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In June '21, Someone_Evil began a discussion: We need to talk about late votes to “policy” metas. As part of the summary of her overwhelmingly supported answer, doppelgreener includes this point:

  • If a position on meta loses majority support, revisit them. The evidence we have at the moment suggests this takes a long time to happen, so we don't need to be concerned that this might happen constantly on any given issue.

Based on this guidance, I believe it may be time to at least consider if we should revisit the rule intent meta from our FAQ: Are questions about rule intent on topic?

In 2021, the accepted answer that represents the current state of "policy" has scored +3/-4, while the dissenting response has scored +7/-2, as I am writing this post. These votes have left the scores at +27-15 = 12 in favor of "rule intent questions are generally off topic" and +26-10 = 16 in favor of "rule intent questions are on topic".

However, only two weeks prior to the posting of the rule intent discussion that is now part of our FAQ, this discussion took place: How do we save designer reasoning questions? The voting on this question tells an entirely different story. The accepted answer here, featuring the bold header "Designer reasoning questions should be banned", is sitting at a somewhat one-sided +44/-7, the next highest answer, which provides guidance on how to change designer reasons questions to be good questions, is sitting at a near-unanimous +32/-1.

Given this state of affairs, I put forward the question:

Is it time to formally revisit the topicality of rule intent questions?


Note: this is not the place to discuss whether or not rule intent questions should be on topic. The place for that is here: So, let’s talk about rule intent and question closing

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    \$\begingroup\$ Part of the reason the discussion you linked was asked so generally was to be applicable was so it'd have reasoning directly applicable to any future occurrences (the response that this would be unlikely to ever happen again is now slightly amusing). The actual discussions like this are slightly awkward because they're delaying the actual discussion, and despite directions some will always want to skip to going at the actual issue. There's probably some irony in that, given the issues around rule intent. Just wanted to air it as a general thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Dec 23, 2021 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Unilaterally deciding to revisit rule intent questions and getting to unilaterally decide the framing of that discussion seemed awkwarder. That said, this is only delaying the actual discussion if someone else was going to kick it off (I've been waffling for a while on even saying anything). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 23, 2021 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ you misconstrue the 2nd best answer in the Designer Reasons ban: it says "Alter them to not ask for designer reasons" - Designer Reasons are OT even under that answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 28, 2021 at 8:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I think that’s what I said. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28, 2021 at 12:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or close to it. The actual question there was not “are these questions on topic”, it was “how can we fix them”, which Korvin answers by explaining how to land them well within our on topic guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28, 2021 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil has now made a new post to actually discuss the topicality of questions about rule intent here: So, let’s talk about rule intent and question closing (...Thomas, I know you edited in a link at the end of your post, but I figured I'd explicitly call it out for those who didn't see that you'd done so :P) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Feb 22 at 22:32

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Yeah, I think we're due a discussion about the state of rule intent and designer reasons questions

I'll start with a minor disclaimer that this my personal opinion, not a formed stance by the mod team. In case that matters to anyone.

I think there two primary reasons for that. Firstly, the FAQ question has votes over time which imply a change of opinion. And even if the conclusion of a new discussion is to keep them banned, we'd need to fix what the FAQ points to.

The second is that we now have three and half years of experience with the policy and practice of rule intent being off topic. More specifically, some of the close voting seem to perhaps be an over-zealous application of the policy, which suggest a discussion ending in returning to form and/or reshaping the policy is in order.

The "hot take" version of that might be that any question which includes the word "why" gets attempted closed as rule intent, and I think there's a very interesting discussion to have around that, which would roll into the broader discussion very well.

So, I think there is a discussion around the topicality of rule intent and Designer Reasons, which would essentially include a revisit. If there are any additional sub-concerns or perspectives folks think should be raised in that (ie in the question body) I'd love to hear them.


† I'd possibly like some good examples of this (that are usable without it becoming a callout post). I might be able to do some digging on my own, but if others have them I'd welcome the help.

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If nothing else, we need to clarify the rule to stop misuse

There are users who seem to want to over-use the ban on designer-intent questions to close an enormous swath of questions that we can, have, and should handle quite well. (For instance, some seem ready to close any and all questions that include the word “why”). I have several times considered opening a Meta discussion with the title “Designer-Intent Ban considered harmful,” because even though I don’t really care about the “true” designer-intent questions (where the only possible answer is from the author themselves), there are tons and tons of questions I do care about that people are (incorrectly) voting to close under this rule. Even if I could be persuaded that it would be best to close the questions we’ve had some problems with in the past, if that means throwing the baby out with the bathwater I want no part. Better to have the odd “noisy” designer-intent HNQ every now and then than to lose some of our best questions.

