Most sites have an off-topic close reason stating that the question is not on-topic according to the help center, as a catch-all when the more common specific close reasons aren't relevant. We used to have a "blatantly off-topic" reason, but it no longer exists. Can we add a new close reason, such as this?

This question does not appear to be about Cryptography within the scope defined in the help center.

It is better than the old "blatantly off-topic" close reason, which was awkward to use if something was marginally related to cryptography but still off-topic, but it serves the same general purpose.

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    $\begingroup$ Do we really need a catch-all reason though? After all we can use custom reasons with comments which I think is much more informative than a generic "this is off-topic". The custom standard reasons just provide a default, well-formulated description for common cases. $\endgroup$ – SEJPM Jul 7 '19 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ While I don't exactly agree with this question, I will still feature it so more people can bring their opinions in on this. $\endgroup$ – SEJPM Jul 7 '19 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Which of the existing close reasons do you propose to overwrite? There is a limit to the number of custom close reasons that we can have, and we are currently already at that limit $\endgroup$ – Ella Rose Jul 7 '19 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ @EllaRose I did not know that was the case. That's odd. $\endgroup$ – forest Jul 7 '19 at 23:36

Can we add a new close reason, such as this?

I don't think we want to have a generic close reason.

The point of having a standard close-reason is to communicate clearly that a question is off-topic and why in a specific case. The standard reasons communicate this for often-repeating classes of questions.

If we now had a generic "this is off-topic" reason, people would get around articulating why they think a question is off-topic for border-line cases. This would take valueable feedback away from the poster who then has to figure out exactly what they did wrong from a generic "look at our help center". Furthermore there's the issue that it is a privilege on StackExchange to see that your question is currrently being voted to close and this isn't a problem for the standard reasons as closure usually goes quite fast there, it very much is one for borderline questions, as with comments the poster will see that is something is wrong and will get a chance to fix it but with the standard reason they won't and have to hope that someone takes the optional effort (!) to tell them the exact reason, which people may not even agree about...

Additionally, the recently used comment-based close reasons are visible to 10k users and are commonly used to make more informed decisions about how to adapt / evaluate our current three close reasons. If there was now a generic reason we would have this valueable information taken away.

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't we also have to over-write one of the existing close reasons? $\endgroup$ – Ella Rose Jul 7 '19 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ @EllaRose There is a chance that we might get a fourth one from SE, but yes that seems likely. $\endgroup$ – SEJPM Jul 7 '19 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps it is a good idea to mention in this answer that there is a limit to how many custom close reasons we can have $\endgroup$ – Ella Rose Jul 7 '19 at 21:07

There are a limited number (3) custom close reasons that our site can use.

In order to do this, we would have to get overwrite or extend one of the existing custom close reasons.

The existing custom close reasons cover most of the commonly encountered off-topic reasons.

Even if we did this...

A generic close reason offers little benefit over the ability to write in an arbitrary close reason. Sure, it could conceivably save you ~5-10 seconds for questions that are off-topic but not covered by any other close reason. But this would be prioritizing less-common cases rather than the most common cases, and would likely result in costing more time than it saves.

Also, a generic close reason does little to indicate to the questions asker what exactly was wrong with the question. Questions should be salvaged where possible. It's difficult to do so if you only have a vague message that says something is wrong, but not what.


Making this change would be counter-productive.

  • $\begingroup$ This is very much to the point: "..you only have a vague message that says something is wrong, but not what." "Appear" in Forest's formulation leaves a lot of wiggle room, perhaps too much. For example, Mr. Diffie says we can tell everyone our key, and in his shameless misunderstanding he insists that it will be "public"--we all agree that this deserves nothing except a chorus of amused contempt. His peculiar assertions do not appear to be about cryptography. $\endgroup$ – Patriot Jul 26 '19 at 15:39

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we already have an "off-topic -> other" close reason. This is the generic close reason, but you still have to specify why the question is off topic, and that should be good enough. We don't keep our (new) users in doubt, whenever possible.

  • $\begingroup$ I tend to agree, but I have copy-pasted the generic reason into the custom message box a couple of times because I just couldn't come up with a polite and succint way to explain in a few hundred characters why e.g. hacking Facebook or making a résumé unprintable are not on-topic here. Especially in cases where the question shows signs of possible paranoia that I'd rather not risk feeding. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Jul 13 '19 at 15:53

Yes we should have a generic off-topic close reason. It's annoying and cumbersome having to write a comment for obviously off-topic questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for supplying the alternative voting target :) $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Jul 7 '19 at 22:17

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