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My question was recently moved to meta.

Note though that it is focused on scientific knowledge. There is no intent to poll the meta users or participate in the meta processes. If this is unclear, I will be sure to edit until it is crystal clear. But the reason stated for my question being moved (by one of the 5 persons making the decision) is not that:

The correct place for this question is definitely meta. I'm sorry if you disagree, but all questions about the functioning of SE itself are for meta sites – CoedRhyfelwr 56 mins ago

I am certain that this decision is wrong. My question is on the topic of the main site, and off the topic of any meta site. Let us look at the relevant regulations:

Politics Stack Exchange is for objective questions about governments, policies and political processes.

It is not a place to advance opinions or debate, but rather for exchanging objective information about the policies, processes, and personalities that comprise the political arena. If you can't back it up, it's subjective.

For purposes of this site, we define politics as:

The end result of conflicting egos working themselves out through matters of policy.

(Source in Help Center.)

I repeat myself, but, if it is not clear that my question is about government, policy and political processes, let me know and I will do my best to improve it as necessary.

Meta Politics Stack Exchange is the part of the site where users discuss the workings and policies of Politics Stack Exchange rather than discussing governments, policies and political processes itself. It is separated from the main Q&A to reduce noise there while providing a legitimate space for people to ask how and why this site works the way it does. Meta is for...

  • ...Politics Stack Exchange users to communicate with each other about Politics Stack Exchange (asking questions about how the websites work, or about policies and community decisions)
  • ...Politics Stack Exchange users to communicate with Stack Overflow the company (posting bugs, suggesting improvements, or proposing new features), and
  • ...Stack Overflow the company to communicate with the community (soliciting feedback on new ideas or features, or discussing policies that affect the whole network)

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before, and avoid asking questions that have nothing to do with Politics Stack Exchange or the Stack Exchange network. This is not a random discussion area; rather, it's a place for improving our community and website, together.

(Source in Help Center.)

My question is not aimed to communicate with any of the parties listed, nor does it make such an attempt, beyond asking a question about Political Science and receiving an answer. There is no intention to poll some group of people, or to participate in any political processes going on. Indeed, my intention is to abstain from that, in order to avoid the effect of reflection, so the move hurts the purpose. I sure hope that my question is not noise. I am not making an attempt to improve the community or the web site either.

I have located one attempt to explore a similar issue. I find it to be both dissimilar and shallow. I wonder if the similarity can appear more than superficial to anyone at all. There is an opinion of a moderator, but it is not substantiated in any way.

As an analogy, imagine that I ask a question about the way a Stack Exchange web site is programmed on Stack Overflow. Not a frequent kind of question, but there are examples. (First example, second example, third example.) To my knowledge, no attempt is being made to move them to the meta. One reasonable opinion is that these are engineering questions that use Stack Exchange as an example, and so should stay where they are.

To summarize:

  • My question is on the topic of the main site.
  • My question is off the topic of any meta site.
  • That "all questions about the functioning of SE itself are for meta sites" is false.

Therefore, my question should be restored, and the policy should be changed.

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  • 3
    Not to get into your bigger issue, but your 2 examples of questions about SE on a main site don’t apply here. Both of those questions are specific on-topic programming question that simply use something from SE as an example to illustrate the problem. They are not actually asking about SE itself, as they could have replaced their examples with any other async update system or tag popover from any other site and the question would be identical. Additionally, those questions are over 8 years old, back from when the rules were much more relaxed – divibisan Dec 19 '19 at 16:11
  • @divibisan They could have, but as they stand, they are literally asking about Stack Overflow. I just tried to flag one of them to be moved, and the following tip appeared: "Think this question should be migrated to another site? Please first check that it is clearly-written and on-topic for the site you're recommending. If you aren't an experienced member of that site, please take some time to read their help center first; rejected migrations are frustrating to both askers and the good people on the site who must reject it. Thanks!" I could not in good faith submit the flag. – Ignat Insarov Dec 19 '19 at 16:23
  • What I am trying to say by that is that I wanted to check if these questions should be moved to the meta in accordance to the more strict rules that you suggest are currently in place, but I find that it would be an unethical experiment, so I could not determine if there are rules that are applicable for these questions to be moved. Additionally, note that sociological and political study by necessity has to deal with irreplaceable, unique objects. Anything can be replaced in programming, but few things can be replaced in political science. – Ignat Insarov Dec 19 '19 at 16:25
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    "I wanted to check if these questions should be moved to the meta in accordance to the more strict rules that you suggest are currently in place" - I think the best course of action, in that case, would be to go on the Stack Overflow Meta and ask there whether the questions should be migrated. And I now see that you actually did that in the time it took me to type this comment. – F1Krazy Dec 19 '19 at 16:35
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    @divibisan One reasonable opinion is that those questions are engineering questions that use Stack Exchange as an example. Similarly, my question is a question of Political Science that uses Stack Exchange as a (singular, by necessity) example. Basically, it is not forbidden to use Stack Exchange as an example. – Ignat Insarov Dec 19 '19 at 16:58
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I think there are two things going on here, so I will attempt to explain as best as I can.

