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Background

This site has a long-standing policy that questions about future works should be closed: if a question is asking specifically about a book/film/episode/comic/etc. that has not yet been released, the question should be closed at least until the release date, to prevent purely speculative answers. (This policy was clarified in 2018: questions about already-released works, even if the answer is unknown and may be in future works, do not fall under the Future Works Policy.)

In 2016, the community discussed adding a custom close reason for Future Works. The consensus was not to create one, but only because, at that time, custom close reason meant custom off-topic close reason. These questions are not off-topic, if they're about sci-fi or fantasy: they may be perfectly good questions a year or a week after being closed. What people really wanted was a custom opinion-based close reason, which didn't exist back then.

Fast forward to 2020, when Stack Exchange has made some changes to the question closure system, including changing the "off-topic" in custom close reasons to "a community-specific reason". Now that a custom close reason wouldn't necessarily imply off-topicness, let's revisit the discussion about creating one for the Future Works Policy.


Should we create a new custom close reason for Future Works questions?


Notes:

  • Currently this site is using the conventional maximum of three custom close reasons. However, one of them is the plain non-descriptive "not about science fiction or fantasy" close reason, which would be easy to abolish in favour of custom close comments actually explaining why a question is not about science fiction or fantasy. Alternatively, we can ask SE to increase the number of custom close reasons available for this site (the absolute maximum is five).
  • To simplify the discussion, let's not start drafting the exact wording of a Future Works close reason in this meta post. Let's first get a consensus on whether or not we want to have it at all. (If people are in favour of having it but don't like a particular proposed wording, that could confuse the voting.)
  • I don't know any way to get statistics on how much this close reason is used. The question close stats page (10k+ link) is no help, because we usually close these questions as opinion-based rather than using a custom close comment. Also, its usage often comes in spikes; it's used more during the release weeks of a popular TV series like Doctor Who or Game of Thrones, because lots of questions need to be closed as "wait for the next episode".
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    Doing away with an existing (useful) close reason for a different (useful) close reason seems like a non-productive use of our time. – Valorum Aug 12 at 19:34
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    @Valorum generally when using the general one I find a comment is usually given as well. This would just mean we’d use the custom free text one which leaves the comment and merge both steps – TheLethalCarrot Aug 12 at 19:35
  • @TheLethalCarrot - Better to have both – Valorum Aug 12 at 19:37
  • @Valorum "use of our time"? It's literally a two-second button-push by a moderator. Keeping a close reason will actually use more of the community's time, because we're going to have to sort this out at some point, drafting four different texts for each one of our close reasons. (That's another reason why I kept drafting wording out of this meta post.) – Rand al'Thor Aug 12 at 19:38
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    @Valorum arguably the generic is less useful because you can use the free text one. Can you add more though? – TheLethalCarrot Aug 12 at 19:38
  • @Randal'Thor - Sure it takes two seconds to change it, but I'm thinking of the time then needed to explain the close policy, especially to new users who're entirely unfamiliar with how Meta works. I like the idea of having both though – Valorum Aug 12 at 19:39
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    @Valorum IMHO it should be explained anyway. The problem with the vanilla close reason, unlike the others, is that it says pretty much nothing except "the question's off-topic, bye". No helpful explanation, no link to meta policies. Comments can give a better explanation than the "not about sci-fi or fantasy" close banner. – Rand al'Thor Aug 12 at 19:44
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    @Randal'Thor - We should add in a link to the FAQ about "on-topic" questions. – Valorum Aug 12 at 19:45
  • @Randal'Thor It contains a link to the Help Center page of "What topics can I ask about here?" – Alex Aug 13 at 0:06
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Yes, we should create a new close reason for the Future Works Policy. It’s more useful to have a close reason about a specific reason than for something completely generic. It would also mean we would have to do less explaining about the Future Works Policy when closing as Opinion based for it and how it works if it’s qualified as a proper reason.

On top of this the generic close reason should require a comment with it at the moment anyway. So all removing it would do is mean we would combine generic close + comment into “Community specific reason -> Other - add a comment” which explains the closure. And this is arguably more useful than the generic comment as the OP would know exactly why the question is being closed.

Another good reason for having a custom close reason on Future Works questions is that they will eventually need reopening. Close reasons are meant to be a temporary state but some question no matter how much editing will always need to be closed. The FWP is different, they are essentially time based closures; having a custom reason will make it easier to track them down to be reopened when they need to be.

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    This all seems fine, as long as we're not deleting an existing close reason to do it. – Valorum Aug 12 at 21:08
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    @Valorum I’d rather swap them and then see about adding a reason if it’s even possible. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 12 at 21:23
  • "we can ask SE to increase the number of custom close reasons available for this site" - That's what we should do – Valorum Aug 13 at 10:41
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    @Valorum According to the stats the generic reason has been used 7.65% of the times a question has been closed in the last 90 days. Or 26 closures in that time period. 4 of which were later reopened. There's not a great demand for the generic reason and using the custom Other closure and explaining why it is off topic is more helpful to everyone involved. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 13 at 10:45
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    It is used more than some of the other custom reasons but they are arguably more useful because we can't close them under anything else. And if using the generic we should still say why it is being closed anyway. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 13 at 10:52
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No. When a question asks something about future works, we should close them as opinion-based.

The exact text of the close reason that appears in the "close" dialog says "This question is likely to be answered with opinions rather than facts and citations. It should be updated so it will lead to fact-based answers." This describes exactly why we want to close questions about future works. The text of the post notice that the question author will see says the following.

Closed. This question is opinion-based. It is not currently accepting answers.

Update the question so it can be answered with facts and citations. This will help others answer the question. You can edit the question.

This is, sadly, not as clear as the text in the close dialog, because the "likely to be answered with opinions" is not present, although the linked help page does clarify. But at that stage, the question will probably have a comment explaining about future works. When the future work is likely to appear within a few years, the comments may also say that the question will be reopened when the next episode is available.

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    I don’t think “because a close reason already covers it” is a good argument in this case. There’s overlap between the close reasons already (including the default ones) and when something is a custom close policy it is quite a good idea to codify it into an actual close reason. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 13 at 6:29
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    This is not a clear message for new users to see. – Azor Ahai -him- Aug 13 at 15:24

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