I just recently asked a question which got "on hold" because it was unclear. So I read the related meta-posts, i.e.

Please, don't close questions as unclear because of bad english. Repair them instead

How to fix unfixable questions?

Too quick with the Close button for "Unclear what you're asking"

I agree that my mixed language might give me a bad impression. But I feel my main problem is that the questions I ask, are outside the main interest, and thus mainly not understood correctly by the common readers. (Source of this idea is the many Revival-badges I've had.)

As an asker, it's pretty annoying to try to balance between short question and complete background question. Especially when these sources are not in English. At "too quick with the close" meta-post there is a comment from Bratschley; "An asker is by definition very likely to be unable to intelligently discuss the specific topic they're asking about" And I also agree with the choices given there by George Stocker;

choices are:

  1. Ignore the question, hoping the user magically figures out there's a problem with their question (or that for the 9K questions we get, we have enough people on hand to actually close the questions that are unclear).

  2. Take the most time I can spare to that question to let the user know why I'm closing it, and putting the impetus on them to fix their question

  3. Take more time, edit it for the user, hope they learn something from the experience, and maybe they'll formulate the question better next time with that magical experience of me editing their question.

Which of those actions has the greatest liklihood of spreading change throughout the userbase and effecting positive change? It's not #1, and #3 will always lose to the masses.

So my point to this Meta-question is to say that actually a lot of the questions in PSE are "unclear what you're asking"- to me. But this is obviously my own problem, and I still like to read these. And I think this character won't change even if I had 200k reputation. This site's name is "exchange", and the thing we are changing, "my unclear" to your "clear" and vice versa. It's just pretty frustrating to have a lot of dialogue to just the get the question open.

So my proposal for the solution in a form of a question is;

Should there be reputation limit, ie. "Established user" which closes out the possibility to close a question by the reason; "unclear what you're asking"?

I mean established users might be magically able to figure out there's a problem with their question against the option that they discouraged away by the continuous struggle with some minor issues in the language and/or contest. As I get such an reply's also in "real life"; "Es ist wirklich schwierig, Ihrem Gedankengang zu folgen, und das liegt nicht allein an der Sprache". Translated: "It's really difficult to follow your thoughts, and it's not only a language problem".

  • $\begingroup$ Hi JokelaTurbine. I have tried to fix some minor issues with your post, but the major issue was the question title. I have altered that to better suit your question. If the edit doesn't look right to you, please feel free to roll-back to the original version. Alternatively, you can also edit out the parts (if any) that go against your intentions. $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Dec 26, 2015 at 5:15
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDarkSide No it's perfect edit! Thanks. And another great example about how it's always a matter of choice to make a short title, or an "clear" title; as "what is clear" depends always from a receiver. I prefere short titles. I mean when I ie. read books, I might not even read all words if they are just "fill up's", and yet the content becomes clear to me, only if not, I start reading slower. SO to me "short" is "clear", but the Title as you made it, it's more informative, as it simply has more information, and thus it's more "clear". $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 26, 2015 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ Note - if English is bad but understandable, one can go ahead and fix it (I do this from time to time). But sometimes, the language becomes a barrier to understanding. At this point, flagging as unclear becomes a tool to manage the question: either you fix it, or it goes away. $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Jan 2, 2016 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ No. Plenty of questions are unclear or are lists of tentative questions. Learning to ask clear, concise and meaningful questions is the key to get quality answers and quality content for the site. It's your site, put some effort into it! $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Jan 4, 2016 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ @gert Learning to ask clear,,,, Yep. Maybe we should establish such a clear consept for asking, to make it clear how to ask; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_question#Types_and_purpose $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Jan 4, 2016 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ instead of above it would make sense to be below (x) reputation $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2019 at 1:38

3 Answers 3


There is nothing about rep that magically makes some whose first language isn't English suddenly become a master at the language. Nor is there some way rep prevents someone from asking a meaningless question. So, to the titular question, No, there should not be a rep threshold for unclear question.

