We have two similar questions looking for advice about doing a specific activity for the first time. One is closed, the other open, and I'm not sure I understand the difference.

I'm going to quote the text here to make it easier.

First time camping, need advice:

It was posted on February 2, 2012. It's Open.

Me and my wife have never done camping before and always wanted to do it. This time we are planning to go for a small camping trip but have no idea how to prepare for it. We like to hike and are beginners in that too!

Is there a guide for starters or any other resources we should look into?

Between that day and the next it received 3 answers. The edit history doesn't show a status change, so I assume it was always open.

As of today, the question has 20 upvotes. The first answer has 31, the second has 10 and the third has 7.

Tips for first-time hikers:

It was posted on April 5, 2016. It's Closed.

I'm going to be hiking for the first time, and it's going to be in a woody mountain in the backcountry, and I'd like to have some to-dos, not-to-dos, must-carries, and what precautions I should take while hiking in forests like this.

Info that may be useful:

I'm a couch potato, I'm not fat but I'm not that dude who exercises a lot.

I walk 3 to 4 miles a day (I walk to work, it's not so far away and I get to enjoy some fresh air.)

I plan on hiking for a day, maybe two.

I bought some gear, like a backpack for campers, some knives, survival matches, some canned food (my favorite), a tarp, an iron pot for cooking.

I'm not really sure of what kind of shoes I should wear, and I'm thinking about bringing a first aid kit on me as well.

It originally had only the first paragraph and was closed as "too broad" on the day it was posted. After adding the list of "Info that might be useful" it was reopened on the following day. Eight hours later it was closed again as "too broad." It had 1 answer. As of today, the question has 3 upvotes, and the answer has 10.

I find it confusing. The first paragraph of each are very similar. The one that took the time to add relevant detail ended up closed. That OP was actually farther along in the "first-time" process because they had been physically preparing, and even purchased gear.

The discrepancy is easy to find. When you look at one, the other comes up as "linked" in the list on the right side, so it's easy to read both at the same time. That's how I first saw it. They also both come up in various tag searches. On further inspection, I see that the OP of the answer on the hiking question posted a link to the Camping question. That can be helpful, but also increase confusion.

Part of me is curious how this happened. For instance, did our standard for "too broad" get more strict between 2012 and 2016? (I haven't done enough research to prove or dis-prove that as a hypothesis.) Is there another reason?

My more important concern is how to create consistency. Should we vote to open the closed one, to close the open one, or just leave them be?

Going forward, how can we best avoid this confusion? I believe we should help beginners in every possible way, so that's not my point at all. I just want to discuss how to establish consistency in handling these types of very similar questions when deciding whether they should be open or closed.

  • 3
    The only person I recognize who answered or commented on the Feb 2012 question is Russell Steen. (Apologies to anyone I should have recognized!) I recognize all five of the close-voters on the April 2016 question. My guess is that in 2012, users were thrilled to get questions, and were much more lax in their standards than they were four plus years later. The 2016 question was correctly closed, IMO, considering the 2012 question; the 2016 question would have been better closed as a duplicate. But as to your REAL question, how to guide newbies who may die without our advice, let me think.
    – ab2
    Aug 27, 2017 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


It is a mistake to worry too much about consistency over a long period of time. In the life of this site, four years is a long time; standards were lower four years ago. Four years from now, standards will likely be different -- not necessarily higher, but different.

If one looks back several years on English Language and Usage, the questions on average were better, but the standard for answers was lower. The reason for both was the same: a higher percentage of truly expert users. If one of those users said such a thing was so, he didn't need to quote experts; he was the expert.

As you look back on your life, you probably see consistency in some of your reactions and opinions, and a vast difference in others. Given a time machine so we could meet, myself of today would not have liked myself of decades ago, and vice versa.

  • 1
    If you want consistency deal with computers, not people Aug 31, 2017 at 4:26
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    @CharlieBrumbaugh I assume you don't use any Microsoft products for computer stuff. It changes consistently, often it seems only for the sake of change. Sep 1, 2017 at 16:10

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