StrixVaria has noted in his answer to The Great Arqade Clean-Up of 2012:

If [] questions are allowed to remain on the site, then grouping them together is a logical thing to do. The same general expertise applies to many of these cross-game (although this isn't always true).

Being familiar with computer hardware and common software misconfiguration is an area of expertise, which is the general basis for what makes a good tag.

In a comment he emphasized the fact that this tag is better than nothing if these questions continue to be allowed. So I want to ask: Should they continue to be allowed? If so, do we need to restrict them based on level of detail or how common they are?

Another set of questions to consider involves scope. Should we allow console tech support and obviously game-specific issues, but rely on Super User for general PC issues? (Or some other subdivision?) Is Gaming the place for generic PC tech support? Do we have the requisite expertise? Conversely, will users suffer if we rely on Super User (et al) for this? Will users suffer if we keep the questions here and don't rely on Super User?

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I'm not sure I understand your stance here. It seems to me that in your after-quote paragraph you say that some technical-support questions should be on-topic while others shouldn't. Isn't Mufasa's thread (which you have referenced) the most appropriate, then? –  Oak Jun 5 '12 at 19:20
    
@Oak His question is about level of detail, rather than scope. Based on that post I would assume Mufasa would be OK with highly detailed tech support issues that affect gaming but aren't about gaming. I'm also interested in other views, I'm not saying this is how we must proceed :) –  Matthew Read Jun 5 '12 at 19:22
    
I've taken most of my opinion out of the question to make it more obviously a general discussion, will post an answer now. –  Matthew Read Jun 5 '12 at 19:31
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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I was going to write up a long answer, but Matthew Reads excellent answer mostly sums up my thoughts on and issues with the tag. So instead, I'll simply throw out a proposal on what our litmus test for tech support questions should be:

Is the issue reproducible, either under clearly defined circumstances, or on a variety of hardware, (the latter can be verified via google or other means), or does it have a clear, unique, and identifiable error code or other message?

In other words, if your game is crashing unpredictably, or simply runs poorly at random, or all the time, it should probably be closed as too localized.

If on the other hand, your game crashes every time you walk into a specific room and only when you walk into that room, or you're receiving an error more specific than 'The Game has Crashed', we can talk.

In short: If your problem is specific enough that someone else is likely to be experiencing it, and would be able to find it based on your description, there's a good chance that it isn't useful just to the asker, and more importantly, that we as a community might have the tools to be helpful.

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(While poor performance is not, in itself, obviously a localized problem, the solutions tend to be highly localized, and I don't think are generally a good fit here.) –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 5 '12 at 22:51
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I disagree, mainly because I do not think it's possible to tell in advance whether an issue is, or isn't, useful for others. Does the game music stutters? Maybe it's an issue with the user's specific setup, but maybe it's a common issue that affects many others. History has shown me that things that may appear at first as random, specific problems, are sometimes issues common to many users. I think a lot of the network's sites are built on this principle - allow most support questions, cater for the long tail, and be glad when things turn up being useful for others, but don't require it. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 7:24
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Or maybe instead of writing "I disagree" I should write "I agree, but" - if a question does not carry enough information it should be closed as not a real question. But my threshold is less rigid than your "reproducible, under clearly defined circumstances" or "clear, unique, and identifiable error code", simply because I do not believe it is possible for the userbase here to be able to judge in advance the common issues that will occur. Besides, even if something may appear to be pretty localized to one user, I believe the network at large is willing to accept such questions. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 7:42
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@Oak I understand we'll probably lose some good questions this way. I feel like this is a worthwhile tradeoff for having a clear, easy to identify rule that removes any sense of judgement or dispute from our attempts to deal with these questions. If you can come up with something similar that's more inclusive, I'd love to hear it. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 6 '12 at 11:51
    
Because as it is, we can't often tell a good question from a bad one until it sits unanswered for 6 months. (Which, incidentally is exactly one of the problems ITG had.) –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 6 '12 at 12:00
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If we can't tell a good question from a bad one until it sits unanswered for 6 months, we should let these questions sit unanswered for 6 months until we're sure :) I think the value in having useful questions answered is far greater than whatever we lose by leaving bad questions unanswered until the system automatically removes them. In other words, the price of losing good questions is not worthwhile in my opinion, especially since I really don't feel that we're currently under attack by a torrent of bad questions. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 12:53
    
Thanks for the compliment, but I'm afraid my answer is much less coherent than this one :P well said. –  Matthew Read Jun 6 '12 at 14:40
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I'm not a fan of yet another set of ambiguous policies that go unenforced because nobody's sure what counts and what doesn't: we did that with both ITG and game-rec before they were just categorically banned. If we are going to have a policy specific to technical issues questions, I'd like to save us the time and just ban them outright now instead of wasting another 6 months pretending like we can get them under control.

But I don't think we need policies specific to technical issues; our current close reasons adequately cover many of the problematic questions:

  • If the question doesn't say what the asker tried, it's not a real question.
  • If the question does not provide enough detail to be answerable, it's not a real question.
  • If the question is specific to a contrived or obscure set of circumstances, it's too localized.

