I feel we are in a bit of an awkward position on Engineering SE at present due to a three-way tie between answers to a scoping question.

The question defines a particular category of question on the site, links to four examples and asks whether they should be considered on-topic or off-topic.

There are three answers, suggesting three different approaches:

  • Close them as off-topic;
  • Don't close them, but improve them as much as possible;
  • Close some, but not others, based on a qualitative metric.

Each answer has a score of +3/-0 and is provided by a moderator or high-rep user. The question was asked nearly two weeks ago and has been featured for over a week, attracting ~100 views, but the answers remain tied.

As a member of the moderator team, I feel we have an obligation to implement some kind of policy toward these questions, even if that policy is that they are treated the same as any other question. We've done all that we can do to draw attention to the question, including asking in chat. It seems the only option remaining is to make an executive decision about which proposed policy to adopt but that could be seen as rule by fiat, especially since we authored two of the three proposals ourselves.

How can we resolve this tie vote in a way that respects the community's wishes and empowers regular users to make policy? Is it enough to say that we had the discussion and the "tie goes to the moderator?"

One of my specific concerns for the future is that, when we end up closing questions as a result of a scoping discussion, usually we'd point back to the Meta Q&A where that consensus was reached. In this case, pointing back to Meta would probably be confusing and counter-productive since there is no consensus.


3 Answers 3


The community has clearly shown that they are are either not concerned about the issue or are equally happy with the proposals. The fact that there are no down-votes on the proposals is indicative that no one is against any of them - which would have been my first choice for deciding which one to go for, or a least which one to drop.

Is there a consensus within the moderation team about what you think should be done with these questions? Do you really think that something actually needs to be done?

If there is you could post a second meta question along the lines of:

As there was a tie with the previous scoping question [link], we, the moderator team, have decided that proposal X is the one we think will best serve the community. If you have any objections to this, please either indicate them by answering below or by voting on the the answers to the original question.

Wait a week (or so) and see if the voting has changed. If it has now produced a clear winner go with that, if not go with your preferred solution.

You often find that when presented with a choice people can't make up their minds, but if you say "We're going to do X" they'll suddenly realise they actually prefer "Y".

Note that "Y" may be "do nothing" in this case. Though you have positive votes for all three "do something" options none of the scores is so overwhelming to make it obvious that you have to do something.

  • 2
    I generally agree with this answer, and would add: consider doing nothing given the lack of interest, or execute the choice with the least restriction to user freedom.
    – Greg Chase
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:50
  • 1
    @GregChase - yeah, I kind of assumed that they needed to do "something", but as you say doing nothing is also an option.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 18:21

It seems the community itself does not see a problem with this type of questions. The issue was brought up by a small group of users, and there was not much community response to it.

So I would implement the "policy" of not treating this kind of questions in a special way.

Insisting on making a policy that differs from this by all means, by writing new meta posts trying to draw new attention to what the community most probably considers to be a non-issue, might look a bit busibody.

Also, making an executive decision in this situation bears the danger of being seen as rule of fiat indeed, if it is not supported by the community.

Sometimes, the best policy is to do nothing.


Keep thing as they were before the Meta

There is a very good piece of text that I would like to share. It was written by SevenSidedDie, currently an elected moderator on RPG.SE and a member with the highest reputation. He wrote this when applying for a mod position back in 2015, answering the questionnare. The question is formatted in bold.

10) How will you, as a moderator, react to community consensus that you disagree with? How will you, as a moderator, handle issues on which the community has failed to reach consensus, particularly when you personally favor one particular side in the debate?


What to do about a failed consensus is fairly straightforward: since the status quo is unchanged, there is normally nothing for the mods to do. Cases where something clearly must be done are the exception — but exception-handling is a mod's job in the first place and it's unlikely that such exceptional issues wouldn't be dealt with before they got to meta. In the cases where quick mod action results in the community forming a consensus of dismay, that's a conversation to have after the fact, to see what can be changed for the better now and what can be done better next time.

If the community failed to find a consensus -- there is nothing special to do. You can try to help the community to find it, but otherwise just treat things normally, as before.

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