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The RIP to OSI Layer Question

Consider this question: On which OSI layer does RIP work:

In which OSI Layer RIP Protocol works? Can some one explain in which layer it works and justify that?

At first, it's hard to know what exactly works means given the bad descriptive assumption (which layer) in the question. Obviously, RIP is a multi-layered component; as such, there isn't just one layer it operates on. Eventually the question was clarified. I appreciate Fizzle's attempt to answer the question, although I disagree with parts of the answer itself.

Theoretical response

In the face of extremely vague OSI mapping questions like this, we could have just assumed that the person wants to know how to map RIP to the various layers of the OSI seven-layer model. I am opposed to mind reading; however, if we did try to do that it's possible to answer this question by enumerating the various ways to map RIP to OSI-Layer equivalents.

One possible answer to how you'd map RIP to various OSI layers

RIP is just another application running in an operating system. Thus, there are several ways to answer this question, among them:

The "ghost question" idea

Ron also proposed a ghost question (not quite sure what he meant... perhaps this... but it only mentions RIP in passing, and it actually looks like a Meta Network Engineering discussion in itself).

My Questions

I don't have peace about this RIP OSI mapping question yet; there was debate in the comments which genuinely should happen here on Meta. Nobody voted to close, but in my opinion there are still open questions to resolve about how we handle questions like this in the future.

What should we do with vague OSI protocol mapping questions, such as this RIP question or others similar to it?

  • Are there some OSI mapping questions which would be too broad, or off-topic? If so, give examples.
  • Are there some guidelines for handling OSI protocol mapping questions? What are there boundaries of on / off-topic / too broad for OSI protocol mappings?
  • What do we want to do with Ron's question and answer; is this a meta discussion, or is this for the main NE site?

NE community, please respond with your thoughts.

  • ghost question = Community Wiki? – Ryan Foley Mar 8 '14 at 21:05
  • Also, your 3 bullet "possible answer" is actually really insightful. – Ryan Foley Mar 8 '14 at 21:07
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We could think about it this way:

OSI mapping as a tool: On-topic

If the concepts of "OSI mapping" are something the question uses to try to explain or clarify, then it's on-topic. A made up example which would then be on-topic:

I'm trying to figure out how the FooBazzle protocol manages to resolve a conflict. If it's working at OSI 4, then it should use the Frobnitz; If it's working at OSI 3, it shouldn't know the Frobnitz exists.

And some actual examples which would be on-topic:
What is the meaning of the CRC counter on a Cisco device?
0800 and 0806 type codes?
IPv4 IPv6 IPSEC differences?

The point being that the OSI layers are, (in my opinion) most useful when used for conceptual clarity, or as an explanatory framework. So here, I'm envisioning questions using the OSI model as a tool.

OSI mapping as a goal: Off-topic

The OSI model is, well, just a model. So if the primary end-goal of the question is the OSI model, then it's off-topic. In these cases, OSI mapping isn't a stepping stone, or tool, used in search of the answer; OSI mapping is the answer. So a made-up example which would then be off-topic:

Does the FooBazzle protocol operate at OSI layer 3 or 4?

When we close such questions, we'd do well to leave a link to Ron's out-of-the-park-awesome OSI Model and Netowrking Protocols Relationship Q&A. ( And, aside: I think Ron's Q&A should be in Meta. )

And some actual examples which would be off-topic:
What OSI layer do access points operate on?
NAT works at which layer of the OSI?
At which OSI layer does RIP work?

  • I don't think Ron's Q/A should be in meta, as it may be meta technologically, but it is not site-meta. Community wiki for this kind of thing makes more sense to me. meta.stackoverflow -- what are community wiki posts? – belacqua Mar 7 '14 at 22:38
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    It think questions about where questions like mine should be posted are as fruitless as OSI layer questions. People come to the site to get answers to their networking questions -- I assume we're here to answer them. But it often seems as we are more interested in debating how questions should be asked, rather than answering them. – Ron Trunk Mar 7 '14 at 23:37
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    @Ron, when you find a compelling argument other than "I don't like that question", we'll consider it. Let's remember that not all networking questions are on-topic. RE: But it often seems as we are more interested in debating how questions should be asked, rather than answering them. <-- That is a gross overstatement, and at 93% answered questions on NE, is demonstrably False. Some people seem to think there's no such thing as a poorly-worded question. For them, I recommend reddit – Mike Pennington Mar 8 '14 at 0:36
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    @Ron This is my 2 cents: As this site is currently in Beta, we have a duty to be diligent in defining what we want this community to be. There are many places for people to ask networking questions online. In my experience, they're often left adrift in a sea of noise about home networking. If we want to have a strong and focused community, that attracts professionals, and is able to bring expertise to focus on specific networking problems, then we have to, for now, remain heavily interested in debating how questions are asked, and what questions are asked. – Brett Lykins Mar 8 '14 at 1:09
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    @MikePennington, I realize that there has to be some quality control, but in the Talmudic discussions about angels dancing on pinheads, we are chasing away the very people who will make this site grow. Not everyone knows or cares about the philosophy of SE; they just want to get their router working so they can keep their job. But many responses seem to be designed to chastise for not phrasing questions properly. I don't see the harm in asking (kindly) for clarification, or even suggesting rephrasing -- what you call "mind-reading." – Ron Trunk Mar 8 '14 at 1:12
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    @Ron, please keep discussion on-topic and ranting at a minimum. If you're making an argument to support leaving the question on the main NE site, it isn't very clear. Please rephrase. – Mike Pennington Mar 8 '14 at 1:20
  • It often appears to me that many inquiries along these lines are "homework" type questions, and a particular teacher-instructor-professor-guru has a "right" answer that he/she/it is looking for. A mind-reading homework question, in other words. To me, those would clearly be off-topic. – Dave in Ohio Mar 24 '14 at 19:25
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    As to @Ron's concerns, we should bear in mind that posters may not be fluent in English, and are most likely stressed. A bit of gentle guidance in order to reach a point of clarity in the question should not raise objections. – Dave in Ohio Mar 24 '14 at 19:37
  • @DaveinOhio, thanks for your thoughts... although AFAICT, Ron's frustration is a disagreement about whether things should be closed as off-topic, as opposed to how we interact with the question's author. If you (or anyone else) ever have concerns about either topic, please do start a discussion in meta and cite example(s) of your concerns. – Mike Pennington Mar 27 '14 at 6:38

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