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Since we have this rule very clear in our help center that questions asking for datasets are off-topic, could we include this reason in the off-topic dialog?

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The initial suggestion would be to include the current text in the help center and a link to it:

Questions about obtaining particular datasets are off-topic, because they are too specialized.

Possible advantages:

  • Currently, I flag such questions for 'moderator attention', but with a customized reason in the off-topic dialog the community would be able to help in a more automatic way. Please, advise me if I should be using another type of flag for this.

  • A second advantage would be to spare comments explaining to the OP why the question is off-topic.

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a site in the StackExchange system we could migrate the data questions to? I remember there were Area 51 proposals on data sources, but they never took off. It would be a bummer if we have to close questions without a resolution within StackExchange. $\endgroup$ – StasK Jul 9 '14 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ @StasK I guess that would be Data Science (meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/2026/data-science-se) $\endgroup$ – Andy Jul 9 '14 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ I am pretty sure that it will be off-topic there, too. They are interested in technical solutions, not in the data sources. We can try migrating the data source questions to DS, but I doubt they will be happy answering them. $\endgroup$ – StasK Jul 10 '14 at 11:54
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I think it's a good idea, so I have formally proposed it. Adoption requires approval of at least one other moderator. (I imagine the other mods might hold back approval until this discussion has progressed a little and the pros and cons of the idea become fully apparent.)

The wording of my proposal is

Questions about obtaining specific datasets are off-topic because they are too specialized and narrow in scope.

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I have no in-principle objection, but I also think that there's a present route that works well enough: close > Off-topic > Other

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... and I think that possibly the close dialog may be a better place than the flag dialog if we want to add a specific option. The advantage of close rather than flag is that high reputation users can close without necessarily bothering a moderator (though it's rare that one of the mods doesn't jump in anyway, it's nice to have the ability to deal immediately with such minor issues even if the mods all happen to be busy)

It does feel like we have had a recent increase in the numbers of posts seeking data sets so it might at least be worth considering doing something to streamline it, but it hasn't struck me as onerous yet.

One consideration: is there a hard limit to the number of options we have in either one place or the other?

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    $\begingroup$ Is the "Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)" option not only available for users with 3000+ reputation? $\endgroup$ – Andy Jul 9 '14 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Andy Could be. I'm not sure. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Jul 9 '14 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy, yes it is for 3k+. $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Jul 9 '14 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure about the question in the last sentece, but I think the answer is yes. In this question, they said there was not more room in the dialog for migration paths. $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Jul 9 '14 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ (1) As someone who examines a lot of proposals to close, I appreciate being able just to tick off a radio button (instead of having to write a comment) in recurring, clear situations. (2) As a community we should aim for most of the moderation work to be done by a large cross-section of the members rather than the moderators. This is not a matter of avoiding bothering the mods, but of creating a healthy and active community. I am grateful for all the work put in by Glen_b, @Andre, and others and warmly encourage everyone to participate in maintaining our site. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 9 '14 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ +1 @whuber -- good points, especially the part about a large cross section of the members doing most of the moderation being good for the health of the community $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Jul 9 '14 at 22:29

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