One of the essential components of the FAQ will be the list of on-topic and off-topic subjects for questions.

This question is an overview of a set of meta questions (one per topic-area, based on the topic areas at Analysis of questions to date) that I hope will focus the discussion and allow us to come to a consensus, at least as far as we are able at this time (new thoughts will always emerge).

I'm splitting it into a number of questions to keep the number of answers to each manageable and will generate cross-references between this overview and each question to aid navigation around the set.

For each question, I'll generate an initial set of answers along the lines of https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/273/what-questions-are-on-topic-and-off-topic-here.

Voting on each answer should indicate whether it is on-topic (positive vote) or off-topic (negative vote). I'll indicate my view in the text of my answers (as I won't be able to vote) and hope it's acceptable to take that into account when reaching our final conclusions, although it will only matter for questions that finish up in the range of 1 to -1 votes. If you come up with an additional example of an on- or off-topic subject, please follow the same convention.

I suspect along the way we'll also get into some discussion of the characteristics of 'good' and 'bad' questions under each heading, which is not a bad thing but I'd prefer that it didn't dilute the focus on the on- and off-topic question. Once we've clarified what's on topic, we should have a better basis for generating guidelines for 'good' on-topic questions.

One thing we still need (as far as I'm aware) is an overview of the meaning of the terms "Genealogy" and "Family History" as an umbrella for the whole on-topic thing, so I'll raise another meta question where we can work on this.

Related questions:

What is "Genealogy," "Family History," and "Microhistory"?

On- and off-topic questions: Application of technology

On- and off-topic questions: Research processes and methodologies

On- and off-topic questions: Locating records and documents

On- and off-topic questions: Interpreting records

On- and off-topic questions: Researching specific ancestors

On- and off-topic questions: Other specialist related topics

  • I'm running out of votes!
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 22:40
  • I reached my max votes for the day :-)
    – efgen
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 5:29
  • Here comes the badge, all dressed in bronze!
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:56
  • 1
    Kudos to you. Great idea to do this. Is there a way to see up/down numbers or just the total. Ie +8/-7=1 is different than +1/-0=1 - yet both just show as 1.
    – Duncan
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Duncan You have to have 750 rep on the mains site. If you do, just click on the vote total and it will expand to show the upvotes and the downvotes it has received.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 18:48
  • Hi @Duncan, you'll find this browser extension, View Vote Counts, interesting. It lets me see vote counts regardless of what my rep is. Hope this helps! Also, you already have established user privileges, so you don't need the add-on.
    – jmort253
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


Major problem here!

Perhaps this should go in another post, but I'll put it here for all to see.

The system thinks I am voting fraudulently now that I've voted on a good many of these answers, all written by Cole. Every one of my votes has been reversed. I'm not sure what action I should take, but as of right now, I am re-voting a little a time so I don't trigger this whole thing again. Thankfully, I still have my badge. :)

Just a warning to everyone out there voting:

I'm not sure when the trigger is set off exactly, but DO NOT go through every answer in a day! It will trigger the fraudulent voting mechanism and undo all your votes.

  • Grief. Not sure what the answer is here, but I'll flag this for moderator attention in the hope that they can advise.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 14:10
  • I think the system caught a lot of us. The votes are much lower today than they were yesterday. Luke, how did you find out that your votes were reversed?
    – user47
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 17:42
  • Well, I knew I had voted, but the votes did not show up in my voting history, as they should have. Other votes at the same time for other people showed up, but none of the votes for Cole showed up. The only cause that I knew of was serial voting reversal. It may have been a bug, but only the mods can know for sure if it was vote reversal on meta. I'm 99.9% sure it was serial voting reversal.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 18:14
  • @ColeValleyGirl Have the mods responded?
    – user47
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 2:49
  • @JustinY Not yet.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 8:31
  • 2
    Thanks for bringing this up. This is unfortunate, we're looking into what would be a proper approach to solving this.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 16:31
  • 2
    The suspicious voting algorithm is designed to detect when you are voting for a person rather than the content. In my opinion, the problem is that the meta discussion forum is being used to create an ad hoc poll. Generally speaking, polling is not a good substitute for discussion. I typically advise keeping these consensus-reaching discussions open to broader reply (i.e. to give everyone a voice), rather than controlling all sides of the conversation in a poll with a vote-on-what-I-say format. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:46
  • 1
    @ColeValleyGirl I see what you are trying to do, and I commend your initiative. But perhaps these issues are better raised in an open discussion. I'm afraid that voting holistically on one giant taxonomy isn't going to accomplish what you think. Most of the scope of a 'Genealogy' site is axiomatic. A yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes... format will only give a disproportionately-small voice to the edge cases that need deeper consideration... sometimes best brought up organically when the issue actually comes up on the site. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:46
  • 2
    Long story short, we've discussed ways of selectively disabling the suspicious voting algorithm in meta, but maybe the suspicious voting algorithm is telling us that we're going against the grain of how this is supposed to work here. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:46
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino A poll wasn't at all what I was trying to achieve -- as you point out, that stifles discussion. I was following the approach from: meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/273/26179, and have deliberately asked for additions and discussion (which has been happening on some of the elements in question).
    – user104
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 18:22
  • @RobertCartaino Will making the posts CW fix the problem?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 18:50
  • @Luke No, Community Wiki will have no impact.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 19:59
  • Perhaps we can use CW in a "creative way" to get around the problem. Ignore the up- and down-vote arrows. Go into the text of each "answer" and type your userid into either an on-topic or off-topic list. And of course, make comments and add new options as additional answers as we have been doing.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 4:22
  • 1
    @Fortiter, We need to allow people to vote anonymously as well.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 9:33
  • 1
    I am not yet convinced that anonymity is important here (or that we are "voting"). The mechanism you set up requires you to express a public opinion. I do not see why others should not do the same.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 11:47

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