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Since having the privilege to review Close votes, I'm facing a confusion.

In close votes' review, if we wish to close a question because it lacks details or clarity then we have one of the 2 choices to select:

  • enter image description here
  • enter image description here

I don't quite understand the difference between the two.
To me:

  • while former points to the problem, the latter explains it.
  • while former is present on the first page itself, the latter is present on the second page.

Note: In the latter, the "provide additional context" is located at a place where mouse is usually present after clicking on the "A community-specific reason"!
This is slightly bothersome.

But I've also observed that the latter is relatively more popular than the former.

Question:

  1. Is there something more important a distinction between the 2?
  2. "provide additional context"'s location is bothersome to me only?
    (If yes, I understand. If no, something should/can be done?)
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    $\begingroup$ I'm always amazed at how I have to scroll around to get various parts of the pop-up boxes to be visible, no matter what device, OS, or browser I use. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ Also asked here: How to choose the correct reason for closing a question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ "Needs details or clarity" is mostly used when there is contextual information available in question, but question has some confusion / ambiguity. Often there are comments seeking clarification and the asker hasn't given a proper response to these comments. But I agree that reviewers may face situation where it is difficult to choose between the two reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ Also the problem you mention as "bothersome" is genuine and I have faced it many times on my mobile device. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ I would surmise that the historical reason why there are two close flags here is that, "needs detail or clarity" is a default option that every SE site is equipped with, so it covers a broad class of problems that is applicable to every site. Math.SE decided that this doesn't fit the questions here well enough, so the flag "missing context or other details" was created. The latter has a more detailed message about what's missing and points to site-specific guidelines. $\endgroup$
    – Elliot Yu
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ For some posts the difference between the two reasons is minimal, but canonically I think of "details" as being information that change the underlying question: Are we assuming there's an order on the field? It sounds like the asker is assuming uniform continuity, not just continuity; is that intentional? While "context" lets us know what approaches make sense for the asker: Are they encountering this integral with knowledge of Cauchy's residue theorem, or not? ..... $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ ... Is a closed-form answer expected, or are approximation techniques allowed? People here can be pretty good at deducing context from the question, but sometimes you see long arguments in the comments about "what the asker must have meant", and that's a good time to vote to close until such time as the asker clarifies the issue(s). $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ As @ElliotYu indicates, "Needs detail or clarity" is a network-wide close reason. The "Needs context" close reason is specific to Math SE, and is really only different in the sense that it provides a link to the "How to ask a good question" FAQ on Math Meta. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, I had no idea there was that difference of linking to that FAQ between the two options. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, @TheAmplitwist. That's a pretty spot on duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 23:58

1 Answer 1

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I'll share my rule of thumb for deciding between these two reasons for a close vote. I don't urge it on anyone but it gives me some cognitive harmony.

  1. If the Question lacks essential setup or clarity to be reliably answered, then I use the "Needs details or clarity" close reason. This for me means a more severe deficiency in the Question's present form, making it something of a guessing game as to what the actual problem is.

  2. If the Question is coherent but lacks sufficient context to show that the poster digested the problem and is prepared to learn from a correct Answer, then I navigate to the submenu for a community-specific reason, "provide additional context".

Admittedly this is inconvenient, but it results from the StackExchange architecture that creates mostly uniform close reasons (and boilerplate explantions) for all communities to share. So the innovation of community-specific reasons (in this case requiring the asker to have thought through and researched the problem before posting) was done by adding the submenu.

Of course this still leaves some gray areas. A Question posted from a book or classroom assignment may often lack key indicators that the poster made an effort to research it, e.g. not showing how a key notation or concept is defined, and may also be deficient (IMHO) because it gives no clue as to what level of material is being covered and what the problem might be intended to reinforce.

Largely the rule helps my level of comfort in choosing between the alternatives. Where both reasons seem applicable I tend to choose the "Needs details or clarity" not because the menu option is easier but because it indicates the more severe problem. I suspect in many cases users fail to give context because they worry it will betray their lack of understanding. But really we want to address their level of understanding with skillful explanations, and often I leave a comment to that effect.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with this. The advantage of the "Needs context" dialog is that it provides the asker with a link to the "How to ask a good question" thread on meta. This applies also to questions which "lack essential setup or clarity." I would not regard either close reason as indicating a "more severe" problem---they are essentially the same. The difference is that one close reason gives more, better advice to the asker. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps "more severe" should be stated as major edit vs. minor edit as StackOverflow has adopted. If the Question as posed is unanswerable, then I mean that is severe as it puts Readers into a position of guessing (which sometimes they are successful at). If the OP did think about the problem before posting, then a few words about where they got in digesting the problem statement should be a fairly minor edit to what they already wrote. I almost always give advice to the OP when I vote to close about what would gain my vote to reopen. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 18:07

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