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The "too localized" close reason currently reads:

This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

But it's prone to misinterpretation, as Joel lamented a year ago:

There seems to be some knee-jerk closing of questions as "too localized" throughout Stack Exchange simply because they mention a time span or because they mention a geography. There are many questions which are limited in time or which are limited in geography, which, nevertheless, must not be closed as "too localized."

After discussing another potentially incorrect "too localized" closure in Gaming.SE's chat room, it appears part of the confusion stems from the close reason itself, particularly the "this question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors" and "worldwide audience of the internet" clauses and the amount of wiggle room they afford to closers.

To provide just a few examples of the "too localized" confusion (excuse my Gaming.SE bias, but it's my most active site)...

...on Gaming.SE:

... on Programmers.SE:

...on Meta Stack Overflow:

Can this close reason be clarified so that it more accurately captures the intent of closing a question as too localized, which is to shut down questions only the asker could answer or care about?

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Are you saying we should magnify or minimize the "this question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors" clause? Because it seems like that's a suitable test for "questions only the asker could answer or care about". –  Cody Gray May 11 '12 at 23:08
@TheEstablishment I think the whole reason should be reworded. Right now it seems the only time it's used is when it's used incorrectly (e.g., to close esoteric questions). –  user149432 May 11 '12 at 23:16
You should really propose some specific alterations, and really pick a better example. Heck, pick several. –  Shog9 May 11 '12 at 23:52
@Shog9 Proposed a couple of changes, but linking to the closed question on Gaming.SE was merely tangential, expository information, not intended to be justification. –  user149432 May 12 '12 at 1:51
@shog "This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors" is extremely clear in my not so humble opinion. The rest (essentially, specific examples of the case) can be edited to taste. But Do Not Bury The Lede. –  Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 7:46
@JeffAtwood Yeah, delete the lede instead. Amirite? –  bobobobo May 14 '12 at 2:44
Are you suggesting changing the description only, or the title too? (I suspect changing the title is also necessary...) –  Benjol May 14 '12 at 4:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I've been thinking about this for the last week or so, and I feel like the problems with the wording come down to Dennis's last three points:

  • Distracting focus on geography.
  • Unclear period of time.
  • Hand-wavy reference to the global Internet audience.

Really, what matters most here is that first bit - "unlikely to ever help future visitors". Everything is localized in some way, but if your problem is so localized, so specific to this place, this time, those people... that even if it is answered, the answer will never again help anyone else...
That's Too Localized.

So... how 'bout we focus on that:

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is so specific to you, right here, right now that no one else will ever have the same problem or be able to benefit from its solution.

share|improve this answer
I quite like this, actually. And that's saying a lot, because I don't really like anything. The only thing I'd quibble with is "right here, right now". Perhaps replace that with something like "...to you in the moment that no one else..." –  Cody Gray May 25 '12 at 0:10
@TheEstablishment I see what you're trying to say, but I prefer "right here, right now" on balance. –  Donal Fellows May 27 '12 at 0:28

Here's my stab at improving the close reason to avoid some of the traps people fall into by skimming the close reason instead of understanding its intent:

This question is too narrow in scope for our Q&A format. We expect questions to provide some value to future visitors; this question would only apply to an extraordinarily narrow situation or set of circumstances. Please see the FAQ for more guidance.

This avoids the trappings of people closing a question because it's not global or eternal in scope and reinforces the main issue with a question that's too localized: it just doesn't matter to anyone other than the asker.

In Gaming.SE's chat, LessPop_MoreFizz suggested a slightly different wording, however:

This question is too narrow in scope for our Q&A format. We expect questions to provide some value to future visitors; this question would only apply to an extraordinarily narrow situation, timeframe, or geographic area. Please see the FAQ for more guidance.

Which keeps the mentions of timeframe and geographic area, but provides a stronger connection to the "extraordinarily narrow" qualifier.

