29

As per this discussion, the old "questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved" close reason has been replaced.

However, questions such as this one (*) (and innumerable others) keep popping up, posted by people who have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, or anyway completely lack the minimum prerequisite knowledge to work with whatever they are working with, and thus formulate a good question.

I suggest we bring back a close reason along the lines of "no offense intended, but you really don't seem to know what you're talking about"; all existing close reasons just don't convey the same message.


(*) Now deleted after heavy downvoting and a flame war in comments where the OP attacked and insulted downvoters to the point of requiring moderator intervention.

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    OK, which one do you want to delete? We are already at the maximum number of custom close reasons. – Michael Hampton Feb 11 '16 at 14:46
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    The "managing information technology systems in a business environment" and "reasonable business information technology management practices" could be merged; the former mainly suggests taking unrelated questions to StackOverflow or SuperUser, but that is already covered by "belongs on another site", which also allows specifying which one. – Massimo Feb 11 '16 at 14:50
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    I would name the closure "My cat know more on that matter than a lot of people, especially you." – yagmoth555 Feb 11 '16 at 21:01
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    Or we could go biblical: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". – Massimo Feb 11 '16 at 22:51
  • I'm at the point where I don't care what the default close vote reasons are. As long as there's a custom input where I can supply my own reason, I use it. Given how many people thereafter select my custom reason as a close reason, I think we as individuals can do better than what SF allows us to officially have. Don't worry about it, just make up your own. – Wesley Feb 12 '16 at 0:58
  • @MichaelHampton see my answer for a possible solution. – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 3:18
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  • @MichaelHampton Nice info to have, thanks. – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 3:39
26

I'd like to see it make a come back, there are far too many people asking questions that are basically HALP ! I have no idea what I'm doing or where to start. Please guide me.

The quality of questions on SF has continued to decline to the point where now instead of a river of crap we have an Amazon Basin full of shit and it ain't getting any better. This is entirely because SF has been forced to sink to the lowest common denominator - that of clueless noob. It would great if we got even 10% of our questions that were professional quality from anyone.

The ""reasonable business information technology management practices" close reason seems somewhat underused and would probably be good candidate for replacement.

In the mean time use a custom close reson, this is one that I have stolen from @wesley which seems to fit the bill entirely.

This question is being voted for closure because the author does not show a level of technical understanding or appropriate due diligence in researching the topic that the community judges as being a minimum barrier to participate.

I am also having some success with custom close reasons like

... because Serverfault should not be expected to provide Reading Manuals as a Service.

... because Server fault should not be expected to provide Reading Error Messages as a Service

... Serverfault is for Q&A not Remote Diagnostics as a Service.

  • A small nit: "As A" should not be capitalised, otherwise you don't get the cool "aaS" mixed case suffixes in the acronyms. – womble Feb 12 '16 at 2:50
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    See my answer for a possible solution; I'm of course trying to be diplomatic here... feel free to use a more blunt approach if you think it's appropriate ;) – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 3:25
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    @womble Acronyms as a Service? Just a bunch of AaaS, if you ask me :) – MadHatter Feb 12 '16 at 7:32
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    YAAaaS anyone ? – Iain Feb 12 '16 at 8:36
  • Why would you need to remove the "reasonable business information technology management practices" reason? Is there a rule which limits the number of close reasons? – Trisped Feb 15 '16 at 22:24
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    @Trisped: Yes, for SE imposed UI reasons we're limited to 5. – Iain Feb 15 '16 at 23:05
13

My suggestion to solve this issue would be to merge two of the existing close reasons (in order to free up space, but also because it makes sense to merge them) and to add a new one.


The new close reason would be analogue to the old "questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved", with a little more emphasis on the "you really don't seem to have a clue about what you're doing" part, but without being excessively patronizing and also offering a way out. A possible wording could be:

Questions must demonstrate a basic understanding of the problem being
solved and the technologies involved; they must also show at least some
research effort on your part. If you think you are out of your depth
working on this issue, you should consider hiring a professional.

