I have a problem with some closing reasons, for example https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/385156/what-is-the-probability-that-both-the-fuses-are-defective is right now about to be closed as "not constructive" (per several users). I don't have a problem with the question being closed (it's one of those uncommented verbatim homework questions). However, it is a standard question in combinatorics/elementary probaility that can hardly "cause debate". Nor does the reason "Not a real question" apply as verbatim copies of well-prepared (by the authors) homework problems should be expected to be precise and understandable. It's not even "too localized" (not less than any other question where the asker has no clue and therefore cannot ask for a broad explanation of whatever major theory is behind it) as it invites to demonstrate the general techniques used for such problems. And of course it is certainly on topic. It may (very likely) be a duplicate of something similar from the past, but as several users have chosen to select "not constructive" as a reason instead, maybe no near duplicate was easy to find.

Anyway, what should be done in these cases where no reason really applies if one reads the reason explanation carefully?

(This meta question be itself be more or less duplicate to one of the recent We-don't-like-verbatim-homework stuff, I'm not sure)

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    $\begingroup$ The obvious answer is to leave the question open for those (if any) who might wish to answer it. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2013 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ I think this might be an example math.stackexchange.com/questions/374886/… $\endgroup$ May 8, 2013 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ I posted a question on Computational Science beta that got closed, because I had cross-posted. The person who closed it gave some bogus reason. Is it possible to close a question because it has been cross-posted? If anyone wants, I can be more specific. $\endgroup$ May 18, 2013 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see why it needed to be deleted at all. It's a question. It's about math. The only reason we have a no homework policy across the network is to prevent flat out cheating. However, I see no reason why any question needs to /be/ constructive. We're implying that all questions need lasting value regardless of the author's needs. That's absolutely ridiculous. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Apr 8, 2016 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


The common approach on other sites is to either define the scope in the FAQ to exclude such questions and close as off-topic, or to close as "too localized". Both are far from optimal, and SE has hinted that they might allow sites to define custom off-topic subreasons, which would solve this problem.

"Not constructive" is pretty much the worst reason one could pick, I still think that off-topic is the least bad reason. Of course it is confusing if a Math question is off-topic on a Math site, but some confusion is unavoidable when using close reasons for purposes they weren't actually meant for.

The important part when using a close reason in a way that is not immediately obvious is that you always should leave a comment clarifying the actual close reason, preferably with a link to the FAQ or an appropriate meta post. This removes most of the confusion that arises when the close reasons don't really fit.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the phrase "not constructive" fits the situation at least decently. Its the verbose description that comes with it doesn't fit nearly as well. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    May 8, 2013 at 7:55
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    $\begingroup$ +1 I agree that a clarifying comment is necessary in such cases (and I'd encourage it in all but totally obvious cases). I also agree with @Hurkyl - where could a motion be made to extend to "non constructive" verbose description to include "or the poster shows no constructive effort to contribute" or the like? $\endgroup$ May 8, 2013 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @HagenvonEitzen The close reasons are going to be changed significantly anyway, though it is unclear when exactly this will happen $\endgroup$
    – user9733
    May 8, 2013 at 8:30

I take the point that in opposing what have been labelled "no effort" or "verbatim homework" questions, some contorting of reasons for closure occur.

Personally I don't think every "no effort" question needs to be closed. While my Questions are certainly not homework, I'm not sure what criteria might be available to determine whether I put sufficient effort into answering a Question before posting it. Sometimes I do post a Question that I'm able to answer just because I think it interesting, and I'd hope this benefits the Community and the stock of content maintained.

What turns out to be hard work is finding duplicates, which is probably the principled priority for responding to "no effort" "verbatim homework" material. Unfortunately it is easier and more rewarding for many potential Answerers to dash off a well-worn Answer or "Hint" rather than take the time to review previous content for matches.


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