Recently, the software has been changed regarding how the closing reasons are displayed for people. If you don't have close-vote privileges or you are not OP, this is how it is displayed:

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For reference, this is how it is shown for those with the aforementioned privileges:

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Of course, saying that something is "off-topic" without further elaboration can be quite confusing. (For reference, a recent meta post alludes to this. There were also flags regarding the issue.) Unfortunately, it is most confusing precisely to those that are not well-versed in our procedures, and those have high correlation with those who do not have the close-vote privileges.

The solution that we came to is simply to encourage the use of the "Needs details or clarity" whenever someone would use the "Off-topic: This question is missing context or other details". Furthermore, we are removing this latter one from the list in order to avoid confusion altogether.

To emphasize, we ask that:

If you were to choose to close a question as missing context or other details, please do it with the reason of "Needs details or clarity" now, instead.

Some relevant points:

  • This is not intended as a change of policy. (In whatever way.) This is a way to avoid confusion given the changes to the software, which is something we have little control over and have to maneuver around.
  • If somebody really wants to keep voting off-topic for whatever reason, they can do so using "other" and pasting the old reason. Likewise, if they find the "Needs detail or clarity" reason not sufficiently expressive, they can also add a comment.
  • Not all of us (moderators) think that this is an optimal situation. But as far as I can see, we all agree that this is the best solution given our constraints.
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    $\begingroup$ It seems like the help center page that the "Needs detail or clarity" reason links to is a lot less helpful about how the OP (or other editor) might improve a question than the meta post the off topic reason linked to - is that help center page one that can be changed? I don't know how others in the community feel about it, but it'd be nice if the close reason for such questions came packaged with more specific guidance on what "details" we like to see. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ The post "New Post Notices are live network-wide" explicitly mentions: "There are plans for releasing additional functions on the Close as Off Topic Reasons editor (currently available to site moderators) that will allow moderators to set these different messages for each Off-Topic reason." Let's hope that SE will make those messages mod-editable soon. (That change would mostly resolve the problem pointed out here.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 6:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's not a page we can edit directly; we can edit the on-topic in the help center, which IIRC is linked from off-topic close reason. It's a pity that the useful bits are spread out. It's not ideal, but the best we could think of currently. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MiloBrandt see above that was meant for you. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ Shog9 gave an [at the time] official answer to some concerns here. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak The statement is somewhat vague and with no ETA, so it is probably best not to expect that functionality to come soon. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @user64742 "Lack of context is not about missing clarity though." I agree, but "Is this proposal to include those use cases being moved to lacks details and needs clarity?": Yes. As I mentioned, this is a solution that was based on the constraints we have. Basically, it bogs down to the alternative of a question having no context being said to be only "Off-topic" to be considerably worse. Note also that the summary is "Needs details or clarity", emphasis mine. So it is not very inconsistent. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the expanded explanation that appears when you vote to close seems less appropriate, but all others seem reasonable enough for it to be used as a substitute. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 20:38
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Could it be acknowledged that I am the person who proposed this change? I have occasionally spoken in favor of this for probably nearly a decade, and I have been extraordinarily harshly condemned for suggesting it, and I have no idea why. The condemnation has come from all but one of the moderators a number of high-reputation users, who told me I was being abusive by suggesting this change should be made. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 7:20
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy indeed, you insisted on the confusing nature of "off-topic" in this context many times in the past. I acknowledge that you raising awareness for this concern, influenced my actions related to this. Thank you for your continued support of the site. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 19:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy You should get a medal. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 14:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I may point out, comments do exist. I'm certain there are a lot of users that do not check the comments, or would rather not make such a comment, but it is possible to leave comments explaining why the question is being closed. Even something as simple directly copying the message viewable to a closer, or one from List of comment templates, and pasting it into a comment can be done. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @MichaelHardy. I've always found the blanket use of "off-topic" to be confusing and wondered why had hadn't been improved. So thanks to you for sticking with it, and thanks to the implementers for not getting too stuck in their positions. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


Update: The close option no longer exists

I suppose this solves the problem...

updated off-topic close menu

  • $\begingroup$ I suppose that's what Aloizio meant with "Furthermore, we are removing this latter one from the list in order to avoid confusion altogether."... $\endgroup$
    – Arnaud D.
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 15:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Probably, but no-one had mentioned that it had already happened yet, so... here I am. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 1:44

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