This would also work nicely for those questions (and there are lots of them) where "RTFM" or "hire someone who knows what he's doing" are the only appropriate answers.


In order to free up the space for this new close reason, I suggest to merge "must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment" and "should demonstrate reasonable business information technology management practices" into a single close reason encompassing both (which are actually quite similar), such as:

Questions must be about managing information technology systems in a
business environment, using reasonable business IT management practices.
Questions related to home and end-user computing, development or
testing, unsupported hardware or software platforms and unmaintained
environments may not be suitable for Server Fault.

This would leave out the whole "should be asked on SO or SU" part, but this is ok, because that is already covered perfectly by the "this question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network" close reason, which also allows migration.


This solution would remove some overlap between several existing close reasons (the two I'm suggesting to merge and "belongs on another site"), and would add a new close reason covering "you don't seem to have a clue", "RTFM" and "you should hire a professional", the three biggest and most common pitfalls of hopelessly flawed questions.

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    If you think you are out of your depth working on this issue, I don't think it's a good idea to rely on their abilities to properly assess their situation, particularly when we've just VTCed/closed their question for not being able to properly assess whether it belongs here or not. I think it would be better to use something more declarative, like" `it may be advisable for you to undertake additional training, hire a professional, or even die in a fire (to suffer for the horrible thing you asked about doing)." – HopelessN00b Feb 12 '16 at 16:22
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    @HopelessN00b Agreed, the advice should probably be more explicit, along the lines of "it may be advisable for you to read some documentation, undertake additional training or hire a professional"; but it would be probably better to leave out the part about dying in a fire, even if the OP probably deserves it. – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 16:40
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    As much as possible, we should try to direct the clueless towards what they need to do in order to participate in a meaningful way. Instead of claiming a lack of "basic understanding" we should emphasize the need to explain what research has already been done. Perhaps a question-closed reason of "Insufficient prior research: describe your problem in detail. Include the steps you've already tried to resolve your problem and links to the information you've already found in the process of attempting to resolve it." would work? – Steve Bonds Feb 12 '16 at 21:12
  • @SteveBonds There is already one. "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." exists exactly for this purpose. – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 21:36
  • @Massimo: While that does cover "attempted solutions", it may not be sufficient guidance for new folks to ensure that they provide a detailed description of their prior research efforts. It also appears to intentionally limit its scope to installation, configuration, or diagnostic questions. I think ANY question should show a reasonable level of independent solution-finding has already be done. We should help educate the new folks in how to ask good questions. – Steve Bonds Feb 13 '16 at 17:07
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    @Steve The real problem is that most people who ask questions don't want to be educated. They want someone else to do the thinking for them from reading the logs and error messages right up to a full blown implementation of whatever it takes to solve their issue. If you don't provide that they get all salty. – Iain Feb 13 '16 at 18:52
  • What's the point of "unsupported hardware or software platforms"? "Support" is a thing you pay someone to provide and has nothing to do with the quality of a question. – Mikey T.K. Feb 16 '16 at 23:15
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    @MikeyT.K. It's not about paid support, it's more akin to "even the vendor doesn't think what you are trying to do with its product makes any sense". – Massimo Feb 16 '16 at 23:54
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    @MikeyT.K. Great. You volunteering to answer perfectly reasonable questions about deploying Windows 3.11? For that matter, I'm having trouble getting my copy of GM-NAA_I/O working properly. Please to be performing the needful. – HopelessN00b Feb 17 '16 at 0:33
  • @HopelessN00b I see nothing that suggests old gear is off topic for the site, and that goes double knowing how much legacy crap is kicking around the average enterprise. You literally invented that phrase out of mid air, it does not reflect the norms or rules of an acceptable question. Your attitude is shockingly horrible. Stop. – Mikey T.K. Feb 17 '16 at 5:02
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    @HopelessN00b your attitude is excellent. Keep it up. – MadHatter Feb 17 '16 at 11:35
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    @Mikey T.K. There in fact isa close reason referring to unsupported systems. – Jim B Feb 21 '16 at 1:13
7

So what are you trying to accomplish, exactly?

