There is a controversy regarding badp's What is the simplest way to re-encode Fraps recordings to something more sensible? question, as evident both in that question's comments and in chat room created explicitly for that question.

As there appears to be no conclusion reached in chat, this meta-discussion is an attempt to allow people voice their final opinion on that question, and to let the community at large vote on what approach should be chosen.

The question here is is this question on-topic or off-topic, and why.

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I give up. I'm way beyond the point of caring. Please close. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 15:05
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@badp as this question can act as a future precedent for similar questions, I would like to see what decision can be reached regardless of whether your actual post is closed or not. –  Oak Nov 7 '10 at 15:16
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6 Answers

This question is off-topic.

badp's main claim as to the reason that this question should remain on this site is because he is a gamer asking a question about a gaming tool.

In order to understand why this is fundamentally wrong, first we must examine his question. He has used fraps to record a video of him playing a game. Fraps is a very game-specific program used for capturing video of your game while you play. If his question were about how to record in fraps, troubleshooting fraps somehow, or trying to boost his framerate while using fraps, it would be a perfectly legitimate question. But that is not his question. Rather, badp already has a recording made with fraps, and from here wants to know what to do with it.

Specifically, he wants to know how he can make it a reasonable format to upload to the Internet. So this question, simply stated, is: "I have a video. How do I transcode it?" This is a good question; it is very specific and an expert on the subject matter can answer it definitively. However, it is not a question relating to gaming. Back to badp's main argument, that he is a gamer who needs help with a gaming tool. This is invalidated. He is finished using his gaming tool, and rather now needs help with a non-gaming-related tool. In order to understand this, read this chat log by TomWij.

This is analogous to gamers who program games. Game-development questions are disallowed here even though many hardcore gamers, especially on this site, know a fair bit about programming. Just because gamers might know the answer to your question doesn't make the question any more relevant to gaming itself.

I guess my real problem is that the alternative is asking on "anything with a question mark in it that happens to be done with a computer and doesn't belong on any other SE site" - badp

I agree that his question deserves an answer. I just believe that Gaming.SE is not the place to get it. We cannot let our site be defined by what questions another site accepts and does not, nor by the quality of answers one can expect by another site. We are Gaming.SE because we are Gaming experts, not video transcoding experts.

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Don't you think Gaming experts haven't had this problem before? If it wasn't real time gaming recording we were talking about, this matter wouldn't be as important. The context of gaming makes this different. While the same functions and algorithms may be used behind the scenes, it's what's on front of the scenes that's radically different. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 13:12
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Personally, I believe the question is off-topic, because it doesn't deal with the recording of the game itself, but the post-processing of that recording.

First, the video is created using Fraps. This could raise questions like "How do I use Fraps with Minecraft". This would be on-topic on this site.

However, after that video is made, whatever you do with that video no longer involves gaming. Now it is a general video processing question, in the form of "How do I convert this video from one codec to another?" which I don't believe belongs on this site.

The only counter-argument I've heard from badp regarding this is that the settings used in transcoding a gaming video would be different for games, making it on-topic here. But I don't think that the settings are relevant at all, because these differ from situation to situation, game to game, user to user. They can't even be incorporated in a general question like this.

I might reconsider this for a question that is just "What compression settings can I best use for a Minecraft video?" although that would probably be too subjective.

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I have been mostly leaning towards this question being off-topic.

By no means is it not useful to gamers. But that isn't what we define our site off of, and I don't have anything more to say that StrixVaria hasn't already.

The main defense of the question is the utility to Gaming experts. Strange as it sounds, though, we don't technically cater towards this work. Part of knowing the site is understanding the proper utility of the different facilities. We are strict on answers being answers and not comments, so I don't see any issue with being strict on our parent Q&A being about Gaming and not about things useful to our community in answering questions (or other post-gaming concerns).

We aren't completely incapable of solving this dilemma, however, as indeed Gaming experts may run into this issue. But we have proper channels to get this done, even in our own community. We have Meta and we have Chat. I'm aware that the latter, while transcripts are publicly searchable, isn't the best place to store reference material. But it's a place you can get the answers you need for these kinds of questions within our community instead of playing Whack-A-Site.

When it comes to troubleshooting for the needs of providing quality answers on our own site, we shouldn't have need to send people to every corner of Stack Exchange to get help. But I don't feel that this is something we need to host on our parent Q&A.

