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Back in September of 2010, this site decided to allow regional questions:

However, Stack Exchange has changed somewhat since then, and I think it's time to revisit this issue. In particular, the most upvoted answer proposed using Community Wiki for these, and Community Wiki is no longer useful for anything aside from reference threads.

In addition, the original question is also a year old. There are more users here now, and more activity on meta.

How should we handle regional questions? Should we close them as localized? Leave them open? What kinds of regional questions are okay?

Are questions about cycling laws in a specific location something we want? What about routing questions?

Whatever stance you take, keep in mind that we'll need to defend it with something better than "people like these questions" or we'll risk having these questions closed by SE management. Let's show what kind of questions work well with the Stack Exchange way of doing things and which questions add value to this site over time.

Edit: As has been pointed out, different regions have different population sizes. I don't think it's in the interest of this board to decide which regions are big enough to be allowed. Certainly, we could make up a list of "allowed" regions, but we'd have to maintain it - not a sustainable activity. How do we deal with this?

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    I think some regional size criteria should be taken into account. That's difficult, since the most populous metropolitan areas would make it into the top 50 most populous countries list. See: List of metro areas by population and List of countries by population – freiheit Aug 29 '11 at 20:27
  • Where can we get decent answers to regional questions if we don't allow them here? Any good resources to suggest? – Shawn Sep 9 '11 at 6:13
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I think there's a certain amount of region-specific questions we should be allowing. However, I think maybe those regional questions need a bit of extra attention to make sure that they're practical, answerable, and not too localized.

I think we'll always need to allow some amount of region-specific questions because laws, available products, and culture vary from place to place. Cycling has a certain amount of regionality inherent to it.

I'm unable to think of any clear hard-and-fast rules for dealing with regional questions, and can only think of rough guidelines. What's too small a geographic area? Ultimately it's going to be a judgement call whether or not the question is likely to ever help any future visitors.

By "too localized" I mean something like the close reason in our faq:

  • too localized
    This question is unlikely to ever 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.

Note that the "too localized" criteria aren't strictly about geographic area. I'm thinking of geographic area as just one way that questions have too narrow a scope. If it's about a topic that affects everybody in a relatively small area and we have a lot of users in that area, that's very different than if it's a relatively obscure topic in that same geographic area.

Also seems to me like some of the "bad" regional questions are only part too-localized. They often seem also subjective and/or poll-style. Bicycle tours in Athens isn't just a small geographic area, it's a poll for subjective answers, it's probably only relevant to a small number of the local cyclists, I don't think we have enough local experts to evaluate answers, and it's difficult to do any objective research without having been there.

On the other hand, helmets laws in australia and new zealand is a bigger geographic area, more objectively answerable, affects every cyclist in those countries, and is possible to research on the internet.

Perhaps one of the criteria for too-localized should be if the question sits unanswered too long.

  • So if helmet laws in Australia and New Zealand are not too localized does that mean you would accecpt the same question for every country? What about the US where laws vary by state? Regional questions are a slippery slope... – Walter Aug 30 '11 at 12:40
  • @Walter: I don't know where the cutoff is. Note that in that comparison I was looking at other criteria, too. I agree that regional questions are slippery, but I'm not convinced we can simply outright ban them. – freiheit Aug 30 '11 at 16:41
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    @Walter: I'm not inclined to ban a potentially useful and interesting class of questions just because it could contain some bad (unanswerable) ones, especially before it is a problem. – ChrisW Aug 31 '11 at 2:42
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There has to be some latitude for allowing some scope of regionality in specific questions, the question on second hand bikes in Germany, for example; we wouldn't want one question per country, so on that level closing it seems fair, but the original question came from a user who wanted advice from people who might have very domain specific knowledge, that at least seems like a reasonable thing within the SE framework.

A question about buying second hand bikes abroad (whatever that means for you) and specifically asking for instances where things might be different to expectations (whatever those might be) could be of interest.

If the top answer was "eBay" followed by the local link, then that's probably a good sign for closing.

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I think regional questions are definitely ok. This site has a global readership and we should be using this to help people. Today a 'where can I buy a used bike in Germany' question popped up, predictably to be closed. Had the questioner been asking for where to buy in a particular town in Germany, that would be a problem, but Germany, as a whole, okay to me.

I don't know if bike shops in Germany do second hand bikes, a German contributor might. With the question closed we will never know. Why would I want to know anyway? Well, I have worked in Germany before now, and knowing if I could get a cheap second hand bike from any shop in Berlin (e.g.) could be useful for my enjoyment of (say) a two week trip to Germany.

Sometimes one good answer from someone that lives somewhere is worth a lot more than any amount of internet searching, yes it is local knowledge, with no global scope per se, but what is this site for? It will die if we only ever allow questions that are easy to Google manufacturer's websites for.

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StackOverflow is very fragmented already (by topic: language, O/S, etc.). If it weren't for the fact that it is international, it wouldn't be so interesting.

"No regional questions" may be appropriate for SO: and not necessarily for Bicycles.

I wouldn't mind seeing a rush of regional questions: would I? It would be interesting: we'd see whether they are answered.

One of the [few?] down-sides might be site statistics: any unanswered regional questions increases the percentage of unanswered questions. A solution to that problem might be to edit those regional questions into a Wiki.

Power users who don't like seeing whatever regional questions there are may be able to exclude them from their view by using tags.

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Having just moved to a small town in Ohio, from Toronto, by way of a few years in Ann Arbor, Michigan I have found that locality is really an integral part of cycling.

For example, I recently discovered that many miles of the trails in the large metropark near my house are paved. The park websites don't mention this. As primarily a fixed gear cyclist from a large city, I find most of the roads around here unfortunately just to unsafe for a leisurely roll. (Not to say that you cannot get to where you need to go in four lanes of 45mph traffic, but I'd rather die for a reason then just for the hell of it ya'know).

Having said that. A question like "Where can I ride my bike in Brecksvill, OH?" I feel would be to localized to be of much use to many people. However, "What is the cycling situation in the Greater Cleveland area?" (though poorly worded) is a question that could be of relevance.

Although, "Recommendations for a decent Shop in Brecksville, OH?" (i.e. One that won't rip you off, treat you poorly, or is generally opted by bastards) while rather localized could be of great help to any cyclist, miles from where they started in the metropark system, finding themselves stranded here for whatever reason, thinking their situation dire. One could easily look around and assume that its time to phone a friend and hope for a pickup (or hitchhike).

I feel that if one, as a cyclist, would read a question and think "Ohmygosh, I would hope to know that were the situation applicable", Then it is a question that deserves a chance to be answered with human knowledge. If it is a question that can be answered with a sentence and a link, or 5 seconds on google then I believe that to me a validation that (as your teacher always told you) there are no dumb questions, only dumb people.

Ultimately, although still rather new (and trying the become more involved) to Stack Exchange, I find that the real value here is in the breadth & depth of human knowledge available. Google & such are fantastic tools, but there is simply no substitute for someone who knows what they are talking about. Localized wisdom can be just as valuable as knowledge of a more general sort.

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