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I've been on this site for quite a while now, but there's something that keeps bugging me. This might sound a reminiscent of the reform of the whole StackOverflow site that happened a while back.

It seems like, with so many restrictions on what people may ask questions about, and what questions are considered "good", that many people really aren't getting the thought they deserve. For example, one fellow earlier asked some basic, but a bit naive questions about 2.8. Instead of being answered in a constructive way, or asking for clarification, this person was responded to in the comments simply with "Please put this in a bug report. We do not deal with experimental versions of Blender." This is just a drop in a much bigger ocean of... unhelpfulness that I see here. Now - I'm not saying commenting asking for clarification, or explaining nicely why the question is unconsequential is a bad thing. But,

It feels like some of this community's guidelines encourage pushing questions away, rather then answering them, which is the exact purpose of this site. In the previous example, why does blender 2.8 need to be completely shunned? Why shouldn't this fellow have gotten at least moment of our thought? There's nothing inherently wrong about many of the "don't do this" rules out there, and there are people who get rejected because of this. Obviously, some 2.8 questions are indeed out of our reach. But not all are, and trying to use 2.8 and being confused shouldn't make a user inherently less deserving of our help.

One of the things about this site that is attractive to this site, for newer users, is the quick and efficient way to get assistance and knowledge. They don't have to invest time into other, more thorough communities. I believe there's a beauty in that. But, a lot of people here don't have other places to ask. Many are working in isolation - except for this site, and YouTube videos. Nowhere else to go, nowhere else to ask. For a long time, I wasn't aware of other blender communities. This was it. And to see some people seen as rabble on this site, just because they don't know what's "appropriate", or have nowhere else to ask, is saddening.

So, how can this community be helpful to more people? Rules are good, and a necessary asset for any community. But I believe helping people should be priority, rather than using rules as an excuse to not help people who might have no other sources. For some of things, it would actually be faster to give a quick 4 word answer, rather than say: "I'm voting to close this as off topic because"

What are your thought's on this? Can we be a more positive community? Is there anything we collectively can do to become a more positive, inclusive, and helpful group?

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    $\begingroup$ Hello leo. Let me just comment about the very example that inspired your post, as a clarification (since I'm involved). I was the one saying "maybe a bug report is more appropriate" because after having tried to give an helpful workaround to the user, I realised that they were indeed right: the feature they needed wasn't there. I did answer the question showing my findings and experiments (even if the question was already voted as off-topic by other users) and I said: "you're right in considering this a broken feature, so you should file a bug report". I really was trying to be helpful $\endgroup$ – Nicola Sap Sep 23 '18 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ (And I've answered several 2.8 related questions in the past week. I've agreed that that one was probably off topic because -- after investigation -- it looked like a bug to me) $\endgroup$ – Nicola Sap Sep 23 '18 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ No hard feelings towards you, that post is really just what had gotten me thinking and helped me put a finger on what $\endgroup$ – Dr. Farquaad Sep 24 '18 at 1:34
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TL;DR This site is not a support forum, its a knowledge base. Therefore, restrictions on what is considered useful content need to stay. However, users feelings should not be hurt during this process.

The reason there are all these strange rules to what can be posted and not posted is that the primary purpose of StackExchange is not providing answers for questions askers. That might sound a bit crazy, but bear with me.

I don't know about everyone else here, but for every question I ask on StackExchange, I find at least a hundred existing ones that are useful to me. For example, I have posted only a handful of times on StackOverflow, yet I use it daily. The point is I use it as a place to find knowledge, not so much as a place to ask questions. It serves as an encyclopedia, not a support forum. This is key. The purpose of posting questions and answers is to build that encyclopedia for posterity, for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, or in some cases hundreds of thousands of people who will find your post when they search the web for knowledge.

In fact, the original problem StackExchange was designed to solve was that answers were hard to find traditional discussion forums aimed at support. You had to dig through pages or rambling back and forth to find information. The curation and ease of access to information is the entire reason this network exists, and must not be sacrificed.

