What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 128 Stack Exchange communities.

There are changes rolling out the week of June 17 to add custom close reasons.

What (and when) do site moderators need to do to configure these custom off-topic close reasons for each individual site?

share|improve this question
    
I'm not sure I completely understand what you're asking here.. –  Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 16 '13 at 17:33
2  
@BenjaminGruenbaum As was stated for the "off-topic" options: "These lists will be determined by the communities, and moderators will be able to update them"... I'm assuming that's what the OP (a moderator) is referring to. –  Bart Jun 16 '13 at 17:34
1  
@BenjaminGruenbaum Thanks for the clue that my text was too brief, I've edited in some more detail. –  bmike Jun 16 '13 at 17:44
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 28 down vote accepted

Introduction

Per-site off-topic reasons were created to reduce the amount of confusion and debate surrounding what specifically is on- or off-topic for a given site. Folks asking questions for the first time are often unclear on what is allowed or expected; by explaining common misconceptions in a clear manner, you can help these people better understand and learn to become productive members of your community.

Prerequisites

You need to be aware of what's on- and off-topic for your site

If you've already had multiple discussions about what should go into your site's on-topic and about pages, then you probably have a reasonable idea of where the boundaries sit here. If your community has worked to provide a solid set of FAQs on your meta site, then you're in great shape. But if you're still relying on the default "audience description" that came from Area51, you might have some work to do...

You need to know what the most common misconceptions are

You can find a list of recently-closed questions in the 10K tools. I've found it useful to look at a random sampling of recent questions closed as off-topic and too-localized. You can do the same using this query... but be aware that it excludes deleted posts, so the results will be somewhat skewed; also, beta sites aren't in SEDE. If you want a list for your site, ping me in chat.

Don't try to brainstorm on what you think should be or might be off-topic. Critically examine what you're seeing in practice instead - this should be driven by the community, not by your own personal preferences or prejudices.

Discuss it with your community

Closing should be something that has wide-spread support on a site. If folks disagree as to what is on- or off-topic, then that's something that needs to be resolved before going further. In particular, topics that are allowed with restrictions need to have those restrictions hashed out and documented, either on your meta or on your on-topic page.

So take your ideas for off-topic reasons, throw them into a meta post and let folks discuss them.

Create the wording for each reason as it will appear on the site

This can be tricky; your goal here is to communicate clearly with the people whose questions are being closed, with the people who are closing questions and with the people who will later read those questions and wonder why they were closed.

At a bare minimum, off-topic reasons should identify a specific topic considered inappropriate. If you're struggling to be specific, find an example of a question that is off-topic and discuss the factors that make it inappropriate for the site.

Whenever possible, try to explain why a given topic is not allowed - this is your chance to answer the inevitable question once rather than repeating it every time a question must be closed.

Provide resources that will aid askers in solving their problems: either instructions for asking the question in a more suitable fashion, links to a different site where the question may be considered on-topic.

Be as concise as possible. Save lengthy explanations and examples for meta FAQs that can be discussed and refined over time, and then include links to these in the off-topic reasons. Don't depend on anyone following these links though; keep critical information and guidance in the reason text itself.

Do all of this on your meta site so that folks can critique the wording and suggest improvements.

Pick the top three reasons

Large lists make selection tedious and difficult. Fortunately, most sites do not attract an extremely high volume of off-topic questions, and those that are asked tend to be about a relatively small number of topics - therefore, we limit the number of active reasons to 3. 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.

Add the reasons, approve them and activate them

The off-topic reason admin page can be accessed from the off-topic close dialog

Any moderator can add a new off-topic reason, and an unlimited number of reasons can be added.

The reason editor

Once you've settled on the wording for a reason, a moderator will need to approve it.

approve link available only to mods other than the author

The moderator who created a reason cannot approve it himself; we want at least two people to be reviewing these before making them available. Approving a reason also activates it, and as noted above, only 3 reasons can be active at any one time on most sites - to approve more than this, an existing reason will have to be deactivated first.

the deactivated reason list

Off-topic reasons can never be completely removed from the system - this prevents reasons that have been used on closed questions from disappearing and causing confusion. However, moderators can deactivate reasons at any time, which will prevent them from being used in the future (unless re-activated).

You can also drag active reasons to change the order in which they appear on the close dialog.

Monitor the use of your off-topic reasons

It's important to keep an eye on how off-topic is being used on a site. If good questions are being closed incorrectly, the predefined reasons may be too vague; if too many bad questions are being left open or closed with "other" (custom comments left by the close-voter), then you may have picked the wrong reasons. If you see something amiss, don't hesitate to bring it up for discussion on your meta.

share|improve this answer
    
So the form where we edit our top three reasons will be added to our site once the changes are rolled out to our site, or will this be made available prior to the actual close dialog changing? –  Aaron Bertrand Jun 20 '13 at 15:35
    
@Aaron: when the changes are rolled out everywhere, you'll have access to this editor. I'm pre-populating reasons on most sites, just so y'all aren't rushed; put some thought into these, please. –  Shog9 Jun 20 '13 at 16:59
    
Thanks @Shog, we are in the process. –  Aaron Bertrand Jun 20 '13 at 17:03
    
-1 for hating unicorns –  American Luke Jun 21 '13 at 13:08
    
Would there be a convenient way to check number of questions with a particular close reason? A counter somewhere next to the close reason editor in the mod interface would be very helpful. Alternatively, relevant search keywords could also help. –  mindcorrosive Jun 25 '13 at 15:24
    
Not yet, @mindcorrosive. I hope to get something in soon, but I'm sill monitoring this stuff by hand. –  Shog9 Jun 28 '13 at 23:07
add comment

Moderators, IIRC, will be able to edit the custom reasons after the changes get rolled out network wide.

One thing you may wish to do is create a meta post on this asking for input(Here is ours on Physics), so that you're ready with a list of reasons when the time comes.

share|improve this answer
2  
I too have kicked off a site meta discussion, but it might be nice to know the suggested bounds now that code is complete and a plan for deployment has been announced. –  bmike Jun 16 '13 at 18:59
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .