11

This question was sparked in my mind as a result of the question: "Are WIFI devices greater than 1000mW legal to use in the USA?" Ignore that the question was poor in that it simultaneously asked for legal advice. Focus more on the portion of the question that was specifically asking for USA-specific advice.

It appears that Mark Henderson agrees that it is.

@XHR - "localised" is very very broad. If it's only applicable in one country, no matter how big the country is, or if the country is at the center of the universe, too bad. Additionally, we can't answer this because we're not lawyers.

As does John Gardeniers:

@XHR, the question wasn't about WIFI, it was about a legal issue. And yes, the USA is too localised as it makes up only one rather small part of the planet.

However, rnxrx brings a counterargument:

So if someone asks for technical advice about a problem with a T1 is it still too localized because it's a standard essentially limited to North America? How about SONET vs SDH? UPS designs for different frequencies and voltages? The question asked isn't inherently solely a regulatory question (i.e. how do I comply with x electrical code) but rather speaks to a more fundamental question of how network design in wireless networks is accomplished by IT professionals.

As of this writing, it appears that a number of people agree with rnxrx because his comment has received three upvotes. When voting to close a topic, the "Too Localized" option gives this guidance:

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, see the FAQ.

It appears that the criterion for a question being "Too Localized" is simply that a question will not be likely to help any future visitors or it is restricted to a small geographic area, as well as time and situational narrowness. At first blush, existing guidelines indicate that country-specific questions are acceptable unless they trample on other guidelines.

It appears that we need to hash this out. I'll add two answers below that summarize the polar viewpoints that have been shown in this question. Vote accordingly. Also, include your own thoughts on how this should be handled.

  • 1
    I believe that XHR's argument is flawed. Asking about T1 is not too localised, because it's a question about a standard, not a location. If you're using T1, it doesn't matter where in the world you are, you're still using it. Ditto with SONET and SDH. Their usage happens to be clustered with one geographical area; but that's just co-incidence. – Mark Henderson Jun 15 '12 at 4:40
  • 6
    (additionally, I've only ever seen ops complain about "too localised" when they're from the USA. I don't want to draw stereotypes, but people from other countries don't seem to be that concerned about it) – Mark Henderson Jun 15 '12 at 4:45
  • Just want to note that the counter-argument listed here was actually raised by rnxrx and not myself. Regarding this issue, I don't necessarily disagree with Mark. The question could be reworded to ask something regarding how WiFi power is measured/advertised on a device but I only would know that in hindsight from rnxrx's answer. Thus, while I now agree the "is this legal" question does not match well with what is expected on this site, I can't buy that the information provided is "unlikely to help any future visitors". – Matt Molnar Jun 15 '12 at 13:35
  • 3
    The T1 standard is localized - practically speaking to the same extent as FCC wifi regulations. As to stereotypes - the derisive tone of the comments on that question about certain places claiming to be the "center of the universe" pretty much speaks to judgement of a question based more on issues with these other ops than of the question itself... – rnxrx Jun 15 '12 at 13:38
  • Yikes, yes I attributed the quote to the wrong person. Fixed! – Wesley Jun 15 '12 at 17:35
  • @mxrx, I see no derisive comments on that question. You're reading into them only what you want to read. It seems to me that we've hit a nerve by daring to remind people that this is a large planet with a couple hundred countries, not just one. If that offends you then so be it. You'll get no apologies from me. – John Gardeniers Jun 16 '12 at 7:28
  • @John Gardiniers - What I found objectionable was the comment that "If it's only applicable in one country, no matter how big the country is, or if the country is at the center of the universe, too bad." This seems to be more of a (somewhat petulant) social/political commentary than anything constructive. I'm personally fine if people want to ask- and answer- questions specific to a particular country, especially when the underlying issue is one of internetworking, and if mods have shut down non-US questions in the past on similar grounds I think that was equally mistaken. – rnxrx Jun 16 '12 at 17:24
  • @JohnGardeniers The nerve that was hit for my self was that the potential usefulness of ServerFault was unexpectedly scoped to what I believe is an unrealistically narrow definition. Suddenly 20% of the world's population in one of the fastest growing countries (both population-wise and technology-wise) have the potential to be barred from asking pertinent questions about country-specific infrastructure and misc. technology issues. (Speaking, of course, of China) Certainly we don't have a ton of Chinese participation yet, but the principle remains the same for India, Indonesia, and etc. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 2:46
  • @JohnGardeniers Oh, and sorry for misspelling your name. I just now noticed that. >_< – Wesley Jun 19 '12 at 4:17
  • No worries. I've had a lifetime of seeing my name misspelled, as well as hearing it mis-pronounced. – John Gardeniers Jun 19 '12 at 14:11
18

