This is the broader version of a lot of smaller arguments we have been having again and again and again, so I thought it would be good to have broader one to get this figured out.

In short, we have things

  • Useful to know or happens in the outdoors -> On topic
    • Fish cleaning, rock climbing, bird watching etc
  • Not useful to know or does not happen in the outdoors -> Off topic
    • Piano tuning, ballet dancing, computer programming
  • Things useful to know or happens in both areas -> These are the subject of this post
    • Shoe tieing, cowboy boot repair, knife sharpening

I even drew a diagram for this,

enter image description here

It seems like while everyone agrees that items used in the outdoors/ outdoor activities are on topic, but we seem to be going round and round about the intersection.

For example

There are other examples, but those are the most recent ones I remember. Sometimes we leave them open, and sometimes I have edited them to remove the parts useful in both areas.

Personally, my opinion is that only whether or not something falls inside the green circle matters. Yes, something could also be useful in non-outdoor situations, but I don't think we should exclude that.

Things that land only in the blue circle but could be edited to fall into both such as

  • How can I sharpen a knife to cut computer boxes open?

should be edited to be useful for both, and left open.

  • How can I sharpen a knife?

I don't see why we are excluding the things that fall into the intersection by closing questions that are not specifically about the outdoors.

  • And there are things designed and made for the outdoors that become extremely useful indoors in a power outage that lasts for days. But there is probably only one question one could get out of this subject.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 2:33
  • @ab2 didn’t you delete that one? Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 2:38
  • I started to write such a question and decided not to proceed because I couldn't focus it.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 3:01
  • "computer programming...does not happen in the outdoors" One time while hunting, I wrote a program to intentionally overheat my phone, because it was 44*F outside and I wanted a hand warmer. (Don't do that; it's not a good idea. Take real hand warmers with you.) It actually didn't work, even though that phone was typically quite prone to overheating even with normal phone use and the program used all 4 CPU cores at 100%; it was so cold that the phone wouldn't warm up significantly even with this program running. So computer programming is actually on the rightmost edge of the pink section. :)
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 2:42

4 Answers 4


Any question that has outdoors significance should be kept open here.

I've already stated here and here that some questions might require edits to clarify how they fit into the outdoor situations. The only reason for the edits is to make it clearly in scope for any crowd that might visit us.

The rule of thumb that I go by is to see how the answers to the question could add value to anyone out in the outdoors. In the recent situations where we've had debates on on-off topic questions, the answers have been so obviously helpful for outdoor situations that we've voted to keep the question on site (and made edits as well).

Having said that, I do not feel this debate will stop here. Not everyone might agree on how a question could obviously add value to a outdoor situation (the ones you mention that fall in the intersection). That's also because we as humans have different perspectives. Personally, I do not see any harm in these debates as long as they are civil. It helps us to grow as a community while respecting the different views that prevail out there.


Maybe we are asking the wrong question.

Alternate Question

If a question is not clearly in scope, can or should we edit it to be clearly in scope?

Can we = Yes (related post) every post on the site is community property.

Should we = I think we should, but I this is probably the root issue that needs to be discussed.

  • 1
    There is not a common practice of clearly in scope. Other than clean up I think we should let the OP revise the question as fudging it may break what they want to ask. Tell them about the scope and ask them to clarify how it applies to scope of this site. Change their question could offend some people.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:39
  • 2
    @paparazzo I agree but at the same time, close votes and meta discussions about scope can offend some people as well. I am not to worried about those of us with a long history here, but new users who post borderline questions that lead to these actions/discussions are probably not feeling like they got a warm welcome. Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 14:01
  • 1
    I think the alternate questions should be "Should we edit instead of voting to close if possible?" Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 14:04
  • 1
    OK. Asking them to clarify hopefully should not offend. It takes 5 votes to close. A person has time to bring a question into scope. The nutrition guy is an experienced and it was a poorly worded question in my opinion. Even VTC did not get him to try and comply. A new user does not even know what a VTC is so not typically a good first step.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 14:18
  • 2
    James Jenkins, I think it would be useful to ask your "alternate question separately." I was going to do that with a little extra wording. Would that be okay with everyone, since it isn't a specific answer to Charlie Brumbaugh's post here? I'll defer to your opinion on the matter! Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 20:00
  • 1
    @paparazzo, you brought up a very important point, that new users don't even know what a VTC is. I've been planning a question about how we can do a better job of teaching people, including linking to pages in the Help Center more than some of us have been. I'll be posting that as soon as I have a chance. Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 20:04
  • 1
    @sue I think address is a better word than teach. Not going to teach someone in a single post.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 20:20
  • @sue you are welcome to post the question. Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 0:05
  • @sue I'm waiting for that question ;). I believe we had a similar discussion here Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 6:59
  • 1
    @Ricketyship, Yup, we did have the discussion over there. I'm sorry I haven't gotten to it, I'm still trying to figure out how to word it. I'll plan to do it this weekend, unless someone gets to it first. Thanks for your patience!! Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 21:49

I tend to agree with paparazzo's answer but my stance is far less extreme. I agree that we shouldn't twist, stretch, and contort things so virtually every topic is on topic. At the same time I don't think just because people are likely to get a more technical answer on another stack that the question should be off topic here.

The biggest issue that I perceive and what I believe drives a lot of the push-pull regarding our scope is a desire to "graduate." I feel that some people really want that to happen and as a result try to massage most questions in scope in order to raise our question counts/daily averages. This seems to reinforce the adage "be careful what you measure" or the longer version:

What gets measured gets managed - even when it's pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation[sic] to do so.

Personally I don't care if we ever graduate. I don't come here or contribute so we can graduate. I come here and participate because I enjoy visiting my virtual friends by reading their questions/answers/comments, learn new things, and share my knowledge. I'd rather we were a bit more aggressive about regulating scope, but I definitely don't want a very narrowly defined scope either.

