I've got a monster draft of an answer to this question about the Steam security question. It's seriously huge. But there's one thing about it that's missing, and it's ultimately part of the goal that Strix is seeking.

As has been stated here and there on Meta, it is key to distinguish that this website is about gaming. In our last venture into revising our FAQ, I made sure that all of our stated elements are about Gaming. I have also stated that, contrary as it might sound, this site is not about catering to gaming experts.

In less confusing words - we handle specifically questions about gaming, not about problems that gaming experts may run into that are not about gaming. The video encoding question is useful to gaming experts, especially those in this community, because its answers could be used to help provide stronger answers for the site. But that isn't gaming, and that simple notion is what led to the strong opposition to that question. And, ultimately, the security question itself.


Let's cut to the chase. There is a gray area we have when it comes to problems that people will run into because they are gamers. And we currently have a lot of people viewing this from conflicting perspectives, which makes it difficult to moderate. We need to try and work on dispelling this gray area, because it's only going to cause more conflict as time passes. Much more than I want to see this site avoid getting plagued by horrible off-topic questions, I don't want to see us engaging in continued in-fighting because of gray areas. And the further we try to go while putting off the analysis of something this big, the more we just try to strenously weakly justify the connection of questions to gaming, the more often and harder we'll get hit by future questions that challenge our notions.

There are two elements we have to consider when it comes to gamer problems - when the question isn't actually about gaming itself, and when it is about gaming but it isn't restricted to it. Both of these suffer from the ability to be abstracted into a question that is quite outside of our scope.

Rather than pile on the other two examples, let's take a new example relating to protection of devices.

How can I protect my games from getting damaged by lightning storms?

We can see this from a variety of perspectives. It's definitely something that gamers care about; I still miss my SNES, which was ruined by a storm less than a week after I finally bought Lufia 2. It's definitely something that gamers will want to know about. It's something we will most likely know the answer to. And it is definitely about the gaming elements, it's pretty much about consoles (and probably gaming PCs, if you have those). From a sympathetic standpoint, you really don't want to just reject it.

This however isn't a gaming-specific problem. It's a problem about things that get plugged into the wall, which affects everything from brave little toasters to rocket lawnchairs. Is that enough of a deterrent? Well, consider the following course of events.

How can I protect my games from getting damaged by earthquakes?

Common sense tells every one of us that this is really not about gaming, and should be outside our scope. We really can't find it reasonable to classify this, can we?

But earthquakes can knock out powerlines, just like blizzards can. Blizzards can cause water damage, just like floods can. And floods have special pertinence with regards to electronics, just like lightning storms do. It's a very specific example, but the point is, why would one disaster prevention question be allowed, but not the others?

With this example, let us then expand to the overarching point of this thread. What is the goal point that we should look for when we run into borderline questions and want to revise them to be reopened? What are the qualities or attributes that make a gamer problem acceptable versus unacceptable? What is the dividing line?

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Tough question... I have also written more draft replies to the Steam question, and wound up deleting them all, since I'm not sure if they would help matters, or just keep dragging out the conflict. :) –  Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 15:13
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What a minor FAQ change... "deleted 5 characters in body; added 4 characters in body". –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 15:17
    
@fail badp - okay, I'm confused... what do you mean? –  Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 15:22
    
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+1 for Brave Little Toaster –  LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 29 '11 at 0:35
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4 Answers 4

Honestly — why not?

Surely, we have to draw the line somewhere. We can't just allow all questions that have "while gaming" in it ("How to draw the turtle in LOGO while gaming?"), but those are problems all passionate gamers care about. It'd be a shame to reject those questions and then see Gamers.SE pop up to fill in the hole.

Actually, this is the kind of questions experts will be more interested in, and the questions that can differentiate us positively from walkthrough/FAQ sites.

So when is it we should draw the line? Shaun says, if the question can still make sense when you take the gaming out of it, it's off topic. I say this is too restrictive, because the gaming perspective can change the answers you'll get.

