Today, during my early morning stroll around the site, I found this question:

Super A.I. trapped in an R/C car. Can it escape?

It is blatantly off-topic, since it's about the actions of a single character.

However, it got a bounty. As such, we can't vote to close, so it not just stays open as a bad example of question for the site, but it also seems like we are rewarding questions like those.

What should we do in this case? Can we do something at all while the bounty is open?


Flag it

You could flag it as "in need of moderator attention", type out your reasoning and let the mods handle it from there. This is also what was decided on meta.SE.

The fact that the question stayed open for this long probably means taht a moderator might not want to close it without asking about it on meta though. SO perhaps you should start a discussion about whether this question should be closed seperately from this discussion.

  • $\begingroup$ It didn't occur to me to flag as "in need of moderator attention". I tried to flag it for closing, but it seems that flagging to close and voting to close are mostly the same! Thanks for the idea! $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 11 '16 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira Flagging for closure is the same thing as voting to close once you have VTC privileges. There is a difference before you have VTC privileges; if you can't vote to close, you can still flag to enter the question into the review queue. $\endgroup$ – user Feb 11 '16 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling that seems a bit backwards $\endgroup$ – overactor Feb 11 '16 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @overactor How so? The only effect of flagging as off-topic is to push the question into the review queues, where people who have VTC privileges can look at it and decide whether they think it is off topic or not. If you have VTC privileges, you are expected to be familiar enough with the site's scope to, for example, be able to tell an on-topic question from an off-topic question, and flag/vote accordingly. $\endgroup$ – user Feb 11 '16 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael I meant that people who can't vote to close can still flag as off-topic when people with the privilege can't close anymore. Or did I misinterpret what you said? $\endgroup$ – overactor Feb 11 '16 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @overactor Hm, I didn't take what you wrote that way. I don't know about the interaction of those features, honestly. That does indeed sound somewhat backwards. $\endgroup$ – user Feb 11 '16 at 18:53

The reason I've not mod-hammered it closed is because (and here's the subtle difference) it's not asking "what should/will an individual do" it's asking "what can the individual do". In other words what are the options for the individual in this situation.

It's in a grey area but it's definitely grey at the moment and one of the areas I want to resolve in the upcoming scope discussions. For now we're gathering case studies and discussing options. Once the election is over I plan to work with whoever the new mod team is to start a rather more structured discussion on scope and once that's resolved cases like this will be much clearer.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this difference is enough to justify shielding the question from the guidelines in the help center. The help center says that "Actions of individual characters, rather than elements of the world they inhabit" are off-topic, it doesn't make this distinction of "should/will" and "can". It's still "actions from an individual character". $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 11 '16 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, that's the catch. It's not asking the answers to predict what actions the character will take. It's asking what options are available for actions to take. I agree the difference is subtle but it's important. It's like the difference between "Alice is standing in a room how does she leave it" and "How do I create a room with a way to leave the room". The first example is individual, the second is world. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 11 '16 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth that question may or may not be on topic, we need to have the discussion on where to draw the line in order to say either way for sure though. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 11 '16 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ This question boils down to "which actions can this overly specific individual take, given this group of restrictions, if any", at least on my interpretation. I'll wait for the rest of the community to chime in, but I don't really agree with your point of view on this one. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 11 '16 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ Who knew my question would be so disruptive? $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Feb 11 '16 at 12:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira I don't really have a point of view on this one yet. It's in the unspecified area where it could be on or off topic. Until we open the box it's a Schrodinger's question both on and off topic at the same time. I'm inclined to think it is probably on topic but I'm a long way from convinced either way. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 11 '16 at 12:12

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