The close reasons have been finalized and implemented here, please direct requests for new close reasons to a separate meta post.

As per this meta.SO post, it appears an overhaul of the close system is underway. Of the numerous changes slated to take place,

  • not a real question,
  • not constructive, and
  • too localized

will no longer be reasons for closing, replaced instead by

  • unclear what you’re asking,
  • too broad, and
  • primarily opinion-based.

Furthermore, it appears off-topic will now include sub-reasons for closing. As I understand it, this will include a site-specific standard list of reasons, though any close-voter can write in their own wording for that particular question (which will be subsequently turned into a comment).

What will our list of default off-topic reasons be? Is there a network-wide starting list of reasons, or do we need to come up with something from scratch? In either case, it can't hurt to discuss amongst ourselves what would be best for this site.

In general, what is not covered by the three new reasons (plus duplicate, which is still in place)?

In particular, I think we use the now-obsolete too localized reason for closing copied-and-pasted homework questions. Certainly none of the new options seem to address that, so perhaps we need a we-don't-do-your-homework-for-you off-topic category.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a good question, but as yet we (the mods) have not heard of an official process or been given any hint that our input will be solicited. Nonetheless, I think that getting our house in order can only help. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee: As mods, iirc we can edit them ourselves. There probably will be a formal notification asking for us to make the above meta post. I thought of doing it yesterday, but I decided to wait. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ meta.stackexchange.com/questions/184637/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 4:55

3 Answers 3


The top two close reasons ( real reasons, not the system reasons) that don't fit in unclear/broad/primarily-opinion-based (Great, now I have to remember new acronyms :S ) are:

  • Homeworky (frequency: a bajillion times a day):

    Our policy expects homework and homework-like problems to have some effort put into them, and deal with conceptual issues. Please edit your question to explain what you have tried and highlight the concepts.

(I prefer "We expect", but I can't think of a place to stick the policy link without making it too long)

  • Non-mainstream physics(frequency: a batch every ~week. Usually a single user asks many such questions):

    We deal with mainstream physics here. Anything that couldn't be published in a reputable journal is not appropriate on this site.

The other common OT thing which seems to be around twice a week is pure math questions (or physics questions that seem to be clear on the physics) being asked. But these get migrated, so there's no need for a separate OT reason.

Besides that, I can't think of any reason that's frequently needed. For edge cases we have the custom OT close reason.

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    $\begingroup$ Now that I think about it, perhaps we should avoid the wording "homework-like" in favor of something like "insufficient effort". Because even when a question is clearly not a homework question or doesn't occur in an educational context, if the OP shows zero effort to work through it, the close reason should still apply. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Since it appears we will have 3 reasons, then if there is no need for a third beyond these 2, perhaps we could split up the homework one into more-harshly-worded "homework" and a not-quite-so-harsh "insufficient effort." The former will ward off the people who think they can poke and prod until we give them answers; the latter could be used in the cases where it's not clearly from an assignment and where the OP probably can and will do a better job identifying the concepts if told to do so. This is all a big if, however. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite: That is a good idea :) (A note: we're not forced to have 3, we can simply have 2). I see a few problems with it, though: In the new system, if different users choose different close reasons, _both show up. It would be quite confusing to get both HW close reasons (depends on the wording). However, I recommend you answer this question with the split wordings; after we have some example wordings we may be able to decide how to proceed :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky: Interesting. However, afaict, we've never really forced effort onto purely conceptual questions. "I understand X, but I am confused as to why Y" needs no further effort into it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth yeah, the case I'm talking about is a corner case. It'd be for things like this, which could/should have been researched a bit by the OP beforehand - I mean, even just checking Wikipedia, at a minimum. It would also get those no-effort homework-like questions whose posters insist that they are not actually homework. The idea behind the HW policy is that it shouldn't matter if a question really is from a HW assignment, and I think the close reason should reflect that. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky: Ah, I see. I guess if it was worded carefully it would be OK. How about two close reasons "Insufficient effort" and "Not A Conceptual Question" a la ChrisWhite? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth I wouldn't really object to that, but they overlap so much, I think there's still a strong case for combining them. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky: Again, it depends on the wording :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ What about "too localized" with the meaning we had it? That worked quite well. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ And would the no effort also cover where the OP has not tried to think about the physics of the topic he asks, is not really interested in getting a god answer and learn something, but rather up to something else, like instigating "lively" discussions etc? I mean for example things like this ... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Well, we only used it for HW, and we can now get an independent HW reason that explains the policy (without the need to write a comment). In case of truly localized stuff, a custom close reason always will do. (Anyone with 5k rep can enter a custom off topic reason for the use of that post only) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ The particular example asked a few million questions, so it could be closed as NARQ. Otherwise, metaphysics can be closed as off topic. (May be nice to have a custom close reason for that, however metaphysics is quite rare) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:31

An alternative wording I've found useful for certain HW's so far:

As per our recommendation on asking homework questions, "It's not enough to just show your work and ask where you went wrong. If you just need someone to check your work, you can always seek out a friend, classmate, or teacher. As a rule of thumb, a good conceptual question should be useful even to someone who isn't looking at the problem you happen to be working on."

I'm noting this in case people think it should be one of our three. Its benefit is that this particular catch in the HW policy is somewhat buried, and may be missed by a cursory glance through the meta page. Note though that it is only for a strict subset of closeable homework - those questions that do have work put in, but ultimately are just asking for verification of the symbol manipulation. As such, it is not general enough to work in all HW cases, and so may be too specific to warrant taking up one of three slots.

Still, any and all are invited to copy/paste this and use/modify it as they see fit.

