I was recently about to ask a question on stackoverflow, but decided against it when I saw a bunch of [closed] flags in 'Questions that may already have your answer'. Those who voted to close the questions didn't say why in the comments.

My first instinct was to ask why on meta on a per-question basis, but guess what, "Why was this closed?" questions are closed for being "too localized." (What does that even mean?) Why was this question closed, Why was this question closed as a duplicate?, Why was this question closed?

I eventually found out why they were all considered off-topic, but it took some digging to find out which stackexchange site considers them on-topic and why.

In the event that a question is closed without explanation and I can't find a related question with an explanation, how should I figure out why?

And am I wrong when I say it seems rude to close a question without explanation and then close a meta question (without explanation) about the original question, or am I missing some kind of "ask the moderators" feature?

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Voted to close as not constructive, on the basis that this is more of a rant than a constructive question. You throw around a lot of accusations, yet don't care to provide a single example questions you think were wrongly closed. I'm sorry your experience with Stack Overflow has been frustrating, but the way you've chose to express yourself here won't really help your cause. –  Yannis Aug 6 '12 at 22:15
Should I edit this question or ask a new one? –  Jordan Aug 6 '12 at 22:15
Edit it please. Also keep in mind that my close vote means nothing, unless four others agree with me. –  Yannis Aug 6 '12 at 22:16
While somewhat a rant in nature, I agree that questions get closed with little explanation. The fact that we have to block "Why was this closed" questions shows that there is a lack of info on the closed question. On the flip side, I have had questions closed and I did not know why. When I asked in a comment I almost always got a quick response of what format I had violated. So I think that for those who get "closed" it is easy to find out why (if needed), but for those who follow it can be a head scratcher. –  Vaccano Aug 6 '12 at 22:23
This is very similar to the common complaint that people who downvote don't leave a comment explaining why. –  JimmyPena Aug 6 '12 at 23:04
@Vaccano: Little explanation? They have a close reason stated on them, with a link to the FAQ. –  Nicol Bolas Aug 7 '12 at 3:02
You're right, "Why was this closed?" questions usually get closed themselves. However, they also usually get answered first. And honestly, who's going to know that the original questions even exist five months later? Heck, five days later? –  Pops Aug 7 '12 at 16:44
@Nicol Bolas - Do you really think that there are a grand total of 5 reasons why questions get closed? These are really more categories than reasons. For example: "Not Constructive". That immediately begs the question, "Why was it not deemed constructive"? Just having the category leaves one wondering what was it about the question that made it look non-constructive? Was it too open ended? Was it asking for an opinion? etc. Just the category allow does not tell you what caused the category to be applied. –  Vaccano Aug 7 '12 at 19:31
@Vaccano: One would hope that someone would read the description and figure out how it applied to their post. Do we really need to spell everything out exactly to people? –  Nicol Bolas Aug 7 '12 at 22:12
@NicolBolas when it's something as obscure as "don't use SO to ask how to pronounce terms" or as cryptic as "too localized = taken care of" on meta questions regarding SO questions, yes, everything does need to be spelled out exactly to people. Those obscurities are the inevitable result of the liberty the community is given to come up with its own rules and then enforce them without documenting them. –  Jordan Aug 7 '12 at 22:18
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closed as not constructive by Yannis, Toon Krijthe, Al E., kiamlaluno, Andrew's a Unitato Aug 8 '12 at 19:51

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

3 Answers

It seems rude to me and it doesn't help me avoid getting my own questions closed for obscure unwritten rules

What obscure, unwritten rules? The rules for asking questions are all outlined in the FAQ.

So if none of the people who closed the question comment on it to state why

They generally don't need to comment on the reason why, because when they vote to close the question, they select the reason for closing. You can view all the descriptions if you press the flag button. Here they are:

  • Very low quality: This question has severe formatting or content problems. This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

  • Exact duplicate: This question covers exactly the same content as earlier questions on this topic; its answers may be merged with another identical question.

  • Off topic: Questions on Meta Stack Overflow are expected to generally relate to the Stack Exchange family of websites and/or community in some way, within the scope defined in the faq.

  • Not constructive: As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.

  • Too localized: This question is unlikely to 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. For help making this question more broadly applicable, see the FAQ.

