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We have a popular Meta discussion, How can I ask a good homebrew review question? The highly-rated, accepted answer has a number of very good ideas. Any question that follows all of that guidance is almost certain to be a good question.

However, I have noticed an increasing number of comments that refer to this guidance for how to make the best possible homebrew-review question as, instead, a rule for how homebrew-review questions must be asked. The comments seem to imply that any question that does not follow the proscribed format is, automatically, a bad question—and must be closed. The comments usually note that they are accompanying a vote to close—often conveyed with a sense of “sorry but I have to, rules are rules.” Almost never do these comments go into specific details of the question that require improvement or clarification; instead, they only offer a link to the Meta.

Obviously, close votes do not require a comment; we are allowed to offer as much, or as little, rationale for a close vote as we want. However, it is altogether rarer that it is desirable to close vote without explanation, as compared to downvotes. Several closure reasons include automatic explanatory comments. Generally speaking, if something is wrong with a question, the expectation is that the community will help the querent resolve it, with clear, specific, actionable advice.

That being the case, are comments that just link to the Meta discussion, and imply that it proscribes a format that must be followed, the correct way to be reacting to homebrew-review questions, and an appropriate use of the Meta discussion? Is closing questions “mechanically,” based solely on whether or not the Meta is followed, regardless of whether or not the resulting question is clear and answerable, an appropriate use of that privilege? Does that Meta discussion, despite its title and apparent purpose in producing the best-possible homebrew-review questions, actually form a required minimum for homebrew-review questions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought it was taken as a given a question didn't have to meet those points 100%! Most homebrew we successfully handle does not. I created that guidance because the community at the time was increasingly frustrated by homebrew reading just "Is this [balanced/good]? [content]" or "I made this thing, what do you think? [content]", i.e. basically just a copy and paste with a sentence added. It was a pro-forma to prompt those questions with on how to engage with us. But it's highly recommended at best—nothing in there is supposed to be prescriptive of the only way to ask a homebrew! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 17 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, a point: I made that answer a community wiki to hint to others to expand the guidance based on what we were seeing and learning. It's not even written to be complete, let alone comprehensive and mandatory. In hindsight I'm wondering if it should've been non-CW, to get people to think “well, this is just what doppelgreener thinks, man” and post alternative answers, like they did for the D&D 5e homebrew guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 17 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ the excuse of many a petty bureaucrat is “sorry but I have to, rules are rules" - nice job in articulating the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 17 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ "However, it is altogether rarer that it is desirable to close vote without explanation, as compared to downvotes." Since when? The explanation is in the system close banner. In my extensive experience, what's rare is when a custom explanation is warranted, not vice versa. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 22 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Well, I don’t know what to tell you—since always? My experience is, ya know, pretty extensive too... \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 22 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It's just that I have not seen that as a normal/default behavior across any of the sites I participate in, so it seems rather surprising that you consider it so. I figure that with ~34k close votes cast network-wide, I'd have seen that if I thought it were the norm. I'm happy to accept that, however improbably, we both have experienced different things with very little overlap in posts, but even with that conclusion, it is a good counterpoint that that may not be the case for many/most users. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 22 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The reason we aren't required to leave comments with downvotes is because it's inherently stated in the help center and as a tooltip over the downvote button what downvotes are for, and leaving a comment more often than not invites harassment/revenge downvoting. The same is true for close votes, and for that same reason, the system close banners do not display the names of the voters to avoid reprisal/complaints by people who have too little rep to (typically) understand how the network sites work. Only once you pass a certain rep threshold can you even see who closed a question. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 22 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, I understand this is ancillary to the point of the post, so if you want to move this particular conversation to chat, I'm happy to do that. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 22 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Not every site on Stack Exchange behaves entirely the same. Stack Overflow, in particular, covers a massively different subject matter, and furthermore has very different difficulties as a result of the immense amount of traffic it deals with. Some of the realities that SO has to deal with (and accept suboptimal solutions to) are not issues here. This site has pretty much always expected that experienced users help guide new users towards the steps they can take to get a question re-opened, or if that cannot occur, where they might be able to find help. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 22 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I understand sites have different rules. I have not seen that perspective on any of them (including this one), and I have seen some pretty weird ones (including a site where all mods don't want to delete any comments, including "+1 thanks" ones)! I will take your word that we simply see very little overlap on questions here :-) \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 22 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ As someone who reads lots of comments, I read a lot of "relevant, please review, please add details, see this meta on how to ask a good homebrew-review question", etc. What you are describing seems to be extremely rare. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 30 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu No, it isn’t rare—and we have been active on a lot of the same questions. What that means, then, is that you are reading the same comments I am, and thinking they are fine and good. Per the fairly-strong consensus we have here, however, they are not. I invite you to consider this the next time you see comments on a homebrew-review question, and ask whether or not the comment is pointing to specific impediments to answering the question, without which we cannot proceed and must close the question. If the comment doesn’t have that, it’s not very helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 30 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The most common style of that comment is something like this - is that an issue? \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 30 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu “We have written up some very good advise for writing the best possible homebrew-review questions; you may want to consider incorporating some of these into your question.” is helpful and fine. “I am voting to close this question because it doesn’t follow these arbitrary rules and if you want to get your question answered you have to follow them to the letter” is not. If there was a reason to close the question, Thomas should have indicated what that was. If the only issue was it could have included some of the ideas from Meta, then that wasn’t a reason to close it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 30 at 20:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ The comment doesn't posit what you are alluding to. Thomas could also close the question without providing any argumentation or comment. We don't have to give guidance or reasoning for voting to close. We may choose to do so when we think it helps. Thomas thought linking to a widely well-regarded meta helps, so Thomas did that. Any way, I'm choosing to disengage here, I'm unconvinced and downvoted accordingly and will not write a competing answer, I choose not do do so, and I don't have to do write one. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 30 at 20:13
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No, this behavior is not ideal

