I've edited the title to better reflect what I was wanting from this post. The initial title was written in haste, and (admittedly) in frustration as this isn't the first time this has occurred. (See edit history if it is value to you.)

Moreover, the thread in question was put "on-hold" and not actually "closed". However, I do want to point out that the difference between the two is difficult to distinguish in consideration of these three facts:

  1. The mod who put the question on hold gave only the reason that homework/education questions were off-topic (the comments were moved to chat)
  2. The post revision claims the question is closed -- preferably the revision system doesn't distinguish between "on hold" and "closed"? Maybe it's a bug?
  3. The notification that pops ups when you are attempting to answer a question that was put on hold indicates the question is closed.

Which leave us with:

The question is currently "on-hold" for the supposed reason of being "too broad".

The implication of it being too broad stems from the Mod believing the output in the question comes from a specific device, and if that is the case then I agree, the question is unanswerable w/o knowing which device.

However, the output in the question could very well have been typed out by the OP, or by wherever the OP acquired the original question he was asking for clarity on. In which case the question was asking about concepts and network theory, which is entirely answerable and well within the scope of on-topic of this forum.

So there are two ways to interpret the question, one that leads to the question being justifiably closed as too broad, and the other that leads to providing a useful answer for an earnest question. In such cases, we (as a community) need to err on the side of not being dismissive and providing answers when we can.


And if you're curious about how it turned out, the OP confirmed the question was asking about theory and not a specific device. Moreover, when I attempted to communicate to RonMaupin (the mod that put the question on hold) that there is another way of interpreting the question, he doubled down, stayed entrenched, and then called to question my ability to read (nice).

Where do we go from here?

Here are possible outcomes

  1. Someone, somehow, convinces me that the output in the original thread must absolutely come from a device and would have been impossible for someone to type out. Although being honest, that is unlikely, given the OP confirmed it.

  2. Someone can clean up the mess, admit our (the community's) misstep, re-open the question, maybe throw an apology to the OP for "on-holding" the question too hastily.

  3. Something else, I'm open to a third (or fourth or fifth) possible outcome.


4 Answers 4


  • We edit the question to be obviously a generic protocol-theory question
  • We edit out the suggestion about "disingenuous"
  • We reopen the question
  • Someone with a view answers

[struck-through text shows these things were done.]

If this meta-post gets suitable comments or votes I'll happily do the edits.

  • "We edit the question to be obviously a generic protocol-theory question" Someone can certainly do that, and I have repeatedly encouraged both the OP and Eddie to do that. I am not, personally, comfortable changing the meaning of a question, but it seems that Eddie has the OP's support. As I wrote before, I would reopen the question if it is reworded to not be too broad, and then Eddie is free to answer the question.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 23:43
  • I edited the question to be a protocol-theory question and @RonMaupin I see you have reopened it.
    – jonathanjo
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 0:08
  • I updated my answer here to incorporate the SE Meta answer for the updated question here.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 0:51

the thread in question was put "on-hold" and not actually "closed". However, I do want to point out that the difference between the two is difficult to distinguish

I would tend to agree. In part because they are both components of the same process. Will circle back to this in a bit.

The mod who put the question on hold gave only the reason that homework/education questions were off-topic

Comments do not give the reason a question is put on hold/closed. The system provides the reason users voted to close and mention it can be edited. This is true of all SE sites.

Comments made as part of the process are up to the individual users, be they normal user or moderator. They may give additional reasons (if there were more than one), guidance on how to fix the question, tips on how the process works, or anything else. But these are entirely optional and up to the user.

Many of the larger sites simply put questions on hold with no further explanation. I personally think the additional comments are typically helpful and that we are better than many SE sites in providing additional information in comments.

Of course, with a long time user like yourself questioning this process, it may be that my opinion is flawed, so perhaps I need to re-evaluate this process.

The post revision claims the question is closed -- preferably the revision system doesn't distinguish between "on hold" and "closed"? Maybe it's a bug?

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Technically speaking the question is in the close process. Users still vote to close a question, not to put it on hold. So what is and where did this "on hold" component come from?

Originally on all SE sites, the question went directly to "closed." Users felt this was too harsh and was contrary to the intention of fostering the OP to edit the question to make it better. So SE staff changed the process to add the "on hold" period to closed posts.

Now, when voted to close, the question is initially put into the "on hold" status. The intent was to make it a bit more clear that users were encouraged to make the question better. If it remains unedited and/or isn't reopened, it will eventually move to the closed status (and possibly be deleted). But this is still part of the closed process.

The notification that pops ups when you are attempting to answer a question that was put on hold indicates the question is closed.

See above. If you feel this or other parts of the process is wrong, then please take it up with the SE staff on meta.SE. Only they can change how these messages are displayed to the user. This is how many changes originate on the SE network, including the addition of the "on hold" status.

So there are two ways to interpret the question, one that leads to the question being justifiably closed as too broad, and the other that leads to providing a useful answer for an earnest question. In such cases, we (as a community) need to err on the side of not being dismissive and providing answers when we can.

