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An answer to a question popped up recently that gave instructions on how to configure certain settings on PHPBB.

https://communitybuilding.stackexchange.com/a/378/148

So, to preempt "How do I destroy a user from my {forum backend name} system" type questions, would we consider these to be on-topic for this site?

It could open the door to lots of software support queries, but they would be specific queries from moderators wanting to know how to do a certain mod task, which may well be on-topic in general.

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    To be fair, that question didn't really ask how to use the tools. The answer just included the steps on how to use the tools. The questions seem a bit iffy, but an answer saying "You could do this and here's how" seems perfectly acceptable. – animuson Jul 31 '14 at 18:53
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    @animuson oh yeah, the question isn't what prompted this post. I just saw that answer and thought "hmm, this sort of thing is probably worth discussing on meta incase we start getting actual questions about tool usage". My thought being it'll be useful to have a meta post to link to should people start commenting that it is / isn't on topic. – JonW Jul 31 '14 at 20:13
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I think these should be considered on-topic as these questions are specific enough to be given useful advice, but not too specific where "ask the site owner" is the only option.

It can be a good resource when documentation isn't available, doesn't cover the wanted cases, or isn't adequate for some other reason. These questions can be a helpful resource and have the bonus of driving people to the site from search engines.

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This was discussed in the definition phase.

Q:

How should questions concerning moderation with a specific application be handled? Say for example, if I had some technical question about Reddit or vBulletin that was about a moderation tool. Should they be included and tagged per-platform, sent to another SE such as the Web Applications Stack Exchange, or perhaps some other solution?

A:

I agree the answers should differ because of context. Webapps may give you a very detailed answer how given moderation tool works from technical point of view. Moderators would advise how and when to use the tool, which kind of conflicts it helps to resolve, what risks it bears and how to apply it efficiently.

This is a bit like Physics vs Electrical Engineering: Physics tells you the intricacies of how an oscilloscope works. Electrical Engineering tells you how to troubleshoot a faulty circuit using the oscilloscope.

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  • It's a tricky subject really. You could end up with this site becoming a support site for vBulletin or something, which won't be of much use to lots of people. A bit like issues graphicdesign.stackexchange had / have with all the PhotoShop queries. – JonW Jul 31 '14 at 15:52
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    @JonW: Moderator tools are a relatively small subset of tools community sites provide, and - looking at the current site profile, it's not like we're about to get overwhelmed with these. OTOH, I believe questions "How to use [tool] efficiently / to resolve [problem]" will be quite valuable vs common "what does [tool] do?" – SF. Jul 31 '14 at 17:35
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I would suggest the following guidelines.


Questions that could be exhaustively answered by reference to software documentation or a technical manual should be considered outside of the scope of this site. For example:

How do I add users to a PHPBB3.0 usergroup?

Sure, someone here probably has the answer, but asking this question here would be like walking into an IEEE conference and asking someone to show you how to use your blender. It distracts from the site's focus on working with users and communities and is not the sort of question we want to encourage.

I would feel perfectly comfortable closing this as off-topic. It's not at all broad or subjective and the question is clear, but it doesn't add anything of value to this site and it's not high quality enough to warrant migration.

Here's an equally technical but more involved question:

Is there a way to animate the background image on my subreddit so that it moves when the user scrolls through the questions?

There's still a good chance that someone here can answer this question, and there are arguments to be made for hosting such questions here. Most notably, a community full of moderators is likely to include people who have used the particular system being asked about.

That being said, provided the question is neither answered nor crap, I'd be comfortable closing it as off-topic or migrating it to a site like StackOverflow or SuperUser. It's still not really about moderation or community building because the people and the community are totally irrelevant - the only thing that matters here is the equipment.


On the other hand, questions that are looking to achieve a certain outcome expressed in terms of the community or its members given the use of a particular software or system are really not about the software or the system. These are questions about working with the community and should be considered on-topic, even when they identify specific technical problems or call for technical answers; for example:

Is there a way to reward users on a vBulletin message board for being active and helpful, like the badges on Stack Exchange?

On its surface, this question could be read as request for technical help - "How can I implement badges on vBulletin?" But implementing badges is just one possible approach to the desired outcome identified in the question.

The question can easily be answered in ways that aren't specific to vBulletin but will solve the asker's problem given the constraint of having to work with vBulletin. The real question being asked is, "How do I reward users for contributing to my community?" The added context only improves the question by narrowing its scope, such that the best answers will identify a generally applicable solution along with specific instructions for applying that solution in the asker's environment.

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