  • $\begingroup$ This would be an awesome close reason. IMO the "conceptual" bit is even more important than "show your work". $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ People self studying may have nobody to ask or talk about the topic they are learning in the real world sometimes, so this should by no means bye used to disallow all questions asking for help in removing a stumbling block that appears in the course of a technical calculation. I like the homework close reason Shog9 has written for us as it is. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton it has always been the case that just a plain dump of an HW question with work is off topic. If you have an issue with this, open a meta question debating this point of the HW policy. This OT reason is perfectly OK given the current policy (in fact it's a quote of the policy, so that's even better) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton also, the site doesn't cater to all needs of students/etc of physics. We are not homework help, we deal with conceptual problems that are useful to others. It doesn't matter if they are self studying, we are not the place for HW questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ As I understand it, SE's purpose is not primarily to answer a question posed by Joe User. Its primary purpose is to build up a body of optimal answers in cases where there's a question that lots of people will want to know the answer to. Very few homework questions will ever meet this criterion. Physics.SE doesn't have to be all things to all people. There are sites such as physicsforums that do homework. There are sites like bautforum that handle non-mainstream stuff. $\endgroup$
    – user4552
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth: Consider the following scenario: Someone solves a problem, can't ask anyone, etc. whether it is correct or not. So he/she comes here and asks a question with the problem inside (without their solution) and then answers their own question and in the answer, asks whether the solution is correct or not, will the question/answer be closed? Note: I'm not talking about any particular case, I'm just asking so that I can comment accurately on such posts next time. Note 2: Note the italicised text, I mean they put their solution as an answer, not in their question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @dimension10: Your question was directed to Manishearth, but IMO the most important issue in the scenario you pose is the same as in any other hw question: is this material of general interest? It's very unusual for any homework question to be of general interest. $\endgroup$
    – user4552
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @BenCrowell: I think that I forgot the premise was a homework question : ) . $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @dimension10 Depends on the question. The question needs to be conceptual, and of general interest to a wider populace. We don't judge self answered questions on the basis of the answer. Also, Physics.SE does not try to accommodate all needs. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 18:16

Okay, so I've flagged two questions now that I felt were off-topic but none of the reasons we have in the list fit. We need to expand the list some... In both cases, the question was not:

  • Homework
  • About math
  • Outside the mainstream
  • Belonged on another SE site.

In other words, none of the reasons fit. But none of the other options fit either because it was very clear what was being asked, this just wasn't the correct place for it.

The first question was:

Isn't this wikipedia equation of navier-stokes actually wrong?

which was clear, but not something that could be answered really on our network or anywhere else in SE, it was up to Wikipedia.

The second question was:


which is primarily an engineering question (except the last question posed as I said in my comment). So it's clear, not homework, not math, definitely mainstream, not overly broad, but it doesn't belong on another SE site (engineering.SE doesn't exist yet). So I'm left stumped for what to flag it.

I think we need a normal, plain old "Off-topic because it doesn't fit in the scope of the site" still. We can't come up with every edge case for questions that don't meet the other criteria so we still need something to default to, some kind of "Other..." option.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you not still write a customized moderator flag saying what is actually wrong with the question? And I have heared that people who have the power to closevote can invent ;-P (type in a custom close reason) why they want the question closed too? $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton I can put a custom message in, and did so in that first case. But rather than continually putting in the same custom message for something that seems like it will be a frequent occurrence is annoying. I can't close-vote yet, so I can't put my own custom reason to appear as a comment... so instead I have to put a comment, then flag with my comment again. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Firstly, note that we can only have three OT reasons unless we demonstrate a need for more. IMO we can safely get rid of the Math close reason (we have a Math migration path now). An "engineering" close reason makes sense, though it needs careful wording. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ As far as the "This is off topic because it doesn't fit in the scope of the site", this exists. As a flagger you can't see it, however there is a freeform off topic reason. It leaves a comment, and the close banner used is the normal "This question is off topic because it doesn't fit [the scope], see the [help center], blah blah" (it also creates a temporary entry in the close dialog). I call it the trolley car reason. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth So people who cannot vote to close (so they can't choose general off-topic and we can't flag and leave a comment at once), our only option for something that is off-topic is to leave a custom flag for a moderator and if we feel like it, put the flag reason as a comment? I feel like this new system just kind of creates a lot more work for people... Also, is there a difference in flagging as OT and flagging for moderator attention in terms of who can see the flag? Can only mods see the custom flag but other power users see the OT flag? $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 You're right, I agree with you completely -- flaggers are sorta stuck in this system. I suggest that you post this as a feature request on Meta Stack Exchange (I'll do it if you like). Re:visibility: flagging to close puts the post in the review queue (mods can't see these flags unless we explicitly look for them on a post). Custom flags are only visible to mods. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth I'll let you navigate MSO for a feature request... I don't really want to deal with the potential flaming that will go on :) Either custom flags need to go into the review queue like other OT flags do, or we need a generic "This doesn't fit our site" OT flag that does go into the review queue. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, will do. There's no chance of it happening for ustom flags (however, iirc if you use a custom reason that matches a flag-to-close reason, it gets converted). But I'll try getting you folsks the default reason or the trolley car reason. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ Posted $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth Looking at that question and ones linked within, it appears this is by design and despite the response being downvoted, doesn't appear to be changing any time soon... $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is a good point. Even for those of us who can directly vote to close, the custom reason default text is an incomplete sentence, rather than simply "This is off topic; please see the faq" or some such thing, presumably to encourage constructive feedback. At the same time, some questions just can't be made to fit, and it would be nice to be able to just vote them into oblivion with a single click. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 15:48

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