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I just noticed that this question has been reopened:

What are the main differences between Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Latin America?

It is a very old question -- actually a pre-Beta question.
It was promtply closed as "Not constructive" (?) by the community, and by this I mean 5 different users voted to close it.
Yesterday, a different user asked to reopen it.

Now, I don't agree with the original close reason: a question about specific differences between varieties of Spanish is clearly on-topic (we even have a specific tag () for that!) and I fail to see how such a question can be "not constructive", but maybe close reasons in 2011 were different than today's, I don't know.
However, the question as asked is certainly too broad. And so, I voted to keep it closed.

But what is too broad?
A question is too broad when its answer would need to be several pages long to correctly address all that the question encompasses. They are not off-topic, and they can be certainly interesting, but they are not good for the Q&A format.
Questions like "What are the different uses of pronouns?", "What are the rules for punctuation?" or "What are the differences between Spain's and Latin America's Spanish?" fall into this definition for Spanish.SE. They are akin to asking "What are the main differences between Java and C#?" in Stack Overflow, or "What are the main openings?" in Chess.SE.

And why are too broad questions not good for a Q&A site?
Well, for starters they just limit the range of posible questions. If a broad question about "rules of punctuation" is accepted and somebody manages to write a good, complete answer, then that's it: all future questions about punctuation rules are now duplicates of this complete answer. New users asking for specific rules will have their questions closed, and no new answers will be posted. This hinders the site and slowly turns it into a dead database with good answers and 0 active users.
Also, Stack Exchange's markdown formatting and site design do not exactly favor the reading of long answers. You cannot make an index, you cannot link to different sections, you cannot include proper tables, you only get half a screen width... Reading long answers is a pain, and doing so in a mobil device is even more so.
And finally, such questions can attract answers that just regurgitate content from other sources. Yes, I know: most answers here use content from external sources, as they should (speculation and unreasoned opinions are frowned upon); but they also offer personalized advice, tailored to OP's specific question. That is not the case of "too broad" questions: since they are not specific, there's nothing to tailor the answer to, so it's easier to just copy content from somewhere else. And frankly, if the answer to your question is found on page 723 paragraph 3 of the Nueva Gramática, I see no problem in quoting such paragraph; but if the answer to your question is the whole chapter 17... Do we really want answers like that?

So, back to the reopened question.
A user voted to reopen it, reasoning that it could be a good canonical question. Fair point, though I disagree: while it's good to have canonical questions regarding specific topics, too broad questions are bad for the site (see the aforementioned reasons) and so they should not be accepted, much less made canonical.
The question entered the Reopen queue, and it initially got two "Leave Closed" votes. But then it got a mod-cast "Reopen" vote and, since mod votes are binding, the question got reopened with a total (past and present) vote count of 7 "Close" votes and 3 "Leave open" votes.

Honestly, I don't feel that's right.
I understand that the two last votes probably weren't from the two most experienced users, and that the mod team has a bigger picture when it comes to closing and reopening questions. But 7 close votes should count somehow, shouldn't they?

Now I'm torn between two paths:

  • Vote to close again, this time as "Too broad": because I think it is the right thing to do, and just in case the "Reopen" mod vote was cast because they, just like me, didn't agree that it was "Not constructive".
  • Leave the question as is, accept the mod decision, and open a debate about what is "too broad".

You probably guessed I went with the second option, but I really think I should vote to close such questions, so I'm asking the community.

What's your definition of "too broad"? What's your take on "too broad" questions?