I mean, here's your example:

It got deleted in under two hours and never got an answer. Closing it would've accomplished nothing; all closing does is prevent answers and make questions eligible for deletion.

Sorry if that comes off as patronizing; we've had this discussion a few times over on Stack Overflow, and every time I get the feeling that folks don't quite understand what closing does. And unfortunately, I'm getting the same impression here reading this discussion. You're laying out a bunch of problems and then... proposing a solution that doesn't address them.

So just to reiterate...

Closing a question accomplishes two things:

  1. Stops answers from being posted.
  2. Makes the question eligible for fast deletion.

Crucially, closing doesn't downvote the post. Not even once. Definitely not some sort of "super-downvote". It doesn't hide posts from the homepage, or deemphasize them in search results. It does feed into the logic that'll rate-limit or block users from asking questions, but carries no more weight there than a plain old run-of-the-mill downvote - by which I mean that one closed question, 5 close votes from the pool of 3000-rep privileged users, does about as much to stop repeat questions as that one downvote from someone with 125 rep.

Why am I harping on downvotes? Because, over the past 30 days, y'all have down-voted 1162 questions at least once... While voting to close 1273. In other words, I get the distinct impression that you're already using the wrong tool for the job in many cases, and are seeking ways in which you can expand on that usage.

Remember: your example involved someone asking a question, raging impotently against anonymous downvoters, and then deleting his own question. If you're trying to get rid of someone, it's really hard to beat that for an outcome.

So again: what problem are you trying to solve here?

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    This discussion is about close reasons. I know well enough that the actual close reason is not relevant at all, it's just abunch of text describing why you would like a question to be closed. But since we are limited in the possible close reasons we can use (unless we take time to write custom ones for each VTC), it makes sense to have one addressing the (sadly) most common reason we're VTC, i.e. "you don't have a clue about what you're doing". – Massimo Feb 17 '16 at 1:01
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    @Massimo Why should such questions be closed, then? Easier all round to just downvote them into oblivion. – Michael Hampton Feb 17 '16 at 1:03
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    Yeah... Using a close reason to tell someone that they're clueless is a waste of time, a rube-goldbergian arrangement for doing something you could just say in a comment and should just say with a downvote. It's ineffective, chews up close votes and reviewer time that could be used for more pressing problems, and ends up just demoralizing the voters when eventually they realize that their votes aren't accomplishing anything. I'll forever regret adding that close reason on Stack Overflow, and never get back the time and goodwill I squandered trying to make it work... So why ask for it? – Shog9 Feb 17 '16 at 1:05
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    You might be interested to know that downvotes on questions are free to the voter, @Massimo. – Shog9 Feb 17 '16 at 1:09
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    @Massimo Actually, yes they do. Downvoting has more advantages: For instance, at -4, the post is removed from the homepage, and thus gets lower ranking in search engines. – Michael Hampton Feb 17 '16 at 1:11
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    But my point still stands: since we have close reasons and we do close questions, it would be better to revise those reasons to properly address why we are VTC. – Massimo Feb 17 '16 at 1:17
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    Btw: deletion stats – Shog9 Feb 17 '16 at 2:05
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    > So again: what problem are you trying to solve here? Quality control - simples. – Iain Feb 17 '16 at 6:05
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    Oh look, management drives by yet again, and yet again tells us that we can't try to manage the river of floaty brown questions the way we'd like to. @Shog9, you and I have personally talked about these issues before (if you remember); I was not then convinced that the paternalistic "we've seen this tried and it doesn't work" was valid, and I'm not convinced now. – MadHatter Feb 17 '16 at 8:07
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    In addition to snark, it does occur to me that one way to significantly improve the use of downvoting to handle bad questions would be to add up/down voting buttons in the "close" queue review tool. If I didn't have to open a new tab for each question that I'm reviewing - which takes nearly 10 seconds to load to the point that I can vote - I'd do it much more often. – MadHatter Feb 17 '16 at 8:18
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    @MadHatter That is indeed an excellent suggestion. Do we already have a feature request for it? If not, you should post one. – Massimo Feb 17 '16 at 12:42
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    Closing a question prevents answers from people who don't know better. Preventing answers prevents those answers from getting upvoted. No upvoted answers keeps the question in the autodelete pile. Keeping them in the autodelete pile means that they don't have to be flagged for deletion, an option which only becomes available after the question is closed and meets the other criteria. What am I missing? The fact that deletion is perceived as a waste of time, or something else? – Andrew B Feb 17 '16 at 23:42
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    On a separate note, my takeaway from Michael's comment RE: -4 should be that I was mistaken to avoid piling on additional downvotes. This was done to avoid punitizing people with good intentions; it was good enough for me if the question was on track for deletion. If it keeps stuff off the front page though, I guess that's worth a few more drama explosions by clueless people. – Andrew B Feb 17 '16 at 23:50
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    Yeah, I know how closing works @Andrew. The request here isn't for the ability to close things... It's for a reason to close questions that don't demonstrate a minimal understanding. Now, I wrote that close reason originally - it was aimed at homework questions where the asker clearly hadn't read any of the assigned reading, and writing an answer sufficient to bring him up to speed would involve posting essentially a textbook. Because that's actually a problem on SO periodically. But that's not your problem. Your problem is apparently that people write... answers that others find useful? – Shog9 Feb 18 '16 at 23:07
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    One thing that doesn't seem to have been mentioned is that we had this close reason in the past, and got rid of it, because it didn't really explain much of anything. Its replacement may not be much better, but it does give people a direction to go in. Whether they are capable of doing so is another matter, but if they aren't capable, that's not really our problem... – Michael Hampton Feb 19 '16 at 0:21
6

