This current close reason is confusing and potentially misleading.

Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Try including attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See How can I ask better questions on Server Fault? for further guidance.

It was originally ripped off entirely from Stack Overflow, which has since replaced it with a much clearer reason:

Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers. See: How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example.

We get a lot of questions from people who are trying to set up something they don't quite understand, or worse, fix something that's broken that they don't quite understand. Whatever their level of understanding or lack thereof, better guidance for people in such situations would be helpful.

1 Answer 1


I propose that we rip off SO again, and that this close reason be rewritten as follows:

Questions seeking installation, configuration or diagnostic help must include the desired end state, the specific problem or error, sufficient information about the configuration and environment to reproduce it, and attempted solutions. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers and are unlikely to get good answers.

  • 1
    Decent, but I would include an explicit statement (probably bolded, in red, and/or in size 72 font) that the question does not provide sufficient information to adequately diagnose the issue. Maybe as a one-line paragraph above all that. Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 23:10
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    I'm not convinced that it will be useful - the exact kind of people who need to grok this kind of message are the exact kind of people who never will.. but you're right that we should still try.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 23:23
  • @MarkHenderson I agree, but for all the good it will do it might as well say Australian beer is cold fizzy piss.
    – user9517
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 23:25
  • I think this message better describes what is wrong with a number of questions. Although I think the reason for closing is often not only that question itself is not useful to other readers, but it simply can't result in useful answers either. On a related note; how many OP's already edit their closed question sufficiently that it gets re-opened? And if the close reason is changed, can it be tracked if that percentage is changing?
    – HBruijn
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 23:38
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    @HBruijn That's a good point and I've tweaked it a bit to account for that. As for changing the close reason, yes, they will be tracked separately, before and after. Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 23:41
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    @Iain what's going on with you? It's no secret that you and I have never been on the same page in regards to this community, but you seem to have lately taken a pretty direct path of opposition to me in particular. I don't think I've done anything to wrong you, have I? In the past when I have been wrong, I have withdrawn my comments and personally apologised to you directly. This sort of arguing that you're trying to do is beneath you. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 0:11
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    @Iain If your outlook in regard to the site is this bleak, maybe a break is a good idea? I've always considered you an important part of this community and I'd hate to lose your knowledge and insight, but it seems like you're incredibly frustrated with the current situation. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 0:56
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    @MichaelHampton I like the rewrite. Maybe different language around reproducing it, since that can be exceedingly difficult in complex environments, but I'm not sure how else to word that succinctly. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 0:58
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    @ShaneMadden The only other word I came up with was "understand" but that seems a bit too subjective. I'm still open to suggestions. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 1:14
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    @MichaelHampton I'm thinking about bloody literal-minded people who won't find the words 'problem statement' or 'desired end state' in that otherwise very good link. Getting a question closed is a great way to induce TL;DR rage-reading, so it would be good if we set some bolded speed-bumps with those words in it to maybe get them to slow down and read.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 3:52
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    I like it a lot better than the current version, which has always sounded to me like, "You're not smart enough to understand what you're asking." It's also more likely to get more details from people whose questions lack sufficient information, and is also a better description of the problem. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 4:38
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    P.S. Because I've never liked the current version: Thank you. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 5:26
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    @MarkHenderson I am very wary of you because you have let your personal animosity towards me get the better of your objectivity in the past so I'm very defensive in a best form of defence is ... kind of way. Similarly because of the way you view me you missed the joke. I do feel that lots of people who wear ♦ from local mods right up to Shog9 have let Server Fault down badly. Apparently lots of things are well known but no one who could has seen fit to do anything until there is a bit of a flap on. This make me extremely sad.
    – user9517
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 9:37
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    I think this rewrite is missing a critical piece: including attempted solutions. As I've said elsewhere, I mainly use the "minimal understanding" answer for people who don't show that they've tried and just want us to "give me da codez". What reason will we use to reject questions like that with this phrasing? Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 11:13
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    Look at this example. It's perfectly clear what the problem is, but the poster didn't try to solve it. Are we no longer supposed to reject a question like that? If not, I'm done reviewing close votes. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 21:14

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