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This recent question RSA-OAEP Padding scheme is about a specific crypto subject, but does not ask for something specific beyond "suggestions", making it borderline off-topic.

I suggested reading an article. The feedback gave me the impression that what not well received. I could not find another answer on CSE introducing the motivation for RSA-OAEP, what it does, and references. Thus I made such an answer.

Would it be approbate to rewrite the body of the question to more specifically ask for the motivation of RSA-OAEP, what it does, and why?

Can this treatment be generalized to similarly non-specific questions about a specific crypto subject? Or should we close them as off-topic?

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Asking for suggestions

This is definitely not a good format for our site, as you point out.

Would it be approbate to rewrite the body of the question to more specifically ask for the motivation of RSA-OAEP, what it does, and why?

Rather than doing this yourself, I recommend using the comments to:

  • Point out that "any suggestions?" is not a good format for our site
  • Suggest to the question asker that they make these kinds of changes to:
    • Improve the reception of their question
    • Get more/better answers
    • Avoid their question being closed.

If we do it this way, then they will learn how to ask better questions in the future.

Mentioning that the changes will improve reception and get more/better answers is positive motivation; I find that users are more receptive to the feedback when the positive motivation is included in the comment.

Very old questions

Of course, such a question may be very old and the user that asked it no longer active. In this case, the above recommendation is unlikely to work.

Making substantive changes runs the risk of changing the askers intent. This is especially concerning if they will not be around to comment on whether or not any changes were appropriate.

If what they are asking could not be interpreted in another way, then making these types of changes would appear to be harmless. But, if the question was clear, I'm not sure this meta topic would be applicable to it.

Case 1: Old Unanswered questions

Rather than making substantive changes to another users question, I would say to ask a well-formed question and close the old unanswered question as a duplicate of the new well-formed one.

Case 2: Old questions that were answered

If we are to stick to not making substantial edits, then there appears to be little choice here but to make the suggestions in the comments and move on. In this case it's probably a good idea to highlight how this format is not a good fit for our site.

Fortunately, I expect this situation to be relatively rare.

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Would it be approbate to rewrite the body of the question to more specifically ask for the motivation of RSA-OAEP, what it does, and why?

No, that would alter the meaning of the question. Such changes should be left to the author of the question; you can of course suggest them - as Ella did - in the comments.

Can this treatment be generalized to similarly non-specific questions about a specific crypto subject? Or should we close them as off-topic?

Yes, but close them as "too broad" or "unclear what you are asking" rather than being off-topic.


You're being overly nice by answering - which is of course much better than being nasty. However we don't want to explain each and every term (multiple times) on the site. We're a Q/A site after all, not Wikipedia (but feel free to comment on this part or post another answer, there is some discussion that can be made about this last part).

Fact remains that we probably don't want answers with the same size as some Wikipedia entries.

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    $\begingroup$ Note: Voting it closed as "unclear what you're asking" does not prohibit them from making appropriate changes and having the question re-opened; This answer can be applied together with the answer I made. $\endgroup$ – Ella Rose Mar 20 at 14:53

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