referring to the blog post : Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change.

i would like to ask, is it possible to relax the rule of asking questions about the meaning of seal / stamp / signatures, or ornaments?

currently, these types of questions are treated as "asking for translation", then would be closed as "off topic".

the above mentioned post stated that it's time to change, to make this community more friendly to newcomer. so that, i'm asking this question.

imo, questions about identify characters of seals, ornaments are very interesting, and challenging. even for an experienced "chinese language" user, sometime it's a tough task. so, for newbies, it's impossible. their only hope is to ask on the internet.

the current practice to turn them away by saying "off topic", is, well, quite harsh.

isn't it time to change it?

open for discussion, please 🖋

3 Answers 3


The blog post is about Stack Overflow not Stack Exchange. But, Why not.

At the moment, the way I see it is:

  • we hardly have any foot-traffic (2 users/day, atm)

  • we have users that are definitely checking in everyday to see what's new (with nothing to do)

  • the site is quite stale

So any activity seems to be good activity at the moment.

Not to mention that Chinese is not like Spanish or French where posters could probably type up whatever words or phrases they saw into Google and probably get some sort of result they could understand.

Stack Exchange, starting with Stack Overflow is obviously trying to become more welcoming & I'm sure we'd like more things to do on the site.

  • 1
    2 user/day, is the data correct? or, the counting methods has faults? Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 6:22
  • I’m pretty sure it means visitors, i.e.: unregistered users.
    – Mou某 Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 6:52

I agree to do this, but only after a page is written up on how to identify seal/calligraphy scripts as per this question. This way we filter out for the people who are genuinely willing to learn Chinese by putting some effort in, and not just using this as a quick translation stop.

My idea of a genuine, on-topic question on translation is something like this:

How do I identify this character?


The bottom right seems to be like 口 and the bottom of 衣, and the bottom left looks like a 正, but I can't recognise the rest of the parts.

This ends up benefitting the whole community including fluent speakers (many of whom aren't fluent at reading ancient scripts either), as good answers will describe the character components correctly, including any changes/corruptions that may have occurred over the centuries, allowing everyone to become more fluent at reading these kinds of things.


We should do what we can to make this site welcoming. My understanding is that translation requests are not banned, as long as they show some research effort. The policy is summarized in this FAQ describing on-topic translation requests:

  1. Translation: From any language to Chinese as long as: (1) you provide research effort, without it your question will be closed. (2) you provide a detailed explanation of the original expression word. From Chinese to other languages, please refer to the target language site.

  2. Meaning of single word/hanzi: In case of a word (from bigram upwards), you can ask if you provided research effort in your question. In case of Hanzi, the same applies and you must provide also the sentence where you found the Hanzi.

Now, we might be able to do a better job of explaining that to users who make unreasonable requests. The close reason for simple translation requests is currently this:

Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.

If we come up with a more friendly version of that message, then one of us moderators can change it.

Here's a suggestion for a new version of that message:

You are welcome to ask for help with a translation, but please describe what you have tried so far. You can spend a few minutes trying to draw the character on mdbg.net or learn about seal scripts, then click the Reopen link.

That seems a bit long for a post notice, so maybe other people can improve it. The important things I'm trying to include here are a welcoming tone and a request to include a small amount of research.

  • well, my suggestion is specified to the question about "identifying characters in seal / stamp / signature / ornament". could this type of questions exempted from the rule of "asking for translations are off-topic", so that they would not be closed, and then, other users would like to spend time & effort to help the questioner; without the worry that their efforts would be lost (cause the question would be deleted, can't be search anymore). Commented May 9, 2018 at 17:17
  • for a non-chinese, or, even for a chinese with average education; sometime, such seals / signatures / ornaments are very difficult to decipher. so, imo, thinking that such mysterious characters are "chinese", and then asking about it on this site; such action should be treated as "making research effort". Commented May 9, 2018 at 17:35
  • then, other types of questions asking for translation, as usual, off-topic :) Commented May 9, 2018 at 17:37
  • Personally, I'd like to see someone put in a little bit of work before asking for help with a translation. It doesn't have to be a lot, though. If someone says they tried tracing the character on mdbg.net for 10 minutes and couldn't find any matches, that seems like a reasonable effort to me. This question is a good example where somebody made some progress and asked for help with the rest.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 4:36
  • I added a suggestion for a new message, @水巷孑蠻. Feel free to make other suggestions.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 4:51

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