I was appalled by the comments and close votes given to the question What is the seating capacity of the U. S. House of Representatives gallery?? (Not my question.)

There is a concept called cooperative communication. It means discerning from what is asked what someone really means to be asking and responding accordingly, rather than quarreling with the precise language used in a question that is perfectly clear in feigned ignorance.

The person asking the question had a very clear intent. What is the seating capacity for guests in a particular room in a particular building called the United States Capitol building in the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, during the week in which the President of the United States made an important speech to a "sold out" crowd in that particular room?

In particular, this room:

enter image description here

If somebody thinks that this is a question for an architecture forum rather than a politics forum, so be it. But, it is rude to the point of being troll worthy to vote to close a question like that on the grounds that it is unclear what is being asked simply because you want to pretend that you don't understand the intent of the question. Anyone who is that thick does not belong on this forum.

The appropriate response is to post an answer that clarifies that question that is really being asked and answers it, or to edit the question to state what is really being asked in a situation like this, not to vote to close.

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    How do you know that the question is about a specific building? The question asks for the State of the State address, do governors travel to Washington to give those addresses in the Capitol building? – yannis Mar 4 '17 at 8:31
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    Because the question is asking about the Senate gallery within a day or two of an address to be given in that very building that is all over the news. Seriously, sometimes a minimum of empathy is necessary. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:34
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    That is a very good guess, yet the question asked for the State of the State address, not the State of the Union one. I prefer to err on the side of assuming the asker wrote what they meant, instead of speculating. – yannis Mar 4 '17 at 8:36
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    There is a difference between employing minimal empathy and common sense in communication and speculation. This is the kind of moderation practice that has kept this forum in beta status for 1500 days. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:37
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    Not sure what you are getting at. What is wrong with asking for clarifications, which several comments did? What is wrong with stopping the question accumulating possibly irrelevant answers while it is in an ambiguous state? Which is what closing the question was meant to do? – yannis Mar 4 '17 at 8:40
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    The closing reasons are not unique to just beta sites, Stack Overflow also has the same reasons, as well as all the other sites on Stack Exchange. – Panda Mar 4 '17 at 8:42
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    The difference is not in the reasons, but in the way that they are applied. Very few other forums have such vigorous interpretation of those reasons. I am saying that calling something that has a clear intent ambiguous or unclear won't lead to the problems claimed. It is the case of a bureaucratic mentality that has gotten out of hand. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:45
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    @ohwilleke You seem to assume that the intent of the question was clear to everyone. Obviously, it was not. You talk a big game, but you aren't doing a great job at assuming good faith here. – yannis Mar 4 '17 at 8:47
  • Assuming that the OP is asking about the US may be justified since only the US calls them State of the State/Union addresses. However, I wouldn't agree to assume that the OP is asking about the address by the POTUS since all the details fit if the OP was trying to ask about the SOTS address - State Capitols have a gallery, there are also joint sessions, so it makes perfect sense if the OP wants to know about the seating capacity of the State Capitols – Panda Mar 4 '17 at 8:55
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    @yannis This is not a case where it is at all reasonable to assume good faith here. It could be that those who have voted to close have developed some reflexive responses to even minimally ill worded questions, but if questions like that seem unclear it is because common sense has left the room. I can't seriously believe that if your neighbor or coworker asked you that question that you would be confused. There is a widespread convention in everyday speech in American English that "the Senate" unqualified refers to the U.S. Senate, while references to a state senate are made more specifically. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:55
  • I've revised the referenced Q, and voted to reopen. – agc Mar 11 '17 at 17:30

I would like to share my reasons for closing this question.

I closed the question using the reason, unclear what you're asking:

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

As your question is phrased in this way ...

How many can sit in the Gallery during a joint session for the State of the State address?

... it's unclear if you're trying to ask about the United States Capitol Building (home to the US Congress) or state Capitol buildings (e.g. Iowa State Capitol, Michigan State Capitol). State of the State addresses are given by Governors of the particular state in the State Capitol, not in the one in D.C. you mentioned.

State of the Union vs State of the State addresses

As you clarified in this Meta post, now it's clear enough to be answered:

What is the seating capacity for guests in a particular room in a particular building called the United States Capitol building in the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, during the week in which the President of the United States made an important speech to a "sold out" crowd in that particular room?

State of the Union addresses or addresses of a President are given by the President of the United States and is given in the US Capitol Building.

So, there's a substantial difference between a State of the Union address and a State of the State address. There is only 1 State of the Union address per year given by the POTUS and there are many State of the State addresses given per year by each Governor of each US state.

So, it is unclear since you referred to both Congress of the United States and the State of the State address (which is given the address given by Governors).

Question closed / put on hold

That being said, questions get put on hold all the time, that's why it's not closed instantly (but put on hold first):

What does it mean for a question to be on hold?

