24

Getting a new custom close for our Future Works policy has resulted in one of our existing close reasons being removed.

"This question does not appear to be about science fiction or fantasy within the scope defined in the help center"

At the time it was originally added, there was a considerable consensus in favour of it as our third custom reason and I think it would be worthwhile having it back. It's quite often used and fits nicely with our existing policies.

Can we please ask SE to allow us a fourth close reason so we can restore this?

11
  • You don't need Stack Exchange to add it back, any moderator can...
    – Anonymous
    Aug 24 at 14:48
  • @Anonymous - Yes, but I think they'll resist that more than asking SE to press the button that says we can have 4
    – Valorum
    Aug 24 at 17:23
  • @Valorum I've not taken any action yet because it's only been 9 days since the meta was posted. If, though it seems most likely right now, the generic is wanted back and a 4 reason adding we'll escalate it to the CMs.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 25 at 13:38
  • 6
    @Anonymous Mods can't add more custom reasons, only change the ones we currently have.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 25 at 13:39
  • @TheLethalCarrot - Vox populi, vox Dei
    – Valorum
    Aug 25 at 17:18
  • 3
    The current version of the close reason is too generic and not helpful. I'm OK with giving you all a fourth slot but I'm not going to turn it on until you actually have the text for this reason ready to go - please feel free to have that discussion and re-tag this status-review at that time.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 12 at 14:22
  • @Valorum The problem mentioned above is because of the previous text. You'd need to start a new discussion for a new proposed wording (would need to do that anyway because of the new close reason boxes).
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Oct 12 at 14:28
  • @Catija - This is the original wording; scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7229/… is this not sufficient?
    – Valorum
    Oct 12 at 14:29
  • @Valorum No, it's not - There are now five fields that have to be used and I feel very strongly that generic "this is not about [site subject]" close reasons are not helpful and get applied overly-broadly. These close reasons should be specific and link to resources that help the asker and other users understand why the question was closed and how to improve it. If y'all want a "The media this question is about is not considered Sci-fi or Fantasy by our scope [link to meta post]" - that's fine. A catch-all is not.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 12 at 14:35
  • @Catija - I do appreciate that. When we looked into it, it was noted that out of the last 25 times it was used, it was used correctly 23 times and only reversed twice (and only then because OP had made an edit to identify that it was genuinely about scifi or fantasy). The scope for misuse is apparently quite low with this one.
    – Valorum
    Oct 12 at 14:37
  • @Valorum Great! Then you have only to worry about drafting the text and not any unintended consequences.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 12 at 14:37
21

I feel that this is the right thing to do.

  • As noted in the question, there was a sizeable majority (25:5) in favour of making this a standard close reason.
  • It's a close reason that I've seen regularly used, especially in regard to questions and those that are tagged with .
  • I stand to be corrected on this, but I'm pretty sure it's a more common off-topic reason than the close reason that has displaced it.
  • It also aligns closely with our policy about works that are not obviously science-fictional or fantastical, as described in our FAQ.
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  • 1
    I'd be in favor bringing the generic reason back if was an additional option, not replacing the newly added "future works policy" reason.
    – Skooba
    Aug 16 at 19:01
  • 2
    @Skooba - If I had the straight choice, I don't think I could put a fag-paper between them, but there seems little point getting rid of the new one, just to bring back the old one. That being said, there was also little point getting rid of the old one, just to add the new one. What we actually needed (to begin with) was an extra one, which is what this q is suggesting.
    – Valorum
    Aug 16 at 19:05
  • 2
    @Valorum I don't think the generic close reason is needed at all. It's genericness is covered by the "Other" reason anyway.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 16 at 20:12
  • 3
    I think we should also note that the meta you link to was from 2015, pretty much 6 years ago. Consensus, community and opinions change over time. It's some decent evidence but not solid.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 16 at 20:37
  • 1
    @TheLethalCarrot - Plus twelve after a day, notwithstanding the downvotes from the two mods who objected in the first place.
    – Valorum
    Aug 17 at 5:48
  • 3
    @TheLethalCarrot - I think the disconnect is that you keep on referring to it as a "generic close reason". I've been on the site for a few years and have always seen that reason as specifically meaning that a question is about a non-sff work. Until this question got posted I honestly had never heard of any other use for it.
    – ibid
    Aug 17 at 18:09
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    @ibid Then at best it was very unluckily worded, since it used the boilerplate text that gets slapped on any and all off-topic question. If it was supposed to mean the question is okay but the work isn't sci-fi, it should maybe have said that.
    – TARS
    Aug 18 at 14:55
  • @TARS - If it's not about Sci-fi or Fantasy, who cares if it's a good question or not?
    – Valorum
    Aug 18 at 15:02
  • @Valorum Fortunately that's not the point of the comment anyway.
    – TARS
    Aug 18 at 15:03
  • 2
    @TARS - [Citation needed] Can you show some examples where this close reason was inappropriately used? From the looks of the last twenty-five times, it was used evidently used correctly 22 times and reversed only 3 times, presumably when OP clarified the SFF'nal content of their question
    – Valorum
    Aug 18 at 18:15
  • 2
    I haven't been there for long (3 years), and I haven't noticed anyone wrongly using the "not SFF" close reason, yet. But to be honest, if it's not SFF, it can also be closed as off-topic, though it's a more vague close reason.
    – Clockwork
    Aug 18 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Clockwork "Not science fiction or fantasy" is a subcategory of off-topic. (Or at least it was until the term "off-topic' was replaced with "not suitable for this site".
    – Alex
    Aug 20 at 0:12
5