At the very least, something needs to be fixed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've thought for a while now that a fair number of the questions you're talking about would not be closed if they were phrased as, "What breaks if rule X goes away?" rather than, "Why does rule X exist?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 28, 2021 at 6:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak Yes! And the original discussion of banning rules-intent questions emphasized that and recommended such edits. That hasn’t happened. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 28, 2021 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. That discussion may have been before my time-- can you link to it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 28, 2021 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ At any rate, it may be my computer science training taking hold, but if trivial, almost formulaic edits can convert a question like that, maybe those questions shouldn't be closed in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 28, 2021 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak The common problem with that type of edit is whose question we are preserving and that these questions often border on other problematic schematics such as outright rants or unclear problems. We help no one by guessing, and we may waste a lot of time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu "Don't guess the actual problem" is the new "don't guess the system"? :P \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2021 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu I didn't say someone has to actually perform the edit. I'm saying if the trivial edit could be done, the questions are basically equivalent, so why close one but not the other? It's a foolish waste of time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ And if it can't-- if the question is a thinly disguised rant, or a genuinely unclear situation-- then act accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak We can do a trivial edit to have a question that would fit the stack in a few cases per year, and in most of these cases, that edit would be guessing at the querent's intent, and often not demonstrably be their actual question — that they can specify if they are interested. Whether we perform that edit or not in that hypothetical doesn't change anything about our starting position. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan If you were as active as me in that regard, maybe you'd adjust your perception of what "few" means. But, since you feel very strongly about the subject, I encourage you to list examples from this year that would convince the more active reviewers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand that any amount can feel like too many, but your statements about an enormous swath of questions seem to encompass an amount that you can easily demonstrate and back up with a swath of examples to showcase just how much harm you assume that a broad application by these users does. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu No, because all that would demonstrate is that there are a lot of questions you consider unclear—about which you are wrong. That’s my entire point: I want to take your cudgel away. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 29, 2021 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Your frequent callouts against users and your insinuations of these users as abusing rules to harm the community look like something that you should escalate to our moderation team, and if you are simply frustrated about differing viewpoints regarding the plenty of moderation cases, then I recommend a language that leaves out these insinuations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu No, because I do not assume any bad faith—I have no reason to believe that anyone wants to harm the community. I just know that, despite their best intentions, they are. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 29, 2021 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Simple changes like changing "abuse" to "misuse as a cudgel" would convey the same state of grievance, but without that accusation of moral depravity. Please mind your language. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2021 at 19:36
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Those numbers don't seem to justify revisiting the topic.

Note that this is my personal opinion, not a mod consensus.

While doppel is 100% correct (as would be expected) that we should be willing to revisit decisions that have lost majority support, I think we should set a slightly higher threshold than "16 > 12". One thing that is important to keep in mind when considering revisiting policies is that generally the only people voting in them after they leave the Meta front page is people who got linked to them when their question was closed. That is, only the anti-policy crowd has an incentive to seek out and vote in the old meta question.

Especially with the relatively small number of people that have voted on that meta (less than 40 users could account for all votes) we should be looking for a higher level of disagreement with the policy before we revisit it. If we had the pro-policy answer at about +15 and the anti-policy answer at about +30, that would imply a significant change in community sentiment and provide a strong basis for reopening the topic for discussion.

It's also worth remembering that every answer in the temporally-adjacent meta was in support of the current policy, and the highest is at +44/-7, giving it more net support than the two answers in the "official" meta combined.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the point about the built-in bias of poll drift (not proven, but certainly plausible) I would suggest that there should be an additional criterion for revisiting these topics: An active controversy concerning the policy, or evidence that the policy is beginning to chafe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 26, 2021 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not interested in trying to define that precisely; people who read Meta know what looks like-- long strings of meta posts discussing or arguing about it, excessive churn in open/close votes, strident arguments in meta, etc. I am interested in not having a mechanical, rules-based meta-policy on when to revisit already mechanical policies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Dec 26, 2021 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak That’s a really helpful perspective I hadn’t really thought of, thanks for that. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2021 at 19:50
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No, it should stay closed.

I don't think there is any reason why "Rules as intended" has gotten any less reason to be closed because:

  • People have used Rules as Intended as an excuse to bend logic and argue anything they interpreted into the rules to be as it was "intended by the designers" - including the exact opposite of what the rule says! This makes RAI pretty much Opinion Based by default in absence of someone actually being the designer of a mechanic.
  • In 99.99% of the cases, the users are not the designers and only those can say what is intended by the designers. There are only very few cases where designers actually do note something about why they made something how they made it. But open questions make people guess and at times present made up stuff as evidence. We have closed Designer Reasons (among others) for this very reason with a very overwhelming majority - indeed nobody spoke up to try to save the tag when that went to the butcher.

Since Rules as Intended is nothing but a guise for Designer Reasons, the total ban of Designer Reasons includes RAI.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ See my footnote: "Note: this is not the place to discuss whether or not rule intent questions should be on topic." \$\endgroup\$ Dec 23, 2021 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I say we should not revisit it because it was closed properly and there is nothing that would make it on topic now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 23, 2021 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems a bit circular to me. "We should not revisit the topicality of these questions because these questions are off topic". What? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 23, 2021 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov "RAI" is nothing but Designer Reasons in a different guise \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 23, 2021 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish The question here is whether to revisit Designer Reasons (rule intent is generally a better term, but it's all the same thing). Is there a particular reason you're focusing on whether to revisit RAI and not Designer Reasons in general? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Dec 23, 2021 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil As you noted: there's litttle reason to ask if we should ask if we can ask right away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 24, 2021 at 7:15

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