What are the dimensions of piano keys, in inches? got two (perfectly friendly) comments suggesting that it wasn't really a good question, and 4 close votes suggesting that it was too broad...

...then it was found that it was a duplicate of Is there a standard width for piano keys?, a very well-received question with a good accepted answer.

Given that these are similar questions, its treatment before closure-as-duplicate suggests to me that some common themes are still in play:

  • We are not very welcoming to new users
  • We are not very consistent at enforcing whatever our rules are - or maybe our rules are too vague for us to understand.

I know i've posted other meta questions about similar things... sorry, and I expect this will be roundly downvoted again. But I really think that having clear, consistently-applied rules, and in particular close-voting only with reference to those rules, would make this site a more user-friendly place.

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    I say this a lot on the meta, but in general try to avoid the argument "X is closed, but Y is open" as there can be a lot of differences between similar question and the site, the scope, and the community changes with time. Even similar questions are very different when you look at them and this is a prime example.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 0:51
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    @Dom Those points are well taken, but even 'correcting' for the very reasonable considerations that you mention, I still see patterns whereby questions by new users, ESL speakers, and people who want to ask something 'unconventional' seem to be judged with a lot less charity. Mar 1, 2017 at 1:39
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    It should be noted also that there were several comments stating issues with the question before the duplicate question was linked which were valid and explain the close reason and we were trying to work with the OP. We're not trying to be mean or inconsistent or "less charitable", we just need the question to be in a good enough shape to answer which this one was not.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:55
  • @Dom the first comment said "This sort of question doesn't sit well on this site" and mentioned 'Google' - though it was perfectly-politely worded, and I probably inferred even more politeness given that Tim wrote it, that's not going to come across as us trying to 'work with' the OP. The second comment simply made the point that dimensions vary, which seemed rather obvious and something that could have been dealt with in an answer. No one had made any comment explaining the 'too broad' close votes or inviting an improvement. Mar 1, 2017 at 2:04
  • @Dom I do appreciate that for the most part people don't try to be mean, but people are inconsistent by their nature; they have bad days, interpret things differently, have varying knowledge about different areas, etc. This is why I try to suggest that close votes should be made with sensible reference to particular rules and guidelines on the site. Mar 1, 2017 at 2:15
  • @Dom another example of a question that could have been treated more even-handedly was music.stackexchange.com/questions/52609/new-plastic-instruments/… - people seemed to hate the question, and it was eventually closed as being about "about transcribing or finding a particular song"! I thought that one did cross the line into a bit of mob mentality and meanness. Mar 1, 2017 at 2:23
  • Again those issues were very clearly stated and the close reason was the closest thing to "finding instruments that meet an arbitrary requirement" which we have closed questions like this in the past. We have 3 close reasons and we can't make them fit every single possible reason.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 2:29
  • @Dom true, but we don't usually need lots of special close reasons because 'off-topic' will do the job whenever there's a relevant bit of music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic that states why the question is off-topic. If there isn't... it is worth thinking twice as to whether the question actually does deserve the close vote. Mar 1, 2017 at 2:58
  • Which that question again was reasonably closed and the reason was given which is in line with what the community has done in the past so I really don't see the consistency issue you keep mentioning.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 3:02
  • Am I the only one who thinks the two questions in question are clearly different? Sure, they sort of overlap, but asking whether there is a standard size is materially different from asking what the assumed standard size is. Mar 12, 2017 at 19:57

1 Answer 1



When there are many issues with a question, it should be closed regardless of how similar questions were treated. Linking the similar questions may help the OP, but the issues remaining in the question still matter.

This question and the previous question about the OS upgrade suffer from not just one issue, but many. As there are many issues with this question, all of them should be resolved before the question is reopened even if the close reason isn't the best for the current state of the question. Fixing the question should always come first.

Just because a similar question works it does not mean that the question works especially when it comes to what specifically what the question is asking. We do need general judgment from our users if a question is clear, too broad, or primarily opinion based as an on topic question can always suffer from these.

This case specifically, while the question may be a duplicate other issues plague it.

Is it a duplicate?

With the given two sentences in the OP's question it's up in the air. The question is certainty similar to the linked, but in the question's current state only the OP can say if it is or not.

Too broad/unclear

These are together as there really is no detail in the question. If you take the question in the title "What are the dimensions of piano keys, in inches?" there's a lot to be desired. There are many different types of pianos and depending on if the OP is including electric pianos or keyboards there is a potential for a whole lot more. Even just talking about the dimensions of the keys on one piano, we aren't exactly sure what the OP means. The OP could just want the length or width or also the height or maybe they want to know about the inner potions of the key also. This is a lot of variables to play with and everyone answering could have a completely different interpretation of it.

