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I've noticed in the past few months that questions containing the words or the concept of "how to get started doing X" amass some close votes.

If we consider the paragraph of the community-specific reason for why we want to close the questions about "how to get started",

Questions about "how to get started," "what to learn next," or "which technology to use" are discussion-oriented questions which involve answers that are either based on opinion, or which are all equally valid. Those kinds of questions are outside the scope of this site. Visit our help centre for more information.

... we can see elements like:

  • what to learn next,
  • which technology to use,
  • discussion-oriented,
  • based on opinion,
  • are all equally valid. ¤

These pretty much all relate to the same topic: how can a developer begin their journey in game development.

They're not about "How do I do X where X is specific and scoped but it probably involves a longer-than-the-average-answer?"

If you know how a question could be answered, but it would require many tutorials to do so, then probably the question could be closed for "Needs more focus" (This question currently includes multiple questions in one. It should focus on one problem only.). If the answer could be answered using a single short tutorial, or that any way to tackle the issue asked should be done as a whole (e.g., consider a problem that requires two steps to solve, and step 2 requires step 1 be done in a very specific way), then it should be left open.

Remember that someone else would love to write "more involved" answers to those questions. They do not harm the site, on the contrary. Remember that it's not because one thinks that an answer would be too long to write that it would be the case for another user; one doesn't have to choose between "I can answer it" and "vote to close,” it's also possible to:

  • edit it and leave a meaningful edit comment,
  • comment and suggest improvements or request for clarifications,
  • downvote it (e.g., if not enough research effort is demonstrated),
  • leave it alone.

If the question does not fit the description of the other close reasons (as it's outlined here), and you're not sure enough about the topic, then maybe it should be left open.

So requesting tutorial-like answers is not outright off-topic, although the user asking has to consider that they could be asking for a lot and so no one will give them an answer (... they should also show that they have done some research before asking).

Finally, keep in mind the way new users receive feedback when asking a question on the site:

  • they don't see close votes until their question is closed,
  • they see downvotes but may not "get the message" as they may not be aware that there is a description over the down arrow, and the down arrow has currently three reasons given for using it,
  • they can read and understand clear and friendly comments, and they can respond to them, making comments the most effective way to help them improve their question.

We have had past posts about this topic:


¤ A side note about "are all equally valid": in computer science/programming, there are often multiple ways to achieve the same goal, and, often, those ways are all equally valid, so of course, to some extent, we expect those. The text here really refers to opinions; the reasons why your favourite colour is Milk and Water are equally valid to your neighbour's reasons to love Goose Turd Green.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's time to reword that close vote reason to highlight this as it's not the first time it's been brought up in meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 16 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding rewording the close reason, would it be worthwhile to frame this post (or create a new Meta post) as "How to reduce temptation to misuse 'how to get started' close reason"? Then answers can propose ways to rephrase the reason, or alternative measures to try. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory Mod
    Aug 17 at 0:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, we could reword this post in such a way that we get a better way to phrase the reason. There are some "requirements" for close vote reason texts, so I'll be back tomorrow morning with what we need. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 17 at 2:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ The person who downvoted should propose an alternative to this (it's okay to disagree, and if the community wants to change this, then so be it). \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 18 at 2:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm the second downvoter, based specifically on this recent question, which I believe is entirely appropriate for closure as a "how to get started" question with the wording and criteria as they currently stand: gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/195296/… \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 at 10:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MaximusMinimus that one fits in the category of "how to get started", and so it should be closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 18 at 11:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ In fact, it's "needs more focus". \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 18 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the central claim that there's been a trend of "how do I get started" being used to close questions that are on-topic or that "how do I get started" is being used to close questions that should be closed for other reasons? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Aug 18 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pikalek I would say both. The fact that a question is closed for the wrong reason is "not that bad" per se, but it could be sending a misleading message to the one who asked it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 19 at 1:04
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I agree that simply including the phrase "how do I get started" (or equivalent) isn't grounds for closing. Revising the help to reflect that sounds reasonable.

I agree with the logic that using the wrong reason to close a question can be misleading. To the extent that the question is a reminder to close for the most appropriate reason, I can get behind that.

I'm uncertain of the claim that there's been a months long trend of "how do I get started" being used to close questions that are on-topic. I haven't seen corresponding activity on meta or the reopen queue. This is the only question that comes to mind. I saw a peak of 2 close votes on it & it is currently down to 1. In the interest of transparency, I voted to close on that one.

Appropriate specificity and scope are valid considerations, but they are also subjective. I think it's fine to use them if we also realize there will be some variety in how they are interpreted.

The observation about low rep users being unable to see close votes was helpful to me. I don't recall not being able to see them & I honestly had lost sight of that. Occasionally I wondered why bad questions don't course correct more often. In some cases they can't see the problem & it's good to remember the need for clear communication.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To your point that you haven't seen many on-topic questions erroneously closed as "How to get started", I think a big part of that is that we somewhat rarely get the critical mass of votes needed to close the question at all. So the issue being pointed out here isn't so much that we're closing questions that should stay open, but that questions are accumulating close votes for misleading reasons (whether or not those votes actually stack up enough to cause closure) \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory Mod
    Aug 19 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory I asked about that specifically in the comments & answered in the context of the response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Aug 19 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ A thing to note here, is that I did apply the "policy" about closing the question once they had three close votes, as I mentioned in the past. Users don't typically try to appeal in Meta, or come back and edit so that their question pops on the reopen queue (unfortunately). \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 23 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not able to provide hard evidence about this, and when I mention "I've noticed in the past few months that questions [...]", the "past few months" refers to when I've noticed it, not when it started to occur. I'm not accusing anyone here, I've had that "mentality" too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 23 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would not mind updating both close reasons text, the only issue with that is that we can edit only the "Site specific" close reasons, not the other reasons, this means that we're stuck with the text for the "Needs more focus" reason. Our options include: demonstrating and asking the CMs to allow one more "site specific" reason (this includes showing that all of our three current reasons are used and necessary); replace one of the site specific reason by a new reason to close; or reword one or more of the three reasons we have now to cover more ground. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 23 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vaillancourt I knew we only had one custom close reason, but didn't realize the wording & guidance of the other reasons were locked in. In light of that, I've removed that part of my response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Aug 23 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here is one question with a close as "how to get started". \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Aug 31 at 14:19

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