Recently I've asked an off-topic question: How to plot forcing oscillation with damping correctly?. The close notice has only one line of instruction:

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

I agree that this is not about physics, but the lack of continuing instruction bugs me enough to ask on Meta.SE: Where to ask about computational code about mismatched results with scientific theories? It's until the question is completely closed that I see the link to the help page, and it turns out that the guide has been explicitly said in What topics can I ask about here?:

Implementation details of computational tasks
While computational physics is on topic, we are not a programming site. If your question is about implementing computational code - in particular, if it's about writing, compiling, debugging or optimizing code, or about a specific language or library - then it is off topic. It may be suitable for Computational Science or Stack Overflow, however.

Should we implement this on the close notice? The more specific the better. At least it would have save me time to ask the close voter back and forth, and time of anyone who read and answer that MSE question.

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, there is also a comment I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking about coding, not physics, which should be seen as part of the close-reasons provided by the 5 reviewers. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ "The more specific the better" That pretty much goes against the design of a good close reason. We don't want something really specific. We want something broadly applicable. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac to the voters (moderators, managers, governments, etc), yes it should be broad. But for posters and the like, the more specific the better. In both cases it is to minimize the cognitive workload $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker Those two ideas oppose each other. The voters drive the close system, and they use a list of broad reasons to do it. There's no easy way to covert that broad reason into a specific reason per question, unless those voters actually spend more time explaining. Instead, it is up to the asker to figure out what could be improved to make it on topic. The information is there, and the volunteers don't want to explain the same reasons over and over. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac I know. That's why we have a system to make it easy for both sides. And yes, it is up to the asker to figure out what to improve, but that's the same logic of "google it yourself". And if Jeff Atwood can always google out his needs in one try, then we don't have Stack Exchange today. It's not about the effort, it's about the cognitive workload of everyone. $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker There's no good way to make it "easy for both sides". When a question is closed, there are generally relevant reasons and links to a meta post supplied with the close reason. If it's a custom close reason, it can be explained and will appear as a comment; and in the close box. People voting to close should not have to explain themselves though; the votes and reason should be self-apparent. It is up to the asker to make sure they understand the question guidelines. If a close reason doesn't make sense and you really can't find anything on the meta, you can ask here or in chat. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


We have a very limited number of customized canned off-topic closure reasons: at present we have three,

  • homework-like,
  • non-mainstream, and
  • engineering,

which make up the current close-vote prompt. Stack Exchange is extremely reluctant, on UI grounds, to add more reasons, so the only thing we could do is replace one of those - and, frankly, questions about coding are far less common than those three branches.

Fortunately, though, there is the option to close as off-topic for all other possible reasons, i.e. you can choose the option

Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)

and that will register as a vote to close as off-topic, leave a comment with the reason, and offer that reason as an option to later close-voters.

This is what happened to your question: sammy gerbil voted to close as off-topic with the custom reason

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking about coding, not physics.

which then left this comment, and then two or more reviewers agreed with that reason, resulting in the generic closure banner that you quoted above.

As such, you were given explicit indication of the possible problems with your post from the very first close-vote, which is frankly plenty fair. It might seem harsh, but it is your responsibility to ensure that your posts are on-topic, and to seek out the available guidance when it turns out they might not be.

Apart from the three main closure reasons, there are plenty of small, valid closure reasons, and it's impossible (and not really desirable, either) to try to hammer them into the mold of a single canned reason. Over the past 90 days, custom close reasons make up about 6% of question closures, with a wide range of custom reasons. (To get a linked list of such comments, try this query.) Generally speaking, they make up too broad a range to congeal into a single canned reason, so your proposal isn't really implementable.

  • $\begingroup$ (On the other hand, it's currently impossible to use the Data Explorer to audit which close-reasons actually get used, and how much. If you think that that's a bummer, answers on that MSE thread specifying use cases probably would help quite a bit to nudge SE into implementing that functionality.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ I agree on the close vote, I just don't fully understand it, and it bugs me. I need to really find out. And is it just me or the two image links don't work? Why don't you just put the image into the post directly? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker The links work fine on my machine, and the images are too large and would interfere with the text. And, if you really want to "understand", it would help to actually ask a question (but frankly, the OP was a hopeless mess of confusion to begin with), which at this stage is probably best done in Physics Chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ lol, actually I prefer a direct "you" than "OP" here. Anyway, what question should I ask? (I've asked many questions already.) And in your eyes are they a mess of confusion? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Ooker OP meant post, not poster. This specific thread has one question ("should we implement this on the close notice?") and I've already answered it ("no"). I don't know what else you need to "understand" but if you don't ask, nobody is going to spontaneously provide you with the information. (And, again, at this stage the exchange is probably best done in Physics Chat.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:29

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