I wanted to vote to close Creating an central multi-purpose dictionary / database, but under "off-topic" I only find the following pre-canned motivations:

  • cannot be generalized to apply to others in similar situations
  • about problems facing undergraduate students
  • belongs on another SE site
  • other (insert your own).

In particular, there is nothing along the lines of "this is off-topic because it has little to do with academia", or "it is a boat-programming question", or even "off-topic question is off-topic".

Is this deliberate?


This is probably a SE-level limitation; we don't have control over how the "close" reasons are populated. However, there are limits for the number of default choices available. Therefore, this might fall into one of those cases where there aren't enough options available to list every reasonable option.

However, the "other" box is always there if needed.

  • 2
    I think it is deliberate, so that people motivate their choice of the question as off-topic. It might, in some case, seem evident, but it's always better to write it down (at least for the OP's sake) using the “other” box. – F'x Oct 29 '13 at 14:13
  • I completely agree with F'x, even if you think it's obvious, please leave a comment, it might not be as obvious to the OP. – user102 Oct 29 '13 at 14:37
  • What about a boat-programming answer among the default reasons? Seems common enough, and it's something that needs to be adequately explained. – Federico Poloni Oct 29 '13 at 15:43
  • How can this be a SE-level limitation? The existing reasons are clearly already tailored to academia.se, not default ones. There must have been a human writing them with academia.se as the only target at some point. Maybe it's a beta limitation that moderators do not have the power to change them without interacting with the SE staff? – Federico Poloni Oct 29 '13 at 15:53
  • What I meant is that there is a limit on the number of different options that can be offered. – aeismail Oct 29 '13 at 17:41
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    For your information, MathOverflow has "This question does not appear to be about research level mathematics within the scope defined in the help center [link omitted]." as a closing reason, and meta.academia.se has "This question does not appear to be about Academia Stack Exchange or the software that powers the Stack Exchange network within the scope defined in the help center. [links omitted]". I don't have vote-to-close powers in any other SE site to add more data points. – Federico Poloni Oct 30 '13 at 8:59
  • Is this really true? I remember seeing a discussion on what custom-close reasons to choose on Biology-SE. Also see blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/06/the-war-of-the-closes which describe the new close reasons in general and custom close reasons of individual sites. – fileunderwater Oct 30 '13 at 23:24
  • Other boards have similar issues. It should probably be a SE-wide thing to add a "not related to [subject area]" in this, but it's definitely not something that's currently available on the board. – aeismail Oct 31 '13 at 3:36

This is deliberate… because it's not very helpful to the author who wrote the post or those trying to figure what the heck is going on. If you read War of the Closes, it talks about redesigning the closure system to be more helpful to the author — and everyone who would accuse you of being unhelpful … about why the question might not be a good fit for the site.

It is exceedingly unlikely the author simply mistook this site as a place to ask about "bats" or "breakfast cereals", so when you say [not about Academia], it comes across a overly dismissive and unhelpful. What is it that isn't a good fit for this site?

When the moderators added some of the more-common Adademia-specific close reasons to that dialog, it removed the catch-all, generic close reason entirely. It simply becomes too easy to reach for that generic "off topic" close reason, so it becomes the most overused path of least resistance.

If one of the standard close reasons doesn't fit the concerns you have about the post, it is better to spend a few seconds to explain why you're voting to close rather than simply clicking on the functional equivalent of "didn't you read the FAQ?"

  • 1
    Incidentally, academia does get bat and breakfast cereal questions (for example, we recently got "Do people often blow out the air from their lungs a lot when living in the cold condition to keep their lungs warm?"). As far as I can tell, the reason for these questions is that the author read nothing about the site beyond the single word "academia" and assumed it's a catch-all site intended for any obscure topic someone working in academia might conceivably study. You're right that it's best not to reply too dismissively, but sometimes "didn't you read the FAQ?" is a valuable message. – Anonymous Mathematician Nov 23 '13 at 12:25

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