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I asked and answered a question yesterday about child registration for US citizens in Israel. In response to my answer, Tim commented:

This applies to basically every country where the US has an embassy with citizenship services. The only nuances being some have courier services to do a lot of the leg work for you, and different fee schedules.

So there is a general scenario (US expats have a child in a foreign country and want to get US documentation) in a specific locale (Israel). The answer itself could with a little bit of generalization be applied to any other locale (since all US embassies and consulates generally will have similar procedures, and US citizen services don't change much from place to place). And it would be great to have a canonical question addressing this general scenario, without the locale.

However, there are specific details in the answer that are locale-specific.

So what is the best way to address this (and it will come up in the future)? Some options that I can think of are:

  1. For a general procedure that has lots of overlaps between locales, try to encourage a canonical general question. (Then what do you do with specifics that are important for given locales? Doesn't seem right to add them as answers for the general questions. So if they re important enough, would they get their own question that would refer to the general one and ask for specifics about the locale?)
  2. Same as above, but try to address specific locale-based nuances with more specific questions (for example, I could ask a question like "what embassy/consulate should I use for US citizen services in Israel?" which addresses a nuance in my answer which is specific to Israel, and removes it from the context of the general scenario
  3. Let things develop as they will. Locale-specific questions can be used as a general reference as well.
  4. Something else

It would be good to have general canonical questions, and it would also be good to avoid having 150 versions of "how do I get my child a US passport in country-X" where there is not so much delta in between.

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I think, well, in this particular sort of scenario, where you realize your answer to a very specific question probably goes for quite a few others is to just say something like:

Check with your particular embassy for specifics, but this is how the process is likely to work

I wouldn't deliberately withhold specific details in the question - if, down the road we've got enough similar questions that we decide to create a canonical and merge a bunch of answers - that's .. down the road. Right now, I think we're doing really well by making a melting pot full of very specific problems that we're facing or have faced.

Let the content bake for a while, and these sorts of things tend to solve themselves.

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I would say: Be as general as you feel you can without losing important details. If it is found later that another question appears with the same answer, and it can't be "duplicated" because the original question is too narrow, there's nothing wrong with widening the original question. This is at least my experience from TeX.SX.

On the other hand, if you ask too broad question in the sense of missing out important details, people should not cast close votes, but rather ask for clarification.

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I would be very wary about over-generalizing situations where you have a very specific question to ask. This is taken right out of the founding of Travel SE:

About those Tipping Questions (I'm paraphrasing…)

What are the tipping etiquette in different countries? How much tip should I give to a waiter/waitress?

I appreciate the effort, but there is a problem with this — It's not a real question. It doesn't reflect an actual problem that the author is actually having. Answering it in a generic way is just an exercise in copying information from one place on the internet to another place, which is just make-work.

So how do you resolve this?

We are not here to build a travel encyclopedia or general reference work like Wikipedia or WikiTravel. We are trying to fill in the gaps that they don't already cover. The way we do this is by being a Q&A site where folks ask very very specific question that are difficult to find the answer elsewhere. You are asking very real questions that only a few out of a large group of people can **answer based on experience you can share or learn about. That's how we ensure we're not just duplicating information readily available elsewhere through the magic of the Googles.

An example of a tipping questions which would fit in here perfectly:

How much should I tip a taxi driver in Israel for a trip from the airport to downtown Tel Aviv? Last time I gave 20 shekels and the guy acted strange.

See? That's a real question.

Ideally, this site is going to be filled with long-tailed, specific problem statements where the "solutions" are highly custom-tailored to the original author specifically. This is the long tail of specific problem solving that is going to make this site "work." This is by design.

How does specialized advice help the rest of us?

When folks Google about "child registration for US citizens in Israel", I sure would like them to find this site. There may be a canonical answer to help all these folks everywhere, but I would not close down these specific questions to serve the one generalized piece of information you can find anywhere. That's not what we do. Folks here will be talking about their real-world problems specifically; not some generalize work of reference that may nor may not apply to them specifically.

This is what is going to separate us from all the other living-abroad reference sites out there.

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