I believe Joel's answer to a meta.so post is the best answer for this. So I'm going to blatantly rip it off :)

"Too localized" should be used for very tiny geographic regions or vanishingly small periods of time. It is used when a question cannot possibly be answered because nobody participating in the site is likely to know the answer, and even if it were answered, nobody else would care.

25

No, country specific questions are not too localized.

There are technical diversities based on a person's country that will caused legitimate questions to be asked that are not otherwise in violation of the site's guidelines. The value of a question is based on if it will help a sufficient population of future readers, which can be estimated based on a country's population. For example, issues surrounding the use of information technology in China (power, datacenter concerns, character sets, etc.) can spawn questions that, while country specific, will be useful to future visitors.

  • If this is correct then why have we already closed so many questions as too local simply because they applied to only one country? – John Gardeniers Jun 16 '12 at 11:15
  • I don't think I've done that myself @JohnGardeniers but I might close a question with that as a factor - for example, part of the reason why 'can you help me with my licence question' type questions are targets for 'too local' is because they vary from country to country AND business sector to business sector AND type of licence purchased AND when they purchased it... – Rob Moir Jun 16 '12 at 18:50
  • 1
    The important thing to remember is that these are guidelines anyways. So there is no exact square footage where all questions must be closed. Good judgment should work most of the time, if it is borderline, then judge the general quality of the content. In other words if something might seem narrow but is on topic and good quality then it probably doesn't need to be closed. – Kyle Brandt Jun 16 '12 at 22:07
  • @JohnGardeniers and Kyle, It seems that questions closed for the sole reason of being local to one country have been in error all along. I cite both Joel's meta post here as well as an old podcast where this topic came up. We have been known to be wrong for long periods of time. Witness our early tolerance of shopping questions and rather chatty, opinionated CWs for a good year or more of ServerFault's beginning. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 2:48
  • 1
    IMO, "too localized" refers to issues that cannot ever reasonably be useful to a significant number of people. "Too localized" to the question-asker, not "too localized" to a specific geographic region. – wfaulk Jun 17 '12 at 4:03
6

I don't think anyone could reasonably maintain that a question about

  • WiFi, which is an incredibly pervasive technology to sysadmins

  • The USA, which is one of the largest and arguably most important technical countries in the world

... could possibly be "too localized".

However, I think it would be also fine to edit the question to broaden its scope and cover the WiFi power limits in a variety of different countries, too. That'd be useful as well, and "oh no you made this question too useful to too many people" is not something I remember hearing. Ever.

  • 1
    We're still left with the fact that the question wasn't about WiFi at all. It was a question specifically about legality which just happened to have a WiFi context. I did toss up whether to vote OT or TL and just happened to choose the latter. – John Gardeniers Jun 17 '12 at 4:00
  • @JohnGardeniers The legality part of the question was totally inappropriate for the site and doomed it from the get-go. I tried to steer the conversation of this meta-topic away from that part, and specifically focus on the USA-specific part. Regardless, it seemed that the focus turned away from legality and more to the regional nature of it. I suppose we could substitute this wifi question with another question that was good in all other aspects except for its focus on a single country. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 4:10
  • If that question had referred to to say China or India it would have been closed a lot quicker and if it was closed as Off Topic nobody would have raised an eyebrow. – John Gardeniers Jun 19 '12 at 14:14
2

If you want to support actual practical network questions then you need to be able to accommodate issues around, for example, local termination of services (as was addressed recently in a question about WAN connectivity from the UK to Australia).

I was the one who raised the T1 question. T1's are pretty much limited to North America, as is SONET (vs SDH). It so happens that the 'too localized' FCC regs that were deemed unacceptable in this thread pretty much perfectly map to where we find T1's (hint: FCC wifi standards are largely copied by a lot of other countries). Real WAN's deal with local technologies and the info potentially exposed could be of crucial value to someone in the future.

