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First of all, I and the rest of the moderation team want to apologize that the following took a little while and maybe longer than it should have. We discussed this issue early on and were largely in line with the community consensus. But it was a bit of a busy time and the issue landed somewhat in a kind of "responsibility limbo" where we continuously said "it has to be done" but noone really took the time to do it, coupled with insecurity if we should possibly wait for after Winter Bash or not. This put the community in a somewhat insecure position and we're sorry for that.


Anyway, what's this all about now? For a long time this site had a close-vote for questions about "banal trivia", originally intended to protect the site from useless "what brand is this car?" questions and the like. However, this has commonly been a point of confusion and discussion, what actually is "trivia" as this is a somewhat subjective concept. I personally do maintain that the original intention of the close-vote was necessary to guard us against menial reference questions that are of no relevance to anyone and distract from the meat of this site, ultimately coming down to the quip about "adding to the appreciation of movies and TV" that is this site's mantra.

However, I too have seen that close-vote increasingly abused by parts of the community, which isn't entirely to blame on the close-voters but the unclarity of the close-reason that failed to communicate its original intent. Often questions got closed rather quickly although at their core they pointed at an engaging question. I often tried to see it as motivation to flesh out the question further for why anyone should care about a seemingly banal detail. Sometimes this helped to improve questions and sometimes it also helped filter out actually irrelevant content. But more often than not in practice the close-reason has been used rather injudiciously, and increasingly often so. Together with a recent meta discussion on the issue, it became apparent that the "trivia" close-reason has seen its best years and needs to be done away with. Thereby,

The "trivia" close-reason is going to be retired for now.

Now this isn't just as easy as removing a close-reason and being done with it. There are two major points for it that I would like everyone to take to their hearts together with this.

  1. This does not mean that we want to become a site full of irrelevant questions for identifying random crap from films. That is not what this site is for and there are various alternatives for such questions. It needs to be seen how we proceed with the really egregious cases of this kind now that there is no plain and easy-to-use close-vote for it and how this develops. If you see this become a problem, let us know. But also, don't panic now that the close-vote is gone, because

  2. This also comes with a plea for more sympathy towards questions. Please try to give questions a chance for inciting some relevance and engagement even if their exact wording is maybe not all too good at expressing it. Try not to just replace the lacking close-vote with downvotes. Rather try to see the light in questions and maybe help the questions bring that light to surface. This will not be possible with every question, some questions are simply crap and unsalvageable. But often there is a spark of light to be found in seemingly irrelevant questions.

I know it's hard to balance between these two points, especially since that balance was what the supposedly failed "trivia" close-vote hinged upon. But with the hard close-vote gone, let's see how this plays out in a softer way if we all invest a bit more time in possibly improving questions that ultimately need to "stick around" now.

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  • The help center currently states that trivia questions are off-topic. "Trivia" should either be removed from there or it should be rephrased to avoid confusion about what is off-topic and to reflect community consensus. Jan 20 at 9:45
  • @galacticninja That's still under consideration, yes. For now we've removed the often abused close-reason. But I'd hesitate to encourage these questions as the purpose of the site hasn't really changed and if users are deterred from asking IMDb lookup questions, that's not a bad thing. But we'll see if it can be worded a bit better. As written in the post, this isn't an overhaul of the site's scope rather than the removal of a problematic close-reason. It still needs to be seen how things develop from here.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jan 20 at 13:47

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Thank you!

I'm glad to see that this community decision has been implemented, and sorry if I nagged too much about it. Hopefully now we'll see an end to the constant arguments in comments (seemingly more bitter of late?) about whether XYZ is trivia or not.

Let me mention (not addressing the OP, who of course knows all this good and well, but for the benefit of whoever else will read this meta post in the future) the difference between downvotes and close-votes. One of the problems with trivia as a close reason was its subjectivity: who's to say what enhances someone's appreciation of a film and what doesn't? But downvotes are inherently more subjective than close-votes, and I believe that's the community's best tool for fighting against bad trivia questions.

  • Trivia questions are not objectively off-topic, but they may be subjectively low-quality. Use your upvotes and downvotes wisely!
  • If the site does get hit by a flood of banal and useless trivia questions (which seems unlikely to me, but then I'm not the most active user here), downvotes will be the best tool to combat them. Not to deter their askers, but as a signal to readers of what questions are not wanted.
  • Don't forget to upvote interesting trivia questions too! That will also act as a signal of what kind of content the site/community likes.
  • What makes a question useless or interesting? Well, that's where the subjectivity comes in. This is what the close reason was originally intended for, and that's why it makes more sense to enforce it by downvotes rather than close-votes. Use your own best judgement. Remember that good questions are often well-researched and well-motivated, while "who played Albus Dumbledore" is a bad question because it's trivially answerable without needing a special Q&A site.

As someone who's long railed against the trivia close reason, and reminded site management about the meta consensus against it since 2015, I'm very happy that it's finally gone, and I hope this indicates a new positive direction for the site, now that we can keep our babies and send our bathwater down the right drain. If this change leads to new problems or a drop in post quality, I'll be the first to admit I was wrong and try to help looking for a new solution.


Regarding the first paragraph of the OP: I realise it's a tricky time of year to schedule things, although a previous major M&TV site decision was taken around the same time of year, so I'd thought there should be no roadblock to doing this one ASAP too. (I now realise, though, that perhaps you learned from the experience of rushing that previous decision, which led to consensus getting reversed in short order once the broader community became aware of the meta discussions, and decided it's always better to err on the side of waiting longer. If so, fair enough.) Anyway, no harm done, we got there in the end.

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    You're welcome, now fix duplicates on SciFi, thank you. ;-) There was no "learning experience" involved, though, as there was no "rushing of decisions" in the case you reference nor was there a "reversed consensus". From the moderation side these are two unrelated events, no matter how much you want to draw a connection between them. As said, please keep your gaslighting about unrelated events to a minimum and don't use this as a platform for it. Also, downvotes don't really "enforce" anything.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jan 6 at 13:36

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