Yet another, "why was this question closed?" post. Sorry, but I genuinely don't understand this one.

I put posted a Q&A Format question (ie. I answered it myself to share research and knowledge):

What are the major differences between Apple Watch versions?

It was closed for being "Off Topic", and yet less inclusive questions along the same lines are accepted elsewhere on the site:

And they're just three questions to do with the Apple Watch. There are countless other accepted questions asking for feature comparisons between iPhones, iPads, and other Apple hardware.

I feel a question that helps people quickly see the major differences between Apple Watches is useful to users and completely on-topic for this SE. Why am I wrong?

Edit: Just to broaden this outside of Apple Watches. The site is filled with accepted questions asking for tech comparisons. For example, iPhones:

I'm not sure why having so many disparate and separate questions is preferable, when some of these could be collated into a more generalised "canonical wiki"?

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    Thank you for asking this! I think there’s a lot of clarity that can be added. I will close one of the open questions since I think it fails the practical test that was used to close yours. With an edit and of these could be closed or opened IMO so there’s clearly some interpretation / grey areas here. With consensus I’m hope we can come up to an agreement for many if not all concerned.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:51
  • I do very much appreciate you clearly and respectfully asking for clarifications. Community FTW! I think we’ll want to close / edit some questions and all have a chance to clarify what’s on scope and what’s out. We surely can reverse closes on all of these. Your curation of excellent practical long tail comparison questions is helpful.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:08
  • I still come back to this and wonder about this question. I personally still look at the answer because it's useful to me, as an Apple Watch owner, in deciding when to upgrade my current watch...! Commented Jun 5 at 0:40

3 Answers 3


I think Stack Exchange Q and A sites in general and Ask Different in particular is generally a bad place for “list all X” questions. Here the question seems to be, let’s crowd source extracting some undefined list of major features from all watches.

  1. What practical problem is solved here?
  2. Wikipedia does lists better than we do.
  3. Blogs do better jobs of this than we do.

On occasion these work well initially, are fun, but the lasting value of curating these makes them poor. Here are two notable lists of things that had very short lives of usefulness IMO. (And you can blame me for both)

I asked this initially when there was zero documentation. Apple didn’t release any info, this list was clearly manually curated initially, now it’s a bad question. Does it serve any real purpose long term? I wouldn’t reverse or object to votes to close it or votes to reopen it. It just is for now.

This might be the most notorious / famous list questions. When I asked it, it was hard to find details and it was focused on sharing things that people learned. It generated a ton of involvement, but in the end - is it practical? I’m not so sure. If it were closed, would we lose anything, I don’t think much if anything.

Back to your Watch question - I understand Apple doesn’t present good summary tables comparing all the hardware, so I would propose we let the community cast reopen votes if needed on your post. I think it’s clear what ground you’re trying to cover as major since you put up a nice answer (thank you). Are you expecting new answers to be added? The close doesn’t prevent anyone from editing the post that is up and visible.

For me personally, I don’t see a reason to override the votes or cast a re-open vote. Let’s see in a week or two how it plays out based on how many edits are needed or if there’s a clear need to get new answers to the post.

Now, the important part is why are some questions poor? I see the ultimate goal here to be to host great answers. If you look at any question in this discussion - ask yourself - does this question make it likely that the answer will be correct and easily answered? Will it still be correct in 6 months or 6 years? That’s the goal of long tail relevance to me when I’m deciding to vote or close or reopen or edit a question. The other goal is anyone can edit and that’s possible on closed questions - editing and voting is allowed - even on hard deleted questions, high rep users can see and edit and vote on them. The questions here are soft closed.

One red flag in my mind is posts in need of a constant gardener to weed out bad answers and infrequently / regularly spend effort to bump and update an answer. As soon as Apple releases new watches, new OS, withdraws old watches - your answer is now wrong or incomplete.

This class of answer is irritating at best, harmful at worst. There’s no way to unify something that changes as fast as hardware on a yearly release cycle from Apple. To counteract this, we are getting more specific about scope of questions.