In summary I think the debate is going to continue, but if people focus more on the core identity of the site, instead of graduation, then I think the discussion will be less frequent and less contentious.

  • I still want to get the question rate up because that means more content and activity and fun and things to read, but I recently quit caring almost entirely whether we graduate or not. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 16:13
  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh that seems fine to me. I've enjoyed reading your questions, even though I did VTC your speed one. I think adding quality questions is a clear win, which I feel you consistently do. I was mostly arguing against excessive permissiveness with the grey area questions.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 16:17
  • My fear here is that by being so strict we are loosing out on useful information. The cowboy boots being a perfect example where prohibiting it because the info might be useful in the indoors means that we would also be loosing info regarding the outdoors Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 17:43
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh I don't think we're in danger of being too strict right now. If anything I think we're too permissive. Call me biased but I don't think extreme ironing makes ironing techniques on topic. My position really is an aversion to what SO calls boat questions. You can't just tack "outdoors" on to any question and make it on topic. Otherwise your diagram wouldn't be interlocking. They'd be superimposed.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:12
  • But that's whats going on. We are basically saying this would be on topic if you were on a boat like tying a knot for fishing but unless you directly say that you are on a boat actually fishing its off topic Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:15
  • Another way, figrure eights on a bight have direct relation to climbing, due I need to specify that I am climbing for them to be on topic? Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:15
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh so yes it makes a difference if the figure 8 on a bight is being used to tow an old car through the streets or if it is used for climbing. Towing cars through town is off topic and climbing is on topic. Fishing knots are on topic. Appraising collectable wooden duck decoys off topic. Boots are common kit for outdoor pursuits and repairing equipment is on topic so fixing the boots is on topic. Adjusting both ends of a loop for a necklace probably off topic. Storing firearms/bullets safely on topic. Storing hairbands on a bracelet off topic. Just my opinion, maybe I'm wrong
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:39
  • But how the figure eight is tied does not depend on the intended use. I had to edit the storing firearms to make the on topic (which I would have preferred to not do. To put it another way, there has been at least once where my intent was more about potential hilarity than usefulness and it was still on topic Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:47
  • 1
    This so many times over. When thinking about something being on- or off-topic question count should not be the main decider. And as to firearms: That's just a very heated topic. For many people firearms (except for hunting) are just not part of the outdoors (well life) and are a representation of violence, hence the fundamental and possible unreasonable opposition. When the question features "home defense handgun" (wtf), it doesn't make things less heated.
    – imsodin
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:03
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh sure but a straight how to tie a figure-8 question is overly simplistic, and is indicative of an XY problem. That's why application, intent, and constraints are important elements of a good question. As far as the firearms question I agree that should never have been closed and I'm glad it was reopened. Also I personally don't have any problem with humor. I don't think the humor makes things off topic but the subject matter.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:03
  • @imsodin The first edit was necessary to avoid a flame war, the second really doesn't change the answer, it just makes it clearly on topic. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:11
  • This whole thing we bug me a lot less if instead of voting to close, other people made the small edits and it didn't feel like so much depends on me to edit things. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:12
  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh I think you did a great job with your edits to that post. As to your other point I can understand why you get frustrated. I think to a certain degree that's the nature of the beast. On any given stack there are a handful of people who do the bulk of the work. Even though I've never met you I count you among those "virtual friends" I mentioned in my answer. I don't always sign in, and when I do I don't always pitch in as much as I could. I do however notice and appreciate the good work you do every time I sign in. So thank you for your contributions.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:21
  • 1
    @paparazzo The last time this came up I asked the OP for permission before I edited the question and the OP was appreciative of my edits. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 22:52

"Useful outdoors" is not the stated scope from the tour. The stated scope from the tour is "outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship".

Almost anything can be useful in the outdoors. Could argue an outdoor concert brings piano tuning into scope. I suggest we go by scope from the tour. If that needs to be changed then fine. Until it is changed that is the scope that should be applied.

About and specific to are not the same. Specific is also about expertise. Is it indoor based but this site would have expertise. The pendant knot was not outdoors but you could expect this site to have expertise.

I know you disagree but nothing about the nutrition question (as stated) was specific to the outdoors. This site does not have expertise in nutrition.

Stack Exchange is a network and taking in anything that can be useful outdoors dilutes the network in my opinion. That definition could absorb a good share of many of sites.

Health is clearly a perfect fit for nutrition.

Consider this question how do i calculate how many watts of energy I need when camping. Nothing about that is specific to the outdoors. There are two other sites that are goods fits. electronics and mechanics

This question is a good example. Is it an outdoors question because it is an outdoor jacket. Pretty much any jacket is for outdoor use. Is there anything about sewing that is specific to the outdoors? This is not a field repair. crafts.stackexchange.com has a sewing tag. Unless this is a pocket type very specific to an outdoor activity jacket to me it is out of scope (but I am not going to VTC).

Cooking is a site that has numbers. They have a strict scope. They don't take nutrition questions as in what is a healthy diet. They don't take recipe questions.

Poker is a site with low count and they don't take in questions on other card games (even if they are played with a poker deck) to bring in numbers.

I don't think that making this site a catch all for anything that can be useful outdoors is good for the network or this site. It is inconsistent with the stated scope from the tour.

  • Like I said in my answer I agree with much of what you said. One place where I think we differ is I don't mind if there is some overlap between sites. I agree that we could tighten up our scope, as I know you've been advocating for a while.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:33
  • @Erik Many sites have overlap even common tags wiich I think is OK. There is a poker site and poker tags on 3 sites (used to be 4). My home poker game is outdoors, should this site accept poker questions?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 22:30
  • :) clearly not.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 22:31

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