Seeing StackExchange as an encyclopedia for future readers diminishes the role of the actual poster. A question is simply a statement that a topic needs to be covered in this encyclopedia. When you view questions as such, you can see how so many questions are viewed as "bad." For example, questions about pre-release builds such as 2.8 can quickly become clutter that makes searching the encyclopedia difficult to search. Many answers will rapidly (within days in some cases) become out of date1, meaning that users will have to click through them to find up to date information, wasting time. Long term, these entries are not valuable in our encyclopedia.

The point is, close votes, and downvotes are a way of curating the entries in this encyclopedia, to try and filter out the clutter and keep the knowledge base lean and relevant. All those restrictions are helpful guidelines as to what will be useful to posterity. The curation processes, and posts that go unanswered are part of the price that is paid to make this information easy to accesses.

However, I do strongly agree with you that an effort should be made to be nicer during the curation processes. To much curation appears to be a criticism of posters themselves, rather than a statement that a particular question will not be a good fit for the knowledge base. Too many question askers are not directed to support forums better suited to assisting them, or worse, rudely brushed off. This requires an effort in the community. The rules help keep the value and focus of this site, but users's feelings are not a price we should be paying for this.

footnotes

1 At this point 2.8's design is stabilizing. I think once the first release candidate is finished, it will be safe to permit 2.8 questions. The first RC is scheduled for release in 10 days, so this will be soon.

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Thank you for posting this; you've highlighted something I've been trying to put my finger on for a while now.

Most of the time when a question is outside our scope, it's usually possible to point the OP in a helpful direction, even if just with a comment. For example, if the OP is looking to pay someone to model something for them, we can link to blenderartists. Sometimes this is a bit harder when the topic is rather far from our average users' expertise, but even here there was an attempt.

I try to give the OP somewhere to go if their question is closed, even if just by linking to the resources question and/or suggesting they search for tutorials on $xyz. I'm certainly not alone in this practice, but I feel like it has gotten less common over time, no doubt partly due to the number of questions we get now (many from new users).

Beyond that, perhaps some aspects of our scope could be re-evaluated, or better defined. There are a few points which have come up already:

But in practice not all those have effected much change (especially source code questions). If we want to change our scope, we have to find a way to communicate those changes to question askers (which will be harder to do now that we have a reputation of being picky answerers).

Regarding 2.8 questions in particular, I personally remain opposed to their being considered off-topic. Perhaps now — with the 2.8 beta approaching — would be a good time to re-evaluate that policy?

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But I believe helping people should be priority, rather than using rules as an excuse to not help people who might have no other sources.

For some of things, it would actually be faster to give a quick 4 word answer, rather than say: "I'm voting to close this as off topic because"

I 100% agree with this and I usually try to stick to this philosophy (which is also the same outlined in the code of conduct.

For instance, I believe that the automated comment that is added when you flag a duplicate

Possible duplicate of [...](...)

should very rarely be left alone (only if the questions are clearly identical in scope). Sometimes it's necessary to add information to the user, something like "The other question is about meshes, but the answers apply to curves as well".

Unfortunately, people will massively downvote trivial mistakes (like a good, 200 character + picture answer, where the low-rep author has mistakenly written "million" instead of "thousand"); or they will flag as "unclear what you're asking" questions by new users where some details are missing but the problem is clearly evident in their screenshots.

I don't know if the badge system (e.g. civic duty, deputy) somehow leads the users to "be the first to flag/report/downvote" stuff, without encouraging friendly help. I thought of them as balanced but they may have some downsides.

As for Blender 2.8:

I am happily answering several questions about 2.8 (this gives me the opportunity to learn it better).

(Eevee & particles: hide mesh emitter at render   -   2.8's Grease Pencil: Is it possible to scale several frames at the same time?   -   2.8: Is it possible to Scale up the Grease Pencil object symbol?)

These are about features that are clearly going to stay, since they are stable, well integrated in the new workflow, and covered in the Blender Developer's blogs and videos. I'm 95% sure that the answers will apply to the final release.

In the rare cases where they are about bugs, I believe it's healthy to tell the user they are likely dealing with a bug (and, if possible, draft a workaround in the comments). Unfortunately though the bug tracker is now only open to crash reports, so the users really don't have a place to go to get feedback.

[Disclosure: I was active in the question that Leo is referring to. I have both answered and agreed that it was likely to be about a bug, thus off-topic]

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