I’m all for canonical questions on how to figure out the correct answer, but canonical questions that just adapt Or document current state of changing hardware seem less useful to me. I’d much rather someone ask - How can I tell which heart rate monitor is on my watch since I can’t figure out to buy Watch 5 and Watch 4? That is searchable and relevant - even when we are on watch 10 in the year 2025 (or whenever). Expecting someone to find a question titled What are the major differences in Apple Watch versions? and know if it’s software versions, hardware versions, or if major means the pixels on the screen or if it runs without an iPhone seems less searchable to be in general.

  • Again, I'll just repeat that this seems to directly contravene some of the primary purposes of SE sites: stackoverflow.blog/2012/05/22/encyclopedia-stack-exchange And: stackoverflow.blog/2011/01/05/… The problem with this question is that is apparently "too generic"? And if there were 22 different questions asking the difference between Apple Watch S1 and S2, and S2 and S3, etc, etc. That would be fine? SE sites always encourage generic versions of the same question in order to make them more widely useful. shrug Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:56
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    I disagree that an article written in 2011 about Stack Overflow goals changes our purpose of hosting practical questions about Apple products and Services. What in our help shows that the question should be reopened @DjangoReinhardt - I think that would be the fastest way to gain consensus on a reopen vote. As it stands, anyone can vote now to reopen that question and if it gets an edit, it will be entered in the automatic review queue. Those articles say “ask your question” and not “it won’t get closed if it needs refinement”
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:58
  • I think the other point I'm trying to make is that asking apple.stackexchange.com/questions/27840/… is OK? But asking for a "canonical wiki" (use Joel's phrase) that is more generic to prevent every variation of that question is not? That's what is centrally confusing to me. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:05
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    @DjangoReinhardt The blog posts you cite come from a time where SE was focusing on programming questions. Such questions have answers which remain valid and relevant for a long time, and can get improved over time by adding more details, generalizing solutions etc. The same doesn't work so well for non-programming questions, so the information in those posts probably should be taken with a grain of salt.
    – nohillside Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:10
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    @DjangoReinhardt The question about iPhone 4/4s differences has a very specific and narrow scope ("reuse a precision case or protective film are going to find differences. I'm looking for first hand knowledge or reports of people taking a micrometer to the shipping hardware and doing a comparison.") which makes it a question about a practical problem.
    – nohillside Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:12
  • @nohillside Joel's posts are very much not related to programming. They talk very generically about the problems of sharing information in general, and the problems around sharing knowledge. His primary goal was to make people aware that SE sites are "not just a Q&A platform" (to use his words). Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:26
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    @DjangoReinhardt Might be relevant that the title of the key post is "The Wikipedia of Long Tail Programming Questions", I might also argue that things have changed in the past eight years and that we learned that topics requiring ongoing maintenance/updates don't work so well over time (there are too many readers and not enough writers/updaters somehow).
    – nohillside Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:37
  • @nohillside One of his posts has the title, "Encyclopedia Stack Exchange" and is just as relevant to the point I'm making. That post even links to the "The Wikipedia of Long Tail Programming Questions" to backup the point it's making in relation to Stack Exchange sites. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:39
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    I interpret long tail to mean that obscure - well documented, very narrowly scoped questions that meet all the site guidelines is the goal. Not that we become Wikipedia with lists and articles and blog posts. We want to be the place to find good answers - all the rest is secondary. Critically any question in this thread is poor if the answer is good and correct. Both my linked questions above are not good examples of finding one answer to the problem asked. Lion is not relevant now and the mix question needs a gardener to constantly tend it. Wrong outdated answers stink, tbh.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 16:36
  • @bmike I would say that there is the same amount of work involved in answering a new question as there is tending an old one Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 13:25
  • It look like the question has been answered by 2 mods and now it's just arguing via comments. It might be more helpful if this discussion moves to chat.
    – fsb
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 12:41

This site focusses on finding solutions to practical problems. The three existing questions, while being broad, all ask a specific question about differences between models.

OTOH your question is rather broad and basically asks for a general overview of the differences between the currently known models. This wasn't work very well in a Q&A setup (are you going to extend the answer for future models), it also kind of replicates information easily accessible on https://everymac.com/systems/apple/apple-watch/index-apple-watch-specs.html. And, unless I miss some important detail here, it also doesn't really solve a practical problem as such.