Take this example — "how to record videogames under Linux?" If we remove the gaming part we get "How to record the screen under Linux?", which would have nothing to do about videogames (duh, that's the whole point of removing the videogame bit). Yet, tools such as recordmydesktop need additional flags when 3D acceleration is involved, flags that a general answer will hardly mention.

So here's where I would draw the line. Take the gaming part out. Would your answer be the same in all parts? If no, answer and focus on those parts where the gaming perspective makes a difference.

Otherwise, close off-topic.

Here's a non-exhaustive graphical representation:

enter image description here

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All passionate gamers care about drawing the turtle in LOGO? (Good answer though! I like drawing the line based on what the answer would be.) –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 16:08
    
I don't like drawing the line based on what the answer would be because that assumes that everyone capable of making close votes knows enough about every topic even tangentially related to gaming to know the answer to every one of these still gray-area questions. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 16:12
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@Strix Why can't you vote to close on English if you have 3k reputation on Gaming? Because field knowledge really does help. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 16:41
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@badp: I think your rule will result in something that was harder to moderate. Successful moderation would involve knowledge of whether the answers will meet your criteria while also potentially not knowing the answers. I'm torn between which is better: my method (which would work in most cases and over-moderate in some) and your method (which would work in most case and under-moderate in some). If forced to choose, I'd end up defaulting to @tzenes' line of thinking: over-moderation is better for the community than under-moderation. –  Shaun Apr 28 '11 at 16:53
    
In the end, though, I don't moderate this community as extensively as others, so this is a decision best left to those who do. I would stress that, whichever method is chosen, we find a way to clearly lay out the rules of engagement for those who do moderate (especially if your method is chosen). This is definitely an area where a significant subjective element comes into play, so we'll need some rules on how to mitigate that. –  Shaun Apr 28 '11 at 16:56
    
@Shaun Good points. I think the general SE philosophy is to under-moderate (official moderation, that is. The community should be doing plenty of self-moderation). –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 17:43
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@Shaun Well, if you can't tell what the answers would have that are gaming-specific, you can look at the answers the question does have once some are posted. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 17:59
    
@failbadp You missed the point. We who have 3000 rep on gaming still will not know whether to close these gray-area questions because they're, at the core, not about gaming. They are tangentially related, yes, but if the correct answer is needed as a requirement to know whether to close the question, there's definitely something wrong with that system. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 18:06
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@Strix I think the matter is more clear than you make it to be. Oh, and we mods tend to not act on questions we have no clue on, why should 3kers act any different? –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 18:13
    
@failbadp The point is that we're trying to come up with a rule that will work for all (or at the very least almost every) future cases so that we don't need a big discussion every time something new comes up. Leaving any margin of doubt is self-defeating. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 18:14
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@Strix That's a losing proposition; we know how the game-rec all-encompassing decision went. All answers except "yes always" or "no never" will have some grey area making them unacceptable, and thus "no never" invariably wins. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 18:17
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@failbadp As it should be. No never should win. The questions are going to start getting more and more outlandish, or they're going to get more and more frequent, just like with game-rec. They have no business being on this site in the first place, and allowing them is a doorway to all sorts of other argumentation in the future. If we cut them off, things will run smoothly. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 18:20
    
@Strix Then we'll have to agree to disagree. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 18:21
    
@fail badp - I couldn't help but fail to disagree with you less... :/ –  Cyclops Apr 29 '11 at 2:19
    
I disagree with @Strix -- this IS a workable suggestion. Also, one should not dismiss the point @badp makes: it would diferentiate gaming.se from other walkthrough/faq websites. –  Glen Wheeler May 12 '11 at 22:35
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On Super User most of the time we err on the side of closing it first, thinking whether we should make an exception later.

Ironically I found the controversial screencasting question highly useful, because it would help me answer better on this particular site. Not anywhere else, this site. That counts in my book, though it would have been fine had it been on Meta.

That said, while users claim pure ingame-Q&A is a ridiculous narrow subset, I would beg to differ. Gamers have a ton of questions while trying to figure out how games work without reading a manual or looking for solutions elsewhere first. The fact that there are tons of strategy guides, Game Q&A sites, How-To Youtube video's, the list goes on...