Some data from the tools available to users with 10,000 reputation regarding close reasons:

In the last 90 days (that's as far as it goes back), the distribution of close reasons has been:

Close Reason # of Questions Closed
Duplicate 146
Opinion-based 44
Needs details or clarity 42
Not suitable for this site - This question does not appear to be about science fiction or fantasy within the scope defined in the help center. 25
Not suitable for this site - List/recommendation question 16
Not suitable for this site - This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network 12
Needs more focus 12
Not suitable for this site - Real-world science question 9
Not suitable for this site - Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong) 9

Of the site-specific close reasons (i.e. those beginning with "Not suitable for this site") the one for not being about science fiction or fantasy is by far the most common.

In the list of 17 custom close reasons that were applied during this period, only two of them were about Future Works. By contrast, six of them were some form of "it's not science fiction or fantasy".

Of course, there may be some confounding factors here, such as if users are using the "Opinion-based" close reason to cover Future Works.

While it is not strictly necessary, since you can just use a custom close reason, I see no downside to having an additional close reason for the generic "this is not about science fiction or fantasy".

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  • 4
    Except we are limited to three custom reasons. Looking at past data isn't going to work as we've only just gotten the FWP reason, and the most common one is the most generic. I say give it some time to see how the data pans out in 6-8 months
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Aug 15 at 21:03
  • 6
    @AncientSwordRage Moderators can request an additional site-specific reason (no guarantee that it will be granted, of course). What the data does show is that the generic "not science fiction or fantasy" reason is used more than any of the other site specific reasons as well, so it is perhaps an odd choice for the one to be removed. While the data doesn't show anything about the not-yet-existing Future Works close reason, it does show that it was only specified as a custom reason twice.
    – Alex
    Aug 15 at 21:07
  • 6
    The original FWP policy was to close them as POB, not with a custom reason. Practice might have changed a bit since the custom reasons became "unsuitable for this site" rather than "off-topic", but I don't have data on that. I don't think it says much that the generic "custom" close reason was the most used one, since it's by design a catch-all, encompassing various reasons a question might be off-topic, which would be better explained in comments anyway (and, as I said above, often were explained in comments even with that close reason).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 15 at 21:58
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    You're right that there's no particular downside to having this additional close reason, but I can't see any upside either, and we'd need a strong "pro" argument, rather than absence of strong "con" arguments, to convince CMs to add a new close reason slot.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 15 at 21:59
  • I'm pretty sure (but please correct me if I'm wrong) this is actually not site analytics, but is the 10k tools - so anyone with 10k should be able to access this, not 25k.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 12 at 14:15
  • @Catija Yes, this is available in the 10k tools at /tools/question-close-stats?daterange=last90days. Here's the link to this page for SciFi, for example.
    – Spevacus
    Oct 12 at 14:35
  • @Catija You are correct. Thank you for pointing out my error. I have edited the post accordingly.
    – Alex
    Oct 12 at 22:12
-2

I don't feel like we need the generic reason back. It's incredibly generic that it is used as a catch all reason to cover pretty much everything and that's not great in itself. Instead it's always better to explain why something needs to be closed, especially with newer users who may be unfamiliar with the site and its scope. So of course it will always be used more but that's not necessarily a good thing and in some cases could even be a bad thing!

