I am just wondering if it is beneficial for the GIS community if the GIS.SE website is more lenient/liberal than the main StackOverflow website.

The main SO website is arguably becoming more strict. Quoting one of the SO meta answers:

Yes, it has. During the early days, due to the need to build awareness of the site and the lack of availability of other sites, the guidelines were much more lax in terms of what was considered on-topic. While quality standards existed, there wasn't a lot available to use as a measurement of what was a good (or not so good) question.

Now that there are so many other StackExchange sites available for specific types of questions (such as SuperUser for general computer/software questions), the guidelines have gotten more specific. So have the quality standards - it's a lot easier to judge a poor quality question when you have millions of good (or great) ones to compare it against, and a few million other users to help make that determination.

My take is that how strict the website varies over time and depends on the amount of questions we have. Compared to SO, GIS.SE is probably still in its youth. This is evident if you visit the review queues of GIS.SE and SO, and compare the two. My experience is that most times, the first time question queue and late answer queue [which I am accessible to] are empty.

Content-wise, I feel that many would-be off-topic topics for SO are allowed in GIS.SE, at least a year ago. For example, recommendation for books, data etc.

On the other hand, I also feel that the atmosphere is becoming more strict. Some of my questions are dismissed as opinionated because I criticize/question features of popular products like ESRI and PostGIS. One of my questions was closed by mods because it relates to a ESRI decision that outsiders cannot change. [I won't provide a link as I promised not to complain about that specific question here.] In another occasion, I probably offended the PostGIS community while comparing one of its specific features to ESRI world, and gets closed as opinion-based.

I am not complaining about being closed, or argue that there is or is not a trace of opinion in my questions. What I am asking is:

Is it wise for GIS.SE to follow the current standards of SO?

In my opinion, GIS.SE is like SO a few years back, when a lot of the "good" questions asked then would be closed nowadays instantly. These include many many one-liner or two-liners with hundreds or thousands of upvotes and no example/code/justification whatsoever. This also includes the comparison type questions, which probably helped a lot to understand the difference between technologies.

Would it be better to control the strictness of GIS.SE based on e.g. time or volume of questions/answers or other metrics? Ideally/conceptually, there could be an inverse heuristic relation between strictness and one of these metrics. (Practically, of course, such formula are impossible to develop.)

After all,

  1. GIS.SE is still relatively young as measured by age and volume, and
  2. unlike SO, which has various spin-offs such as codereview, programmer, computer science, etc. etc., we don't have GISicencer, GIS programmer, GIS recommendation etc.

Admittedly, this is a general, opinion-based/subjective and probably not well-organized question. Also, I am a low-rep user here, and do not see many of the issues only visible to higher-rep/more experienced users. But I just want to raise the issue for discussion.

  • 2
    Geographic Information Systems is younger than Stack Overflow but as can be seen at stackexchange.com/sites#oldest we have already been around 5.5 years which is 73% of the 7.5 years that SO has been in existence. I don't think we should be characterized as a beginning site.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 3:29
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    Discussion is, of course, fine here on Meta.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 3:38
  • @PolyGeo My intended sense of time, is primarily in terms of accumulated volume and amount of participation. In my opinion, when the quality of a site increases, it's often more "acidic". This is a good thing, although not pleasant to individuals who got rejected/closed. My question/point is that the size of the pool of GIS.SE probably isn't as high as SO, to support the same level of acidity as SO.
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 7:08
  • I am not even sure that this is a very good question. But I hope it will spawn better ones.
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 7:40
  • I think many of the Q&As you may be hoping to spawn can already be found on this site by looking at the self-assembling FAQ on questions tagged scope. Many of them continue to be discussed.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 7:46
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    @PolyGeo In terms of volume, the stats you provide says that GIS.SE has less than 1% of question than SO. While this doesn't mean that GIS.SE is one year old if SO is 100 years old because GIS is a smaller domain. On the other hand, it does make me feel that GIS.SE is much "younger".
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


You asked:

Is it wise for GIS.SE to follow the current standards of SO?

I would say to do so blindly would be unwise, because SO receives 6,800 questions per day while GIS SE gets 44.

However, we can save ourselves a lot of growing pains by being aware of the lessons the SO community learned as they grew and broke new ground for the first time.

Fortunately, many of those lessons were, and continue to be, well documented at Meta Stack Overflow and Meta Stack Exchange.

Just today I read an excellent answer to Can I be successful using Stack Exchange? which I think may be relevant to this discussion of strictness.

I think that answer should be read in context, and so I won't quote from it, but I think it provides some background to why Stack Exchange sites become, and need to become, stricter as they grow in size and mature.

It is its community that moderates GIS SE, and if any one of us with the close privilege is being overzealous when voting for closure (which they can only do once per question) then remember that there are currently 142 others who can vote to re-open it.

This should keep the level of strictness at GIS SE in step with the site's maturity and aspirations as it continues to grow.

One final bit of related reading that I came across today: Individual community preferences vs. SE network policy: who wins?

I think that sums up how most of the policies on Stack Exchange should be viewed: not as inscrutable edicts handed down from on high, but as advice based on experience - things folks have tried and found to work or... not work... and the policies we've observed these communities enforcing as a result. For instance,

  • Want a bunch of lists of recommendations? Be warned that they’ve led to the death of at least one site, and bitter arguments on many more. If you're trying to attract experts, then focus on questions that require some sort of expertise to answer.
  • I am not really complaining about a closure or two, or want to be successful on GIS.SE or SO. I am interested in how does the site serve the GIS community. Does the SO pattern align well with the interest of GIS users/developers? I think, at least for the present, some types of problems such as recommendation for data and other resources, would be more beneficial than harmful. So IMHO, it should be and probably is allowed. Opinionated questions are IMO, more complex. My concern is though, I feel that the two sites are becoming more similar. As you said, blindly following SO standard is no good
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 7:17
  • That's why I raise the issue of how do we differentiate GIS.SE standards from the SO standards; what applies and what does not. Of course, this is not only opinionated and too broad, but also probably impossible to answer comprehensively. But I still feel the need to raise the issue, because it would be easy for a user to follow SO by default.
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 7:19
  • As a moderator I tend to use the number of votes for moderation and note who is closing them based on that can I help out. There are a lot of 'GIS' questions on Stack Exchange not on GIS.SE mainly due to GIS.SE being a younger site. We do prefer questions that have an exact answer - earlier when the GIS.SE was smaller/younger most questions (fav GIS book) was discussed as a question - technically this is an opinion based question but open gis.stackexchange.com/questions/4236/…. more were turned to community wiki when we first started.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 15:28
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    @Mapperz, the question you cite is now on hold. I do agree such questions should be stopped as it is really too broad. On the other hand, I just got two close-votes about asking a question about PostGIS on the ground that this is not GIS. This is the kind of acidity I am talking about. If it were SO, I will understand and leave, because that's the norm there. There is not much point fighting it. Now if it's GIS.SE when there is not a lot going on, it does feel like we are following SO too much.
    – tinlyx
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 17:18

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