The Meta discussion is for best practices. That is what it provides. It is very good, but not every question needs to be the best ever. People are allowed to ask questions that are not up to that standard—you do not always need everything that discussion suggests in order to answer such questions.

It is reasonable to suggest that a question can be improved; it is reasonable to offer the Meta as advice for doing so. Those are the appropriate uses for that Meta discussion. It is often true that a question may well receive better answers if it is improved.

But that isn’t mandatory, for homebrew-review questions or any other questions on this site. Querents are allowed to be satisfied with a question that is “good enough,” and we are allowed to provide answers that are “good enough.” It is neither imperative nor, frankly, desirable, to groom every question to perfection and make it the best it possibly can be. Very often “good enough” is a better use of everyone’s time.

Whether or not you can answer a question authoritatively is the only relevant requirement for a question. Anything and everything else is secondary to that, and “follows some Meta advice to the letter” really isn’t even secondary. A question should not be closed just because you think that it could be better—maybe it could, but it doesn’t have to be.

Moreover, comments that indicate that a question is being closed solely because it didn’t follow the Meta—with absolutely no substance specific to the particular question—are not terribly constructive or helpful. They are not up to the usual expectations we have for good and helpful comments on questions that are being or have been closed. Typically, we expect those contending a question is unclear or needs details to specify what they found unclear, or specify what details they feel are missing. A link to a Meta is a poor way to do that—the Meta doesn’t know anything about the question. The Meta is not a checklist; not every question needs everything on it. If you feel a question would be better if the querent looked at the Meta, say that—but don’t close the question just because it could be better. Close the question because it cannot be answered authoritatively in our system—and if you want to really help the querent get their question answered, tell them what specific thing from their question you think is preventing the site from answering the question. It may very well be that a specific question needs some specific details suggested by the Meta. It is not the case that every question needs every detail suggested by the Meta. So if you want to help, tell querents what it is they need. And let them be satisfied with “good enough” if they so choose, so long as it is, in fact, “good enough” for this site.

The Meta suggestions offer guidance on how to make your homebrew-review question the best question it can be. But by definition, that cannot be our requirement for such questions—not every question has to be the best question it could possibly be. There has to be room for good enough. There will not and cannot be hard and fast strict rules about what makes good enough—please don’t start another Meta discussion asking after those. That is not how the site works. Rather, if you have the close vote privilege,

It is your responsibility to evaluate a specific question on its own merits, and vote to close if it cannot be answered well and authoritatively. It is your responsibility to judge this matter yourself, based on your experience and based on the specifics of the question. This responsibility cannot be offshored to any general-topic Meta discussion. If you are unsure, hold your vote—others will be by to look in on the question. Using the vote to close in any other fashion—whether it be to establish higher standards in excess of what is necessary for an answerable question, or to mechanically enforce consistency of Meta discussions and avoid the responsibility of making an individual judgment—is an abuse of the privilege. That’s not why it was given to you and not how you should use it.

Also, just as a personal note, having developed a lot of homebrew and also developed material professionally, a lot of the suggestions in the linked Homebrew Review meta are rather unusual. Most places (whether homebrew or playtesting of for-publication material), you would usually just present the material as-is—as it would appear in a book, even if it isn’t destined for one—and want a “blind” review. Because part of what you’re looking to review is whether or not people can understand the material as they would see it if they saw it when you weren’t there to walk them through it. That’s certainly how I’ve done the vast majority of my own review—again, that includes doing so professionally, when my bosses wanted my opinion on whether or not to pursue something someone had submitted. The Meta still offers good suggestions, because I think you can help you get more out of a review, especially when not developing for publication, and I think in some cases material may well be too unclear to answer and the Meta guidance can be a solid approach for rectifying that situation. But as global requirements they are decidedly odd. And they certainly cannot be considered actual requirements to making a review possible—I assure you, they are not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the reasons responsible for this post, but I'd argue that #2 (no iterating on the material in response to answers) on the linked post is not guidance, but actually how it is (not because of the post, but because that's how stack exchange works). So while yes, the how to ask a homebrew review question is mostly guidance, there's parts of it that are driven by actual rules. \$\endgroup\$ – willuwontu Mar 18 at 23:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @willuwontu Yeah, that’s a fair point. No editing questions out from under answers. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 19 at 1:15

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