My point is: there's nothing wrong with being laser focused on being just about answering game-related questions. We just need to work harder to get more on-topic questions on the site.

Opening up to more 'related' topics, as badp suggests would be Grace's moderating grey area nightmare. Because as his nice little Venn diagram shows, there's a border somewhere and every single user on this site is going to interpret it differently.

If it were up to me, we don't have to start deleting/closing these questions outright, but we should be clear that we don't encourage asking them either.

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Just because it's not wrong with it doesn't mean it's right. The answer to all grey area questions can't always be "no." Moving the borders inwards doesn't eliminate the borders or make them easier to tell. The only way to have no border is either no Q&A or Yahoo Answers. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 18:10
    
@Ivo I don't think it's a ridiculously narrow subset, just a ridiculously restrictive one. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:09
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Restrictive? You can ask questions about any game on any platform ever made! @Matthew Surely that should be enough :P –  Ivo Flipse Apr 28 '11 at 19:21
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Yeah, unless I can't get Game X to install. Then I just can't play it because I can't ask for help here and the rest of the internet's a cesspool :P –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:31
    
The problem with such troubleshooting is that there are multiple factors that might cause problems, most of which won't be included in the question, some are unsolvable such as bugs or hardware failure and in other cases the user won't go through the required trouble to solve the problem. So I wouldn't miss troubleshooting questions, its a snake's pit @Matthew ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Apr 28 '11 at 20:48
    
@Ivo Any "How can I" question is a troubleshooting question at some level. My example isn't meant to represent every potential excluded question anyways :P –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 20:58
    
(@Mat) and @Ivo, would you close the first question I ever asked? (gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/19248/…) I would have been quite put off the site if that happened. Sure, it isn't a model of a good question, and none of the answers or discussion helped, but it was good to ask nevertheless. The possibility of help was reassuring, and it contributed to me sticking about. –  Glen Wheeler May 12 '11 at 22:44
    
@badp peep peep –  Glen Wheeler May 12 '11 at 22:44
    
@Glen Nope, I would fight for that to be on-topic. –  Matthew Read May 12 '11 at 23:06
    
@Glen Troubleshooting questions are on-topic. –  badp May 13 '11 at 6:25
    
@badp, it seems to me that most of them would fail the (IMO misguided) tests proposed here. –  Glen Wheeler May 13 '11 at 7:54
    
(@Matthew peep peep) –  Glen Wheeler May 13 '11 at 7:54
    
@All you above me: I would continue to do what I always do, ignore it –  Ivo Flipse May 13 '11 at 8:35
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This is essentially a reasoning behind Shaun's rule idea, but it's too big for a comment.

Solution

To reiterate Shaun's solution: These questions are off-topic in all cases, with no exceptions. The rule would be: If the gaming elements can be completely removed from the question, then the question is off-topic.

Reasoning

These questions are the next game-rec. They need to be killed with fire before they can spread and be the next plague on this community.

The most successful and professional gaming communities are the ones with the strictest moderation. They are the ones that choose their image, define their image, and stick to their image. Things that are off topic are deleted mercilessly. Users who break the rules are removed without question

And that system works. Look at Team Liquid. Look at Shoryuken. Look at Smogon. These all work. They all have extremely strict requirements for making threads and dealing with off-topic posts. These are professional communities that work well together to dissect their games, to learn everything about them, and to have success.

Look at GameFAQs, by contrast. It's a mishmosh of rampant stupidity, misinformation, flaming, trolling, and nonsense. Sure, there is quality content there, but it is a diamond in the rough. It is hidden behind the wall of garbage.

We need to define our purpose specifically, and narrowly, in order to thrive. If we allow all sorts of tangential nonsense questions, we're doomed to mediocrity.

