I don't get how these are "too basic".

How are


  • 6
    How can one know the secrets that Marco Polo took to the grave? May 11 '20 at 21:32
  • Re: Why didn't the FBI monitor bankrupt (former) employees more watchfully?, I'd think that picking a specific, particularly suspicious individual to ask about would do the trick.
    – Semaphore Mod
    May 12 '20 at 3:47

OK, usual caveat: What follows is my personal opinion. Please ignore any moderator diamond you see after my name

I did vote to close the first three questions as the "5th vote", so my moderator "super-vote" did not play a part, so I can at least explain why I voted to close in those cases.

For the first question, I think that my comment there is actually the answer:

Probably because of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution? I doubt that filing for bankruptcy constitutes probable cause.

Or, put another way, the FBI has to operate within the confines of the US Constitution. I would say that fact is pretty 'basic' in this context, and something that really should have come up in your prior research before you posted the question here. So I voted to close the question as "Too basic". However, I decided to wait until four other users had voted to close before voting myself - mainly because I think closing questions should be a community decision wherever possible.

Now, if you don't understand why that answers your question, then I'd suggest that you should probably have asked for clarification when I posted the comment, or alternatively perhaps, asked that question on Law:SE.

The second question also seems to be answered by a comment:

There were Allied troops in much of Germany. Hard to fake that.

That seems to be the obvious answer. Large scale Allied armies, coupled with the destruction they frequently left in their wake, are indeed hard to fake.

Now, if you find that insufficient, then perhaps you need to edit your question to explain why you find the obvious answer yo be insufficient, and what more you are looking for.

For your third question, as Rodrigo de Azevedo observed in a comment here:

How can one know the secrets that Marco Polo took to the grave?

More specifically, how would you know that any answer was correct? Or equally, whether it was incorrect? And, as our Help Centre states, you should:

"... avoid asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid"

In other words, don't ask questions where the answers are going to be based solely on users' opinions. I really have no suggestions for how you could make this question on-topic.

I didn't vote to close the last question, but I agree with the reason given by those who did.

The subsection of your question "Research on the origins of Sun Tzu and Art of War" clearly states the problem inherent in your question:

"... the origins of the work that are shrouded in mystery. The author may or may not be historical; the manuscript tradition is fraught with difficulties; the text itself was summarized by Robin Yates as "terse and obscure" and by Victor Mair as "extraordinarily terse and maddeningly obscure"."

All of which raises the (to me) obvious question, if we don't know the origins of the work, how can we possibly answer how it was widely circulated (never mind why), other than with opinions?

So once again (imo), we have a question where every answer (within reason) is equally valid, and, as stated above, questions like that are generally not considered to be a good fit with SE.


First, welcome to the site. You've asked some questions and supported (most of them) with research. Thank you for raising the question in meta - the only way we can examine our culture and make it more welcoming, and more effective in generating the site we want is to explicitly discuss these questions in meta.

What follows are my personal opinions & observations; as my colleague says, please ignore the diamond. I'm only offering these because you asked, and I hope in the spirit of welcome. To the best of my memory, I did not cast a close vote on any of the questions.

  • Why didn't the FBI monitor bankrupt (former) employees more watchfully? contains the phrase, "Wasn't it obvious . . . " , which suggests to me that you're looking for a discussion, not for an answer. You've got enough research in the question to indicate that you've thought about it and done work, but you've chosen not to examine this assumption. I could be completely wrong - I'm just providing feedback on how the question struck me.

  • How long did it take Jews in hiding; contains no preliminary research.

  • Marco Polo said on his deathbed, "I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed." What didn't he disclose? Why? " - my first reaction was "How could we know?" my second reaction was "Even if there were an answer, how would we tell if it was a total fabrication" My third reaction was, "This is further evidence that Marco Polo was willing to subvert even his death in the service of his own ego." At that point I classified the question as "this isn't interesting", and only skimmed the rest. I will admit that I was impressed by the research you did to try to form the question, but it Marco Polo's questionable relationship with the truth, and the dim prospect of an authoritative answer left me with the desire to move on.

  • Sun Tzu - I skimmed this because I lack the scholarship to engage; the premise of the question seemed to be a false dichotomy - I can imagine several reasons to write the Art of War, and it seems to me that if I were a scholar of that period/area, it would be relatively easy to construct and test hypothesis. ( I should note in passing that there are several of us on the stack who would like to see more non-Western history questions; I just didn't find this one compelling).

One other observation - several of these questions generated long comment strings - which is a signal of a question that is in trouble. Another anti-pattern that isn't obvious - you participated in the discussion. When the original poster replies in comments, that generally indicates a desire for discussion/debate/argument, and is correlated with question closure. The better pattern is to update the question to address the issues raised in comments.

We are a difficult stack exchange. History is a science, and we expect much of the same rigor and discipline from our questions that you would expect from a hard science/coding stack exchange. Many people come here and get tripped up by gaps in cultural expectations. I wish that I knew a way to thread the gap between welcoming new members with new topics and new interests on the one hand, and on the other hand preserving

I dashed this off quickly, sharing impressions - none of them should reflect on you personally; they are just subjective impressions, not finished judgments. I felt that if you had gone to the trouble of raising the question in meta, I owed you the courtesy of a response.

  • Thanks very much for the welcome. "History is a science" .... hmmmmmmm .... anyone want to chime in?
    – Swansea
    May 27 '20 at 23:47

Your questions aren't "basic." Instead, they are fundamentally sophisticated, which is why you need to take extra care to explain exactly what you are asking. This, in turn requires both understanding and articulation of the key points of your questions.

In the "Jews" question, a "trivial" response was that it was safe for them to reveal themselves when the Allied troops arrived. As it turns out, the issue was more complicated than that because the Germans used subterfuge to thwart Allied controls. But you would do best to state the general rule that hat it was safe for them to reveal themselves when the Allied troops arrived, and then ask for exceptions to the rule.

In the Sun Tzu question, it depends e.g. one whether "the Art of War" was produced at one time and place, or over a long time and multiple locations, possibly by multiple people. If it was the first, one writer in one year for one king, then it's logical to assume that the king wanted to keep this knowledge for himself. The other possibility was that it was "compiled" over many years, possibly in multiple locations, and by various authors. Given its dissemination, the latter is more likely, but you should address both of these scenarios and then ask under what conditions the "Art of War" was produced.

Likewise, in your FBI question, you should ask about "standard" FBI procedure and then for a comparison of how the FBI maintained surveillance on Ronald Pelton compared to others (e.g. Jonathan Pollard). In another question about English constitutional assemblies, I referred you to the French example for comparison. You appeared not to understand, meaning that you had no basis for comparison. You don't need to know "everything" about a particular topic, but you need to know "something" so that you are not starting from ground zero.

It has occurred to me that you do not always fully understand the questions that you are asking. You do seem to have a "nose" for interesting issues, but you rely heavily on outside sources to articulate these issues. For some of your questions, you should wait until you have a better grasp of the underlying issues before asking about them.

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