It should be noted that the linked question is much more specific, but still the leading answer points to it being a broad topic.

Low quality

Regardless of the current open/close status, the question is very low quality and as is not very useful to others as is right now due to the unclear reason above. It's not a reason to be closed alone, but it needs to be brought up when examining a question like this and when comparing it to other questions. Our tooltip to downvoting questions very much fits this question:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Whether you agree with that stance or not there's a reason that text is there. The OP and others will get as much out of the question as they put in and as of now there isn't much.

While previous research is not required, it helps fill in the gaps of what you already know and what you want to know. A quick search of of "piano key dimensions" brings a resource that may answer the OPs question it may not. Including it in the question and either asking for more detail, for something similar but not the same, or if it was accurate would be much clearer to everyone and more useful to people who find that question. This is not saying the question can't be good quality, but things like this help a lot to improve the question quality.

The question is salvageable, but it needs to be be edited by the OP

Even if it is a duplicate, we'll need the OP to confirm and then we can clean it up for him and mark it as such. If the OP is asking a different question then we need to know. If the OP never comes back, then we're only guessing what they want and we should not try to change the question to something that we don't know. Someone can ask a new question with a similar premise and should be well received as long as it is clear and a little research never hurt.

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    I can't disagree with much of what you say about potential weaknesses of this particular question. I would, however, characterize the requirements you outline as requiring what would be quite high levels of clarity by everyday standards, and also quite high levels of clarity compared to what we allow other questions to get away with. Again I understand why you caution against comparing questions, but ultimately consistency is the very issue I want to bring up here; I feel it's important when it comes to making this a user-friendly place. Mar 1, 2017 at 1:56
  • @topomorto when two questions are this different it is expected that they will be treated differently. It's like trying to compare an apple to the sun it's really not useful in the grand scheme of the site. Several users tried to steer the question as is the intention of this post. We're always happy to help fix up the question, but we need to be able to look at the question as an individual to make these improvements. Leaving it open when there are blatant issues which we have closed other questions in the past would be a much bigger inconstancy.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 2:24
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    @topomorto asking good questions is often hard, thats why it's a pretty regular occurrence that once you really understand what you are asking, the answer comes immediately.
    – Dave
    Mar 1, 2017 at 3:03
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    @Dave very true - and accordingly, sometimes a bit of help towards a better question is help towards an answer. That's why helping a poster improve a question is great; but plain negative comments won't necessarily appear as such to a new user who isn't familiar with the site rules. Mar 1, 2017 at 3:09
  • The question immediately came across to me as 'Do my homework for me', which never goes down well on the few occasions it appears on this site. As in my comment, well less than a minute googling provided the answer, so why would anyone pose that question here, and have to wait for answers, when they could be satisfied almost immediately: lack of effort. The other question at least had some substance within it - the reason I was happy to answer that, not this.
    – Tim
    Mar 1, 2017 at 16:30
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    @Tim if there's a consensus that homework questions are off-topic on the site, should we possibly have that in our stated on-topic rules? I wasn't aware that there was a particular reluctance to answer such questions . Mar 2, 2017 at 6:05
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    @Tim on the general question of "why would anyone pose that question here" (ignoring the fact that this may be a dupe), a good reason is that while google will almost always get you an answer, and in many cases a number of answers, it can be hard to tell which of those answers are correct or 'expert' answers. This site, on the other hand, should get you an answer with a degree of peer review, which you can have some confidence in. I've seen plenty of askers told to 'go google' around SE in cases where the top google answers were wrong or misleading; that may not be the case here but... Mar 2, 2017 at 6:10
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    ... some knowledge may be needed to assess that in the first place. Mar 2, 2017 at 6:11
  • @topomorto - there have been a couple of blatant 'do my homework' questions, that received short shrift, but a question on dimensions, answered by several googlings, would have surely revealed some definitive answers. I'm with you on the rest of your comment.
    – Tim
    Mar 2, 2017 at 8:11
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    @Tim at some point, I agree that 'do my homework' tends towards being a request and not a question, and so not a good fit for this site for all sorts of reasons. I just felt that this was a definite question, issues regarding duplication and clarity notwithstanding. I'm not here to push the idea that I'm right in that assessment, but rather in the hope that we can get some consensus and clarity. At the moment on this site we're neither particularly relaxed about our applying rules, but not very clear about what they are either... it makes the site difficult to use for me, let alone new users. Mar 2, 2017 at 8:29
  • Yes, of course it was a question - most homework is comprised of them! But, yes, the 'rules' somewhat reflect 'music theory', where definitives are hard to define sometimes! To an extent we're in the lap of the gods - sorry - moderators - but that's why they exist, and it can't always be an easy job, I certainly empathise with them on occasions.
    – Tim
    Mar 2, 2017 at 8:44

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