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I've never heard (anecdotal evidence) of the 3 working sites you mention (also anecdotal evidence). Can you provide some reasoning? I think being this narrow would be actively discouraging to users, even those who ask questions you like 95% of the time. If I'm not misunderstanding, questions like "How do I fix this error and successfully install Game X?" would be offtopic to you since installation problems are a general software problem. But, the solutions are often specific; and people who encountered the same issue (gamers) can likely provide more help than people on SuperUser. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 18:39
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Consider the Steam question. A Gaming member is more likely to know what Steam Guard is and how it works than a Security member; say 1000 vs 25. Of those users, it might be 5% and 100% respectively who can explain two-factor authentication. So we have 50 experts and they have 25. The question should be on-topic here, assuming that's roughly accurate (and I don't see why it wouldn't be). –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 18:58
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Don't hold back, @StrixVaria - tell us how you really feel... :) –  Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 18:59
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@Matthew Read We cannot allow our site definition to be based on what else exists on the Internet. We have to pick our own mission and be the best at that. Saying "but another site wouldn't be more helpful" is flawed logic. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 19:02
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@StrixVaria The real point was that we have people here who are asking these questions and answering them with expertise. Unlike a subjective game req where there's no such thing as expertise. We cannot dictate to the community who they are and what their site is about. I don't see why our mission cannot include such questions and why we can't be the best at something slightly broader than your vision. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:07
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@Matthew So if I happen to be interested in farming wheat, and you happen to know about farming wheat, we can talk about that on gaming? No one can tell us what to discuss on our site. You're a farming expert, and your voice will be heard. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 19:09
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@StrixVaria I was quite obviously speaking collectively. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:11
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@Matthew But my point still stands. You're arguing that any question that can be answered on this site is fair game, but that's not true at all. Why is there even an off-topic close reason if that's the case? –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 19:12
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@StrixVaria No, it doesn't. This site is never going to be home to a large group of users who want to talk about farming here. Closing offtopic is for outliers, the people who show up and start talking about what most everyone else doesn't want to talk about. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:14
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@StrixVaria I think a large group of people abusing the site would be quite obvious and different from regular constructive users. As I said, this site is never going to be home to a large group of users who want to talk about farming here. Question policy shouldn't depend on whether Anonymous or whoever might show up an try to ruin things. I don't think we're GameFAQs now, I don't think the questions at hand are what make GameFAQs bad, and I don't think they will lead to us becoming GameFAQs. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:25
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@StrixVaria No argument. I just think we can focus slightly broader and be just as successful. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:29
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@StrixVaria Isn't that the same as saying if it were decided your way, it would be used as a precedent for another decision that further reduces the scope? If you don't believe anyone's going to be reasonable and continue these sorts of discussions with other issues, then you believe the site is doomed regardless. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 19:39
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@Matthew That is a meaningless example, then. Analyze the questions as is, not the motivations for the questions. I still maintain that this site should be primarily about gaming. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 19:54
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Your comment exchange here is getting... pretty deep in very quick time. You two might consider getting a chat room, if you're going back-and-forth this rapidly. –  Grace Note Apr 28 '11 at 20:05
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I don't want to re-ignite any flames :) , but I notice there are now links for Team Liquid, etc. And I have to note that all three of those sites are forums - not SE-type Q&A sites. The whole point of SE is that it's a different format than forums. So I don't really think we can draw conclusions from those sites, about how strictly this site should be moderated. –  Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 20:51
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In general, I have operated under the assumption that if the game is not the subject of the question, it shouldn't be asked here. Spoken differently, if you can remove the game from the question and it will make sense, it's off-topic. Being able to remove the game means it wasn't the subject of the question.

For example, let's take:

How can I protect my games from lightning strikes?

...and remove the games...

How can I protect my stuff from lightning strikes?

We can all agree that this is off-topic. Clearly off-topic.

How about:

How do I beat the 15th test chamber in Portal?

Well, we can't remove the game there. That one's on-topic.

Another example:

How do I record my SC II match to show later on YouTube?

Can we remove the game?

How do I record what I am doing on my computer to show later on YouTube?

Yep. Off-topic (in my opinion).

One more example:

How can I protect my World of Warcraft account from hackers?

Can we remove the game?

How can I protect my online accounts from hackers?

Yep. Off-topic.

