provide a constructive answer.

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  • Yeah, this question is 'difficult' to salvage, but just an example. It has numerous problems and OP seems away from keyboards? // The "patronising" thing is really not what I thought of, but a very valid point. There are lazy Qs, but also honestly hapless Qs. In the latter case a genuine Q comes along, we say too easy (no further clues except for "Google it, man!"), leaving OPs really none the wiser. I really thought this ought to be nudging away from laziness 'and' improving helpful communication for OP and voters. – LаngLаngС Nov 25 '19 at 17:16
  • @LаngLаngС Generally, I'm not in favour of closing questions with upvoted answers, but the question has been so heavily edited that Anixx's answer makes no sense any more. All in all, the whole thing is a mess - a good reason for closing I think. Perhaps someone could pick up the ball here with a new question, but not easy to phrase I think. There's nothing to stop you from posing the question and answering it yourself. Closing this one hasn't cost anyone any reputation so no harm done there at least. – Lars Bosteen Nov 25 '19 at 23:14
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    @LarsBosteen My problem with leaving questions that are off-topic open just because they have upvoted answers is that it makes it harder to explain to new users why their questions were closed. When they ask "Why was my question closed but this similar one is left open?" (assuming both are off-topic for the same reason), the answer basically boils down to "Because nobody could be bothered to answer your off-topic question". – sempaiscuba Nov 25 '19 at 23:27
  • @sempaiscuba Yes, good point, though maybe we should give some consideration to the quality of the answer? All in all, I don't think there's an ideal solution which will cover all the bases / make everyone happy. To qualify what I commented before, I wouldn't argue with closing questions which are too basic even if they do have good answers (as long as they are not also deleted). – Lars Bosteen Nov 26 '19 at 0:30
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    @LarsBosteen Personally, I don't think so. An answer that has been upvoted means that the question will remain on the site indefinately (i.e. not be removed by the SE Roomba process ), but that doesn't make the question itself on-topic. Under those circumstances, I think the question really should still be closed. – sempaiscuba Nov 26 '19 at 0:40
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The close reason shown by the system is merely the close reason with the most votes. Also, if there's a match, for example 2 VTC for off-topic, 2 VTC for primarly opinion based and 1 VTC for too broad... you don't even know which one of the first two the system will show.

So if the system shows that quesiton closed for "off-topic", it could be that only two people (rather than 5) have voted to close with "off-topic" as a reason.

Also you have to remember that the "too basic" close reason, sub-category of off-topic, didn't exist a couple of years ago and was introduced recently.

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  • That's indeed worth to keep in mind. However, assuming the close reason given is either 'correct' or just 'the one chosen by the auto-system': there were people voting that as 'too basic'. If they stick around (imo likely if they review vote) one of them should give that "single link"? – LаngLаngС Dec 6 '19 at 15:41
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    It's worth noting that the new post notices went live network-wide yesterday. – sempaiscuba Dec 6 '19 at 17:33
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Lately I think the use of 'too basic' for a reason of closure has been ballooning. There are two to three questions daily where people are trying to use the "too basic" criterion as a close modifier.

I've therefore adapted my behaviour:

  • If I don't see the single link provided, I vote to keep open.
  • However, if I start the close process using this reason, I also provide the link to provide proof of the claim that there is a single link.

I think this is useful because unless a single link is actually provided, there is no guarantee that there actually is a single link. If someone thinks that there's one, but they don't provide it, their claim is unsupported and shouldn't be upheld.

I understand the reason given above where providing this link "rewards laziness", but I'd err on the side of caution.

Also, as everyone seems to use a slightly different criterion of "single link" (as discussed elsewhere, for some it's Google, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc), these results are location-dependent as well as highly variable. That someone else can find something on Google doesn't mean that I can find it on Google as easily. Similarly, not everyone is clued up on the use of clever search terms (and while we may want people to be, we can't blame them for it). Even Wikipedia has thousands of pages that one wouldn't think to access (e.g., Italy in 1345), but in many cases these are very difficult to find—for example, my search for "1345 in Italy" didn't lead me to that page; similarly, searching for Maria the Crazy didn't bring me to Maria of Portugal in one instance but it did in another.

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  • In our Help centre, the criteria for questions that are "too basic" is given as "Questions answered by a simple Google search or to be found in a Wikipedia page". You seem to be ignoring the first part of that (which was the reason I voted to close the question cited here - see my comment on the question). Unfortunately, citing that Google search comes uncomfortably close to saying "Let me Google that for you", which is generally perceived as unfriendly and unwelcoming. – sempaiscuba Jul 7 at 13:58
  • @sempaiscuba: The problem with Google is that the results are location specific. What you will find in one search won't match what I will find in one. If Person A can get the result in one search, but Person B can't, it's not fair to close that question only because of the location where it is being asked from. But, that would require evidence of previous results to be shown (a different close reason -- "needs details" -- no?). – gktscrk Jul 7 at 15:01
  • No, it isn't a different close reason. Yes, the location-specific nature of Google (and other search-engine) results is a problem. This has been discussed elsewhere on meta. As I said in my answer there, if I find the question is answered by a simple Google search, then I'm going to assume that the same would be true for the OP, and the question is therefore "Too basic", "... unless they have documented their research to show that they did search and didn't get the same hits on whatever search engine they are using." – sempaiscuba Jul 7 at 15:08
  • We have had a number of questions that fail the "Too basic" test posted recently by what appear to be troll / sock-puppet accounts. Unfortunately, some of these have now been answered, and even upvoted, meaning that we are stuck with those questions (the SE Roomba process won't remove them if they have upvotes or answers with a positive score), and that those accounts now have additional privileges on the site. – sempaiscuba Jul 7 at 15:11

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