I totally agree that there are a lot of questions where the minimal understanding close reason would apply and is better than any of the other canned reasons, but on the other hand, I don't think a more accurate close reason matters.

  • Any small (3 custom off-topic, I think, + too broad and opinion-based) set of canned explanations isn't going to cover every situation.

  • Most of the people asking questions that get closed for one of the canned reasons don't understand that they're boilerplate text and are sometimes approximate. Most of them don't understand the SE system well enough to come back and ask the right questions to clarify what's wrong.

  • The existing close reasons also apply to a lot of questions and I'd hate to lose them.

Frankly, I've gotten tired or reading so many crappy questions, I do some close reviews and vote on those, read a few questions on the Newest tab (and usually vote to close 1/2 or 3/4 of them 'cause they're crap) and that's it. So ultimately I don't care too much what they close reasons are, if I see something and think it should be closed, I'll find a suitable reason.

For some perspective on our whole river of crap, I've noticed a few other sites (English Language and Usage, Christianity, and Movies and TV) have been complaining about a similar (but much smaller scale) "flood" of crappy questions. They're asking the same questions about what they can do about it, is it driving off higher-rep users, etc., and they aren't figuring out anything to do about it any more than we did.

Back to the actual question: If I had to give up one of the existing close reasons...

Questions seeking installation, configuration or diagnostic help must include the desired end state, the specific problem or error,

I use this a lot, it covers all of the "how do I install/setup X" and "X isn't working, what's wrong" questions.

Requests for product, service, or learning material recommendations

This is pretty much a standard SE reason, and gets used a lot.

Questions on Server Fault must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment

I use this a lot, because I think most of the questions that people vote to migrate to another site are crap and should be closed in place.

Questions should demonstrate reasonable business information technology management practices.

I use this a lot, covers X/Y problems, "you're doing it wrong" and "OMG WTF BBQ?!" questions.

So that leaves the control-panel reason which does get used a bunch, but could maybe be absorbed into the reasonable business practices reason? This would be my vote for the least-used of the current bunch.

