I came across a question where a user originally asked for software to complete a particular analysis:

How can I find the highest path of a DEM or contours file within an area?

and suggested FME or ArcGIS as candidates. A moderator then edited the question so that it asked only for ArcGIS-based solutions :

Finding highest path of DEM or contours file within area using ArcGIS Desktop?

then provided an answer using ArcGIS. Is it considered appropriate for a moderator to change the scope of another user's question so that it fits the moderator's own software preferences?

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It depends. A question does not necessarily have to be about one specific software to be considered not broad, as long as it is specific enough in details to avoid five users casting a close vote as 'too broad' (or even 'unclear'). So that is, questions about software can also be closed as 'too broad', or 'unclear'.

Asking about means of accomplishing a specific GIS task (independent of software) is also valid. See for example, my POV in Are software recommendations good candidates for being wiki locked? I have one hypothesis that some people who work only with more standard/developed GIS software has some difficulty to understand that not all GIS (and related fields) tasks can be accomplished in all GIS software.

About the specific question you linked to, If it had been edited after the answer was posted, which was months after that Q remained unanswered, I would not have seen a problem with taken action, i.e., tying question and answer. If it was the case, and I still wanted to post an FME answer anyway, I would say something along the lines "you also was interested using FME, so here is one alternative, etc.". I'd not edit it back if the other answer was accepted, or highly scored (which was also not the case there).

However, it was not like the above; the edit was carried out within minutes after the question was asked. Also, as explained before, don't agree with the justification provided for the edit:

Reduced scope to prevent being closed as too broad

Last, a borderline issue, sometimes I will observe users commenting to OP asking/requesting to state a specific software in question. Sometimes the OP is indeed working with one specific software; sometimes they are not, but give way and pick one; and sometimes OP specifically says he/she is open to work with whichever software if he/she can get an answer that addresses the question. At least the last case should respect OP's will.

And go back to first paragraph, the question would need to be clear, have enough details, etc.

That's interesting. It depends.

While the question specified was edited and subsequently answered by a moderator, this could just as easily apply to any user with edit privileges.

That question was tagged from the beginning, but the body mentioned both FME and ArcMap (that same edit removed the FME reference too).

I have seen other examples of this, and in general, I'm OK with it if the edit is incorporating details from the comments from the OP. For example, if the OP specifies the software preference in the comments, then I think it's fairly clear.

But in this case, at the time edit in question was made, there weren't that many comments, and they were mostly referencing FME.

It could also be argued that the tags of a question somewhat 'override' in this case, since I would have likely not even have opened this question if I were looking only for FME questions.
I'm not sure I would agree with editing a question (I personally will ask in comments about conflicting body/tags), but if a question body mentions multiple software packages, but only one of those is tagged I tend think the tagged one is 'preferred.'

So, yes if the edit is actually just a clarification of the OPs actual preference (from comments, etc.), but no in most other cases.

The intent of my edit was to make a focused question.

When I read a question I try to focus on what the asker writes because any other commenters may or may not have understood their intention.

In Finding highest path of DEM or contours file within area using ArcGIS Desktop? @Kate told us what they wanted to do, and asked if anyone had done it successfully in either FME or ArcGIS.

They did not tell us which of the two they wanted to use more in either the question title or body, but they tagged for ArcGIS Desktop, and did not tag for FME.

They also commented on a comment by @Mapperz that they did not think the FME suggestion provided would work.

I came upon this question about half an hour later. After the 50:50 call in the body as to which they might want to ask about first, I saw the ArcGIS Desktop tag, and assumed that weighted it in favour of asking about ArcGIS Desktop first, and if necessary then FME in a separate question.

I may or may not have seen the first two comments saying that they thought the FME suggestion would not work, and if I did, then that made it look more like 75:25 that the way to get this question focused on the software that the asker was leaning towards was with ArcGIS Desktop.

I then edited to focus the question on ArcGIS Desktop.

It looks like I next saw the question 10 months later when, after some comments about the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, it looked like a comment by @GBG might provide an answer, so I quoted it as one.

In the intervening period no one provided an FME answer (and edited the question to retrofit to that), no one provided another FME comment and no one edited the question to focus it on FME instead. All of those may have been helpful to the asker, and the first would have meant that I had no need to provide an answer.

If my intention and actions to help the asker get an answer were right, then I would expect to see it upvoted at some point. If I was wrong, then I expected the asker and/or community to let me know by downvoting my answer or commenting. Either outcome is fine for me because I felt like I had done my best to try and get this question answered in a focused way.

I have no preference for which technology is used in a focused Q&A.

Although I am an elected moderator, the action I took was one that any GIS SE user with the Edit Questions and Answers privilege could have taken instantly. Any other registered user could have suggested the same edit the instant they joined GIS SE, and even an anonymous user can suggest such edits 10 minutes after a question has been posted.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – PolyGeo Jul 26 at 22:40

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