These, mind you, apply to all questions, not just technical issues. So if anything, I'd like to see more enforcement of general question guidelines instead of giving technical issues questions a pass because they are sometimes, by nature, complicated or hard to answer.

To that end, the main objection I see in comments is that the asker won't necessarily know whether they provided enough detail. That's fine: they don't need to get it right the first time out of the gate, and that's what community moderation is for. When you ask a complicated or vague question, there's a risk you're not going to ask it in a way that makes sense to others: closing, down-voting, and commenting are all ways we can convey that a question needs to be improved.

But if it is essential that users know absolutely whether their question is good enough before asking (even though such a feat is impossible), I think that's a very good argument for banning the class of questions entirely rather than creating a set of nuanced rules that nobody except the people participating in this discussion are going to ever read (much less understand).

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Your second and third bullet points fall under "ambiguous policies", IMO. Not saying I disagree though. –  Matthew Read Jun 12 '12 at 5:14
    
@MatthewRead My argument is that we don't need more ambiguous policies, not that the existing policies aren't ambiguous. Adding more special-cased ambiguity doesn't create clarity. Instead, I think that if we are after crystal clear policies, the only one that exists is the one that bans them all. –  user3389 Jun 12 '12 at 5:17
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This really isn't an answer to the question or intended to be a position about how technical issues should be handled, but in the comments, Oak mentioned he'd like to see some statistics about the if we're going to discuss whether or not the whole category of questions should be banned.

If there are other metrics you'd like to see, add them here or ask for them in the comments.

Number of questions tagged : 298 (1.4% of total)

  • Percent closed but not deleted: 4.4%
  • Percent with at least one answer: 90.9%
  • Percent with at least one upvoted answer: 86.6%
  • Precent with accepted answer: 51.3%
  • Percent at least 1 score: 83.2%
  • Percent at least 3 score: 43.6%
  • Percent at least 5 score: 19.1%
  • Percent at least 10 score: 6.0%

  • Average current reputation of asker: 2,0701

Number of questions on Gaming.SE: 20,587

  • Percent closed but not deleted: 6.6%
  • Percent with at least one answer: 96.9%
  • Percent with at least one upvoted answer: 95.3%
  • Percent with accepted answer: 73.7%1
  • Percent at least 1 score: 92.3%1
  • Percent at least 3 score: 69.3%1
  • Percent at least 5 score: 45.9%1
  • Percent at least 10 score: 14.7%1

  • Average current reputation of asker: 4471

Note 1: had to use stale SEDE data for this metric

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I applaud the effort (+1 for science!), but I do not think just checking questions tagged [technical-issues] is sufficient. As I've written in another comment quoted in this thread, I have surveyed many questions some time ago and found many that could be considered as technical support questions, but were not tagged with [technical-issues]. I think the tag is seriously underused. Of course checking statistics for them requires manual work which is a pain :\ –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 13:14
    
@Oak Tell me which tags we should be checking and I'll do the appropriate queries. –  user3389 Jun 6 '12 at 13:16
    
I didn't check tags. I just randomly chose a month and browsed all questions in it to see which could have been tagged this way but weren't, then did it for another month or two. I recall something like only half of the total amount being appropriately tagged, but I can't find my list any more so I cannot be certain about that data. I do think your statistics here are important - covering half the questions is quite a large sample - I'm just saying, that's not all of them. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 13:20
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@Oak You asked for hard data before we can start to discuss whether we can ban technical issues. Now you're saying, "it's all based on my personal interpretation of what I consider to be a technical issue when I look at the question lists." Other users can't read your mind: either there's a concrete list of questions that are technical issues such that we can measure their effectiveness, or dismissing an argument for getting rid of them because it didn't include data is at best a red herring. –  user3389 Jun 6 '12 at 13:25
    
You're right it's based on my personal interpretation, but the current application of the tag is also based on the interpretation of whoever is adding it. I didn't ask for data about the tag, which is what you have kindly provided; I asked for data about the question category itself, and it is unfortunately not easy to automatically get that. You also started your second sentence with "Now". It's not "now" - I've wrote before that the tag is seriously underused, as you can see in Matthew's answer, quoting me. I don't think it's fair to call it as hiding behind a red herring. I do... –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 13:34
    
...want the data. Yes, I also have a pretty strong opinion here. But I - and I guess, others - can be convinced one way or the other with data. The data is not easy to extract but it's out there. Maybe the data you have provided above is enough if we ignore the statistics of the percentage of technical-issues questions out of all the questions. I just want to stress that not all technical-issues questions are covered by your data, not remotely. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 13:36
    
The reputation number is interesting, though the votes obviously show these questions are considered poorer than average (well, that's the obvious interpretation at least). The percentage closed/deleted might also be relevant. –  Matthew Read Jun 6 '12 at 14:54
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@MatthewRead Deletion stats needs a mod to do, but I added the stats for closures that haven't yet been deleted. –  user3389 Jun 6 '12 at 15:18
    
