I am a member of History SE whose "day job" has suddenly forced me to look hard at programming.

I have had (approved) edits on questions like this and this. The gist of these questions were "Why is protocol X preferred to protocol Y?" Such questions are usually closed (in their original form), because they are "broad" and therefore too "opinion based," and subjective to be suitable for the site.

I have gone about editing one or two such questions by (re-)asking, what did people think historically, when they chose X over Y.

Edit: Going forward, I would ask for "records" (corporate minutes, pitchbooks, essays in professional journals, etc.) about what did the "decision makers" (as opposed to random people) think historically, when they chose X over Y. "Choosing" (as opposed to preferring), implies "decision making," but maybe I didn't make that clear.

This substantially narrows the question, because the choices, (and often the reasons), are a matter of historical record, rather than user opinion. All other things being equal, such a change makes a question more objective.

Does this constitute enough of a improvement for formerly closed questions to be re-opened? I, for one, would find even a discussion of historical rationales for choices helpful. More to the point, would it make sense for me (and others) to go around making these changes to improve the quality of the site?

1 Answer 1



Adding the word "historically" to a question doesn't make the question any more meaningful or on-topic, any more than adding the phrase "as a programmer" makes it more relevant to programmers. Asking what someone thought about something in the past rather than today doesn't make it any less opinion-based.

What matters is whether someone is able to cite their sources. If a person can demonstrate that they had first-hand knowledge of the decision-making process, or can point to an Internet post from an authoritative source that describes the decision making process, that is what makes the post less opinion-based.

A question that merely asks for proof or citations is off-topic, it being primarily a search request.

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    And of course the problem with questions even as such as the OP described is that they invite a plethora of answers from people who have no sources to cite. Trying to moderate the answers and keep flame wars from erupting is too much of a chore.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 17:31
  • Do I understand correctly that the "historical relevance" comes from citing what the actual "decision maker" (the one who okayed or vetoed the new protocol) thought at the time, rather what the answerer thought at the time?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:15
  • First-hand knowledge or a citation is fact, not speculation. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:16
  • If I were to "reedit" the compiler question, for instance, I would write, "what caused the CREATORS to create new languages like D or Go. I assume that they are the decision makers, or at least were involved in the process.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:21
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    No, that doesn't work. If the creators happened to wander in here and answer the question, well then. But the question itself still invites speculation from others in the meantime. KAFEE: "Please the Court, is the judge advocate honestly asking this witness to testify as to how the defendant felt on August 6th?" Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:22
  • Then we go back to the issue of "records." What do the "records," (corporate minutes, "pitchbooks," essays in professional journals etc. say about why the creators created...
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:28
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    Read them yourself. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:29
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    @TomAu Asking for resources (your "records") is off-topic here. We have a custom close reason for resource requests.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:49

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