If a question has been closed (except as a duplicate), then for the first 5 days, it is marked as “on hold” rather than “closed”. This is meant to convey that the question requires improvement and may be reopened if improved. During this period, if the question is edited by the asker (now by anyone), it will be added to the reopen queue. Other than this, there is no functional difference between “on hold” and “closed”.

Source: What is a "closed" or “on hold” question?

So, while it is on hold, just edit the question to resolve the outstanding issues and the question will be back open in no time.

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    It would be far more constructive to simply have an answer say "I assume that you mean this" or to say "I assume that answers to this are in regard to" than to play dumb when the context is clear. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:35
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    @ohwilleke State of the State addresses are also given in February, so the OP may also have referred to it. – Panda Mar 4 '17 at 8:38
  • No one would ask a question about "the Senate Gallery" in a state legislature in that manner. Ordinary people have some implicit assumptions in the way that they express themselves that are obvious from context. Failing to appreciate those kinds of nuances of communication (which happens a lot in PoliticsBeta.SE) verges on autistic. – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 8:41
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    @ohwilleke - in all fairness, nearly entire SE approach verges on autistic. It's a feature, not a bug. – user4012 Mar 4 '17 at 18:37
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    @user4012 bangs head against wall repeatedly Listen to yourself. OMG! – ohwilleke Mar 4 '17 at 20:44
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    @ohwilleke - that last comment was not quite the example of cooperative (or meaningful) communication. I listened to myself, and I still agree with what I stated. If you have meaningful objection to that proposition, I'm happy to engage in constructive discussion (or better yet, ask on meta.SE if you can phrase it in objective way that won't get VTCed) – user4012 Mar 6 '17 at 16:38

The person asking the question had a very clear intent. What is the seating capacity for guests in a particular room in a particular building called the United States Capitol building in the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, during the week in which the President of the United States made an important speech to a "sold out" crowd in that particular room?

That may be what the asker wanted to know. But the question didn't ask that. It said

How many can sit in the Gallery during a joint session for the State of the State address?

There are a number of things called the State of the State address. What makes you so sure that this person was asking about the State of the Union address and not one of the approximately fifty State of the State addresses? We don't even know that the question was about the United States. For example, Argentina also has a State of the State report.

Why are you so convinced that the person wasn't using the right words? Maybe that person really wanted to know the seating capacity of the gallery of some state senate where the governor gives a state of the state speech.

This isn't a trivial difference. We're talking about different buildings here. On what do you base your claim that it was the US State of the Union speech?

Personally, I think that you and agc vandalized this question. You changed it from unclear to a different question than when it started. Because you read the question a particular way. I'll admit that it's a plausible interpretation. It's probably the single most likely interpretation. But that's only because the State of the Union speech is much bigger than the State of the State speeches.

It would have been far better for the original poster to have clarified what the question intended than for people to guess. That's the way that the system is supposed to work.

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    Re "you and agc vandalized": vandalizing would require ill intent on the part of the accused, which there is not. This is more a case of facilitation -- suppose an OP asks a poorly expressed but good question, and is run over by a truck before they can master SE's best practices. Without facilitation, the good question is needlessly delayed. – agc May 15 '17 at 14:23

SE Politics uses Q&A mechanisms developed by & for computer programmers which are currently not as well-calibrated for the needs of people interested in politics.

Most programming Qs are immediately testable with common software, so there's less dispute. Even for the biased, blunt and overly direct, there's less dispute.

Most political Qs are not immediately testable, and answers are more speculative and dependent on some irreproducible set of the answerer's political premises and experiences. Reconciling and evaluating political disputes requires some minimum of disinterest, abstraction, imagination, courtesies, and some empathy. These political virtues are commonly regarded as inefficient frills by engineers.

Unresolved political Qs attract mischief in ways that engineering Qs seldom can. Frustrated by misunderstandings, people frightened by opposition resort to communicative violence: personal attacks, invalid argumentative rhetoric, retaliatory voting, forming voting blocs for gaming the system, selective rule enforcement, etc.

SE Politics is like a noisier channel with obsolete protocols. If it's ever to scale up, the design would require a few improvements, whatever those might happen to be.

What's interesting, in light of the above, is that the existing SE mechanisms work for Politics at all, and where they work best. But that's another question...


As you already know, politics is not law. And using procedure to mask issue-advocacy is essentially par for the course in politics (although this methodology sips into law practice as well). The fact is that this community is very issue-minded rather than process-minded (as it purports).

A brief look at which issues get upvotes and which get censored (erased, muted by being put on hold or closed) will reveal a very clear picture that procedure is used as a cudgel here rather than as a tool to streamline communications.

But, it is rude to the point of being troll worthy to vote to close a question like that on the grounds that it is unclear what is being asked simply because you want to pretend that you don't understand the intent of the question.

