A recent question was put on hold for closure because "... As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking". Since the question was obviously clear enough, the OP, or other casual observer, would gain the impression that the site is run by robots. The real reason for closing was, rightly, that the question was posted as an intended joke (too cheap, puerile, and unfunny for me to wish to repeat it here). Thus, could the reasons for rejection include something to the effect that "The question does not appear to be serious"?


There are far too many possible reasons why a question can be closed, the stock reasons are meant to cover the most common cases. For questions that don't fit into any of the existing categories just choose "off-topic" and select the option that allows you to add a custom reason. This reason will be posted as a comment on the question.

If you have some strong evidence that joke posts are a major source of closed questions, a new off-topic sub reason would be possible, but I doubt that there are enough of those to bother with this.

  • $\begingroup$ The question was a mathematical one, not actually "off-topic", and not closed for being "off-topic". It was worded so as pass all the checks listed under "What types of questions should I avoid asking?". The problem with the question was its intention, its stupidity, and its unfunniness. However, I have now learned that "off-topic" includes "on-topic, but not serious". $\endgroup$ – John Bentin Aug 3 '13 at 17:17

If I had closed the question like that (I haven't seen the one the OP is referencing), I would closed it under "Off-Topic > Other: leave comment" and gave the reason that "This question appears to be a joke, and is not serious."

The number of "joke" posts that we receive doesn't (in my opinion) warrant a separate close reason; if necessary, we can say that it's a joke in the "Off topic" option.


Here are some kinds of questions whose closure conditions make me unhappy.

There is the honest-but-ignorant question, often from a beginner, being rejected because it is a duplicate. In the classroom one sometimes asks oneself, why am I repeating myself: didn't I explain all this last semester? (Yes, but to a different batch of kids.) To say "go away, somebody else thought of this question before you" is to some extent a dereliction of a teacher's duty.

There is the in-the-heat-of-the-moment technical question, often from a student enrolled in an upper-division course, who doesn't bother to name the course or define the terms. (For example: "why is $\text{df.}=(r-1)\times(c-1)$?) These are rejected as "off topic" or "lacking context" or "not clear what you are asking." The first reason must seem absurd to the asker (it's a math course, after all) and the second is often false, as the terms or symbols used in the question often make it clear to a specialist what the context is, and what the asker is asking.

There is the stupid question (like "is $\sinh \theta$ a polynomial?"), whose answer should be obvious to the asker, if he had ever been awake in class. It's obviously a mathematics question, its obvious what's being asked, but it's not at all clear to me what a legitimate reason to reject could be.

The stupid non-question ("I just can't get my head around X") doesn't seem to bother me: for once "not clear what you are asking" is appropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure an answer to this feature-request is the best place to record this. That said, I do not understand your analogy. Questions that are duplicates are not rejected. It is pointed out to the asker where they already can find an answer to their question. If a student this year asks me for a write up of a solution to an exercise I type up already last year, I really do not see a problem with giving them last years copy I wrote for somebody else rather than type it up yet again. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 4 '17 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ What would be a better forum? BTW, So I'm looking at a review/close vote ballot, and when I clicked the "close" button got a popup that asked for a reason, the first choice was "because its a duplicate that has already been answered". So I don't quite understand your 3d sentence. $\endgroup$ – kimchi lover Nov 5 '17 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ You could ask a new question on this meta site. (I'm not sure how it would be received; depends how you'd present it.) It depends on the precise meaning of rejecting it. If a student sends me an email asking me how to solve exercise 3.b from the last assignment and I reply "please look at {some link}; it's example 5.b there" did I then reject their question? I do not think so. How do you think duplicate questions should be handled? Copy over the old answer? Type up the old answer for a second time? What else? $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 5 '17 at 0:31

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