28

Current status: we do not have consensus to pursue this under the present system (which only allows custom off-topic close reasons). We may re-visit this if the system is changed to allow a custom close reason for a different type (e.g. "primarily opinion-based").


We have a policy that questions about "future works" are to be closed until something has been published that can be used to answer the question. Such questions are typically closed as "primarily opinion-based" or as simply "off-topic" with the generic message

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

Helpful users often link to our "future works" policy on meta to better explain why the question is being closed.

It was recently asked if we had room to add a custom off-topic close reason for "future works". As noted in the answer to that question, we have used up all three custom close reasons but we can request space for a fourth one:

A few sites do get a regular influx of off-topic questions in a larger number of distinct categories; if you find this to be the case on your site, post a feature-request on your meta site with examples of questions that would benefit from a predefined off-topic option - we'll verify the need for this and work with you to make more reasons available.

-- @Shog9, Meta.SE

Should we ask Stack Exchange to add a fourth custom close reason for us so we can have a "future works" close reason?

Here are examples of questions that were closed in accordance with our "future works" policy1:

Additionally, 10k users can see the question close statistics tool, which shows that there are a substantial number of custom close comments which cite the "future works" policy.

The moderation team is willing to make the request to add a custom close reason, but only with clear consensus from the community. In order to judge the wishes of the community, please post or vote on answers to this question (either in the affirmative or negative). Votes on this question will not be considered.


1I found them by searching comments for the keyword "future works" using this query. I searched for comments by userID 20774 (Richard) and userID 2816 (Mike).

  • 1
    I like the premise and agree we should have the option to include this as a reason to close. Thank you for your research and compilation of this material. – Thaddeus Howze May 12 '16 at 21:31
  • 1
    Just don't make the wording of the close reason give people false hope that the question will be re-opened. Probably a lot of these questions get deleted by the roomba long before they would be eligible for reopening. In other cases, a good but unanswerable question becomes a question with an obvious answer, and reopening it will just draw downvotes. – Molag Bal May 12 '16 at 21:39
  • Six sites have at least four custom off-topic close reasons: Ask Patents, Server Fault, Stack Overflow, Anime & Manga, Arqade, and Ask Ubuntu. – Molag Bal May 12 '16 at 21:55
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    If the question is good enough to maintain a positive score, it avoids the roomba. – phantom42 May 13 '16 at 1:22
  • Just throwing this here as it might be worth something to SFF and this discussion in particular: Arqade (Gaming SE) has a custom off-topic for 'Speculation on future works' style questions: "Questions about Game Design and Development are off topic. This includes speculative questions about developer intent, with respect to both mechanics and narrative. You might want to ask over at GameDev.SE, but be sure to read their FAQ". This covers "Why did the developers design it this way?" as well as "How will <some mechanic> work in <game that hasn't been released yet>?" – Robotnik May 24 '16 at 1:10
  • @Robotnik Thank you for your input! We will take it into consideration if the proposal passes. – Null May 24 '16 at 1:41
11

No

I really like the idea of having a custom close reason for this, but I am strongly opposed to having a custom off-topic close reason for this policy.

Questions closed under the future-works policy are not off-topic. They're perfectly desirable questions1 that were just asked X days/weeks/months/years too early for our liking. Using the same hammer for them that we use for recommendations, scientific explanations, and questions about kittens - that is to say, questions which have no place on this site and never will - sends entirely the wrong message.

Or, to take it from another direction, the point of closing a question is to signify to the asker (and to future travellers) that something is wrong with the question. Other close reasons indicate that something is wrong with the question as formulated: "Too Broad" is an invitation to narrow the scope, "Primarily Opinion-Based" invites more objectivity, and so on. The hope is that, with a little spit-and-polish, the question can be improved and eventually re-opened.

But the off-topic close reason(s) indicates that something is wrong with the question itself: for one reason or another, we don't want it here and would prefer it politely go away. These questions will never be re-opened, unless the question is changed fundamentally2.

Future-works questions, by-and-large, fall under the first umbrella; what's wrong with the question is that it doesn't (currently) have an objective answer3, but we fully expect that it will sometime in the future; we're not saying "kindly leave the building", we're saying "please take a seat, we'll be with you in a minute".

Related MSE discussion: Shouldn't "off-topic" be only about... off-topic?

And some proof that this isn't an imagined problem; UX signals really do matter:


1 Most of the time; there are always some that are bad, but they're usually bad for other reasons

2 That's assuming a perfect world. In reality, questions closed as off-topic could be re-opened for a number of other reasons; perhaps the question was closed improperly, perhaps there's a scope disagreement, perhaps site scope changes over time, and so on

