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We have help pages to explain what is on-topic and what is off-topic. Both of them are essentially empty at this point — they contain no information specific to our site. We should fill out those pages when we can. The pages can be updated later, so it doesn't have to be perfect, but I do prefer having some kind of a consensus before the pages are edited.

So:

  1. What kinds of questions should be on-topic?
  2. What kinds of questions should be off-topic?
  3. What would be a good concise description of our scope?

This question was motivated by this question about our third week in private beta. It would be good to be able to answer most of the questions in this blog post about beta sites before the site goes public.

Update: The scope description suggested in the answer below has now been added to help pages. See this announcement for details.

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Here is one suggestion. Please comment or leave other answers if it feels suboptimal.

Scope description: The site is for questions about the Latin language throughout its history. We welcome questions about all aspects of Latin language, its relation to other languages and also cultural and historical questions that are strongly related to Latin. The site is aimed for experts and students in the field. The site is not a translation service or a homework help center.

On-topic: Have a look around to get an idea what kinds of questions are welcome here. Possible topics include but may not be limited to the following:

  • Latin grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation
  • etymology and relations to other languages
  • interpretation of difficult passages and works of literature in Latin
  • history and culture when directly about or when there is a strong connection to the Latin language
  • requests of examples in literature for uses of certain words or structures

Questions may be asked in English or Latin, preferably with an English summary if in Latin. If you are not fluent in either language, post your question in your language of preference and provide a rough translation to English or Latin.

Off-topic: The following kinds of questions are considered off-topic:

  • translation requests or etymological queries that show no serious research effort using readily available online sources
  • questions that require an extremely long answer; if you want a long in-depth explanation, ask for a reference and a brief summary instead of a full explanation (This is covered by the "too broad" closing reason. We can add more details later if the need arises.)
  • requests for homework help unless they show significant attempt to solve the problems without outside help

(Note: Some language sites disallow basic grammar questions. I am inclined to allow them. If they become a problem, we can add them to the off-topic list.)

Questions about the site itself should be asked at the meta site.

Before asking, please have a look at resource questions posted at the meta site: <insert link to meta tag for resource questions>. (We should only add this bit once we have figured out how to proceed with listing resources.)

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  • I updated the bit about long answers. Does it look better now? – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 9 '16 at 17:05
  • I did some minor cleanup, so please check that I didn't change your meaning anywhere. @C.M.Weimer, I'd still include the line, at least to forestall questions asking for many specific but different things at once, and because it's a standard close reason on SE. But perhaps a parenthetical remark: "... extremely long answer (large topics can be answered only with summaries of main points and evidence)" – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 9 '16 at 17:21
  • @Nathaniel, it looks better now, thanks. I also think that we should mention too long answers in the help pages, but I'm not sure how to word it. I'm pretty happy with the current "questions that require an extremely long answer; if you want an in-depth explanation, ask for a reference and a brief summary" but I see room for improvement. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 9 '16 at 17:31
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    Very good. I like this. The bullet points are a bit verbose for this purpose, but I can show you how to tighten them up if the folks here like the general ideas behind the copy. Ping me here when you get close. – Robert Cartaino Mar 9 '16 at 17:36
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    My hesitation with that language is that it suggests that we can't do "in-depth explanation" here, but that's not the case. We can do in-depth explanation for narrow questions, but only summaries for broad questions. – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 9 '16 at 20:44
  • This is great—thanks for taking it on. One small thought: I remember a question about how a Latin word evolved into a French one (would link but am on phone w/ weak reception) being closed as off-topic, in which case maybe "etymology and relation to other languages" is too broad? – Joel Derfner Mar 9 '16 at 20:48
  • @Nathaniel, good point. I edited that part a bit. Robert suggests that we may have to compactify the bullet points, so I don't know how much detail we can have. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 9 '16 at 20:50
  • @JoelDerfner, it's hard to capture everything in a brief scope description. There are many good questions about etymology and and relation to other languages, and I don't quite see how to narrow that down. I am willing to accept that only the big picture is de iure but the exact details of the scope are de facto. Can you suggest a way to phrase that part concisely and more accurately? – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 9 '16 at 20:53
  • @JoelDerfner, the post you refer to seems to have been deleted, since it's not among our closed questions now. I can't see it in the close vote history either. Anyhow, from your description it sounds like that question was much more about French than Latin, and that would be a reason to consider it off-topic. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 9 '16 at 20:58
  • Yeah, I couldn't think of anything more suitable either. Let's leave it as is and trust (foolishly perhaps) to people's ability to be sensible.... – Joel Derfner Mar 9 '16 at 21:01
  • @JoelDerfner I've asked a separate meta question to discuss that particular type of question. The particular example you are talking about, if it was indeed closed, must have been self-deleted by the OP, since it's not in our 10k tools page. – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 9 '16 at 21:13
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    So my edit didn't really change/add anything, but more just consolidated some things. There were way too many bullet points, and some repetitive stuff that could easily be consolidated into one. As well, you do not need to directly say that questions not about this subject are off-topic - it's kinda implied. You should also avoid using the "off-topic" section for redefining things that we already tell users they should avoid asking in the Don't Ask section. – animuson Apr 14 '16 at 1:10
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    As far as some suggested changes: your extremely long answer off-topic line seems unnecessary/vague. It sounds like that would be covered by the too broad close reason, which is also covered under the Don't Ask help article. If that's not what you're aiming at, you need to better define what exactly you're trying to exclude with that line. Also, some language sites only allow grammar/etc questions that explain why a dictionary or other general reference wasn't able to answer their question (e.g. German Language) - might be worth mentioning. – animuson Apr 14 '16 at 1:14
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    @animuson, thanks for your edits and comments! I made some more edits. I think the "too broad" closing reason covers what we meant. I also explicitly left simple grammar questions out of the off-topic list. We have been discussing some details in the chat, and I hope we will make the edits soon. (BTW, we just got a real tour example question!) – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 17 '16 at 19:46

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