The rule in general

Since I didn't make the rule, I can't say for sure why it is the way that it is. What I can do is make an argument for why it should be the way that it is. The problem with something as nebulous as politics is it can be hard to draw a clear line around what is and isn't politics. The definition which was reached for this site was

"Conflicting egos working themselves out through matters of policy"

I think this is as good a definition as any, but it require some common sense to use. While by this guidance alone, you could argue that if your friends disagreed about where to go for lunch and formalised a way of deciding, questions about that would be on topic for this site. I don't think that they should be.

Luckily, we have more guidance than that. Perhaps the next most important statement is that this site is for

"objective questions about governments, policies and political processes"

The difficult word in both of these pieces of guidance is "policy". The Oxford definition is:

"a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual."

This is very broad. If all objective questions about any policy are on topic for this site, that gives us a massive scope crossing many subject areas. Luckily for us, in most situations it is pretty obvious to most people whether the policy in question fits on a site about politics. I don't think many people would even consider asking about the policies of most private businesses here. I think they should be off topic, because they do not fit how people commonly use the term politics. That said, because we are hosted on the Stack Exchange platform, people sometimes use the the word policy to post questions about Stack Exchange policies here. These not about politics as it is intended to be understood for this site, so we have a guideline that we should always move these to a meta site or close/delete them.

Your Question

Your question is a slightly unusual case. Normally when people ask questions about SE policy, it's either because they're banned from big meta, they know they won't like the reaction they get there, or they don't know what meta sites are and have a question about politics.SE specifically.

Your question is different, as it seeks to understand the functioning of SE as political. The problem is, this isn't really any different from asking questions about the internal functioning of any other company, except people are marginally more likely to be able to give you an answer since we participate in the functioning of the company. Your question is off-topic on politics SE.

Now I do think that you have a point that your question isn't really on topic on politics meta either. It's where we usually put such questions, but as I say, yours is a bit different. Since it asks about SE as a whole, it's most likely to be seen by people who can answer it on big meta, and that is where it belongs. Saying "using political science" doesn't automatically make a question political in nature. Also note @divisiban's comment on why your SO examples are different. They are about a feature that happens to be present on SO but are not about SO itself, they are about how to implement that feature in any context.


Note: Big meta is the common name for meta.stackexchange.com

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  • So, you are arbitrarily restricting commonly accepted definitions — because, of all things, you "don't think many people would even consider asking about the policies of most private businesses here". The Stack Exchange sites are a community platform, where we can observe the behaviour of a large number of people, and I believe this makes them within the reach of Political Science. As it says on the box, "built and run by you". That being said, you did not address the issue of moving questions — you simply changed the subject. – Ignat Insarov Dec 19 '19 at 17:08
  • @IgnatInsarov You are allowed to propose an adjustment of the definition. – DonFusili Dec 20 '19 at 15:29
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Caveat: I'm not a particularly active user on this particular site, so the below is more from general Stack Exchange experience, and may not reflect local nuances.

I think your question could be on-topic, if it was simultaneously more focussed, and more general.

Your case for the original question being on-topic appears to be summarised in this sentence:

I make a (tentative) claim that meta is supposed to be a governing institute, and I propose that we study and measure the influence it has on the main sites.

However, you then immediately invite people to argue that the premise is incorrect, which would make the question off-topic:

Otherwise, I am open to discovering that Meta was never a governing institute at all. I see how this is a somewhat wide question, so I also welcome comments as to how I can make it sharper.

Currently, a lot of your question is dedicated to this meta-narrative of whether or not the question can even be answered from a political point of view.

Also, you have said in comments:

Similarly, my question is a question of Political Science that uses Stack Exchange as a (singular, by necessity) example.

If it is an example, there is no necessity for it be singular; you could ask about research into the governance of online communities, and use Stack Exchange as an example. On the other hand, the substance of your question implies that this isn't just an example, but a specific case you want to examine:

I would especially appreciate an answer that provides a way to measure the influence of meta numerically, although I accept that there is unlikely to be a single meaningful number. The statistics of the platform are open, so we have a vast archive of data at our disposal.

Something I think often helps shape a good on-topic question is to ask yourself what a good, on-topic answer would look like. If your question invites people to hold open discussions, or a link to the local statistics explorer, that's going to be considered off-topic. If it invites people to discuss research into online communities as political entities, and how to apply that research, maybe you'll get a better reception.

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  • So, by your judgement, does my question invite people to hold open discussions, or research into online communities as political entities? – Ignat Insarov Dec 20 '19 at 20:22
  • @IgnatInsarov As written right now, it feels very open. The body of the question doesn't contain a single actual question (other than the rhetorical aside "Did you notice ...?"), and rather than defining what you want answers to look like, you repeatedly broaden the scope, even saying at one point "Note though that by no means I wish this expression of view to restrict the answers in any way." I think even if this was posted on a Q&A site dedicated to online communities, it would risk being closed as too broad, because it's not at all clear what a good answer would actually look like. – IMSoP Dec 20 '19 at 20:42

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