1

The critical part is the very bit you quoted: "only relevant to a small geographic area". As far as I'm concerned that includes discussion that is local to any one country, no matter what that country may be. We've close other questions as TL which were local to countries far larger than the USA.

  • And perhaps that was incorrect? A question was asked recently about options for local connectivity in Australia for a WAN connection coming from the UK. The question pertained not only to Australia, but to specific market conditions in a specific city in Australia. The question- and answer- were (rightly, IMO) well-rated even though the entire issue pretty much perfectly matches the description you're quoting above. – rnxrx Jun 16 '12 at 17:32
  • 2
    It's not apparent or even terribly logical that the phrase "only relevant to a small geographic area" includes both city-state Monaco and hulking juggernaut Russia alike. Taking the phrase at face value, and using the total land surface area of the globe, it wouldn't seem that discounting countries is within that phrase's intent. Pulling back and seeing the spirit of ServerFault's community intent expressed in the FAQ and meta posts seems to further the notion that there is a lot of validity to including country-specific issues. (Continued...) – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 2:53
  • I'll cite Joel's meta post again that even singles out the country of Turkey as being within scope. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 2:53
  • @WesleyDavid, I can't recall ever agreeing with Joel on anything else and I see no reason to start now. I'll go along with majority opinion on this but not if the only reason is because Joel said so. We still have the fact that questions have been closed because they related to only a single country. – John Gardeniers Jun 17 '12 at 3:58
  • @JohnGardeniers I hope we don't go along with this just because Joel says so. Our past actions of closing questions solely based on it being scoped to a single country seem completely at odds with StackExchange's stated intent through FAQs, meta discussions, podcasts, and etc. Just like was our tolerance of product recommendations and chatty "What's your favorite server name!" style discussions for the first year or so. Although, I perceive that we are far less consistent with closing Qs based on geographic region than we were with allowing shopping Qs earlier. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 4:07
  • @WesleyDavid, that inconsistency has always bothered me. I don't care to get into an argument about it but Marks' comments to the question greatly understate the issue as seen by those outside the USA. – John Gardeniers Jun 17 '12 at 4:12
  • @JohnGardeniers We Merry Cans do tend to be self-centered, but I personally would have been concerned about this topic of country-scope regardless of the original question being from the USA or not. I never felt that the question being on USA standards made it more important than if it had been Japanese (who's wifi standards cut across virtually every other nation's), of some European origin or elsewhere in the world. Japan's 120+ mil people would seem to be a large enough population to make it of use to the site and future visitors. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 4:18
  • 1
    Then again the "Too Localized" VTC guidance says "...or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet." And yet, every other evidence from the FAQ or meta seem to play down the focus of the need to appeal to the "worldwide audience of the internet" or at least make the raw population of a country a factor in deciding if it's worthwhile or not. – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 4:19
  • 1
    As we get into such an excruciatingly minute focus on individual words and linguistic intent I can't help but wonder if this is what it feels like to be a translator for a ancient, dead language. =) – Wesley Jun 17 '12 at 4:20
  • Would a question that was about getting a new IP range from ARIN be "too localised" because it didn't address RIPE or APNIC policy? I should hope not, though RIPE/APNIC answers would be acceptable - and should be sought, frankly. – Richard Gadsden Jun 26 '12 at 15:59
-2

Yes, country specific questions are too localized.

ServerFault's value is best provided when questions and answers can be consumed by the broadest possible audience. This purpose is not served when questions are asked that only pertain to a single country, no matter the country's population, influence or geographic size.

  • Are you familiar with the term "long tail"? I think the same principle can be applied here, meaning that the inclusion of, lets call them "narrow audience topics" will in fact make the site useful to a broader audience than restricting questions to universal mainstream topics. – Roy Jun 26 '12 at 21:53
  • What if it applies to two countries? – Samuel Edwin Ward Jun 27 '12 at 16:44
  • @SamuelEdwinWard How about two city-states, a commonwealth and an island nation? – Wesley Jun 27 '12 at 17:35
  • What if it only applies in international waters? That's most of the world, right? – Samuel Edwin Ward Jun 27 '12 at 17:39

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