I was reading this post from the main site and found myself confused why there are four votes to close. As my comment there says, I think the underlying question (though it could have been asked in a better way) is widely applicable. While the question is about a personal situation it seems to me a situation that many students may find themselves in.

I saw this meta question and it is similar but I don't feel that other question really answers my question.

My question remains, if a question is generalizable, then even if it is about a personal situation, shouldn't it be on-topic? Should we edit the question to make it more generalized?


5 Answers 5


The question as it stands is "What should I do to make my life better?". I can see how it is generalizable since the situation that is causing the unhappiness is fairly common, then the question is: What should one do to make one's life better?

This type of question seems to be chatty and open ended so is not a good fit for the site. See the FAQ for guidance.

I guess I should add that I didn't vote to close yet. I think there is a question buried in there and before voting to close I would want to write a comment that may lead to a helpful edit, and I haven't had time.

  • 1
    Since the question was up-voted 16 times, it seems like there are several people on the site who think it's a good question. JeffE's (quite direct) response was up-voted 35 times. For me, I see as a borderline case but within limits.
    – earthling
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 8:23
  • @earthling I am not sure that up votes always reflect the quality of the question, but rather sometimes reflect the importance/relevance of the topic. For me I don't see it currently as borderline at all. There might be an important and relevant question in there, but currently it is too buried.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 11:34

I am a little surprised that someone cast the final closing vote without making a comment on this meta question. Similiarly, there are 3 reopen votes. We need to build a consensus about what is on/off topic and discussing questions like this is key. As I said in my other answer, it is not that I disagree with the vote to close, but rather the lack of discussion. The 19 up votes and 3 favourites says something about the question/topic that we need to be aware of. Is there an edit that can save the question. Can we ask a new good question that will appeal to those who liked this question?

We want to avoid a close/reopen war.


I see the point of the other answers. However, in the past few months and weeks I found myself to advocate a more inclusive stance on this site. I know that my position probably clashes with FAQ, but my view of this site is that it should provide useful advice, rather than well-phrased questions. Under useful advice I mean content which can be found by mere use of a search engine and providing valuable insights. Often questions are ill-phrased, but answers are valuable. IMHO, we are too quick to close/delete such questions.

Regarding the question in consideration, I voted for re-open because I find the answers to the question useful. Is the question subjective? Yes. Is it generalisable? Probably yes, but at the moment it is too localised. Will people who put a question similar to the one asked into a search engine find answers useful? Absolutely! Hence my re-open vote. Not because of the question, but because of JeffE's answer which is an extremely valuable piece of advice.

Let me illustrate what I mean. During my first postdoc I felt overwhelmed by whatever came on me. I complained to my former thesis adviser and asked him for advice. His response was laconic: Something is wrong with your time management. Then I started to look for advice around the Network, eventually finding this piece of text. In the core the question is the following:

if we want to be writers, how are we supposed to write if we’re working 17 hours a day?

Would such a question fly here on this site? Probably not. Does it contain a sound advice? Absolutely!

To conclude the story, I printed out on a A3 paper the acronym F.F.O. and glued that above my desk. Worked very well for me and I am deeply convinced answers to the question in question would work for somebody else too.


Apparently, there have been many people to comment, enough people to vote to close, not enough to vote to reopen, and none have edited it into better shape. That's sad.

If you want to see that question stay, improve it!

  • Well, this position seems to lead directly to what Daniel E. Shub is warning about: close/re-open wars. Be more constructive please. We shouldn't play here a game that we first close questions and only afterwards start to discuss on meta why they should be re-opened. We should do it rather the other way round! I find the position to always close/delete on the ground of breaking FAQ a little bit too pedantic.
    – walkmanyi
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 20:52
  • @walkmanyi questions closed are "on hold", waiting to be reopened if improved. It's simple, and it's how the system works, on this and all other SE sites. Otherwise, leaving the question open and hope that it might get better is bound to lead to disappointing results.
    – F'x
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 20:55
  • 1
    I see your point. But in practice it seems to me that closed questions seldom get re-opened. Or am I wrong? Honestly, while building up my confidence in editing this site in the last months, I often found myself thinking: Well, these guys cite FAQ etc., they know what they are doing. Let's leave things as they are. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the attitude of most "more junior" users here around.
    – walkmanyi
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 20:58
  • 1
    I agree with @walkmanyi: it's hard for a new poster to know how to improve a question if the users who close it don't bother explaining why they are closing it. I'm completely agreeing with "let's close first, and see whether it's worth reopening", but only if it's constructive. In general, if you can't explain why you want to close the question (besides "read the FAQ"), then you shouldn't close the question.
    – user102
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 21:27
  • 1
    I think the first thing we need to decide is if the question as it currently stands is fit for staying open. If not then we need to decide if it is salvageable with an edit that doesn't change the meaning. Hopefully we can guide the OP with comments/meta/chat to the required edits. To me the question is not suitable as it is currently written and I think should be closed. I would like to see someone take the time to help the OP make the question suitable, or ask a new question. I am quite removed from my PhD days so don't think I have e prospective to edit/ask the question.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 7:10

I think this disucssion is as good as it is difficult. In my view, a personalized question is fine if there is something general in it. The problem is that the OPs usually want a personal answer and generalized answers tend to be voted down or at least not voted up at all. So, I think the big question is, how do we get across to OPs that a personal question is fne but that the site expects some generality in both questions and answers, in short: that this is not a personal problem solving site?

I think we could do wth some standard greetings to new OPs so that in this case the message about generality comes across. Other sites such as TeX.sx uses such a system

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