Previously with the catch all reason closure would go along the lines of: vote to close with the generic reason and then maybe leave a comment. That could leave some users confused if they don't understand the reason it was closed and is not good user experience and so poor for keeping users around.

Now what should happen is users use the "Other" explainable reason and describe why the question is being closed. This is desirable for two reasons: it forces users to leave a comment and so others are aware of why it is being closed and it combines the close and comment step into one which is better. There's also a third hidden reason in that it also helps us find any close reason that is used a lot and potentially make that a proper custom close reason in the future.

It's also worth noting that the generic reason has only been gone for 4 days. Perhaps we should give things a little bit of time without it? If we feel like we're missing the old generic reason then we can see how things go. But we're probably jumping the gun here panicking with having it gone before we even know if we're going to miss it. Who knows the "new" workflow of using the "Other" close reason might even work better and I see no reason why it shouldn't.


I will add that of the last 90 days (as of writing) the generic reason was used the most:

  • Real-world science question: 9 closures, 0 reopened
  • This question does not appear to be about science fiction or fantasy within the scope defined in the help center: 25 closures, 3 reopened
  • List/recommendation question: 16 closures, 2 reopened

However, as I lined out above its usefulness to others is less. I'll say that if we do want to try and get a fourth custom close reason it shouldn't be for some generic catch all reason but rather something a bit more specific. Sure the specific reasons are used less but that's because they cover something more, well, specific and codifying something specific over generic should always be preferred in my mind.

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  • 3
    Agreed, leaving a comment is preferable anyway. The only downside I can see is that it opens close-voters to responses from the OP defending their question. But that's again reasonable IMO: if you vote to close someone's question, you should be able to defend the decision and justify it in comments, both for the sake of convincing/explaining for the OP (which isn't always possible) and also to convince other close-voters and even passive readers trying to learn the boundaries of site scope. Anecdotally, I think there have often been comments accompanying the generic close reason anyway.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 15 at 20:52
  • 3
    I'm not sure that forcing to use a custom reason will end up any better than the generic reason. I suspect most users will just use the comment to say something generic like "this is not about science fiction or fantasy" in any case (as was indeed the case in a third of the custom reasons used in the last 90 days). With the old reason it at least provided a link to the Help Center page that lays out what questions are on topic.
    – Alex
    Aug 15 at 21:11
  • 1
    @Alex well the help centre needs an edit itself. It also may not end up any better but what’s the point in guessing at this stage? At the very least we can give it a bit and see instead of making assumptions. I also think relying on the stats of how much such a generic reason was used might not be the best approach. It could have been used for a wide range of reasons not all necessarily good/appropriate.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 15 at 21:15
  • 1
    True. I don't have a particularly strong opinion either way. More like I don't think there's any downside to requesting an additional site-specific reason so that the new reason can be added without removing an existing one
    – Alex
    Aug 15 at 21:19
  • 5
    @Alex - Aye. It'll just end up being the most common custom reason, which is precisely why we voted to make it a standard reason in the first place. I feel like we've gone full circle
    – Valorum
    Aug 15 at 21:47
  • 3
    @Valorum if that is the case we can revisit it down the line. And of course it’s the most common custom reason: it was used for pretty much anything. A data based approach doesn’t really work here for something that spans so many reasons for usage.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Aug 15 at 21:57
  • 1
    @TheLethalCarrot - Pushing something into the long grass is what you do when you're not sure what the end-result will be. We already have ample data.
    – Valorum
    Aug 15 at 22:21
  • Indirectly, after reading this answer, I realise closing a question as off-topic is, in a way, synonymous albeit more generic.
    – Clockwork
    Aug 16 at 7:28

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