This is at best a grey area. Leaving a questionable post open also has it's drawbacks. The system will automatically purge closed questions when they meet certain criteria. Two of those criteria are zero or negative score (no up votes) on the question and no positive or accepted answers to the question.

The longer a question remains open and off-topic or inappropriate in some way, the more chance there will be of the question receiving an upvote or an answer with upvotes from someone. At that point, it is only through a manual deletion process that the question can be purged from a site. So bad questions can linger here as long as the site lasts.

Also, remember that moderators have no option when voting but to cast a binding vote, and SE has not added this option despite nearly eight years of this request's popularity (and been requested multiple times and closed pointing at that post). The SE stance has always been that if the mod believes a post should be closed enough to cast a vote, they should do so.

While this may work fine in the bigger communities, in the smaller ones where there aren't enough close/reopen (or delete/undelete) users, I personally find the binding vote to be both a necessity and a weakness in the system. I (and many other moderators over the years) would prefer to have the option of both.

Sorry for getting a bit off track, but keep in mind that SE sites are community moderated. This means that even if a question is closed (by users with the privilege or moderators), users with at least 3k reputation can cast reopen votes to reverse this action. Don't have the reputation to vote yet? You can still edit the question to bring it in line with the community standards. Editing a closed question will also automatically trigger a reopen vote, without anyone casting a reopen vote.

We are certainly not adverse to reopening posts here, so if you feel the question was open to interpretation and you feel others misinterpreted the intent, please edit it to make the intent clear. Either the OP will object and roll back the change or they may confirm the change was in line with their request.

If that process doesn't work as you hoped, you can always bring the issue here to meta for further discussion.


For those of you saying it was impossible to answer this question without more information... Here is the answer I was in the middle of typing out when the question was closed (minus a few supporting links).

How about we put it to the OP (@Ludwigthestud) ...

If this answer would have sufficed, great, then we know the question was answerable.

If this answer would not have sufficed, then great, I'll retract my position and happily admit I was wrong.

For the LAN side:

There isn't going to be a clean answer, as every implementation is free to chose their Source ports as they desire. A lot of them (most of them) do so randomly, and in so far as how you should plan the design of traffic flow, you should always assume the source port is random.

For the WAN side:

It's the same. in a Dynamic PAT, the source port is chosen randomly by the Router. Of course, each vendor is free to implement this in any way they like, the main requirement is the translation device cannot re-use a source-port that is already in use.

A lot of Cisco router's will choose Source Ports sequentially. A lot of F5 devices choose Source ports randomly. Every vendor is free to do it their own way.

As for "controlling" the Source Ports in the translation, remember, as soon as you configure a Dynamic translation, you are relinquishing the control of the source port to the translation device. The only way to explicitly determine the source port is to configure a Static PAT.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 4:32
  • 1
    @eddie can I suggest you put your answer there now that the question has reopened (though you might give it a quick read as I clarified the question a bit)
    – jonathanjo
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 0:10
  • @jonathanjo I appreciate your intent and voice of reason in all this. I would rather not be the one to answer the question -- for two reasons. First, to ensure there is no confusion or suspicion of creating this meta post just because I was upset I couldn't answer it. And second, mostly out of principal, I didn't believe the question needed to be reworded to begin with to stay open. But alas, I am letting this go, because it isn't really worth the time to keep trying.
    – Eddie
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Eddie ... I'm sorry you feel that way. I wrote an answer, which included some of your text from here.
    – jonathanjo
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 19:15

Update based on SE Meta:

From the answer to the SE Meta site question How soon should I “vote to close”?:

Always vote to close immediately. I explain the rationale behind this approach in further detail here.

In summary: Yes, it increases the chances that the question will be closed, but that's actually a good thing for a couple of reasons:

  1. It increases the likelihood that the user will take notice and actually fix their question in response to your suggestions. Unless you're dealing with a particularly conscientious user (and this is rare, because their questions are unlikely to be candidates to close in the first place), it's more likely that they'll ignore your comments as long as they can continue to get answers.

  2. It prevents a flood of immediate answers (arguably a symptom of the well-known "Fastest Gun in the West" problem) that are speculative at best and/or will be completely invalidated after the question is modified to turn it into a real question. Those answers don't do anyone any good, and they're best avoided if at all possible.

And no, it does not force the author to re-post his question, not immediately or ever. Even questions that have been closed can be edited by the owner. So once the question is closed, that would be an appropriate time to sit up and take notice of the helpful comments that have been provided by the close voters. And once the question has been sufficiently improved, it can be re-opened, either with the vote of 5 different users (they can be the same ones who voted to close) or the binding vote of a moderator.

If you see a user posting a second question because his first one was closed, flag and/or close the second one as a duplicate of the first and ask him to go back and edit the original question instead.


If you look, you will notice that the question was not closed because it is a homework or home networking question. The question was put On-Hold as too broad because the question cannot be answered without knowing the device model. Different devices choose the port to be used differently, That is implementation-specific; there is nothing in the standard that dictates how to do that.