share|improve this answer
I couldn't oppose either of these revisions, but that's probably because I don't really understand how they're substantively different from the original. –  Cody Gray May 12 '12 at 2:46
@TheEstablishment They both remove the wiggle room of the current close reason by removing the more broad qualifiers like "unlikely to help visitors", "small geographic area", and "a specific moment in time". Those aren't, by themselves, reason enough to close a question: for example, a question that applies to Montreal isn't too localized per se just because Montreal is relatively small compared to the rest of the world. Instead, a question becomes too localized when those situations are so narrow they'd help nobody (except maybe the poster). –  user149432 May 12 '12 at 2:53
Hmm... Ok, I know what you mean by "too narrow in scope for our Q&A format", but... Frankly, this seems considerably more vague than "unlike to help", and just a bit stuffy. –  Shog9 May 12 '12 at 3:42
@mark without better examples, this question is kind of useless. You're attacking the close reason in the abstract when you should be providing concrete examples for us to reason about. –  Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 7:49
@JeffAtwood I added a little over 20 additional examples, but I think writing this question off because of one recent example of a question that should've been closed anyway for different reasons misses the forest for the trees: the "too localized" close reason has been been problematic for years, and the only change to it has been to add the incredibly open-to-interpretation "unlikely to help future visitors" clause, which at best duplicates the equally vague "not applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet" clause. –  user149432 May 13 '12 at 10:21
I should've said the only change that I'm aware of: my point being that it hasn't significantly changed in a very long time despite being somewhat of a longstanding point of confusion. –  user149432 May 13 '12 at 10:31
@mark all the gaming examples are weak, but I think it is because gaming as a topic is too temporal. Nobody is going to care much about {random game x} in 3 years other than as a trivia question. Compare an answer about bicycles, C, or math... where 10, 20, maybe even 30 year old answers can still be relevant. –  Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 16:18
Also if this is about gaming exclusively, take it to meta.gaming -- your examples of "problematic" localization closes outside gaming are basically nonexistent. Gaming is highly temporal and current hit driven by its very nature. How many questions about Pong were there on gaming this week? Or Doom? Or Millipede? Or Red Faction: Guerilla? –  Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 16:23
If you're looking for a description that isn't open to interpretation, you're no longer looking for a canned close reason - you're looking for a specific-question discussion. All of the close reasons are open to interpretation. That's the single best argument in favor of close voting and encouraging folks to discuss specific questions in comments and on meta. The key part of Too Localized - and your suggested changes - is that "we expect questions to provide some value to future visitors"... We could practically rename "Too localized" to "Useless to future readers". –  Shog9 May 13 '12 at 17:37
@JeffAtwood This isn't about Gaming exclusively; the too localized close reason is problematic everywhere. I just happen to be most active on Gaming, so naturally it's easier to provide examples from there. –  user149432 May 13 '12 at 18:25
@Shog9 I'm not looking for a close reason that isn't open to interpretation; every close reason is open to interpretation. I'm looking for a close reason that isn't predisposed to being misinterpreted because of the use of overly broad language that masks the intent of closing a question as such. The other close reasons are good enough: I haven't been in conversations about the others where people say straight up that they closed it for the wrong reasons because that's what the description says to do. –  user149432 May 13 '12 at 18:27
Really? I have. Heck, arguing over what Not Constructive means is the meta.progse bread and butter. You don't end up with something like this when a description is completely clear and unambiguous. I've probably spent more time here and in comments, arguing over the rationale for closing, than I have doing anything else on SO. –  Shog9 May 13 '12 at 19:34

Actually, that clause was added about a year ago - in response to Joel's lament. At the time, the purpose of Too Localized was fairly widely misunderstood - I must confess, I rarely used it at all, and probably never used it properly.

The real problem here is simply over-zealous closing. I've noticed this elsewhere, including right here on MSO: folks voting to close as "Too Localized" when a particular question doesn't interest them!

This is wrong.

That said, the example you cite on Gaming is rather unfortunate: it certainly does appear to be relevant to a specific moment in time, and unless time travel becomes wildly popular in the near future, not very many people playing Ultima on Sept. 24 of 1997 will be able to make use of the answers there. Now, it's certainly possible the asker had a valid reason for asking that question, even one that might be shared by other users - I recently came across a similar one on Web Apps that served to resolve a discussion in chat...

...But since no rationale was provided, we're left with the impression that this is nothing more than idle curiosity. That's not necessarily an invalid reason to ask or answer something, but it's not a particularly good one either, and if your curiosity isn't shared by those reading and moderating the question, it may well appear to be Too Localized.

It's unfortunate that, among those reading, answering, and discussing that question, no one had the sense to spend 30 seconds editing it.

Nevertheless, if you have a concrete suggestion for how the wording of that close description could be clarified, feel free to post it...

Regarding your examples


...gaming seems like a site that should probably either discourage the use of Too Localized entirely, or reserve it purely for questions of the form, "What have I got in my [avatar's] pocket?"

... on Programmers.SE:

The discussions you cite both predate the current wording.

Programmers actually has quite a few localized questions, and I would've expected to see more examples since - like Gaming - the subject matter tends toward the personal and temporary. For instance...

...on Meta Stack Overflow:

MSO generally knows which way the wind is blowing WRT "Too Localized". Except when it comes to closing questions on MSO.

I'd actually encourage the use of Too Localized for "what's wrong with my code" questions on SO that make no effort to actually explain what they're doing and how it's failing - these tend to be the definition of "unlikely to ever help any future visitors" since you simply can't find them*.

*The trick is to search for "C# P0rblum"

share|improve this answer
We wouldn't erroneously close things on Meta as "too localized" if you'd bring back "noise or pointless" and/or "not a real question". :-) –  Cody Gray May 11 '12 at 23:22
I do think the example we were discussing on Gaming isn't the best and probably should be closed as something else (or edited, if anyone figures out the core problem behind why it's being asked), but a question missing a raison d'être seems more "not a real question" than "too localized". Maybe a pedantic distinction, but there seems to be a fair amount of negative conditioning, in part due to erroneous "too localized" closures, that asking an obscure question is verboten. –  user149432 May 11 '12 at 23:34

"Localized" is a bad word.