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    See my answer for a possible solution; the last two ones can (and IMHO should) be easily merged. – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 3:19
  • We did figure out what to do about it: the non-professional close reason. We were told we couldn't do it any more. – MadHatter Feb 15 '16 at 14:56
4

Personally, I think that if the powers that be at StackExchange would ease up a little on allowable custom-close reasons, the problem would solve itself. In all seriousness, I'm voting to close your question because it sucks and Your question is bad and you should feel bad are both excellent close reasons, one of which should be in the list of selectable close reasons. Accurate, succinct, unambiguous, clear, and direct.

Contrast that with one of our wordier, pink-n-fluffy close reasons (like the previous "minimal understanding" one).

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.

It's less clear and less direct, and somehow (incredibly) generates significant levels of effort and confusion on the part of the unwashed hordes, and seems (to them) to hold out hope that enough whining or complaining can get the close undone. It's leading them on, and no one likes a tease.

Take this question as an example, about someone who wants to minimize downtime when updating his white box server (that he can't tell us anything about). Saying his question got closed because he doesn't understand enough about what he's doing, or possibly didn't provide enough information and providing a link on how to ask better questions strongly implies if he works at it, he might be able to make his question acceptable for the site, when the reality is that question is fundamentally unsalvageable.

If, for some reason, we don't want to honestly advise people how bad their questions are and offer up appropriate emotional states they ought to be feeling based on that, we should at least relieve them of any illusions about the future of their question, and give a clear, honest assessment about asking future questions of a similar quality or nature.

I'd favor something along the lines of:

Your question is bad and you should feel bad. GO AWAY.

...but anything clear and direct would seem to me to be an improvement.

  • 6
    That question you linked as an example made me actually cringe. Using Windows XP as a "server" and wanting to upgrade it to Windows 7 without even turning it off because "it's a critical system and lots of people use it"... "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (TM). – Massimo Feb 11 '16 at 22:49
  • ...hey, that New Testament quote would be really good as a close reason :) – Massimo Feb 11 '16 at 22:50
  • Anyway, you are of course right: too much wording is too much open to interpretations, and gives false hopes about revising or discussing a fundamentally flawed question (or, even worse, attacking people who are telling you how much your question sucks, as actually happened in my example). – Massimo Feb 11 '16 at 22:55
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    @Massimo It's pretty common, actually... they'll @ someone asking why their question got closed/downvoted or what was wrong with it, and then get pissed off and start flaming when they get an answer (even a polite one). Reason #47 I stopped bothering to try to explain my votes, or help people improve. They'd just get pissed off, and as fun as it was snarking back at them, mod flags would get thrown, no-no mod messages would be sent, blah, blah, blah. Too much drama, especially when all too often the answer is that the question is just bad, and that's all there is to say about it. – HopelessN00b Feb 11 '16 at 23:01
  • Personally, I think that if the powers that be at StackExchange would ease up a little on allowable custom-close reasons, the problem would solve itself. There are no limitations that I've ever run into, and I've put in some pretty acidic custom close reasons. – Wesley Feb 12 '16 at 0:59
  • See my answer for a possible solution; I'm of course trying to be diplomatic here... feel free to use a more blunt approach if you think it's appropriate ;) – Massimo Feb 12 '16 at 3:26
  • it's a 2 year old question that was closed with the "must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved." answer when it was around. the "reasonable practices" close answer would have been used today – Jim B Feb 16 '16 at 4:05
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    @Wesley I mean to say that there are 5 OT close reasons in the UI. I don't think there's any question as to how quickly a certain someone would yank the diamond of a moderator who used one of those slots for a brutally honest close reason like Your question is bad and you should feel bad. GO AWAY. – HopelessN00b Feb 22 '16 at 1:19
-4

Almost always I think the "reasonable practices" answer would apply. I think this is an answer in search of an issue. Unfortunately I think we get a lot of developers that think they are admins.

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    If you look at where people who ask questions have most rep on SE then the last time I checked >60% of the questions on SF came from people who would identify themselves as Developers/DevOPs (primary rep on SO). ~10% come from people with primary accounts elsewhere on SE. The remainder are primary accounts on SF though some significant proportion of that remainder is low rep accounts that are likely to be developers who just haven't used SO though. So youe you're right. – Iain Feb 16 '16 at 6:26

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