I call it "willful ignorance" and I don't believe I invented the term. It's not a bug, but rather a feature of any forum which uses procedure to quash undesired lines of inquiry. And you are right. It is very common here.

Consider, for example, this question:

Why is President Trump making such a big deal about fake news, and specifically targeting reputable organizations like The New York Times and CNN?

It, clearly, suggests a premise and solicits opinions which would justify it. You can ignore, for a second, the fact that it got so many upvotes. Look at how the moderators are treating it. It was put on hold to protect it against "poor quality answers". In other words, it's open only to the site's semi-orthodoxy to prevent those who haven't been blessed by the groupthink to participate. I know I exaggerate, but it's only for the purposes of demonstration.

Now consider this question (of mine): Is “it's an active investigation” the new McCarthyism? This started out as a question about procedural similarities in the mode in which accusations were being made against a right-wing US President. And it immediately got attacked, was put on hold as something "not about politics". I kid you not. The question comparing modern political discourse to McCarthyism was voted as being not about politics. And it eventually got deleted after a few people tried to answer it (in the negative!) in the comments. I do freely admit that I did mock those who disallowed answers of the question. I edited the question and mentioned the irony of McCarthyist tactics against a question about McCarthyist tactics.

So while the 1st question was there purely to solicit opinions and the 2nd one was to invite people to draw a distinction between political methods used, possibly based on verifiable facts, the 1st was elevated because of its premises while the 2nd was shouted down because of its premises.

In both cases, procedure was used as the justification for question's treatment. This is nothing but issue advocacy. And (maybe) it would be ok if it were done by the participants. But, in both cases, it was blessed by the moderators. I am sure they will make claims that they have supporters of various political sides, but their inability to stay objective and their very strong tilt towards one political side makes the whole premise of this site questionable.

  • The Trump fake news question isn't about "opinions", it's about seeking "explanations". Quite a different thing. That you see a "I don't understand this behaviour, please explain it"-question as "opinionated" is, quite frankly, rather strange. Especially if you look at the answers, which are quite balanced and far from the "groupthink" you talk about. – user11249 Apr 8 '17 at 0:53
  • As for your question: it was closed not because it's "not about politics", but because "[it] includes the OP conclusion it is not a question, it is a rant.". I carefully re-read it again just now, and I really can't see a real answerable question anywhere, other than a vague "are these two situations comparable" hypothetical. While this is certainly an interesting topic of discussion, it's not the sort of questions that Stack Exchange platform does, which focuses on specifically answerable questions, rather than opinionated "forum"-type debates. – user11249 Apr 8 '17 at 1:01
  • Also, your comments on that question are far from constructive. If you want to make a case – especially in a community in which you are new – then don't start by bold and arrogant assertions of "censorship", "liberal cesspool", and what not. "Sorry, what could I do to make this question better?" or "Sorry, but I disagree because [reasons]" would have been far better responses. – user11249 Apr 8 '17 at 1:02
  • @grovkin Ok, so my intent here is to be constructive, based on that comment back-and-forth we had elsewhere. Consider the OP's question here. It was regarding cooperative communication and a question that was close. Now look at the other answers here. One was a clarification of why a close voter thought it should be closed (and note, it was edited then reopened, by a mod), and the explanation is concrete and not related to masking issue-advocacy. The other answer directly addressed site mechanics and attempted to explain the issue. But ... – Jason C Apr 8 '17 at 1:58
  • ... your post is a (very well-written) rant about masked issue-advocacy, which, really, isn't relevant to the post the OP here linked to and its closure reasons and ultimate fate. Also, even if unintended your comparison of somebody else's question to your own really does read as you simply being upset that one of your questions was poorly received. So your answer here, while it is well-written, is appears ranty, and doesn't address the original issue. What you should be doing is focusing on the OP's question in answers, and the issues you raised can be raised in new meta posts. – Jason C Apr 8 '17 at 2:00
  • (In other words: Your post here in no way applies to "How many seats are in the Senate Gallery?" and so you shouldn't be surprised if it is not well-received, but you should not take its lack of good reception as a personal slight either. It just drifted far from the real topic in this specific post.) – Jason C Apr 8 '17 at 2:02
  • @grovkin Well, the thing is, the OP here is essentially the Politics version of some age-old network-wide discussions, it's not specific to this site even though it is framed that way on the surface. Unfortunately, I wish I could offer you a better explanation, but I cannot condense it into a mere comment. If you are so inclined, take a look at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… starting around page 2. The topics related to "closed too quickly" / "be nice" can be a good start at putting together a bigger picture. – Jason C Apr 8 '17 at 2:36
  • (Also note, there's some history with the SO-"specific" stuff there, prior to April 2014 MSO was the main network meta, you'll see some remnants from before the split to MSE, keeping this in mind can help make more sense of some of the historical stuff). – Jason C Apr 8 '17 at 2:37

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