In any case, your premise, the the question in title of your question, "Seriously, can we stop closing questions just because they include the word “homework” or “home network”?," is incorrect for the original question to which you refer. That is clearly not the case.


The question is quite clear that the OP's question is about the table in the embedded answer. Notice the parts I highlighted:

The answer is:

NAT Translation Table
  WAN Side                      LAN Side, 4000, 3345, 4001, 3346, 4002, 3445, 4003, 3446, 4004, 3545, 4005, 3546

With that given, my question is regarding the answer. I understand the IP addresses. However, are the port numbers randomly chosen or does the order of 3345, 3346, 3445, etc. have a sort of logic given behind them?

That question is unanswerable, as asked, because we do not know the provenance of the table.

Edit for the new question:

Can we err more on the side of leaving questions open when multiple interpretations exist and some might be off topic/too broad?

The problem with questions that are too broad is that I still find open questions from years ago where more information or a narrowing of the scope was requested but never supplied. Some of these questions have no answers, and some have answers with none accepted The additional information or narrowing of the scope was requested, not supplied by the OP, and then everyone lost track of the question, and the OP never got his answer.

The proven SE method is to request more information or to narrow the scope, then place the question on hold. This has proven effective to spur the OP to provide the additional information or narrow the scope of the question.

As far as off-topic questions, leaving them open encourages answers to off-topic questions which are not wanted on NE. Getting an answer to an off-topic question encourages the OP to ask more off-topic questions. This has happened several times, even when the first off-topic question was closed after being answered. Also, by closing the question with a comment on a better place to ask can get the OP an answer faster than letting an unanswered, off-topic question languish on NE. Even if you point the OP to a better site and do not close the question, then other SE sites consider that cross-posting and often close the question on the correct site because it is cross-posted.

In either case, the text box that is placed on the question when it is put on hold explains to the OP what to do to try to get the question reopened. Most off-topic questions are really not salvageable, but some do get rehabilitated and reopened. A lot of questions that are too broad get modified and reopened, but there are some people that simply do not bother. In general, someone asking a question has no interest in modifying the question unless prodded to do so by something like placing it on hold.

I would argue that placing a question on hold is not being dismissive, and the SE way is to keep a site on focus of what the community has decided. Placing a question needing work on hold serves the purpose of keeping the site within the SE ideals of a specific question that gets specific answers within the guidelines of the site's purpose. This is very different from other Q/A sites on the Internet, and it is what SE wants for its sites to be distinguished for its quality of questions and answers.

One thing that I will point out is that NE is generally more friendly and helpful (especially when it comes to providing guidance for questions that are put on hold) than most of the other SE technology sites where often the best you can hope for is to simply have the question put on hold with no other explanation than is in the box, then completely ignored from then on. The worst case is that you get mercilessly chastised for even considering to ask the question on the site. I have spent a lot of time with people asking questions, going back and forth to rehabilitate a question, then reopening it. That is not something I have observed on the other technology SE sites.

There is a good explanation of On-Hold or Closed on the What does it mean if a question is "closed" or "on hold"? page:

What does it mean if a question is "closed" or "on hold"?

Why are some questions marked "on hold"?

Questions that need additional work or that are not a good fit for this site may be put on hold by experienced community members. While questions are on hold, they cannot be answered, but can be edited to make them eligible for reopening.

Questions that are edited within five days of being put on hold are automatically added to a reopening queue for community review. Questions that are not reopened within five days will change from [on hold] to [closed].

Each closed or on-hold question provides a reason that helps the original poster (or other community members) know what they'd need to do in order to get the question reopened.

There is also the What if I disagree with the closure of a question? How can I reopen it? page (the highlighted text is highlighted in the original text on the page):

Stack Exchange is collaboratively built, maintained, and moderated by the community. If you see a question and you disagree with the stated reason of its closure, you should first try to edit the question to improve it as much as possible. Read the close notice and any comments carefully to address concerns raised there. Closed questions that receive edits within the first 5 days of closure are automatically put into a review queue to be considered for reopening.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 3:20
  • 1
    I'm walking away from all this. This is the last comment I will make on the subject. But I must say, it concerns me, Ron, that you still think my complaint is about changing what is on or off topic, or leaving too broad questions open. My complaint was in erring towards leaving questions open that have the potential of a subjective interpretation of too broad vs sufficiently detailed.
    – Eddie
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:11
  • 1
    If the question is objectively off topic or too broad, then yes, close it, or put it on hold, those are the correct outcomes. But if a question can be interpreted in such a way that makes it on topic/sufficiently specific, and if we really care about growing the NESE community, then we owe it to the OP (specially with new contributors) to err on the side of providing answers than being dismissive.
    – Eddie
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:11
  • 1
    It is not dismissive; it is the SE way to get movement on the question. If the question is rehabilitated, then it gets reopened, we get a quality question, and the OP gets an answer. That is how SE is supposed to work. SE wants specific questions with enough information to get a specific answer. Other Internet sites are different.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:16
  • @Eddie.see my edit from the SE Meta answer about why questions should be immediately voted to close. You could certainly object to that on SE Meta.
    – Ron Maupin Mod
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 0:42

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