  • Spam: This question is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional.

  • Not welcome in community: This question contains content that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.

However, there are some instances where I can imagine these descriptions leaving something to be desired, especially on borderline questions. In these situations, it would be nice for the closers to comment on the reason why they're closing the question, although I don't think that action should be expected. If a pronunciation question was closed, the asker could probably infer that it was because pronunciation questions are not allowed on Stack Overflow, even without comments explaining so. Furthermore, if they read the description for "not constructive," they could probably determine that the question was closed because it could lead to "debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion."

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The specific unwritten rule I was referring to was regarding the pronunciation of terms. I looked through about 10 closed stackoverflow pronunciation questions before finding a comment stating that they are more appropriate for programmers.stackexchange.com. The FAQ and "possible reasons for closure" list don't help with that. –  Jordan Aug 6 '12 at 22:25
@Jordan Rule of thumb: When you see a comment saying the question is more appropriate for Programmers, it usually isn't. Programmers' scope has changed rapidly & radically since it's inception, and unfortunately a lot of people on SO still think of the site as a place where unsuitable SO questions should go - that was the original scope, and that hasn't been the case for almost two years now - <sigh>. Don't bother yourself with comments like that... –  Yannis Aug 6 '12 at 22:35
That's a much better example than "too localized." :) As said in my edit, I think that in these situations comments would be nice, but users should be able to infer the exact reason their question was closed if they put a little bit of effort. –  jeff Aug 6 '12 at 22:37
@YannisRizos that does help me because I now know that I should take old comments about superuser with a grain of salt, but I still don't know how to investigate closed questions in general. –  Jordan Aug 6 '12 at 22:39
@jeff inferring the cause for closure works when there are plenty of related questions that demonstrate a common theme like "don't ask about pronunciation on SO" or "don't ask on meta why your question was closed", but I'd like to be able to learn why a question was closed even when it seems to be an isolated incident and I can't infer exactly why it was unconstructive/off-topic –  Jordan Aug 6 '12 at 22:42
@Jordan One way would be to bring them up on MSO, the "too localized" closures on such questions mean that they won't benefit from further answers (either the question in question was improved and re-opened or the closure was sufficiently explained). For categories of questions, MSO would be your best bet, but make sure you make your question about the general category / type (e.g. pronunciation) and include a few examples. Another way, for individual questions, would be chat, check out The Assembly. –  Yannis Aug 6 '12 at 22:45
@Jordan - I'm not sure how many of those there are. There aren't thousands of separate reasons for closing questions; for each question that is closed you can likely at least several dozen questions that were closed for similar reasons. –  jeff Aug 6 '12 at 22:46
@YannisRizos I think I understand now: I interpreted closure and downvotes of meta questions as 'you shouldn't have asked this', when meta closure for 'too localized' means 'the linked SO question has been reopened or the closure has been explained' and downvotes mean 'I disagree'. That would mean a question on meta is always the appropriate way to ask why a SO question was closed. Correct me if I'm wrong. –  Jordan Aug 6 '12 at 22:56
@Jordan It might be overkill if you want to ask for a single question, but if you do your homework beforehand (mostly re-reading the FAQ, and searching for similar Meta questions) and your question is constructive, then yes asking on Meta is appropriate. –  Yannis Aug 6 '12 at 23:13
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To a large degree I agree that people should say something about why question are to be closed, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind

  • Not every question will find a place on any Stack Exchange site. Particularly anything that is "bad subjective" won't find a home here.
  • On high traffic sites like Stack Overflow a user can burn all of his or her close votes for the day and still find endless more questions that need closing to comment on. And they can do this day after day. Argh!
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

As Yannis mentioned in a comment on one of the answers, meta.SO questions are the appropriate place to ask about questions closed on SO, and the "too localized" reason for closure on meta.SO questions simply means that the issue has been resolved.

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My opinion is that "too localized" is a ridiculously cryptic and unhelpful way to express that an issue has been resolved; it makes it sound like all "why was this closed" questions are too localized because they are so specific. It doesn't express any difference from the usual significance of question closure, which is "this question shouldn't have been asked." –  Jordan Aug 8 '12 at 19:55
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