During the definition phase, the highest voted example question of this site proposal was:

What's the difference between the MIT and the BSD license?

with 19 upvotes and 1 downvote.

Naturally, someone asked this question. However, it got closed as too broad just two hours after it was asked.

Is this question indeed too broad, then how comes it was so popular during the definition phase? Or did the user who asked the question just asked it in the wrong way?

Please note that this is not a plea to reopen the question. Even though I was the one who proposed it in the definition phase, I do not feel offended that it was closed. I am just curious about why people found it acceptable during definition but not during beta.

  • 1
    Up/down and close/open are mostly orthogonal. It's very common for broad and opinion-based questions to be heavily upvoted.
    – Air
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 17:07
  • @Air but the question didn't get any close-votes during definition phase either.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 17:56
  • 2
    During the definition phase it was only a title for a potential future question, as Gilles explained.
    – Air
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 18:56

4 Answers 4


The definition phase on Area 51 is usually ok to outline the scope of the site. But it is bad at producing good questions. On Area 51, you can only type a title, not a whole question. It's tempting to take Area 51 question titles and transform them into questions on the site during the early beta, but that very often produces underspecified questions. Usually asking a question directly from Area 51 results in a question that should be closed as too broad or unclear. The Area 51 “questions” are more like classes of questions; a good Stack Exchange question is a specific question in that class.

“Difference between the MIT and the BSD license” is a representative of a class of questions about differences between open source licenses. A typical Stack Exchange question on this topic would be something like “How do license X and license Y differ regarding acknowledgements of the original when distributing modified versions?” or “With my project, I want to ensure that …. How can the MIT or BSD license help me with this licensing-related goal?”.

“What's the difference between license X and license Y?” in general requires a detailed analysis of both licenses and is too broad for a Stack Exchange question. In the specific case of MIT and BSD, the licenses are short enough that the analysis is not that long, so it may be ok.


Firstly, as a small aside: I suspect that the last sentence where it is asked when one would use one over the other made some people assume it was going to turn into a debate over which is best. So I have suggested an edit to make that sentence a bit less loaded.

Essentially though, this is a perfectly answerable question. The differences between two licenses are perfectly objective and answers could easily be objectively judged on their quality and correctness as well. Sure, you could write a very lengthy post about the topic, but a succinct, to the point summary is definitely possible and helpful as well.

I have voted to reopen the question.

It should be noted however that the scope of a site can change during the early days. If the community decides that it doesn't want to see questions like these, then that is perfectly fine, regardless of how well it did during the definition phase.


I don't see a comparison between 2 specific licences as too broad. There are more narrow questions that could be asked about the comparison between the 2 licences, but that doesn't make me think this one is too broad.

Where the whole community agrees that something is too broad, it will be closed and stay closed. Where there is disagreement within the community on whether a question counts as too broad, it may be reopened again. Asking this meta question seems to have prompted some reopen votes already.

  • 1
    Good point, this is a normal and even healthy process, whenever you're in doubt, take it to meta. Especially this early into the site's history.
    – overactor
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 13:58

First off, the question didn't get closed as off-topic. It got closed as Too Broad. Therefore, it's a sign that the question itself isn't bad, but rather the way the question was asked.

Questions on Area 51 can't be classified as too broad or opinion based unless the question is really bad, or is clearly not constructive. Since questions on Area 51 aren't allowed to get answers, and they don't have any body associated to them, they are only judged about how useful they are and how well they fit into the scope. That's the purpose of questions on Area 51: to help create a site scope.

About the question, I agree that it's sort of broad. It asks two different questions:

  • What are the most important differences between the BSD and MIT license
  • and in what way do their intended use specifically differ?

If the question can be refined slightly, or only ask a single, specific question, I would consider reopening it.

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