NaRQ sounds ridiculous to an outsider when applied to a question that's not in appropriate format, such as Odd macro and no operation variable usage?

Two questions there, but the NaRQ description makes us literally sound inept to explain ourselves. "Difficult to tell... cannot be reasonably answered... "

I think it's rather easy to tell what's being asked. I think it's rather easy to be reasonably answered.

It just needs to be split up. And if not for the comment on the question, I wouldn't know why. I suppose someone can refer to the FAQ, and if they're patient enough, they can infer that questions need to be atomic.

However, I wouldn't get that by NaRQ. I would get "Who are these fools that can't answer a simple question? Screw SO, going somewhere with smarter people."

Equally acceptable would be adding text to NaRQ that mentions that the question is in the wrong format as a possibility, but then it's unclear as to which of the reasons listed in NaRQ is applied.

As programmers we strive to make semantics atomic. Yet, here we are bunching a wide array of reasons into one category.

Off topic is clearly atomic. Yet, NaRQ handles too much, and it becomes unclear as to which of the included reasons is the intended one.

The answer to this request may actually be to rewrite the descriptions of close reasons so they're more generic, and link to a FAQ with specific cases.

  • Wouldn't it be better to edit the question to leave only one problem and ask OP to post a 2nd question for the 2nd problem?
    – Benoit
    Nov 8, 2011 at 16:35
  • 1
    It would. I suppose one might even suggest a completely new feature. Tagging a question marked for close if not fixed in X days. Nov 8, 2011 at 16:36
  • @Benoit - the problem is that unless that's done really early any answers which address both questions will look very odd after the edit.
    – Flexo
    Nov 8, 2011 at 16:36
  • @awoodland Then you notify everyone with the "impending doom" status, and give them a chance to edit their stuff. Nov 8, 2011 at 16:38
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    Questions to the effect of "How does this code snippet work?" are off-topic on SO, as well as other SE sites like CodeReview. The problem is, we don't always enumerate specific off-topic reasons in the FAQ. Regardless, I'll often close such questions as off-topic, since the FAQ clearly specifies the scope of acceptable questions. Book recommendations are another example of a specific off-topic question, though they can also be considered "Not Constructive."
    – user102937
    Nov 8, 2011 at 17:21
  • @RobertHarvey Maybe I didn't give the best example. But I thought it was clear that the question was closed because it didn't fit the format SO expects for questions. You've latched onto Off-Topic, and that's another issue entirely. My concern is with on-topic questions, that are not formatting the best for SO, that end up getting closed because they cannot be edited without changing the intent of the OP (here so because two questions are asked, cannot edit to one question and keep other question). Can we introduce a "Inappropriate format" reason, or update NaRQ to mention inappropriate format Nov 11, 2011 at 15:50
  • What do you mean by "format?" The "Not Constructive" close reason uses the word "format;" it says: "This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion."
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 15:52
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    @RobertHarvey That's still not clear. That reason implies that the question will solicit opinion. Format should be format, and done, if you want to include bi-questions as wrong format. How can you expect someone to see a two-for-one question as soliciting opinion??? That ISN'T the format reason, that's the NC reason. All we need is a simple Wrong format reason, to cover cases that are constructive, but still wrong format. I think NC is important that it stand on its own to make the point very clear. But it just doesn't make sense when the question is wrong format, but still constructive. Nov 11, 2011 at 15:55
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    What do you mean by format?
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 15:56
  • @RobertHarvey Having two real questions in a single "SO Question" is wrong format. Honestly, with all the confusion, I'm considering that tag include room for a custom explanation, and enforcing clear reasons under that category. These reasons make no sense half the time. Nov 11, 2011 at 15:58
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    @RobertHarvey "Questions to the effect of "How does this code snippet work?" are off-topic on SO" Wait, what? I can understand closing long code blocks, but when a programmer needs to understand why certain code was written in the manner it was written, it's a good question. Why is this type of question off topic?
    – Pollyanna
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:00
  • @Adam: You've seen those questions before. Cut and paste, tell me how this works, no research effort.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:02
  • The spirit of SO is to have a searchable repository of questions that help the most people. If anything, the title needs work, or reworking so that it's helpful for future users. Questions that can't be reworked are better asked in a chat room, or on another site. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:02
  • @RobertHarvey You don't know there's no research effort. In this case people wouldn't be able to demonstrate research effort because the code snippet is so small scale. But that is an aside. Please focus on the main issue. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:04
  • @Xaade You can apply that argument to any question. So what wrong with the format of the example question you referenced? It looks like a single question to me.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


The close reasons are meant to cover broad categories of question problems. Were that not the case, we would have to create a close reason for every specific problem that a question can potentially have, and that doesn't scale.

For example, NaRQ covers five possible problems:

  • ambiguous
  • vague
  • incomplete
  • overly broad
  • rhetorical

Your example question is ambiguous, because it asks two different questions (in the original edit). Note that it's almost always preferable to edit a question to make it viable (if that is possible) than it is to close it.

Imagine a close dialog with literally dozens of options. Nobody would close questions; it would be too much work to try and figure out which close reason applies.

  • Except that the close reason descriptions are NOT broad. Hence the problem. If you read NaRQ, or if you apply Not Constructive to Wrong Format questions because NC contains the words format, then you just create confusion. If you want to describe reasons under a close category, link to a FAQ. Otherwise the ones listed are too specific, even if the category is broad. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:15
  • I'll edit my answer to clarify.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:18
  • Please select which of the listed reasons under NaRQ that the link supplied was closed for. I may have different definitions for those subcategories. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:24
  • I did that already.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:25
  • I guess I'll have to just agree to disagree. That's a very hard stretch for the term ambiguous. And the subsequent part that mentions "cannot be reasonably answered" doesn't impart that suggestion at all to the average person. Example should be this entire discussion. I had to scrape really hard to grok that meaning of ambiguous. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:34
  • I just don't see how "incorrect format" is any clearer. I do agree that NaRQ has it's problems, but I haven't seen a better title for this close reason so far. NaRQ is a bit of a catchall, used when a question just isn't a very good one. If someone complains on meta, we explain in detail why their question was closed.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:35
  • Which is why one of my suggestions is to have a custom description, and get rid of the current ones. Nov 11, 2011 at 16:36
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    A custom description? You mean something the users get to type in? You can't do that; users will come up with all sorts of unsanctioned reasons for closing questions.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:38
  • If people go to the FAQ and read it (like the close reason asks them to), it should become apparent why their question was closed.
    – user102937
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:41
  • Custom description, but with the same categories as today. The current descriptions would be available. If someone types a description that doesn't match the category, it most certainly will not stay closed. Nov 11, 2011 at 17:20

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