Similarly to how "Duplicate Q" VTC reason requests you to enter the URL of a duplicate question, can we also have a URL be requested (or even required) when voting a question as a general reference?

Jeff Atwood's blog post very clearly stated that General Reference means:

...because these types of questions can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference site with no additional explanation necessary

If that is the motivation and the criteria to close something as general reference, then it seems like a good idea to require the closing to provide that single link.

This serves 3 purposes:

  1. It provides people who would have asked the question in the future, as well as OP, with a way to obtain an answer without someone having to copy/paste the info into SFF as an answer. This makes Internet a better place.

  2. It avoids people starting to ask "why was this closed as GR" the same way a Dupe link avoids (most) people asking "what is this a duplicate of?" when their question is closed.

  3. Serves as a way to verify that the VTC was indeed valid, since other people can judge whether the link is to a "standard internet reference site" as commonly understood (as an example, many people on SFF were for a long time under mis-apprehension that Wikia is one, whereas after some Meta discussion, it was agreed that it is not).

I would be amenable to making the URL an optional field if there's a good reason provided why requiring it is too onerous or not always correct.

P.S. Idea's not wholly mine - while I thought of it for a while, I decided to post after I read Borror0's comment from that same SO blog post:

Consider putting a field to enter an url, for the close reason, like there is for duplicate questions. Like this, we can close the question yet answer the user’s question so we don’t come across as elitists.

  • 7
    +1. I'm still of the persuasion that General Reference is a wretched beast of subjectivity and should be slain. This suggestion is a good way of adding an extra leash to that beast though. Commented Sep 8, 2012 at 0:09
  • If we weren't so nice, we could add a line like this to the template: "Here's a link to get you started."
    – sjl
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 6:19

1 Answer 1


We are working on major changes to the closing system right now, and one of the effects of that work is going to be the removal of the General Reference close reason.

In its place, you as a community will be able to set up an off-topic reason, if you so choose, with a description that more clearly defines what sources provide the obvious answer to whatever the question is asking.

There is no precise ETA for this right now (beyond the usual "6-8 weeks"), but we are starting internal testing of the off-topic changes shortly.

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