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In December Tom proposed changing the woocommerce tag to woocommerce-offtopic. After 3 months, I don't think this is helping. Without looking at any actual stats, I haven't noticed a meaningful decrease in WooCommerce related questions. In fact, it feels like the opposite.

I think the issue is that having a tag named woocommerce-offtopic feels like it's encouraging users to post 'off topic' questions. It's quite common (or used to be, I'm getting older) for bulletin board style forums to have an "Off Topic" forum where users were encouraged to post things not related to the main topic of the forum. So seeing the words "off topic" in a forum could appear to novice users to be directed more at getting users to post in the right place (or with the right tag), rather than at getting them to not post at all.

Basically, I think that to users not familiar with Stack Exchange, "off topic" doesn't mean "not allowed".

Is there another approach that might work? Or, could actual stats prove me wrong, and it actually is working?

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    perhaps woocommerce-please-close-this-question, I wonder if we can use synonyms/alias here, e.g. a synonym of 3rd-party-please-close – Tom J Nowell Mar 25 at 13:51
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    It's also possible users are using the woocommerce alias and aren't aware of woocommerce-offtopic until afterwards if they're paying attention. Removing that alias may help. I've adjusted the excerpt to say PLEASE CLOSE THIS QUESTION – Tom J Nowell Mar 25 at 14:18
  • Although I've not been too active lately, I have similar impression that the number of off-topic questions haven't decreased. But unfortunately I don't have ideas what to do about the situation. Hopefully we can have the close vote limit lowered to 3, which should at least help us get the off-topic questions closed faster. I got my hopes up a little when the "How to ask" text was updated some time ago, but apparently the majority of drive-by question posters don't give a rat's a** about it and ask either something about 3rd party code or need support with their site. – Antti Koskinen Mar 26 at 22:35
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I was skeptic when the tag was renamed, and I still don't believe changing tag names will solve this issue. It's now halfway a meta tag, and that alone is concerning.

Maybe we need a completely different approach. If we step back one moment and look why we made third party code off-topic, then we have two main reasons: a low answer rate, and low question quality. We could tackle both by making third party code on-topic again and raise the bar for the question quality. This would of course also affect questions that are on-topic right now.

That means concretely:

  • You must document your own research efforts.
  • You must show what you have tried already.

And for third-party code:

  • The code must be open source, and you should include a link to the code repository (that could also go into the tag wiki).

These are criteria that are easy to judge, and they lead to questions that are easier to answer, which is the most important part.

So I suggest we give that a try, and after three months we look at the data: answer rate, number of closed questions, user engagement after the first question and maybe more.

And then we know if it works, or if we have to adjust the policy again.

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    I like the sound of this approach, especially since it would still exclude what are effectively support questions for premium plugins, which are the biggest drag on question quality. – Jacob Peattie Mar 30 at 3:19
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    "You must document your own research efforts. You must show what you have tried already." Can we get a "close" reason for this? I remember from the PHP tag on StackOverflow, that these two points were mostly the issues, and just looking at a couple of Woo questions, they would apply there just as much. (This is of course just anecdotal and has no proper data to back it up right now.) – kero Mar 30 at 11:58
  • @kero Yes, we would have to adjust our close reasons anyway with that change. – fuxia Mar 30 at 13:49
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    I completely agree. Low-quality questions and non-development questions are easy to spot. Once the review queue gets dropped to 3 it'll be much easier to quickly close low-quality questions. With this being the case should we look at reverting the woocommerce tag? – Howdy_McGee Mar 30 at 14:13
  • @Howdy_McGeeLet's wait a few days and see what other responses there are. Then we do it all at once. – fuxia Mar 30 at 14:38
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    I agree, we could try adjusting the on-/off-topic scopes and see how it goes. Personally I don't mind, if a question is about 3rd party code as long as it is about development, is well-worded and shows effort. I'm here for the interesting / challenging questions, which help me to hone my skills, might teach me something while doing research, or just entertain me - anwering to the questions is kinda like filling a crossword puzzle; brain-teaser. Plain support questions or the ones that could be solved in 5 minutes by just having a quick look at WP or PHP docs are just boring. – Antti Koskinen Mar 31 at 20:49
  • Premium plugins and themes are a bit in a gray area for me. I might answer some of them, if I know something about the said code (e.g Gravity Forms). – Antti Koskinen Mar 31 at 20:50
  • This sounds like a very good idea. I'm for it. – Matthew Brown aka Lord Matt Apr 3 at 19:59
  • It's not quite three months since you suggested this experiment, but how is the data looking at the moment? – Antti Koskinen Jun 7 at 14:23
  • @AnttiKoskinen One "problem" we currently have is that we are in an experimental phase with close votes (only 3 instead of 5). If we change our scope in the middle of that, it will affect the data. Not sure how to proceed now: Wait? Don't? – fuxia Jun 7 at 17:44
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Perhaps any plugins created by Automattic could be considered on topic. Or anything with over 1 million downloads. WooCommerce is ubiquitous enough that just about everyone who knows how to program for WordPress also knows WooCommerce, and it seems kind of wrong to not allow WooCommerce questions.