I presenteth to thee my previous rewording of "too localized" close reason:

Rename it: "Too narrow"

This question is of interest to only the asker and is likely not of interest to many other people on the www.
share|improve this answer
This (concentrating on the 'bad' word) is the answer. Some other possible synonyms to consider: limited, restricted (in scope). –  Benjol May 14 '12 at 7:03

How about renaming the title?

Closed as too specific

The descriptive text I find fine, it's gone through several incarnations already.

Now, "too specific" may not always be the perfect match semantically, but

  • it's close enough (IMO)
  • it's much easier to grasp, especially for ESL speakers
  • it's catchy

What do you think?

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I think this would just create a new source of confusion because close reasons apply to the question itself, not the circumstances described in the question. Questions should be specific, and we even tell people to be specific when they ask a question. I can only imagine the number of new complaints over getting mixed messages about specificity when questions get closed as "too specific" due to the equivocation. –  user149432 May 13 '12 at 10:46
@Mark hmm, that's a fair point now that you mention it. –  Pëkka May 13 '12 at 11:08
Reading these answers, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the problem isn't the current wording... –  Shog9 May 13 '12 at 17:30
@Shog9, seems the problem is we can't even agree between ourselves what this close reason means. That and its meaning seems to morph slightly from site to site. –  Benjol May 14 '12 at 4:45
I think varying slightly from site to site is the important thing here, @Benjol - note that on Code Review and Writers nearly everything is extremely localized, so applying the same standards as one might on SO would be disastrous. The numbers bear this out: only one question has ever been closed as TL on Code Review, and only 9 on Writers. Mark's frustration seems to stem primarily from its application on Gaming, where I must agree it should probably see less use. –  Shog9 May 14 '12 at 4:51
@Shog9 that type of blasé dismissal is why I avoided providing examples: that it's all in my head or localized to one site (that's broken anyway) even though even a cursory search on MSO shows this has been a problem since 2009—because I happened to stop after wasting 2 hours coming up with 20 something examples on just three sites out of 80+. I'm sorry I wasn't clear: this is not a problem localized to Gaming. It's a problem on every single site, and I'm frankly surprised you and Jeff seem oblivious to that. Everyone else in this discussion seems to take it as a given there's a problem. –  user149432 May 14 '12 at 5:35
Anyway, it's your site: just status-declined it already. Not really worth wasting more of my time providing examples for you guys when it seems you guys seem pretty hostile to the idea of it changing. –  user149432 May 14 '12 at 5:40
@Mark: hand-wringing doesn't fix anything. You're asking for a change in wording, but four out of the five suggestions here are, in my opinion, worse than what we have now (I kinda like bobobobo's). I asked for examples because I suspected (and my suspicion grows stronger the more of these I look at) that the real problem has little to do with the wording at this point and everything to do with the close reason simply being utterly inappropriate for some subjects. I'm not interested in re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. –  Shog9 May 14 '12 at 5:59
@Shog9, I suspect that changing the title would be more helpful than changing the description. In any case, just changing the description isn't enough, to my mind. As bobobobo says, "'localized' is a bad word". Ambiguity always eventually leads to trouble. I understand Mark's frustration though. Jeff and your comments do come off a bit "what problem? There's no problem." I think it's more constructive to say (as you just have), "There's a problem, but I think it's more to do with..." –  Benjol May 14 '12 at 6:58

In my opinion, the most common sources of misinterpretation are these:

  1. The word localized itself has a geographic connotation to many people. Even the Oxford Dictionary defines localize as restrict (something) to a particular place (link).

  2. it is only relevant to a small geographic area

    only makes 1. worse. Also, what area should be considered small?

    For example, questions in foreign languages tend to get closed as too localized. If the question is in Chinese, is it really? (I agree the question should get closed, but not as too localized.)

  3. a specific moment in time

    Moment is highly subjective, but I think that most people would interpret moment as something between a split second and a couple of minutes.

    I'm not sure myself what is meant here. Is a question that will become useless in 30 days still OK? (The close reason shouldn't be that specific, but I think the FAQ could.)

  4. an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

    The last part of the sentence (not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet) is quite unclear. Reducing it ad absurdum, every question that deals only with problem specific to the programming langage is completely useless for the billions of people that don't know C.

Combining the above with Shog9's comments on the old FAQ, I propose the following change:

closed as unproductive

Questions and answers should be likely to help future visitors that search for solutions to their own problems. In contrast, this question will only be useful to a small number of people or for a short period of time. See the FAQ for guidance on how to improve it.

share|improve this answer
"unproductive" sounds confusingly like "unconstructive" –  Cody Gray May 12 '12 at 4:33
@TheEstablishment: True. I was searching for a word that expresses that a questions doesn't add any further value to the database. Worthless covers that well, but it sounds too harsh. How about expendable? –  Dennis May 12 '12 at 10:53
@TheEstablishment Plus it puts the entire website in danger of shutting down. –  bobobobo May 14 '12 at 2:49
I...don't see how closing one question as "unproductive" or "unconstructive" or even "useless" would put "the entire website in danger of shutting down". –  Cody Gray May 14 '12 at 17:44

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