Sometimes we get questions which can be deemed too broad. Broad not precisely because the question is too general and thus would have many specific partial answers, or be subjective, but too broad because the answer is not simple - a book could be written about the topic. However, these could get asked frequently. Should we delete such questions, or keep them in order to at least explain in the answers specifically why the question is non-trivial?

This question is inspired by the discussion we had here.


While Robert Cartaino understand the SX network, I don't know if he understands this particular question. In fact, I am surprised the question was even closed, and am surprised that we are discussing deleting it. In the interest of disclosure, I did provide an "answer", despite not having that expertise to really answer the question (I attempted to skirt the issues and point the OP in a direction.)

The question in fact contains two questions:

  1. What can a department do to make studying computer science more appealing to women?
  2. Are there any studies on the ways of improving the working conditions for women in academia?

The second is concrete, focused, and definitely answerable in a few words. I don't see how it is anything but a good fit for our AC.SX. The first is broader, possibly subjective, and maybe requires a long answer, and therefore may not be a great fit. That said, my guess is that someone who understands gender issues in the workplace could provide an excellent, evidenced base, concise objective answer. We just don't happen to have that someone here yet.

I would hate to see questions like this deleted and I am even surprised that this question has been closed. In fact, I am voting to reopen now ...

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    I don't know what prompted Robert to close it, but I would still vote to close because the question as currently worded is far to broad. More friendly in what context? Getting research positions? Teaching positions? Graduate student openings? The term "associated" is too broad to work withl each subpopulation will likely need their own specific answer. Maybe with some edits it could be a good question, but not as is. – eykanal Jan 23 '13 at 16:16
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    If you want to edit it into a question on seminal or reference works on working conditions of academia, I would be fine with reopening (but the current answer should then be blasted). As it currently is, it's overly broad, as eykanal said. – F'x Jan 23 '13 at 20:12
  • @F'x I gave editing a go. It probably could be better. I hope I didn't change the meaning too much. I think my answer fits the edited question. – StrongBad Jan 24 '13 at 9:27
  • @DanielE.Shub I'm not sure that edit will help. You've broadened it even more (“what can be done” instead of “what can a department do”, e.g.). I've left a comment below the question explaining how I think it could be edited into satisfactory form – F'x Jan 24 '13 at 9:35

We should definitely not delete these questions. If this is truly the case, indicate as such in an answer. Remember, sometimes the only answer to a question is "there's no easy answer to this". Considering that most questions of the nature you're discussing are deep, complicated, and likely very good questions, closing them would discourage good questions, which we definitely don't want.

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    Closed questions should either be improved (if possible) or deleted. I don't see how this overly broad question is different. It's not a good fit for the site, it should go away. – F'x Jan 23 '13 at 20:10
  • @F'x please can you put that as an answer? I think it answers the question very well. – 410 gone Jan 23 '13 at 21:57
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    @EnergyNumbers done – F'x Jan 24 '13 at 9:42
  • @F'x - your comment about closed questions is irrelevant here; these questions should not have been closed in the first place. They should have been edited to be appropriate, and then answered as I suggest. Bringing up closed questions here is a red herring. – eykanal Jan 24 '13 at 13:42

Closed questions should either be improved (if possible) or deleted. The exception is duplicates, because they can help future users better find existing questions.

When I say should, I refer to the general Stack Exchange policy. Here is a [quote from Grace Note][1], a community manager in the SE team:

With the exception of duplicates (which we keep around for searchability), closing is intended to be a temporary state for a question. There are only two states in the future of a closed question - getting deleted or getting reopened. The primary purpose of closing is to serve as a sentence to eventual deletion.


unless a question has some chance to be considered for reopening, it should be deleted

So, the SE policy is not to ask “which closed questions should be deleted?” but “which closed questions should be kept?” (as done, e.g., on the computer science meta).

I don't see how this overly broad question is different. It's not a good fit for the site, it should go away (or edited into a much more specific answerable question).

  • In my opinion closed question doesn't mean it's meaningless. Sometimes you would close a good question if it receives a lot of irrelevant answers or comments after good answers were provided. Your position goes towards a maxim that every question should have a good answer, or we should get rid of it. I do not agree. – walkmanyi Jan 24 '13 at 9:25
  • @DanielE.Shub yeah, I forgot to add that, I've edited the post… the exception to the rule is duplicates, if they add value (in helping people better find the question) – F'x Jan 24 '13 at 9:27
  • @walkmanyi questions can be "protected" to deal with that. – StrongBad Jan 24 '13 at 9:30
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    @walkmanyi no, questions do not get closed because they attract to many chatty comments or answers, as long as the question itself fits the format of the site (specific, answerable, etc.). Chatty comments and answers can be dealt with independently of the question (answers moved to comments, comments moved to chat or blasted altogether, …). Moreover, if the question seems to attract too many of those, it can be protected, as Daniel said – F'x Jan 24 '13 at 9:32
  • @F'x: I see. I did not care too much for reading the official manual. – walkmanyi Jan 24 '13 at 9:33
  • @F'x: anyway, at the moment the question has a good chance to become opened again. – walkmanyi Jan 24 '13 at 9:34
  • @walkmanyi there are two issues here (the specific question and the question genre). The specific question is being resolved, but this is still a useful discussion. – StrongBad Jan 24 '13 at 9:36
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    @walkmanyi and then closed again :) – F'x Jan 24 '13 at 9:40

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