What should be done in cases of unclear questions, regardless of the asker's rep, is comments asking for clarification (e.g., Why do you think X? or Your internet translator didn't work, can you more carefully translate this question?). This is one of the points of comments, so we really shouldn't have "drive by" close votes as unclear. It has been my experience on this site that questions that are voted to close as unclear do have such comments.

In your most recent question, I commented questioning your original statement of the Navier Stokes being wrong simply because you couldn't find one particular simulation or solution. It's not clear to me why you think that it's wrong due to one simulation given the list of analytic solutions (not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands, of accurate simulations employing the NS equations). I felt that you did not attempt to clarify the question in your responses to me such that I would retract my close vote while 4 other people felt that your question was also unclear.

You've since amended your question, asking for that single simulations, which I also commented as being too narrow, in that you're looking for a Yes/No answer: Does X exist? These types of questions aren't good fits for this site because the answer (Yes or No) isn't long enough to even be a valid answer; even asking for a link to the simulation would probably cause the answer to be deleted as a link-only answer. It would be better for you to formulate your question asking for something that is more than a yes/no or link-only answer (but also within the boundaries of acceptable).

  • $\begingroup$ I have a point in my recent question, and Quite a lot of questions here are Yes/No questions. Even though there is thousands of simulations, in this case the "Yes/No"-answer would have needed to be combined with an experiment data, and the expected explanation would have to tell about the reached accuracy; If I ask "is Pi defined accurately?", can you give me a Yes/No answer without any explanation? Actually most of the Yes/no questions demand an explanation "why" and thus it's not an issue here; physics.stackexchange.com/help/asking $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 26, 2015 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ can you give me a Yes/No answer without any explanation? Yes. ...most of the Yes/no questions demand an explanation "why" No they don't. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 26, 2015 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ Of course you can; just leave it unclear what means word "defined" or word "accurately". And You can even choose either yes or no, debending on how you would explain WHY yes/no. EVEN if you don't explain it. Ie. "Yes, Pi is already accurately defined for every practical use you can imagine." or "No, Pi is a number which can't be accurately defined." Q: If the question is not a Yes/No, then it's either a open-end or homework question?? A: Yes. Q: Do I need this dialogue? A: No. Q: IS Pi? A; Yes! (though It's unclear what is ment with the "IS") $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 26, 2015 at 17:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ If you actually want an answer to the question about pi, then it's Yes, π is accurately defined. That answers the question as asked. Is it useful? Probably not. And that is the point here. If you want a useful Q&A, ask a useful question. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Useful, YES! That's the point. And this comes from the context. But you don't need to know that context. Some one might really need the numerical value with 20 Million desimals to calculate something. Then "just 10 Mio" would be "NO", But the other just want's to hear an answer "YES, it's Circumference/Diameter ratio of circle"; I sure can't tell what is useful to someone else. I doubt if anyone even wants me to define that. Strictly said, only useful thing is to produce food. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” ― Seneca $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is the point: ask a useful question to get a useful answer. A Yes/No question isn't a useful question, that's what I'm saying. Asking for a link is just as bad as asking for a Yes/No answer because it is just as useless a question. I'm not sure why you feel the need to bring in an anti-religious quote from Seneca into this discussion, but if you want to I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification. -- Chesterton. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ The same thing is true/false or useful depending on who defines. The same goes on questions. My approach is that an Yes/No Answer isn't useful. I agree with the "asking a link" is a bad habit, but with "link" I ment "source". Using words is such everday struggle to me, that I have even said it in my profile. But I can go further alone; ie en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgers_vortex is one of the useful exact solutions I was looking for, but I am still looking for a source/experiment where it would be verified to be correct... $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Asking for just a source is equivalent to asking for a link. We are not a repository of links to other places or other documents, nor do we want to be. If you want a link, use your favorite search engine for that. If you want a question answered about fluid dynamics, ask about the trouble you are having. Anything short of that is bad for you and this site, IMO. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 26, 2015 at 19:24

I'm quite confident that the SE team would not support this, because it adds complexity to the system without really doing anything useful. To show that it would be useful, you'd have to demonstrate that the "unclear what you're asking" close reason, when it is applied to posts by high-reputation users,

  1. is so often wrongly applied that evidently people cannot be trusted to use it properly on high-rep users' posts, and
  2. is so rarely correctly applied that the impact on the site from losing the ability to use this close reason, when it is warranted, is minimal.

