Last year (2020) saw some changes to the question closure system across the SE network. One of the changes was to introduce audience-specific texts for custom close reasons, so that the OP, close voters, privileged users, and the general public can all get slightly different versions of the same essential explanation of why a question is unsuitable for the site. By default, all versions for existing close reasons are set to the same thing, since there didn't use to be any option to have different versions. Some sites already changed their close reasons by creating separate texts as the system now allows. I've kickstarted an effort to do the same thing here on SFF, but I'm taking our custom close reasons one at a time and creating a different meta post for each one. (This was also one of the suggestions last year for "ways to improve SFF.SE".)

Next up is the lists of works or recommendations close reason, where the current text is:

Requests for lists of works or recommendations are off-topic as they do not fit our questions and answers format. Feel free to ask about people's favorites in chat.

The following image shows the different boxes that can be filled by mods/CMs with different text. The first two appear in the close/flag dialogue before the post is closed; the last three appear in post notices after the post is closed.

  • The Brief description is the bold header for the close reason.
  • The Usage guidance is what will appear in the close menu, advising people when to use the close reason.
  • The Close description will be shown to everyone in the post notice and should be relatively short.
  • The Post owner guidance appears in the post notice and is how the OP should fix the question (if possible).
  • The Privileged user guidance is informative for the people with close privilege regarding what the close reason is.

enter image description here

Let's get a consensus on what we should put in each box.

We need CM help to edit an existing close reason, so a clear meta consensus is essential, then we can it and get them to help us making the necessary changes. I'm going to post an answer below with my proposed texts; please vote and give feedback or suggested improvements if necessary.

1 Answer 1


Brief description

The name shown to flaggers/close-voters when seeking an option in the close menu:

List/recommendation question

Usage guidance

The description shown to flaggers/close-voters after choosing this close reason:

This question seeks recommendations or an open-ended list of works. Recommendation requests are off-topic, as questions should be clearly enough scoped to accept reasonable-length answers for Stack Exchange. Note that finite, well-scoped lists are on-topic.

Close description

The text shown to everybody, even non-users, viewing the closed question:

This question was closed for seeking recommendations or open-ended lists. It is currently not accepting answers.

Post owner guidance

The more detailed text shown, under the general close description, to the OP only when viewing their closed question:

Your question asks for recommendations or for a list of works. This is too open-ended for our site's format, even if phrased as "are there any works with these criteria", unless clearly scoped e.g. within a single fictional universe. If you're seeking a specific work, or the earliest work with some criteria, please edit to add the tag [story-identification] or [history-of] respectively. Otherwise, you can ask for recommendations in chat.

Privileged user guidance

The more detailed text shown, under the general close description, to any 3k+ rep user viewing the closed question:

Please check whether this question is a story-identification question, or a history-of question, in disguise, in which case you can edit and vote to reopen it. If the asker has a chance to make it on-topic, for example by asking about the earliest work satisfying certain criteria rather than asking for any/all such works, then please leave a comment guiding them on how to do so.

  • 1
    Note: the "post owner guidance" text is almost exactly at the limit of 500 characters, so we can't add links (even to Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat) without sacrificing some of the guidance on how to make such questions reopenable. Am I prioritising wrongly? Would it be better to include a "feel free to ask in chat" sentence at the expense of the sentence about story-ID? Any feedback welcome.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 19:58
  • 1
    Not enough people take up chat offers and there’s the rep restriction anyway so I wouldn’t prioritise that. Do magic links work here? If so you may be able to work in the chat magic link instead of a full link but I don’t think it’s necessary.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 20:30
  • 1
    @TheLethalCarrot I asked the same thing before posting this, but the CM I was talking with wasn't sure and said they'd ask around and get back to me.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 20:40
  • Ugh. Do we really want to be actively educating new users how to get around the restrictions on list questions by telling them to make them into "first-example-of" questions?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 22:37
  • @Valorum I had the same misgiving, but we both know someone's going to do that in comments anyway. Might as well build it into the system and save ourselves a bit of effort, right?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 22:42
  • @Randal'Thor - Or we could not, and hope that they don't spot that loophole on their own.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 22:43
  • 1
    @Valorum It wouldn't be spotting it on their own if someone is telling them about it in comments, as people invariably do. In fact, they're probably less likely to do it from being informed in a close banner than from being notified in a comment. Comments send pings to their inbox, but who bothers to check all those banners? On the other hand, removing the mentions of ID and earliest-example escape routes would enable us to put more links into the OP-specific guidance. I'm not sure really.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 23:10
  • @Valorum: If we don't want people to use that "loophole," then we should change the policy so that such questions are off-topic. It's illogical to say "they are on-topic, but you shouldn't change your question from off-topic to on-topic."
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 15:36
  • @Kevin - Just because we tolerate something doesn't mean we should encourage it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 15:41
  • @Valorum: I still think it's illogical. "You are permitted to do X. Please don't do X." Do you really think that's a rational position for us to take, here? If you don't want people to do something, then don't allow it.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 20:26
  • 1
    @Kevin - Going out of our way to explain a loophole seems like a counter-productive use of our time. If they find it on their own, then so be it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 20:42
  • I just significantly edited the "post owner guidance" part, phrasing the same things in a more sleek and efficient way, and managed to squeeze in a link to chat. Many thanks to @bobble on the sister site for help with shortening the text of a similar close reason there, which enabled me to do the same here.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 14:28

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