@Oak The rest of the discussion here seems to be centered around the tag, which is currently our only objective way of knowing how these questions are doing. If you want to reject that, that's fine, but the burden of proof is on you to back your strongly held opinion with facts and data, or at least a cogent argument. Otherwise, this is just another ITG-type opinion-fest where data is more or less ignored on both sides, and I would hope we'd want to avoid doing that again. Let's set up immutable goal posts and let the chips fall where they may. –  user3389 Jun 6 '12 at 15:24
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@MarkTrapp - Thank you doing this research and analysis! –  KatieK Jun 6 '12 at 16:22
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I don't like "technical issues" questions. I downvote most of the ones I see (though I don't go looking for them).

From what I've seen, many "technical issues" questions are

  • Too localized. It's only on one person's computer, or is such a rare scenario that only one person is attempting it.
  • Don't contain enough information to provide a reasonably useful answer. "Did you upgrade your video card drivers? Did you reboot? Did you re-calibrate the flibber-flobber?" And by the time a question contains super specific details to pinpoint a good answer, the question becomes too localized.

SE Gaming should not be technical support. So I say burninate this class of question.


I knew that this would be a controversial answer when I posted it. I wanted to post a hardline answer simply to put it on the table. I apologize to the community that I do not have the availability to research the history of this tag and provide an analysis. I would love to know whether this class of question brings good users to the community, or whether they make the internet a better place.

A more middle-of-road answer than burninate could be to close (but not delete) them after a week or so; the OP gets an answer, and the knowledge is retained. Or perhaps to create specific guidelines for what is and is not acceptable for "technical issues" questions, such as was done for ITG questions.

What it comes down to, for me, is that this is a place for Q&A about playing games. But not about hacking games, developing them, or other work outside of the game world. (I can see this being a place for "technical issues" questions related to standard equipment on consoles, but not PCs.)

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I think this is the first time I've seen a call to burninate all technical support (though I've been predicting this for some time). If you're interested in outright prohibiting these sorts of questions, I think it's important to add some data behind your stance - e.g. statistics about how many such questions we get, how many of them would you consider "bad", etc.... similar to how things were done with identify-this-game. –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 7:36
    
-1 I agree with @oak. You really need to provide more detail for why we should burn all of them. We can't remove a question just because "we don't like them". –  Wipqozn Jun 6 '12 at 10:51
    
@Oak It's been called for on several occasions. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 6 '12 at 11:51
    
@LessPop_MoreFizz then either I missed them or my memory fails me :) doesn't really matter - my point is that if someone makes a point that an entirely category of questions should be prohibited because the majority are "bad", I think it can be very useful to get a clearer definition of what "bad" is and some hard data supporting the stance. Otherwise people like me will be hard to convince! –  Oak Jun 6 '12 at 12:57
    
@Oak Not going to claim they support one position or the other, but I went ahead and compiled some stats. –  user3389 Jun 6 '12 at 13:12
    
I somewhat agree with Oak but I'm happy someone took the hard line. This is obviously the simplest and clearest solution, which I favor, but I think there is a subset of tech issue questions that are answerable, helpful to others, etc. (and thus my ideal policy is one that allows them while disallowing the bad ones). Interestingly, that is exactly my stance on ITGs, which were banned under largely the same reasoning: mostly too localized and of low detail and quality. –  Matthew Read Jun 6 '12 at 14:58
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Here's an example that makes me think the community really needs to make up their mind about this: Crysis 2 causes "Do you want to change the color scheme to improve performance?".

If these questions are off-topic then fine, but it would help if the "technical-issues" tag wiki said that "your question is almost certainly off-topic", and if the existing questions with the tag were closed.

If the questions are on-topic, then you need to educate the community that they shouldn't be closed/downvoted.

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The problem is that we're game experts. Your question isn't about a game. It's about Windows. A game causes your issue, but is an anecdote to the actual problem. We're still trying to help you by pointing out where you can go to get help with it. What's the issue? –  Frank Oct 25 '12 at 20:08
    
To chime in with @fbueckert, if you were having a technical issue in the game itself then I think we would consider it on topic. But this is a windows issue with running a game in Windowed Fullscreen mode (usually).. and while it annoys the heck out of me when I see that error as well, it is more of a windows issue than an issue with any one game or game engine. –  James Oct 25 '12 at 20:11
    
@romkyns Just ask it on SuperUser instead. The problem with your question here is that it could occur with any application or game, not just Crysis 2. Since it's more of an operating system bug, it should go there. –  GnomeSlice Oct 25 '12 at 20:13
    
Think about it this way: if your question was Microsoft Word causes "Do you want to change the color scheme to improve performance?", would that be on topic here? If you can remove the name of the game from the question, and the question is no longer about the game, it's off-topic. Sorry! –  GnomeSlice Oct 25 '12 at 20:33
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