I can't imagine that the data support that.

I would note that the close reason is meant not just for questions which aren't clear to you (i.e. a single close voter) individually. It's meant for questions which are unclear to the target population of answerers and readers as a whole. This includes questions which can be interpreted to be asking any of several very different things, depending on who's reading them, as well as questions that even experts in the relevant field would consider difficult to understand due to overly complex or nonsensical language. It also includes questions that simply make some statement but don't actually ask anything.

  • $\begingroup$ This "unclear what you're asking" -close reason is very similar to voting; the options in voting is "This question shows research effort; it's useful and clear" and "This question does not show any research effort; it's unclear or not useful" so wouldn't the voting be just enough for established users. Down voted questions without answers will be finally deleted. So this aspect might need be builded two-way; also answering for down voted questions should need higher reputation. $\endgroup$
    – Jokela
    Dec 27, 2015 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JokelaTurbine - sometimes questions are initially downvoted, and once people see a posted answer it may reverse and become (highly) upvoted - as was the case with this question which had significant downvotes initially. I'm with David on this - let's leave the system alone, it works well enough. $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Jan 2, 2016 at 21:00

A question mostly needs only a single answer, and must be thus clear only for a single answerer. After it's answered it will be also clear for a wider audience. It will never be clear for "readers as a Whole". If it would, what's the point to even ask?
I recall my first answer to the site; Is it possible to generate one half of a Karman Vortex Street? the answer was voted to be deleted, but it actually answered the question! What else would you have? The question was also only Yes/No-type of question, and it obviously had also some unclearness-problems before it was answered. To me the "V1" of this question was as good as the "v4". I barely note any difference.

As I now look my answer, I easily notice how I could improve this answer. For this you first need to be familiar with the consept. - and have the motivation to do it.

Another answer from my "first day" was this; Can a divider "laminarize" turbulent flow and thus reduce friction? It's another Yes/no type of question which obviously wasn't clear if you look the comments. There is also a discussion what is meant with "a divider". The asker has >10 k reply. At the comments he writes;

So maybe that terminology should be trashed.

This points out how established users makes questions where the "unclearness" comes from the terminology problems. But to me it was clear what was asked, and after the answer -I think- it's clear also to others. (and yes, now I could improve also this answer.)

I am constructive trying to improve the motivation to use this PSE-tool further. This site is about asking and getting answers. If the future looks like I need all the time ask "how to ask", the motivation to stay around will finally disappear. As according to my life experience my "terminology problems" aren't going to disappear. I would really wish more ignorance rather than a debate from the used terminology. Providing a promise that you will get rid of this "problem" after you are an established user, would motivate to continue. In the real life it might even happen that when the limit is reached the problem has got smaller. But the multiple Meta-posts, ie this;
Is over-vigilant monitoring of questions driving people away from the site? Points out there is a problem, and this might be a solution for it.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Your first answer was to be deleted because you originally posted only a link to a video. After the comments, you edited it to add slightly more than the video link. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 26, 2015 at 17:01
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "A question mostly needs only a single answer, and must be thus clear only for a single answerer" - Wrong. Questions should be accessible in the sense that they should be clear if you know the relevant terminology. The unclear what you're asking close reason is precisely for questions where this is not the case - a question where the answerer has to divine the actual question by means external to the question is a bad question, and should be closed, since it is not useful for anyone but the asker. If I have to read the answer to understand the question, it's a bad question. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Dec 26, 2015 at 19:17

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