6

I've noticed that the off-topic "Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)" messages are sometimes non-constructive at best, and outright insulting at worst. I don't think that we should be insulting people asking questions, and we shouldn't be having the community and the system reinforcing messages that do so. The option is there so that people are encouraged to think of a constructive reason for closing (for off-topic) and articulate it prior to clicking the button, and to encourage thoughtful votes to close, not so that other users can make personal comments about the asker.

That sort of comment on its own is bad enough, but close reasons are worse. Close reasons are put into the review system, and get automatically upvoted when someone agrees that the post should be closed, creating an illusion (I hope) of consensus on those sentiments. A question may be off-topic, may be low quality, and may lack effort or thought, but it's possible to write a closure message without being gratuitous (and indeed, some of those things are not reasons for closure).

In review, I've sometimes found it necessary to add my own comment rather than agreeing with the first vote, even when the existing reason was arguably true, and at times even to flag the previous automated comment as "rude or offensive". I've noticed this coming up every so often for a while, but looking at the recent reasons in the moderation tools has shown that it's not an isolated case.

At the end of the post I've included the current1 list of custom off-topic close reasons from the last 30 days. Because this seemed to distract people who then didn't read any of the rest of the post, I've removed it; it's still present in the revision history for those who wish to see it. It has all messages from the 30-day list at the time of asking, good, bad, and otherwise.

Most of them are fine, many are even constructive in suggesting better places to ask or explaining why the question is off-topic, some are brusque, and a few are clearly inappropriate. I don't want to identify particular messages or authors, but I think it's clear that at least some of them are not suitable.


There are some relevant parts of the Be Nice policy:

  1. Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you'd talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you. If you don't have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does.

and

  1. ... If you see them, flag them:

    Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").


I'd like to ask people, firstly, to stop posting these close reasons, and secondly, not to agree with them when they encounter them in review, which adds an upvote to the comment and gives the impression that the community is agreeing with the sentiment, nor to upvote them directly as comments.

Instead, provide an alternative comment or use one of the built-in reasons if applicable, and if appropriate flag the inappropriate comment for deletion. If there's a particular tag, or a particular user, whose questions you find infuriating, just skip them entirely. There are also positive examples of close messages below, so use those as a model when composing one.

1I believe the list is incomplete, given the way that switching date ranges seems to behave, but it has representative examples of all the sorts of message I want to mention.

  • 3
    Sometimes a spade needs to be called a spade. I see only three entries on your list that I regard as insulting (“asinine”/“stupid”, “low water mark”, and “lazy moron”).  And how “constructive” do you want close reasons to be?  If somebody asks a question here that is not about U&L, is it our job to tell them where they should go?  If you go to a book store and say that you want to buy groceries, clothes, or auto parts, they’ll tell you that you’re in the wrong store.  If they give you directions to a suitable outlet, they’re just being nice, going above and beyond what you can really expect. – Scott Jan 26 '17 at 4:09
  • 2
    @Scott The list is all recent reasons, not objectionable reasons. You see three too many. – Michael Homer Jan 26 '17 at 4:12
  • I'm confused. Is that a list of comments that you think should not be used ? – user591 Jan 29 '17 at 19:47
  • @Iain No. (chars) – Michael Homer Jan 29 '17 at 19:59
  • What is it then ? – user591 Jan 29 '17 at 21:14
  • @Iain: It's "the current list of custom off-topic close reasons from the last 30 days", as the question says. I suggest reading that paragraph, and also the comment immediately preceding your own. – Michael Homer Jan 29 '17 at 21:15
  • Ah yes I completely missed that. Perhaps if you removed the good ones so that people could focus on what's left it would be better to make your point. TL;DR – user591 Jan 29 '17 at 21:18
  • @Iain: I didn't want to call out individual reasons specifically, particularly because most or all of them are by one person and I want to address the behaviour, not anybody individually. – Michael Homer Jan 29 '17 at 21:20
  • The list is relatively unimportant and only there for the benefit of those who can't access the moderator tools; perhaps I'll just remove it entirely. – Michael Homer Jan 29 '17 at 21:21
  • There is nothing wrong with being direct, it gives clarity. If someone offends you call them out don't hide behind pink and fluffy millennial ideas. – user591 Jan 29 '17 at 21:23
  • @Iain I expected a higher degree of reading competence than has been demonstrated, to be frank. – Michael Homer Jan 29 '17 at 21:27
  • Excellent :) :) – user591 Jan 29 '17 at 21:28
4

Many of these are mine. I stand by all of the ones I wrote. They are all in response to questions that offer zero value to this community (direct cut and pastes from assignments, for example) and actually have a longer term deleterious effect if they are not actively discouraged.

This is the key point: without explicitly including a reason in the close vote, none of these people will receive any specific feedback to the effect that their behaviour is undesirable and well outside the norms of this community.

So, no, I will not stop using custom off-topic reasons that accurately convey my displeasure at people abusing the goodwill of the community with little interest in making even a minimal effort to frame a question.

For a more detailed rationale for this approach, see Well Kept Gardens Die by Pacifism.