Right now any questions about WooCommerce have to be asked on Stack Overflow, but there is a lack of WordPress experts over there, and many of those questions receive negative comments and get closed when they shouldn't by people who don't understand WordPress.

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  • I've never worked on a WooCommerce site. Yes I can answer some of the WooCommerce questions we get here when they're asking about simple hooks e.g. price calculations or anything I can find with a quick grep of the source, but there are plenty we get that I wouldn't know where to start: tricky questions about how variations or SKUs are handled, for example. And we get a lot of questions from probably-non-technical people too, e.g. how do I move a button on the checkout form or things like that, where I don't get the impression they want a developer-type answer anyway. – Rup Apr 5 at 22:13
  • You say there aren't WordPress experts on StackOverflow but the consensus was we don't have WooCommerce experts here, so I'm not sure it's automatically a better situation. I do know Gravity Forms though, and I used ACF years ago, so I'm happy to try and pitch in with those questions at least. – Rup Apr 5 at 22:14
  • I disagree with Woo being "ubiquitous" with WP, and I don't agree with giving preference to any for-profit entity, Automattic or otherwise. I think determining plugin's topical status based on arbitrary criteria like downloads is a sure path to end-user confusion and chaos... in general, anything that would make content review more difficult or time-consuming could have some serious repercussions - I shouldn't have to cross-reference the plugin repo in order to figure out if a question is on-topic. – bosco Jun 10 at 23:56
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I saw the WooCommerce tag was changed to off-topic so came to meta to see whats going on. I think the idea that plugins are not allowed to be asked on wordpress.stackexchange.com is counter intuitive. I've worked with woocommrece and the plugin code is based on Worpdress - as in someone who knows wordpress will already know how Woocom works. Obviously there are idiosyncrasies, but I think it is perverse that the questions should go to stackoverflow. There the venn diagram intersection with woocomerce is tiny, whereas its intersection with wordpress is huge.

If the problem is bad answer quality for plugin questions - not all plugins are the same. I used to look up woocom questions years ago here and the answer quality was good.

I think @wp-overwatch.com gets it right.

everyone who knows how to program for WordPress also knows WooCommerce

and this site says its a top 10 plugin used. If the question is a need to allow some and disallow other plugins

any plugins created by Automattic could be considered on topic. Or anything with over 1 million downloads.

another agreed point, but maybe the number of downloads should be 5m+ if you want to keep it elite?

On stackoverflow there is one guy who knows his stuff, but it just seems he should be on this site and not there? LoicTheAztec

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    “everyone who knows how to program for WordPress also knows WooCommerce”. If you ask me, this is entirely false. Doing things properly in WooCommerce these days depends largely on their own APIs that do not work like anything in WordPress. Even the stuff that is similar, like hooks, requires mostly WooCommerce-specific knowledge to use properly. An experienced WordPress developer is not going to be able to give accurate answers to WooCommerce questions if they don’t have experience with it. WordPress knowledge is not sufficient. – Jacob Peattie May 3 at 16:51
  • Have you worked with WooCommerce? I have found that there is a wide crossover, as I pointed out. I quoted that quote - so at least someone else thinks vaguely this way. And using "properly" and APIs may not be a fair representation of the questions actually asked. I think it would be beneficial to statistically analyse all the woocom questions and see what % of them needs experience outside WP. Most questions Ive dealt with for example are how do I do X with product Y - its generally an adapted WP loop, taxonomies etc – Jon May 4 at 12:14
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    Yes I have worked with WooCommerce. Extensively. I looked at the first page of the latest questions tagged with woocommerce-offtopic, and they are either off topic for other reasons, or require WooCommerce specific knowledge to answer properly. None of them have anything to do with the loop. – Jacob Peattie May 4 at 12:23
  • I think you may have to look on stackexchange, or on this site 5 years ago. I may be in my own echo chamber - I dont use APIs etc so I only see what Im into. But woocom Qs were looked down on on this site for a while so the questions that are still being asked here, I hypothesize, are not representative. – Jon May 4 at 12:35

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