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Reading Why we're not customer support for [your favorite company] left me wondering: In the context of webapps, how can one assess whether a question is deemed a customer service-related question?

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    This is a good question, one that has been discussed in chat a little too. I also have to ask, do we want to keep the policy how it is, or do we want to modify it, such as to allow questions where "contact support" isn't the obvious answer? (Though we would also have to work out what exactly it means for it to be the obvious answer, since I don't think we're all on the same page.)
    – Laurel
    Dec 27, 2023 at 0:39
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    @Laurel Thanks. "Do we want to keep the policy how it is?" I can't state my full stance due to the SE code of conduct, but imho that depends on how a question is deemed a customer service-related question. I agree that we should allow questions where "contact support" isn't the obvious answer. Dec 27, 2023 at 2:50
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    In terms of how it's been used in the past, "This is Customer Service" just seems to be code for "I don't like this question" and little more.
    – Valorum
    Jan 30 at 20:30

1 Answer 1

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To determine whether a question is customer service-related or not, we should apply the following criteria:

  • Can the question be reasonably answered by simply opening the web app?

  • Is “contact support” the obvious and only solution to the question?

If a good case can be made that the answer to both questions is no, then the question is not customer service-related and should be allowed and answered by our community.

We should also avoid closing questions based on the answers they receive. We should not dismiss questions just because someone posted an answer that says “contact support”. There may be other answers that offer different perspectives or solutions. We should focus on the problem being posed instead of the presupposed answer.

We should not apply a strict criterion where simply being a “help desk” question could cause a question to be closed, as that would lead to closing many valid and interesting questions on this site (again). This reminds me of and is related to the “Does Web Apps Stack Exchange Require Research?” meta post, where most of the community rejected the idea of imposing research as a mandatory requirement for asking questions.

To illustrate my point, let me share some examples of questions that were recently closed for being “customer support” or “help desk” questions, and why I disagree with those closures:

The OP faced a problem where their account was “shadowbanned” (meaning that the Reddit spam filter automatically removes all of their posts and comments), which can happen for various reasons that are not the OP’s fault. They tried to create a new account, hoping to avoid the shadowban, but they did not know that their new accounts would also be shadowbanned.

The problem of being shadowbanned is not a simple issue. Your Reddit posts and comments can be removed by various users or automated systems (such as volunteer moderators, subreddit Automoderator, Reddit staff/admins, Reddit spam filter, etc.) without your knowledge. This is further complicated by the fact that Reddit has different report/appeal pages depending on what you’re reporting/appealing.

A possible (non-obvious) solution to this problem is to appeal the shadowban to the Reddit admins (as I suggested in my answer to the question, where I linked to the specific page for shadowban appeals), which could result in the OP’s account being unshadowbanned.

The “contact support” solution is not obvious here. I think this question should have remained open (and it should not have been closed based on its answer, which involves contacting the Reddit admins).

The moderator who closed the question commented, “I’m voting to close this question because Web Applications is not a help desk / service desk. Please check out the tour.”

In the “Does Web Apps Stack Exchange Require Research?” meta post, community manager SpencerG stated that “Questions that would reasonably be answered by simply opening the tool don’t belong on Web Apps, as the site is not a helpdesk.” However, he did not imply that we should close all “help desk” or “support” questions. The problem stated in the questions above would not “be reasonably answered by simply opening the tool."

These are just two of the most recent examples that I could find right now, but I believe several similar questions were closed for the same reason. Feel free to comment about them, and I'll add them to this answer.

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    Both examples seem worthy of reopening.
    – Valorum
    Dec 29, 2023 at 10:27
  • There are two more categories that are off-topic: 1) Interpersonal questions (e.g., Wikipedia editing rules) and 2) "algorithm" questions, which is a fuzzy category, but I suggest we limit it to having SEO be off-topic.
    – Laurel
    Dec 29, 2023 at 12:32

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