Some may argue that there is an answer specific to the game: the Blizzard Authenticator. However, we're still outside scope in my mind. Protecting your WoW account with the Blizzard Authenticator is not a question about gaming. It's a question about two-factor authentication and general account security that involves a game. If you have general questions about how that works, you want a security forum. If you have specific questions about how to get yours working, you want Blizzard's customer support team.

Of course, you should apply this rule to our other rulesets. You can't remove the game concept from a game recommendation or questions about games involving shady activities, but they are also still off-topic.

This line of thinking has worked for me. I find it easy to apply and it works in pretty much all cases. I think I've only run into once instance where another moderator and I had a conflict of opinion on a question as a result of this rule set and it involved live-streaming of games (which, in my mind, is a question about live-streaming active computer content and simply involves games as an example).

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This philosophy matches a lot of how we handle it in the more common cases, as well as on sites across the rest of the Network. Good point about this, and I'll thus add this link to the Meta question, as it contains some various points about how we have approached this in the past. –  Grace Note Apr 28 '11 at 15:33
    
This is a great answer not only because it happens to be the same solution I would like, but because it's a clearly defined and enforceable rule. It leaves no room for argumentation and no gray area. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 15:35
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This is a great plan to reduce ourselves to a proper subset of GameFAQs. –  badp Apr 28 '11 at 15:41
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@failbadp We're already a proper subset of GameFAQs, because they're a discussion forum for anything relating to the games in question, including a Q&A site, and we're just a Q&A site. We set ourselves apart based on quality. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 15:42
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They're trying to take our slack!. Seriously, although upon first seeing the Steam question, I generally agreed with this answer - after more reflection, I wonder if we're getting too restrictive. I realize that clear, simple rules make it easier for the moderators :) But that's not the main point of the site - the point is to serve the players, or community that makes up the site. –  Cyclops Apr 28 '11 at 15:52
    
Repost of a @tzenes comment from a while ago: "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." –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 16:04
    
@Shaun I really think the Steam question is on-topic, so while I don't think your off-topic examples are on-topic I don't think that means a general rule can be derived from them. I would draw the line somewhere else ... just need to figure out where. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 16:07
    
@Matthew Read The Steam question is actually further off topic than some of these examples. –  StrixVaria Apr 28 '11 at 16:08
    
@StrixVaria I disagree, though I have no problem seeing why you'd think that. It's subjective. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 16:12
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@badp: Don't muddy your valid points with contrived examples. You know as well as we do that the person is talking about a game mechanic in Nethack and not cooking tips for finer dining. ;) The DVD and screenshot items support your argument, of course, although I would consider the flash overlay something you could rule out at the question level. To reinforce my comments on your answer, what we're debating now is whether it would be better to over-moderate such questions or under-moderate them. –  Shaun Apr 28 '11 at 19:04
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Your World of Warcraft example is actually exactly why I prefer @Badp's solution. More specifically, the answer of "Get an Authenticator" is not a valid answer for many, or hell, even most online accounts or even most online gaming accounts. But it is unquestionably the best answer, if not the only answer for a WoW account, and one we're uniquely suited to answer. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 29 '11 at 1:13
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I really, truly dislike this answer. For example, if I asked "How do I record my Quake deathmatch for my mates to see later?" then I would say "Fraps is your friend, my friend." This does not work (at least not with my version of fraps) if you remove the game and ask instead "How do I record my screen?" Argh. This attitude could ruin gaming.se :(. –  Glen Wheeler May 12 '11 at 22:47
    
@GlenWheeler: As you can see, the community has already voted to go with badp's viewpoint on the matter. :) –  Shaun May 13 '11 at 1:24
    
@Shaun That is not immediately clear to me from seeing this "thread". Because his answer has the highest number of votes? It doesn't have the checkmark... –  Glen Wheeler May 13 '11 at 7:55
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I fully support you voicing your opinion in this discussion, of course. Mainly, I was just pointing out that this discussion has petered out and reached a general consensus that badp's rule was much better than mine. :) Of course, I'm not sure the final decision by the mods has been reflected in any FAQ or documentation, but historically we end up simply referring to the results of these discussions as the modus operandi of the community. –  Shaun May 13 '11 at 17:28
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