  • This seems to directly contravene one of the primary purposes of SE sites, as described here: stackoverflow.blog/2012/05/22/encyclopedia-stack-exchange. Adding a new question every time a new product is released seems unintuitive. SE sites allow anyone to edit an answer in order to keep it up-to-date. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:23
  • It also seems to go against the aim of SE sites becoming a wiki of canonical questions, as described here: stackoverflow.blog/2011/01/05/… Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:28
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    Thank you @DjangoReinhardt I’ve closed the other question. That seems more shopping than focused on specific differences in specific models. Like any off site resource questions, documenting the research and explaining how that research doesn’t answer your question is the ideal question in this space.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:37
  • @bmike Despite what nohillside suggests, finding the information outlined in the answer was actually very difficult to come across and required watching keynote speeches and reading old reviews from the time. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:39
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    Specifically, we love long tail since that means the question is narrow. I think Joel is saying wiki means anyone can edit, not that our scope is for Wikipedia list of X articles that have naswers perpetually needing changes each release.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:40
  • @bmike That is a strange interpretation of what seems like an extremely clearly written article? :-/ He specifically talks about editing questions to make them "generic versions of the same question". His version of "long-tail" means "questions that aren’t quite important enough to deserve a page on Wikipedia, but which come up over and over again". The idea is to make a searchable resource of questions that are useful for decades, thanks to community editing. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:46
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    I’ll just say - we exist because SO and Super User rules didn’t fit for all sites. Literally if Super User and Stack Overflow would accept questions we did - there would be no need for our site. I’m not so sure the genesis or ongoing operations of Stack Overflow fits our model here as tightly as I think you are advocating. @DjangoReinhardt They close questions as off topic that we love. We close questions as off topic that they love. That’s a benefit to me, not something to erase or fix.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:52
  • @bmike Hmm. Surely SO is for programming questions. Ask Different is essentially SU but for Apple products only. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:54
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    I disagree entirely - we are not SU with s/PC/Mac/g type change in scope. But I so appreciate you explaining your context. I’ll do all I can to be sure I understand your reasoning here - I may learn something in this.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 14:56
  • @bmike SuperUser lists the following as being "on topic": "computer hardware, computer software, or personal and home computer networking". AskDifferent lists: "Apple hardware, Apple software, Apple services, third-party hardware". Seems very similar to me? ;) Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 15:00

Why it should be allowed

One of the primary goals of the "Stack Exchange" platform was for it to become a "searchable hub for maintained canonical information". What does this mean? In a post published several years after StackExchange launched, one of its co-founders, Joel Spolsky set out the group's shared vision:

It’s not just a Q&A platform: it’s also a place where you can publish things that you’ve learned: recipes, FAQs, HOWTOs, walkthroughs, and even bits of product documentation

The aim was to solve was the problems faced by other Q&A platforms. Joel uses Usenet as an example: People joined the group and asked the same questions over and over, which resulted in frustrated readers and admin. Usually it led to moderators manually creating FAQs to repeatedly direct new users to.

With StackExchange, the idea was to avoid that ever happening, and with the learning from StackOverflow, they started encouraging users to "answer their own questions", to "edit questions to make them more widely applicable", and help make SE sites "encyclopaedias of useful information".

Essentially the goal of a SE site is to "build up a library of canonical questions and answers that are more generic versions of the same question" (to quote Joel), thus allowing the closing of duplicates.

In short: If similar questions can be turned into a more generic and inclusive versions, then they should be.

What does that mean for this question? Well, in other words, we shouldn't encourage questions like, "What Marvel film should I watch after Iron Man?" but instead encourage "What is the Marvel Cinematic Universe viewing Order?"

And contrary to @bmike's answer, I find that "What are the differences between Apple Watches?" to be eminently searchable.

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    "Essentially the goal of a SE site is to 'build up a library of canonical questions and answers that are more generic versions of the same question.'" Hm! If I could make one broad criticism of where this fails in practice, it's that questions often aren't edited to make them more generic—the newer questions get marked as dupes, and made to point to the originals, which are still quite specific and often not quite the same. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 16:42
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    So, as a user, it's not clear how the "original" question relates to the closed question that was more directly applicable to my situation. I should note though that Ask Different does a much better job of this than some other SE sites (thinking of Stack Overflow in particular)—although, as a trade-off, we're perhaps a bit messier as a result. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 16:44

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