3 Which is why I (and others, I suspect) like the POB close reason for them

  • Yes, but how else can we treat future works violators? Leaving the questions open invites unnecessarily speculative/opinion-based answers. – RedCaio May 13 '16 at 2:05
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    @RedCaio Where do I say I want to leave them open? We don't currently seem to be struggling to deal with future-works questions – Jason Baker May 13 '16 at 2:09
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    It looks like your main suggestion is that POB is a better close reason, but you relegated that to a footnote. (I didn't vote on any posts on this question.) – Molag Bal May 13 '16 at 2:10
  • So, basically you want to close them but still make sure the user knows it's on topic? Too broad and not clear what ur asking are both close reason for even on topic questions. So maybe the custom future works one could have a memo/description "you're question, though on topic, can only be answer by currently unreleased 'future works', reopen it later once an answer can be found..." – RedCaio May 13 '16 at 2:20
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    @anaranjada I'm not proposing a suggestion (though I shouldn't need to even if I wanted to; my preferred solution is the one advocated by the policy as is currently written). My disagreement with the suggestion of adding another off-topic close reason is the only thing I am advancing here. – Jason Baker May 13 '16 at 2:23
  • @RedCaio It's a moot point; so far as I know, there's no facility to modify the other close reasons on a per-site basis, though I know there was a feature request for it on Meta.SE some years ago – Jason Baker May 13 '16 at 2:30
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    You make a very good point that "off-topic" might be interpreted by a user as a signal to "go away and don't ever ask these kinds of questions", which is not the case. On the other hand, some of the closed questions I linked to were closed as "off-topic" with a generic message rather than POB anyway. Furthermore, POB isn't entirely correct, either -- the question is objective but no one (except perhaps the producers) know the answer yet. Perhaps a carefully crafted close message would help alleviate your concerns over the use of the word "off-topic". – Null May 13 '16 at 3:44
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    Either way, I agree that a custom close reason (not a custom off-topic close reason) would be best if the system supported it. Thanks for your feedback! – Null May 13 '16 at 3:44
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    More related MSE Feature Request. Every site deals with this "not actually off topic" thing... I don't think it makes for a good excuse to not use custom close reasons. Do a good job writing your close reason as Null points out and the "off topic" can be ignored. – Catija Jul 14 '16 at 20:49
  • Can you fix or remove the last link, which leads to a 404 (meaning the question was deleted)? – Laurel Feb 20 '18 at 0:52
10

Yes, we should request a custom "future works" closure reason. Many questions that are unsuitable because they have no current answer may become useful in the future, and current closure reasons aren't a good fit.

2

Yes ... but

The first thing I think SFF should consider is to start using custom close reasons (meaning the "other" reason) and stop using the Primarily Opinion Based close reason or the generic "off topic" reason. I am aware of this question and both of the answers but neither of them actually say "yes, close as POB"... DVK's answer says to close them, generally, while SQB's specifically says to use the "other" reason.

Right now more than 15% of the questions asked here that get closed use the POB reason. Data is here for users with more than 10K rep. This is a lot of questions but there's no way to separate them from questions that are actually opinion based. So, without looking at every question, there's no way to know what percentage of questions are actually "Future Works" questions.

As mentioned in comments on Jason Baker's answer, these questions are not opinion based, they're just early.

You make a very good point that "off-topic" might be interpreted by a user as a signal to "go away and don't ever ask these kinds of questions", which is not the case. On the other hand, some of the closed questions I linked to were closed as "off-topic" with a generic message rather than POB anyway. Furthermore, POB isn't entirely correct, either -- the question is objective but no one (except perhaps the producers) know the answer yet. Perhaps a carefully crafted close message would help alleviate your concerns over the use of the word "off-topic". – Null♦ May 13 at 3:44

Null is exactly right. Both of the close reasons (POB and Off-Topic) are wrong... my argument is:

It makes more sense to use a custom reason, regardless of the heading because you can make the explanation clear in the custom reason text.

So, to go back to what I was saying... to convince SE CMs that you should have a fourth close reason, you have to prove that it's necessary. On M&TV, we had a similar request for an additional custom reason. Part of Jon Ericson's answer is:

Of the 45 "other" reasons, about 11 seem to be referring to the recommendation queries. It's also possible that some of the "too broad" and "opinion-based" closures reflect questions closed because they are asking for lists. So, according to the statistics, a relatively small percentage of questions closed are closed because they are about current events.

If it turns out that people start writing in some form of the current events reason and those start to catch up with some of the other standard reasons, we can talk about adding a fourth reason again. (Only Community Managers, such as myself, can add a close reason slot and I'm marking that portion of the feature request for now.)

The CMs consider the current stats of your existing close reasons along with noting how much it seems to be necessary to have the new one. So, in the case of M&TV they told us to replace the "current events" close reason rather than get a fourth one.

If you can show the CMs how often a custom close reason for "Future works" is used by writing in a custom reason, they will be more likely to agree that the reason is actually needed, particularly if the other three close reasons are used equally as often.

So, for your close reason, I encourage you all to draft it but you can avoid the "off topic" issue by phrasing it something like this:

This type of question is generally on topic but discussion of future works is largely open to speculation until the media is released, so this question has been closed until that time. For more information see [link to appropriate meta question].

  • I tend to use the custom-close reason already. It seems the far more sensible option, especially since you can add a link to this meta. – Valorum Jul 14 '16 at 21:54
-5

No, we should not request a custom "future works" closure reason. The current close reasons adequately cover this.

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