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My question would be closed on Meta quickly and swiftly. It is not about the site. Chat... eh, if we discuss questions and answers on chat, why would we need a Q&A engine to begin with? –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 14:21
    
@badp I'm looking at the general case. This question won't fit here, perhaps, but as an example, "How can I enhance the presentation of my answers" could. From there, you can expand on the utility of FRAPS, and include useful information on video transcoding either within answers, or within the comments to an answer. If GreaseMonkey scripts to enhance your HUD are acceptable, I have no doubt that we can suggest general help notes on Meta, and more specific and individual concerns on chat. –  Grace Note Nov 7 '10 at 14:23
    
I haven't downvoted the off-topic camp's answers because I agree that, in the general case, they're very valid. I believe that this question can be considered worthy of exception because it inspects a general, non-gaming topic from our very peculiar perspective. The lengthier version of it is my answer. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 14:27
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@badp The shortcomings of software geared towards us doesn't, to me, make it exception-worthy. To take the flipside, you state that all camcorders could record MPEG4 in real-time unlike FRAPS. If someone then uses a camcorder, but because it's trying to record something on a game screen and has some post-processing issues, that doesn't make it our domain to fix. –  Grace Note Nov 7 '10 at 14:34
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If the question were to be classified as on-/off-topic based on its answers, then it's pretty off topic, since you can plug any valid answer to his question to an arbitrary video encoding question stripped off of gaming content. But we cannot do that.

It IS a gaming related question, as well as it is related to other topics.

It is similar to the "implication" principle in logic, in that, a => b does not guarantee that b => a.

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If we're going to pull out logical fallacies, try "post hoc ergo propter hoc." Just because B happens after A, that doesn't make A related to B. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 12:45
    
Of course it doesn't. It is not a time based relationship (a is followed by b), but causality (a occurs because of b). In this case there is at least one c that can happen because b happened. –  Bora Nov 7 '10 at 12:51
    
My point was that b is no longer related to a, because b can be caused by c and d just the same as a, with the same result. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 13:08
    
I'm giving up Arda, you don't seem to understand what I am trying to say. –  Bora Nov 7 '10 at 19:49
    
@Bora if I could provide an answer to badp's question that had nothing to do with gaming (perhaps nothing to do with fraps) would that satisfy you that this was offtopic? –  tzenes Nov 10 '10 at 2:30
    
What I understand from a question being on- or off-topic is motivation, beside relevance. See this question: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/9135/… . I evaluated it as almost off-topic because the question itself emanates from an unknown context. As soon as jcollum edits his question, I can reconsider my position. But here, I clearly think this whole thing HAS A MOTIVATION in terms of gaming, even if answers to it may not. –  Bora Nov 10 '10 at 10:06
    
Unknown context? It's asking how to program a specific piece of gaming hardware. It doesn't fail the "for gamers" test, because it's not asking how to program an application for gamers, it's asking how to alter a specific gaming peripheral. Which is unlike this question, which as stated by Strix "He is finished with the gaming tool". As for motivation, motivation guides you towards understanding the nature of the question, but it's the nature of the question we judge on, not the motivation behind it. –  Grace Note Nov 10 '10 at 14:19
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This question is on topic because:

  • FRAPS and this codec are engineered to create this problem. The codec used by FRAPS has the characteristic of being very fast at the expense of creating very large videos. This allows people to play a game at a slightly reduced FPS. Other recording devices have all of the machine's resources to the recording process and can other codecs that don't use one gigabyte per minute of footage.
  • Recording is something many gamers do. I hope I don't have to prove this point -- just look at Youtube. However, those recordings are barely useful in the form FRAPS leaves them, as a result of this very gaming centric speed-performance tradeoff.
  • It pertains the very bare basics of video post-processing. This is useful to gamers because without those very basic steps, the sharing of these videos becomes very impractical very fast.
  • If it wasn't games we were talking about, this problem wouldn't exist in the first place. Every camcorder and their grandma can encode MPEG4 at real time. FRAPS does not, however, due to this gaming-specific tradeoff.

The problem, as I see it, is that the gaming-oriented tradeoff choices of FRAPS (and clones thereof) gives this transcoding process much more importance than it has in the video processing world in general.

People who believe the question is offtopic see "FRAPS" and its codec on the same level as any other codec. Transcoding, behind the scenes, doesn't really care about what I used so long as it can get picture data from it. However, as I have tried to show, FRAPS really is a game changer.

Usually, the main point of transcoding is converting a video to some format that can be played back on device X, which only supports A, B and C. Here, the gaming-specific context changes the perspective radically: I don't really care about the device (YouTube, e.g, has excellent codec support, so pretty much anything goes), I just need to get the video from that codec to something else without losing massive quality in the process.