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  • In fact it is the question #2 in the site. In what ways is the letter “s” (or the /s/ sound) pronounced in Spain? is the first one. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 4 '18 at 13:11
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    Before going into further detail: I as a mod voted to reopen because it had an incorrect closing reason. Since the reason to close a post should be as informative and precise as possible, I could not agree on having it closed as not constructive. I thought on bringing the debate here on whether this should be closed again or not, mentioning also that a similar question Difference between Spanish and Catalan was closed as too broad not long ago. Just did not do it yet because I did not find the time and preferred to focus on questions of tags – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 4 '18 at 13:16
  • And finally, we mods decided some months ago to patrol less frequently the /review queue, to have the community more involved in it (without our binding vote, things need up to 5 votes to get resolved). – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 4 '18 at 13:19
  • Regarding What's your definition of "too broad"? What's your take on "too broad" questions?. Is this a direct question to mods or, instead, it is addressed to everybody? – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 4 '18 at 13:22
  • @fedorqui - there's something I don't understand. You wrote (in a comment that starts with "finally") that the mods decided to patrol the review queue less frequently, to get the community more involved. But you also wrote (in a comment that starts with "before") that you used your binding mod ability to unilaterally reopen the question. This sounds contradictory. Have I misunderstood something? – aparente001 May 5 '18 at 3:48
  • @aparente001 as I explained in my 2nd comment, I used my binding vote with the same criteria I try to use normally: to solve the obvious cases. It was clear to me (and I still think so) that the closing reason for that question was wrong, so keeping it like that was delivering the wrong message to the users and visitors in general. I am not using my binding vote to close it and just waiting to see reactions on this Meta post to unlock it and decide to keep it open or not. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 6 '18 at 21:01
  • By the way, I think walen that your question is bringing in two different things into debate, which should be isolated in different questions. One is how mods should behave on this (which honestly I don't understand why you mention here, since we have talked about it in chat many times). The other is what is the definition of too broad. If we want this Meta post to be useful for the future, it would be good to have a bit of narrowing of its scope, specially because now answers will get a rare mix between what is too broad, what a mod should do and what we think about this question. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 6 '18 at 21:14
  • @fedorqui - Thanks for explaining. I think I understand now. Perhaps the binding vote could be used slightly more gingerly in a case like this. // Re: "Honestly I don't understand why you mention this here, since we have talked about it in chat many times" -- I think it's helpful that walen brought this to Meta, for several reasons. One of which being that some participants (e.g. me) don't visit La Tertulia regularly. – aparente001 May 7 '18 at 13:54
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When it was implemented, the definition of too broad was set to:

too broad — There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

I also like how it is explained by a CM:

If an answer suitable to the asker's needs (spec and expressed skill level) would involve writing a book (or even a good-sized tutorial), then the question is Too Broad and should be closed, the asker encouraged to narrow down his question to something more specific. That doesn't necessarily make all specific questions good, but there are other close reasons and downvotes to handle other problems that may exist.


In this specific case, seeing the answers this question got, where few lines sufficed to prove the key differences between Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Latin America, I do think that the question is not too broad. And for this reason I would also vote to reopen Difference between Spanish and Catalan.

Of course it would be better if the question would be narrowed down into some specifics like phonetics, usage of vos/ and many other details, but I do think that a reasonable answer can fit in a not-very-long post.

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  • @walen I agree it is not the best answer ever. However, I see a valid answer there (and the one you mention is an attempt) would consist on listing the basic aspects on vocabulary, pronunciation, usage of tú/usted that could be expanded with some links to specific questions. Such answer can fill in a reasonably acceptable number of lines and can help readers get a good grasp of the main differences. What do you think about setting a bounty to see if this happens? – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' May 9 '18 at 15:17
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When I proposed the question be reopened, I was hoping someone (or multiple people) would contribute a better answer. But I wasn't imagining that it would take several pages. I was hoping for an introductory overview, not a treatise.

There was no hurry with this question. We could have taken our time thinking about it, to see if there was solid support to reopen it.

At this point, I think we still can take our time thinking about it. I don't see this as an urgent situation that requires a moderator to step in with a superpower.

If your question is, should this question be closed? My opinion is no.

If your question is, should a mod use the reopen hammer in a case like this? My opinion is no.

I don't hold it against the moderator for reopening with the golden hammer, because a StackExchange site can't function without moderators, and a moderator can't do a good job without the courage of their convictions.

Still, I think members of the community can politely indicate when they think a mistake was made.

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