Also, I find it odd that you ask people to not upvote these reasons, when clearly that indicates that they do agree with the sentiment and the expression. The fact that you do not does not in any way invalidate any one else's opinion or, more importantly, their vote.

  • I think they might all be yours, yes, but I didn't want to say that if I wasn't certain. – Michael Homer Jan 15 '17 at 23:30
  • @MichaelHomer No, you overestimate my industriousness. I can take credit for popularising the approach; but many of those are not mine. – jasonwryan Jan 15 '17 at 23:38
  • I've edited in some passages from the Be Nice policy; you may wish to update the answer correspondingly (or not). – Michael Homer Jan 15 '17 at 23:38
  • I don't get what your position you underlined with links has to do with you wanting to "accurately convey my displeasure". I skimmed through them and couldn't find anything supporting your position in this. Don't get me wrong though, I get that sometimes it might he hard to hold back and it would be sad if someone stopped being active in moderating stuff just because it costs too much effort to be professional and reserved. That's the best argument I can see for conveying displeasure. – phk Jan 17 '17 at 21:49
  • 1
    @phk both links, in different ways, illustrate the risks to online communities around not actively discouraging selfish, entitled behaviours (see also tragedy of the commons). – jasonwryan Jan 17 '17 at 22:13
  • 1
    @jasonwryan Yes, I get that, kinda like the broken windows stuff. But my argument was that you don't have to be a phallus about it (at least letting the users in question know) and at most you could argue that you have to show phallic behavior in order to preserve your willingness to moderate. But apart from that, there is no reason not to be (what is considered) professional in your behavior. – phk Jan 17 '17 at 22:16
  • 2
    @phk that is my entire point: unless you are a dick about it, the clueless vampire thinks that their question is closed because it is off-topic (which it is), not that it is also an abuse of the goodwill of this community. Posting a cat gif as your question is not something that you just let slide. Not unless you want to keep having to vote to close that sort of crap... – jasonwryan Jan 17 '17 at 22:47
  • I’m torn by this. On the one hand, I see your point. OTOH, a user who is told, “we won’t do your homework” might learn how the site works and return with better questions, but a user who is called a “lazy moron” might just go away mad. Even Amy Hoy’s Help Vampires: A Spotter’s Guide (to which you linked) says, “Be friendly.  People and Help Vampires are much more likely to become useful members of the community if they’re met with kindness and encouragement rather than condescension and spite.” (last bullet in list #2 Cease Enabling Behavior). – Scott Jan 26 '17 at 4:11
  • @Scott of the custom reponses listed in the question, only a handful can actually be considered "disparaging". Most are actually informative. There are, however, cases where it is reasonable to got beyond disparaging. I feel confident that when I have been condescending or insulting, it is entirely justified. Contempt for the community can legitimately be answered with scorn and derision, as far as I am concerned. – jasonwryan Jan 26 '17 at 5:00
  • 1
    To be clear, again, the list is everything from the 30 day pane on the moderator tools, not filtered in any way. Most of them are entirely acceptable. "lazy moron" is not, and should be flagged. – Michael Homer Jan 26 '17 at 7:02
  • @MichaelHomer So, one is disparaging? Did you bother to look at the question it was attached to? Perhaps you might include that for context? – jasonwryan Jan 26 '17 at 7:05
  • 1
    Yes, I did, that was how I flagged it. I don't care what the question is; that message is explicitly against the rules on multiple points, on top of its other qualities, and so it should be flagged. There are other unsuitable messages on the list too, and I have seen still more that aren't included. – Michael Homer Jan 26 '17 at 7:13
  • 2
    Well, I have captured it for posterity. Good on you for standing up for the rules; I am more interested (or at least I was) in the health of the community... – jasonwryan Jan 26 '17 at 7:16
2

The principle reason behind many of these custom reasons is the lack of a "this is not Unix or Linux" reason, like Ask Ubuntu has. Over at AU, the first off-topic close reason is:

This is not about Ubuntu. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow.

(with the site names linkified)

As long as we don't have an equivalent close reason, we'd be forced to write our own comments. And I am not asking for a reason listing other sites, that gets quickly unweildy. Something as simple as this one from the given list would be nice:

it is not about Unix & Linux as defined in the [help/on-topic].

Or open more migration paths, but I wager many of these are on crap questions and we don't want to migrate crap.

  • I'm really more concerned with the "lazy moron"-type reasons than the others here, but a general off-topic reason was also requested previously in the linked question. – Michael Homer Jan 16 '17 at 4:39
  • @MichaelHomer IMO, if we didn't have to write one out, some of them might actually pick the generic reasons and skip the name-calling altogether. Having to type out a reason probably adds to the irritation – muru Jan 16 '17 at 4:41
  • As a hypothesis I could get on board with that, but take a look at these two answers presented without comment. – Michael Homer Jan 16 '17 at 4:47
  • @MichaelHomer Looks like Jason has a far more optimistic attitude towards humanity than I do. I wouldn't want to add a step between an annoyed user and the closing of a crap question. A user who's likely to post a thoughtful comment would (IMO) do so even if they picked one of the canned reasons (I have seen that many times on Ask Ubuntu) – muru Jan 16 '17 at 4:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .