Where is the logic in being able to close a question as "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form" when it already has an accepted answer so obviously could be answered in it's current form?

I don't think answered questions should be able to be closed for that reason, not that it really matters since there was already a great answer, but downvotes and being closed for something that's obviously not true doesn't make sense. I think to close questions for that reason should also take more than 5 votes, since seriously in the real world I have seen 5 people not understand a question that 100 other people understood just fine.

And I added the tag back because it says it's for requesting a change to an existing feature which I am.

Added later: This question is a perfect example. A bunch of downvotes with no explanation why. How am I supposed to figure out what's wrong with this question? It's tagged discussion, in brings up something I see as a problem, and offers some proposed solutions. I'm so confused and starting to remember why I left stack exchange for so long. It's like giving your all in your job and getting fired for crummy work with no explanation when you thought you were doing a good job.

Edit: To address a comment, downvotes on meta may be for disagreement, but it was still a valid point. On stackflow people can downvote without giving a reason, which seems unfair.

So it seems like I'm the only person who thinks that people should get an actual explanation when their question is closed? No one else thinks it's wrong to expect people to fix something that they can't find?

Another addition:

Also it seems kinda strange that you don't know if there are votes to close a question until it's to late to prevent it. Maybe if none of my other suggestions are considered, it should be considered to require a specific negative vote score - in other words a post is closed only when it has a certain number of downvotes.

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    Relevant question: Displaying variable values on the side of a webpage with Greasemonkey?
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:35
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    Just because the asker accepted an answer doesn't mean the question is clear enough to be useful to anyone, or that that particular answer will help anyone with a similar problem.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:39
  • Angry Rant != Feature Request, and in any case there's no feature that can force people to use certain close reasons on certain questions, that's a policy issue.
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:42
  • The answer very clearly explained how to add a box(element) to a window and add a button to it, which was the question. That is where I am confused... I just don't understand how it wasn't clear... I asked how to put a box on the side of a window... maybe the people voting to close it focused more on the bottom of the question where I summarized the question instead of the top where I thought my question was very clear... and 3 people understood it, vs 5 who didn't... and the many others who didn't say anything good or bad... Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:46
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    For what it's worth, I tend to agree - if it's answered (and answered well), the question is more or less by definition answerable in its current form. Not sure we need to block that close reason... perhaps the moderator who closed your question can chime in with his reasons.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:46
  • I just think either it should take more close votes period since with so many ways of explaining something there will always be a small group of people that don't understand... or a longer time period after the question is asked to make sure there is a logical ratio between those people and total views. I've seen questions that I could've answered because they made perfect sense to me, but they were closed with only a few views. It should at least require that some explanation is given. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 2:50
  • Maybe my question wouldn't have been closed if it had been simply "where can I find a good tutorial on how to add a sidebar to a page" Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:02
  • @krazykat1980: "I just think either it should take more close votes period " A moderator closed your question. Take it up with him. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:08
  • @NicolBolas This wasn't about my question being closed... it's about a problem I see with the way things are done at the moment Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:30
  • Hi @krazykat1980, the downvotes on meta just mean people disagree with what you're suggesting, not that you did a bad job writing your question. My suggestion, when asking a question on meta, try to focus on asking why and learning how the community works. Once you learn more about what makes SO great, you'll be more equipped to make better suggestions. :) Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:30
  • @AnnaLear There remains the difference between "answered" and "can be reasonably answered". There are lots of NARQs that could get 50 different possibly correct answers but it's still a guessing game until the question is clarified.
    – Zelda
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 11:21
  • Explaining why I removed the feature-request tag in my upcoming answer.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 12:20

5 Answers 5


Where is the logic in being able to close a question [...] when it already has an accepted answer so obviously COULD be answered in it's current form?

Where's the logic in keeping any question around once it has been answered?

If you operate on the assumption that, once answered, a question remains purely to provide a resource to others, then you'll understand the logic in trying to ensure questions are clear, understandable, findable, on-topic, constructive, etc.

Which is also why, when answering a vague, confusing, poorly-written question, it is a good idea to also edit the question and make it clear, understandable, easy to find and read.

  • It just doesn't seem right... question was clear to me and people who answered and commented... and no one bothered to say what wasn't clear... explanation should be required, otherwise people don't have any idea what to improve. Same for downvotes... how can someone fix something without knowing what needs fixed? Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:01
  • @krazykat1980: What question? You seem to be talking a lot around some question you had an issue with, but you refuse to actually say which one it is. Why? Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:04
  • @NicolBolas That is actually a perfect example of what I am talking about here... the first comment to my question here someone was kind enough (since I didn't know I could) to add a link to the question in discussion. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:07
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    @krazykat1980: So we should close this question as "not a real question" until you edit it and put the link to the question in your actual question. I shouldn't have to read a comment thread in order to get all of the info about your question. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:09
  • But this question is not about my closed question, it is a question about why closing questions works the way it does, and my suggestions about ways it would be better.... and I might add that link as an example if I knew how Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:23
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    @krazykat1980: I gave you an answer here based on the question you asked - this is why it is possible and reasonably common to close questions that have been answered. In regard to your question, it was simply a long and confusing question - there's no reason it couldn't be edited and re-opened: closing isn't the end of the road for questions. I've edited, and re-opened. Please review the changes.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:59
  • @Shog9 Thank you, you actually made it almost read the same as it did before 1 person's comments made me add a bunch of stuff. I still say it would have helped me in the first place if someone had told me before it was closed or when it was closed that I needed to shorten it and take out the reaction to the comments. Of course having ADHD doesn't make it easy to be concise either lol. I'm frankly surprised my other question didn't suffer the same fate, although there I didn't have to reply to any aggravating comments Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 4:42

Your question isn't terrible. (Closable, yes, unsalvageable, no). My suggestion is to break up your problem into a series of smaller, more targeted questions. You wrote a novel and got a novel, a full tutorial, as an answer, which is a lot for someone coming from Google to sift through.

Keep in mind that questions asked here on Stack Overflow aren't just to help you but also to help the thousands of future visitors who will Google for your same exact problem. The questions, and answers, that are most useful in the long run are those that are more targeted. As others mentioned, in most cases, answers don't make the questions. The question must stand on its own as something of value.

Think of it like a programmer would. When you break a problem down, it's easier to solve. The same holds true for Q&A posts. The smaller and more targeted they are, the more likely the answers can be reused to help future visitors.

To get your question reopened, consider making an edit to make it more concise. Try to eliminate any fluff, and focus on a question. I've seen closed questions get reopened after an asker visits meta, and the purpose of question closure is to fix the problems and turn it into something great. Hope this helps!

  • I couldn't figure out how to break "how do I make a box" into smaller pieces... and actually my question was a lot smaller before someone in the comments got on my case about me not posting code... it originally was a bit clearer and a lot shorter. If you find where it says edit: that is the end of the original question lol Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:34
  • I just tried to upvote your answer because it was so helpful... can't upvote answers on my own question without rep? Something else confusing. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:37
  • Can you narrow down to just the relevant parts of the code? In my experience answering over 400 questions, it's easiest for us when only the relevant parts are included. Also, consider that you might actually have several really great, separately posted, questions hiding in all that, which would make it easier for you to get answers, give you some extra rep points, and also help future people with similar problems.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:38
  • See Stack Overflow privileges. When you get to a point where you're not rushed to meet a goal/deadline, I encourage you to check out the faq and learn more about our community. I'm sure you'll find it to be an awesome site once you spend a bit more time here. Again, try to break down that question a bit :) Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:40
  • Actually none of my code was relevant as putting a box on the screen has nothing directly to do with any of the code in my script, but somebody complained about the lack of code. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:49
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    Some folks get tetchy about questions that have no obvious code in them, @krazyk. That doesn't mean you have to dump all of it in there. See my edit: there were really two lines that mattered to your question.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 4:13

Where is the logic in being able to close a question as "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form" when it already has an accepted answer so obviously COULD be answered in it's current form?

The fact that someone posted an answer does not mean that the question can legitimately be answered in its current form. Just because someone posts an answer does not make it an answer to the question, nor does it provide logical consequence between the question and the answer.

Think of it this way. If the answerer has to guess as to what the problem is, even if it's the right guess, the question is not a real question. People who know the answer should know it, not go, "Try this, maybe it'll work." Some people will still give those kinds of answers. Others will properly close the question as "not a real question."

The point of closing a question is to prevent people from answering it until it is repaired. The fact that someone slipped something through before closure doesn't justify keeping a bad question un-closed.

  • This is correct: Somebody could try answering the question without having any clue of what the OP is exactly asking, or answering for a part of the question. This doesn't mean the question is not overly broad.
    – apaderno
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 6:16

We aren't running a website building service here, questions should be about a specific problem, not "how do I build my webpage from scratch?". Thus, overly broad. The presence of at least four sub-questions is another good indicator of this.

If your "question" is broken into its individual parts, they've all been asked here before. If you can't break it into those parts, then what you need is a book. As it stands now it could have also been closed as "too localized" because I doubt anyone else is going to find it useful.

  • I googled for hours about how to put text onto a webpage, how to put a box on a page, every variation I could think of, and NOWHERE found an answer to my question... And yeah, to unlocalize it the title should have been "how do I create a sidebar on a page" but then people might have not understood what I really wanted to do. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 3:14
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    As I said, what you need is a book. The fact that you really, really wanted help doesn't mean your question is a good one. This site is trying to focus on discrete questions and answers, not an open-ended tutorial for whatever computer-related things someone wants to learn. But even if you were going to ask those questions, you should ask them separately instead of dumping all of them into one post.
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 4:23

I closed the question.

At the time that the question was closed, it was a bit of a mess. Just sampling the first paragraph (emphasis mine):

Ok, I finished (well, it works but still needs some work lol) a script that counts eggs seen, steps taken, etc in explore on Unicreatures. My question now is... I don't want popup alerts for every step - how do I make a box on the page and display stuff in it? I've been trying to figure this out for about an hour and I have a feeling this is something simple that I could figure out in another hour or two... but I'm tired and my sprained ankle is bugging me and I've been beating myself over the head all night with this script. So, how to make a frame, window, whatever on the left side of the menu on this page, and how to display variables in it? http://unicreatures.com/ - not the actual page but the area I want my display in is identical on all pages on the site. For a question like this I don't think I really need to post my script as this is a general question but if you need to see it let me know...

That's a lot of noise in there. It took me a good long while to even begin to figure out what you were trying to ask.

Moving on:

Please javascript only, no jquery... I'm still barely getting javascript at the moment... please explain answers so I understand how something works - I don't just want code snippets that leave me coming back with a similar question because I don't understand why a bit of code was used.

Now you're wandering into "gimme teh codez" territory. At this point, you've failed to show what you've tried, let alone clearly define what the actual problem is. And you're even demanding what you want from the people that are trying to help you.


Also, just thought of this, is there a way to add a button to reset those variables? So that I have a choice of keeping track forever or just for a session or two without having to edit the script every time (especially if I decide to share the script)?


One more thing.... how to create checkbox, and say if checkmarked do something?

Two more requests for code.

Then there's a code sample, but honestly, it's just a wall of code, we don't know how the code relates to what the problem is that you have or what you have tried.


Unfortunately codecademy taught me some javascript but I saw nowhere on there where they taught how to modify an already existing web page without server access.... and all I can seem to find on search is how to replace text which is NOT what I want to do. I've continued searching since I posted this question, my ADHD is screaming in annoyance, my frustration level is making me just want to give up, my ankle is going to explode, and I haven't slept in probably 20 hours... I know some HTML, I have my script.... my question is... how to combine my script with my basic html knowledge to add a sidebar to that page with javascript. And I'm working with Greasemonkey instead of plain javascript because that's where I already have a script to run on the page.

I've got to sleep, so hopefully either someone here will help me by the time I wake up, or I'll have better luck tracking down the answer myself.


All noise.

Tallying everything up:

  • There's a lot of noise in the post. One of the things that helps Stack Overflow maintain a reputation is an adherence to quality. Most of the noise in this post can be stripped out and it would have made the post much easier to read and understand. This is what contributes to the "vague" part of "Not A Real Question".

  • "gimme teh codez." Put simply, we just don't do that here. While there are some questions that don't require a short, self-contained example illustrating the problem, those are few and far between. This is not one of those cases. We close these immediately with "Not A Real Question".

The presence of answers, even an accepted answer doesn't mean that the question is good. Yes, answers indicate that someone might have understood what you were trying to say, but that doesn't mean that it's patently clear to the wider audience that Stack Overflow services.

And that's the crux of it. I think it's great that you got the answer to the question that you asked. In that sense, mission accomplished. However, one of things that I have to be concerned about as a moderator of the site is how this will reflect on the site for everyone else that looks at this question in the future.

If this question was to become the canonical resource on that particular issue, then we want to make sure that both the answers and the question reflect the quality that the site is known for; it's what keeps people coming back.

So just because it's answered, and it's possibly outlived it's usefulness for you, the NARQ close reason isn't there to punish you (although, I will admit, to new and old users, it has this punitive tone that is more a social/presentation issue than anything), but to urge you or others to try and improve it.

Closure is not permanent, as the question is now open. However, look at what was required to put the post in a condition to do so.

This is an epic edit. To be quite honest, consider this a nicety that isn't required from others on your question. You're now going to benefit from the rep that comes to the question because of another's work. Normally, this doesn't happen, and not from other people other than the OP.

Please don't expect this to be the norm. We are all trying to make the site better and to maintain quality, but our responsibility should start with our own content that we provide.

That said, I'd suggest trying to provide greater focus in your questions. As evidenced by Shog9, there's a lot of noise, and that's just going to make it difficult for people to answer, let alone for all of us to maintain. It's also evidenced in this meta post, as you tagged it and ; we really don't do both at the same time here. Either you have a thought-out, well defined feature request, or you want to discuss a specific topic.

  • Half of that noise was added when someone commented and annoyed me... and I agree it was bad, now that someone points it out. my adhd makes it easier for me to follow that than other, and I tend to forget other people's brains don't work the same. Sometimes I don't even notice it, which is why I think it would be a good thing to require an explanation on a close. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:08
  • I only mentioned the jquery thing because almost every post I found in my research was answered in jqueryand what I was trying to say there is I DIDN'T want code, but if there was I wanted explanation with it, but I would've been just as happy with terms to look up. I thought vague was more like... "I need to count fruit" rather than "I need to count apples and oranges", that would explain why I didn't understand the vague thing... I really appreciate Shog9's help, because with the adhd I just really couldn't see what was wrong until someone mentioned it Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:13
  • I figured this belonged in both tags because I was asking other peoples opinion, but it was also requesting a feature be changed... it's not really fair to newbies to give such a 'vague' (lol) reason that their question has been closed, and then expect them to be able to figure it out. It does say in the FAQ that when downvoting you should leave a comment to explain why, and it also says it's better to edit it then downvote it... I'm not sure a lot of people follow either of those rules of thumb (this is a comment so it's allowed to have noise... can't turn my brain off right now -adhd sucks) Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:18
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    @krazykat1980 You're kind of showing the "noise" aspect again. Look at the length and number of the comments. It's becoming TL;DR.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:20
  • I'm sorry my previous comments are so disordered... (just think, my brain is constantly like that!). So, hopefully I didn't put anything in there that anyone can find argumentative or insulting or anything... if there is I didn't mean it that way, came out wrong, and hopefully at least some of you can make sense out of all that Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:22
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    @krazykat1980 However, there is an explanation on the close reason itself. If you want clarification, there's a link to the FAQ in the close banner (you might have missed it?). That said, if you don't agree with the close reason (which seems to be the case here), or you don't think it's specific enough (they definitely can't convey all the nuances of Stack Overflow), that's different. However, if people had to explain the specifics behind every close reason on Stack Overflow, then we'd get nothing done. The poster has to accept some responsibility to understand how the system works.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:23
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    @krazykat1980 You don't have to apologize, I'm just trying to show you what works. I'm not unsympathetic, as I have firsthand knowledge of some of these things you're speaking of. In the future, the best piece of advice I can give for being successful on Stack Overflow is to focus on the important parts in your question; quality is not just to help you get a good answer, but help all those that will benefit from your question in the future.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:26
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    @krazykat1980 Regarding feature-request and discussion on meta, it's better to focus on one of those. If you have a feature request, separate it from an issue you're personally experiencing with one of your questions; the neutrality you gain in doing that prevents people from seeing it as a rant and let's them focus on voting for/against based on the merits of the request, and nothing else.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:28
  • I agree with it, once someone explained what was wrong... I did read the faq repeatedly... but I (like probably half the people who have questions closed) couldn't see how it applied... I thought my question was clear not vague because I was looking at the part where I stated my question, not the stuff around it. So I didn't know vagueness was the reason it was closed... I'm confusing myself now... I'm done Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:29
  • I actually tried to not mention my post... everyone else dragged it in.... my original post was "how is it logical to close a question as unanswerable if it has valid answers posted"... never mentioned my post Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:31
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    @krazykat1980 You did the right thing in bringing it to meta. But it can be rather harsh here. Nothing personal, but people are good at ferreting out things when something has the appearance of a rant.
    – casperOne
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:37

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