I originally voted to close a question asking for things to do on a trip to Quepos, Costa Rica, with teenagers. There were some general ideas, and it had tags, but nothing was really detailed or specific, so I felt it was too broad. This is the question. Based on the comments to the question the core reason it was reopened was summarized in this comment (emphasis mine):

I agree with @PaulPaulsen. We have many questions very much like this one. If we closed or migrated our "travel-recommendation" type questions, we'd lose much of our popular content. Many are broad and opinion-based, but that's part of our culture here. Admittedly there's some confusion if you look at this type of question over the years, some get closed, some don't. This one may have an issue because OP hasn't been back yet to give more detail, but I don't think it invalidates the type of question. As always, that's just my opinion! Thank you for listening.

I'm not asking for this question to be reclosed (I think it should) as much as I'm asking should I adjust how I vote to close in the future.

In general I won't vote to close if the question is broad but I feel like a "best" answer is reasonably likely. In my mind the Quepos question fails this test because there are so many options and the OP hasn't given us a real indication of their preferences that I don't know how "best" is reasonably defined. Unless the OP tries every suggestion and then says "I accept this answer because I enjoyed it the most." Additionally this question is absolutely a list question. Since they are essentially asking, "What is fun to do outside at insert city name?" the potential answers are nearly boundless. For example I can think of lots of different answers just based on the tag: go kayaking, rafting, canoeing, cata-rafting, tubing, for each of the multiple rivers not to mention the potential fishing suggestions a willingness to be on the river(s) opens up. We also don't know the experience/fitness level of the group in general, or in jungle environments. Since "off the beaten path" is mentioned I might recommend finding a local guide to cross Los Quetzales National Park on foot. Is this appropriate or were they just trying to avoid tourist traps?

Those were the kinds of thoughts I was thinking when I voted to close. I think "travel-recommendation" (to use the term in the comment) type questions can be on topic here but I also think they need to be much more specific than the Quepos question. In my opinion closing a question that needs significant clarification is beneficial for everyone, including the OP. How should I adjust my thinking?

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    I think that the question was rather poor, so it might not be a great one for adjusting your thinking on closing. Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 17:10
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh I totally agree, but then again it was reopened pretty darn quickly, and Sue's comment seemed to have a lot of support presumably by the people who voted to reopen. The disconnect between what I feel, and what it seems like you feel too, with what the reopeners feel makes me want to hear and consider their view point. Maybe one group is missing something the other group sees, so maybe we're wrong...
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 17:15

3 Answers 3


I wasn't really involved in this particular case, as I tend to stay clear of discussions about topics I don't care about/don't have any expertise. I don't want to make my answer about whether it should be closed or not, however I do believe the question has room for improvement. I need this premise to make my point, so I hope we can agree on that. If you don't, never mind, just assume it's about another question where it applies ;)

Sue quickly requested additional information in a comment on the question. What I believe to be the problem here is how the OP, a new user, perceived what happened in the following: Sue's comment was drowned in arguments about whether or not to close this question and for what reason. It should be obvious how this can deter a new user. While an experienced user knows, that a closed question is not done for, that is what it looks like to a new user (I don't know any other community where closing is not de facto final).

It is key to guide a new user who posted a question that does not meet our standards, but is not completely rubbish. Meaning ask for the relevant information and if you want to go ahead with closing (and you should when it is appropriate), make a very prominent and clear point that a question can and should be salvaged, which will result in it being reopened. Don't make it a discussion about how this question is bad, i.e. close-worthy, but a discussion about how this should be improved - you still make your point about closing but it is an entirely different signal to the OP.

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    That's good advice for sure and I'll try to keep it in mind.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 14:07

I agree that the question needed clarification. Two days ago, Sue listed information that the OP could have responded to, but has not. However, I think someone who knew the town they asked about could have given a good answer.

If someone had asked exactly the same question (but including time of year) about Yosemite National Park, I would have answered, with hiking options that took into account outdoors experience and energy levels and a few caveats if one or more of the teenagers were young. I would have recommended a few things that I do not have first hand experience on for them to research (rock climbing classes, float trips down the Merced). That is, I would have used imagination in answering.

I think, to some degree, we have to use imagination in dealing with questions from first time users. They might not know what they want, and insistence on clarification is just going to shut them off.

I don't think a cut and paste job from references that are very easily found on-line is the way to answer this question -- (although I am not against cut-and-paste answers on all questions.)

My conclusion is that this question is (a) marginally OK, but (b) that there is no one among our users who can give an answer based on first hand experience (or they would have done so already) and that therefore (c) it should be migrated to travel.

  • Where do you feel the boundary is between imagination and needing more information? I think I understand what you're trying to say. I agree that there should be room for a general answer to a general question. The imagination vs information boundary is my hang-up for this question. I'll evaluate if I think I should adjust in the future.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 18:33
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    @Erik Good point. I think what I mean is: "Could I be helpful with this question if it were about a place that I knew well?" On this question, one essential point is what does the OP mean by "off the beaten track"? I suspect this means something quite different to the OP than it does to most of the users of this site. For YNP, I would give options for lesser-used trails, but not about cross country hikes unless a dialogue established that the OP was experienced with cross country hiking.
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 18:49
  • I think if the question at hand would have been reduced to just hikes then I would have accepted it as broad but manageable. That would have passed my imagination vs information test. The scattershot without scope is what really put it over the line for me. I think the risk when we try to help without asking for more information is we give an answer that doesn't end up helping the OP. Like your example or if someone asks about the best outdoor sleep system and I answer with this not the hammock they need
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 19:19
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    Based on your comment to Charlie's answer I better understand what you're saying with "imagination." I think there is still a danger in giving an answer that doesn't give the OP an answer they need or can use, but I'm going to really consider it next time I'm debating answering vs closing.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 19:28

I would say that the question is too broad because of how broad the possible answers would be.

For instance if you plug the question into Google you will get results like this,

There is no way I am going to write 50 different things that a person could possibly do. We don't know what the experience levels or how in or out of shape the people are and that would all effect it.

I think I lot of the reopening was driven by sympathy for a new user. If I wrote that question, it would probably be downvoted into oblivion and closed right away.

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    Yes I agree with a lot of what you said. I do agree that sympathy probably played a part in the reopening. Personally I do think that it should have stayed closed, but I do think new users should be given a bit more leeway when coupled with guidance. Also with that specific question I wasn't even sure if the ocean was off limits. It kind of felt like they were grabbing for tags they might think are possible answers, not like they were restricting the options to inland only. That would have opened up a whole 'nother slew of options if the ocean activities were considered.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 18:39
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    On English Language and Usage, "general reference" questions are off topic. These are questions that can be answered by consulting a dictionary or Etymonline or a few other standard references. The Quepos question as written was a "general reference" question. However, if someone knew Quepos well, they could have gone beyond a "general reference" answer. No one has, which is why I think it should be migrated to travel.
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 19:01

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