I think this question would be of terrific value for this site, thus, to cover very basic questions on FRAPS (and clones thereof) post-processing.

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Finally, I used a list with bold items. This makes me automagically correct. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 12:53
    
Every codec creates this problem. It's not that FRAPS is very different from any other codec in existence. It's a different format just like Divx is different from H.264. Recording is something that many gamers do, yes. Programming is also something many gamers do, doesn't make it relevant on this site. We don't allow questions on the very basics of programming either. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 12:53
    
@Arda Neither of DivX or H.264 give you a gigabyte per minute with everything else being equal. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 12:55
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That makes no difference to the transcoder really. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 13:07
    
@Arda It does to the asker. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 13:10
    
It doesn't change the answer, nor the question. Why would it matter to the asker (despite being the motivation) –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 13:11
    
It does change the question -- it generates it, actually. I wouldn't have asked this question in the first place if it wasn't because I took a recording of a game with a tool with this very heavy speed-space tradeoff. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 13:17
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The question "How do I convert a video from codec A to codec B?" is irrelevant to it being on gaming. Why are you discussing motivation for the asker? That's not at all relevant. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 14:04
    
@Arda I attempt to address this in my reply, and more specifically in my 3rd edit. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 14:05
    
I still don't see how Fraps is a game-changer. FPS1 is a codec just like Divx is. There is no Device X, so I don't see how your second to last paragraph is relevant at all. –  user56 Nov 7 '10 at 14:22
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Yes, the point is that the context changes the perspective on the problem of transcoding in general. –  badp Nov 7 '10 at 14:25
    
@badp Nov 7 at 12:55 - What is the difference between transcoding a movie recorded fraps, and transcoding a raw uncompressed movie? both have those huge file sizes. –  alexanderpas Nov 11 '10 at 13:23
    
@alexanderpas When's the last time you had to work with a raw uncompressed movie? Is a raw uncompressed movie even encoded to begin with? –  badp Nov 11 '10 at 13:36
    
@bap 1) when working with one-time real-time input ;) 2) it's encoded from analogue to digital format. –  alexanderpas Nov 11 '10 at 15:39
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I believe this question is on-topic.

Why?

  • Because it's specifically targeted at this audience. He wants to show us his solution to a question here on gaming, which I'm sure a lot of you would want to do too
  • Because he's using a game-specific tool. FRAPS = short for frames per second, a tool to show off how many fps your awesome GPU can generate

But isn't encoding like totally off-topic?

Well encoding might not be directly about games, but come-on so are questions about gaming-slang, who the best pro-gamers are or any other meta-ish gaming question. We allow those grey-area question, because we dig them and think they help out the community.

But a similar question has already been asked and answered on Super User!

Duplication across the network is fine, as long as the question suits it's destination. As a moderator on Super User, I can't begin to explain how many different wordings users can have for asking encoding questions. Because let's face it: encoding is really a geek speak term!

All this question really is about is shrinking this darn screencast, so he can put it on Youtube. The fact that we geeks or super users call this encoding, doesn't really help the guy, because he has no idea what your talking about. Telling him this, doesn't help him either, it will just make him dislike the site.

So should we start allowing any grey-area question now?

Hell no! But this question is about helping a fellow gamer in need, who wants to help out another gamer in need. Isn't that what this site is about? If we start bashing these questions, then we do our community as a whole a disservice.

My advice: chill! And start looking for bad questions to close, instead of trying to hinder enthusiastic community members, from helping others.

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I agree with chilling - this really could've been solved a lot cleaner than wasting half a day of everyone's time. I respect badp's thoughts and intent in asking it. But I disagree that it is on-topic. I have absolutely no concern about the fact it's about encoding. What concerns me is that it's a question about a video recording. It's no more justifiable than a Photoshop advice question for preserving the quality and accuracy of a screenshot while reducing the filesize. We have facilities to help our answerers with their material, and I don't believe our parent Q&A is that place. –  Grace Note Nov 8 '10 at 0:46
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to be honest, I think that Gaming is a topic where we should err on the side of over-moderation. Looking across the gaming communities that have been successful they are almost always the ones with the strictest requirements. We're in an area that tends to be very fractious and full of people with strong opinions. I don't like that we need moderation, but I do think we need it. As much as I'd like to "chill" I think maybe we need to chill a little less. –  tzenes Nov 10 '10 at 2:28
    
@tzenes: I wish I could upvote your comment five times. Well-said. –  John Rudy Nov 11 '10 at 1:40
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