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Are questions related to specific natural languages too localized?

One of the reasons questions are closed as too localized is geography as stated e.g. here, even if the question is possibly relevant to all of China (population 1.3B) or all of India (1.2B), both of which have a greater population than all of North America and Europe combined.

Does this also apply to languages?

Are questions relating to languages always acceptable? Are they, as a function of a person's location, also too localized? Does it depend, i.e. we might tolerate questions about English (500M-1.8B speakers, and language of this site), but not Sanskrit (14k speakers)? How about Mandarin (800M)?


As a concrete example, in a comment to this answer I mentioned that asking for a Mac OS X dictionary module for a certain language might be considered too localized — more general issues with software recommendation aside. Am I wrong?

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Are questions related to specific natural languages too localized?

No. As long as you're trying to solve an actual problem and the question you ask might be helpful for others in the future, it is never too localized.

If we were to close questions as too localized just because they are very narrow, we would probably have to close all of the low-view "unanswered" questions on any Stack site so far, since they probably are all a bit "too narrow".

There were no real example questions mentioned, and I can't read the missing comments, so I'll just write what I personally think about this.


I think using a language as a reason to close a question as too localized would be just wrong. As Matthew pointed out, we should measure it on the usefulness, not some general ideas about geographic size (or population, for that matter), number of speakers of a given language, etc. If we are closing questions just because they apply to a certain country or the language spoken there, it becomes a somewhat arbitrary reason.

Why?

  • Let's say I live in the U.S. Would I care for any question specific to the U.K.? No. Is it useful for me? No. Too localized? Not necessarily. Example: A question involving the voltage of power plugs in the U.K and some computer hardware.

  • Let's say I am a typical Linux or Unix user, who only touches Windows machines when they are asked to update their parents' antivirus (← that would be me). Do I care about any question specific to Windows? No. Are these useful to me? No. Too localized? Definitely not!

  • Let's say I have to typeset a book in Sanskrit and have some problems with that (i.e. character support). Would anyone who doesn't understand a single Sanskrit letter care? No. Are these useful to those people? No. Too localized? Definitely not!

See the ambivalence?

You can't judge something as being too localized just because it's not useful to you. If it's not useful to anybody else but the OP, then yes – but there is a difference between those.

… not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet

Given that English is not the mother tongue of the worldwide audience of the internet, you can't say that languages are too localized.

  • The same thing applies to country specific information unless these countries happen to be as large as the Vatican. And it's current practice to close anything referring to a specific country as too localised, even by the community, not just a few diamonds. – Daniel Beck Oct 8 '11 at 4:13
  • Unless it refers to the US of course. – Daniel Beck Oct 8 '11 at 4:13
  • I came to the conclusions after really spending quite a bit just thinking about this. So it might be that I was previously involved in closing stuff as too localized just because a specific country was mentioned. Most of country-specific posts are some kind of shopping recommendation though, but are still closed as too localized. In the end, you could also close every shopping recommendation as too localized. – slhck Oct 8 '11 at 8:40
  • Do we need a new discussion regarding countries (not) being too localized? It seems the current practice does not have a lot of support here on meta. – Daniel Beck Oct 9 '11 at 9:45
  • @DanielBeck Well, there are only three votes on the answers here, so I wouldn't say "not a lot of support" :) FWIW, I don't think there's much of a difference between languages and countries if we apply the reasoning here. – slhck Oct 9 '11 at 9:54
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The description of 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.

If a question asking for a dictionary in a particular language could be useful to other visitors, it should stay (assuming it fails no other criteria for a good question).

Questions relevant to all of China should NOT be closed as Too Localized. Joel's written about this before:

"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.

For me, the canonical "too localized" question would be:

Why is there a green Honda Civic parked out in front of my house?

This is too localized because:

  1. Who cares?
  2. Is it even still there? Go check.
  3. What are the chances that this question could ever be answered in a way that would benefit anyone else?
  4. Now is it there?

There seems to be some knee-jerk closing of questions as "too localized" throughout Stack Exchange simply because they mention a time span or because they mention a geography. There are many questions which are limited in time or which are limited in geography, which, nevertheless, must not be closed as "too localized." For example:

  • A question about handling special characters which only appear in Turkish. Even though, yes, Turkey is a place, and only reflects a small portion of the developers in the world, the question is still extremely useful.

  • A question about software companies in Montreal. Believe me, there are way more programmers in Montreal than there are OCaml programmers, and I've never seen anyone suggest that an OCaml question should be closed. If the question were about one street in Montreal it might be too localized to get an answer. (BTW that question would no longer be considered on topic for Stack Overflow, but "too localized" it is not).

  • A question that only applies to a certain build of software. For example, a developer discussing a bug that only occurs in a certain version of the .NET framework. Sure, that version is going to be replaced with another version, which might fix the bug, but we're still going to answer it!

I am increasingly seeing trigger-happy people who misunderstand the purpose of this close reason... yesterday someone on Meta.SO voted to close a question about Stack Overflow Dev Days 2011 on the grounds that it was "too localized." COME ON!

IMO, Diago's reasoning about service providers in the question you linked is wrong. The UK is not so tiny that a question about it is Too Localized. The real problem with it is that "the best service provider" is subjective and, even with well-defined criteria, it's a shopping recommendation (which is off-topic). Nothing else needs factor into the decision to close such a question.

Your question is valid for a simple reason: It is solving a computer related problem. The problem has nothing to do with what language is in question, it has to do with a computer problem. – Diago♦

That comment is also wrong. Imagine the following question:

I disconnected my desktop from all power sources and now it won't start up. What's wrong?

This is Too Localized because no one else would ask or need the answer to such a ridiculous question. It doesn't matter that it's computer-related.

  • It amazed me how everyone seems to assume Too Localized = Size of Country. They have nothing to do with each other. The question was closed because it only applied to the UK, and had no value for users outside of the UK, including the US, South Africa, Australia etc. I stand by that close, and any other close I do as too localized. The question is this, does the question apply to me? (BTW. I live in ZA, so if anything, no US, UK or European specific question adds any value for me, and I use that as a measurement) – BinaryMisfit Oct 7 '11 at 19:07
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    @Diago Most questions don't apply to everyone. OCaml questions aren't relevant to assembly programmers. Windows registry questions aren't relevant to Linux users. That argument is specious. – Flimbus Akimbo Oct 7 '11 at 19:09
  • But they have nothing to do with a particular country do they? Seriously, it's a storm in the teacup. It's the least used close reason, and every time it does get used everyone comes up with some reason it was wrong. I am just clarifying why the decision was made, and if you see a too localized close, what measure should be used to determine if it was a valid closure. – BinaryMisfit Oct 7 '11 at 19:12
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    @Diago Read Joel's post. Even a question specific to Montreal is not necessarily too localized geographically. The measure is whether the question would be useful to others, not whether it is independent of regional concerns. – Flimbus Akimbo Oct 7 '11 at 19:14

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