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We see quite frequently questions appearing on SFSE, under Marketing-Cloud tag, which might equally belong on StackOverflow. Knowing how often SQL is needed in SFMC, I understand the need of having these questions answered, and why members (both new and more seasoned) are turning to SFSE for help.

What I am also seeing, is how inconsistent we are in answering vs closing the questions for being off-topic, most often with selecting this option:

This question does not fall within this site's scope. It may be about programming other than on the Salesforce platforms, pertain to a third-party vendor, or not be answerable from public information. A community member should add a comment to clarify how this question is not on topic.

I am myself "guilty" of closing several of them, but I have started to question how to approach them, as some are otherwise put forward as very well-written questions.

Should we insist on closing anything covering non-SFMC specific HTML, SQL, etc? Or should we turn the blind eye to these close votes, and keep discussions on such topics on SFSE?

Here are some examples:

SQL Query regaring duplicate values from one row into one single unique row

How to trim a particular word from a string and store it?

Customers that only made one order

How to trim a particular word from a string and store it?

SQL Case Statement

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I have a simple litmus test that I use to determine if the question belongs here or not. That test is basically this: if you take out everything specifically related to Salesforce, does the answer change at all, or does the question lose all purpose? If the answer, either way, is yes, then the question is on-topic here, otherwise it is not. I have sometimes broken this rule for ultra-simple questions that I felt would be ripped to shreds on SO, but these are rare exceptions.

As a generic example, let's say someone asks about how to add an event listener to a button in JavaScript. If this is a LWC, Aura, or Visualforce question, the answer is almost certainly going to be different than it would be if they're talking about a HTML page on Heroku (Heroku is on-topic, but only for server-side stuff like deployments and running code, not plain HTML), and thus is on-topic for our network.

Similarly, questions about Angular, Backbone, Node, jQuery, JavaScript, HTML, XML, JSON, XmlHttpRequest, fetch, SQL, HTML, React, etc may all be on-topic... or not. What makes the difference is if the subject matter could be asked on SO with no Salesforce experience and get the exact same answer as it would here.

Marketing Cloud SQL is itself a standard dialect of SQL, but a non-Salesforce-expert wouldn't know what to do with a _bounce or _click table without clarification or documentation, while an MC expert would likely be able to answer the question easily. This is what makes it on-topic, in my opinion. The subject matter involves tables unique to a Salesforce product, and answers given in a non-Salesforce context would likely be incorrect or misleading.

I personally don't have enough experience in MC to answer most questions, even though I do have a pretty solid grip on SQL. This is because MC does things differently in subtle ways than a generic SQL server (e.g. MySQL, Postgres, etc), and so needs to be handled by an expert in the product. I can generally recognize the difference between a MC question and a generic SQL question despite my lack of knowledge with MC; if I can answer it without looking at the MC docs, it's probably off-topic for this network.

After a cursory review, I feel like all of those questions could be considered on-topic, even the one that was closed off-topic and deleted by the system. They pass the test of needing a Salesforce context to make sense of the question.

tl;dr

We should always consider if the context of the question makes it on-topic. SQL is not inherently off-topic here, just as JavaScript is not inherently off-topic. It's the context of the question that makes it off-topic or not. If knowledge of MC's schema and idioms is required to answer the question, it's on-topic, end-of-story. We don't want to become SO, but we do want to provide reasonable support of Salesforce products and platforms.

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From my point of view I try to follow the following:

As long as i can see that this question is related to specific aspects of the salesforce marketing cloud like dataviews or ampscript functions, i try to solve them. Also when it relates to actual send processes and users want deduplication etc.

When i see that the author asked a generic question i try to flag the post or leave a comment that this should be solved on stackexchange.

The problem that i see is that many users of sfse might not be confident to ask questions on stackexchange because they would instantly be ripped apart. Stackexchange is way more "rude" and people close very fast or mark it as duplicate etc. Some people might not even know that their question is generic and therefore they do not even consider posting a thread on stackexchange or searching for it on stackexchange.

  • +1 There is a reason why I have 210 rep on SO despite being the strong presence I am here. Also, trying to find Salesforce-specific questions on SO is no less frustrating than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. I usually run across them by accident. – sfdcfox Jun 17 '20 at 13:57

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