As part of our closing overhaul, we've moved, reorganized, and renamed a number of close reasons, including too localized. While that change was informed both by widespread misuse of the reason and numerous meta posts from you, many of you have also indicated concerns about its new home in the off-topic menu.

And when you're concerned, we usually are, too.

So, we wanted to provide a little more background, and more importantly, set up a place where you can share any gaps you're finding once the changes roll out network wide.


  • If you find examples that TL used to cover, but that can't be addressed by the new "off-topic" reasons, post them as answers here.
  • If you want more background on why something needed to be changed, read the large number of words below.

Did TL clear out many bad questions?

Sort of. It definitely helped us eliminate some bad questions, and we need to make sure we deal with those, but it was the least frequently used close reason - a recent sample found it used on roughly 1.3% of total questions asked on Stack Overflow (with similar network stats). But reviews of sampled questions by mods and staff found that roughly half of TL closures probably should not have been closed, meaning:

  • its correct use was affecting roughly 0.65% of questions (for perspective, all closed questions were about 12% of those asked)
  • in its current form, it seemed to be causing as much harm as good
  • on average, you'd have to read just over 150 questions before you encountered a single one of these.

That's not to say that we should ignore those questions or don't care about closing them, just that the total volume they represent, while not trivial, also... ain't overwhelming. But the real issue is that it wasn't working consistently:

What was wrong?

The two main problems with the old reason were:

  • no one really agreed on what it meant, and
  • it attracted false positives from trigger-words (locations, etc.).

Its description had three parts, and the first two parts were very broken:

  • only relevant to a small geographic area - there are extremely few questions that need to be closed due to locational constraints that aren't closable for other reasons, and no one ever agreed on what "small" meant, or even what units to use. This was a distraction from the real need.

  • limited to a specific moment in time - again, there was no even semi-consistent standard. Some people felt that meant days, others months, etc. Some sites applied it to any beta, which seems reasonable, until you remember that gmail was in beta for five years. Questions that are obsolete definitely need to be addressed, but most technical questions will eventually suffer that fate, so making everyone pick their own definition of how short is too short before that happens wasn't working.

The third part was more generalized:

  • unlikely to help any future visitors… or an extraordinarily narrow situation not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet This is starting to get to the heart of why TL was important. Now, the old wording did invite debate over when to use it - the first clause seems to require just that one person other than you could benefit (2 people total), while the second one suggests that some meaningful percentage of all internet users should. (As of today, 1% of all internet users would be 24MM people).

But setting aside the lack of a clear line, isn't that concept useful? It is. The core of it sounds like the generalized "too narrow," which some have suggested should be a network-wide reason like "too broad".

But "too broad" has a line we're comfortable with: "Answerable in several paragraphs." There's still some room for interpretation, but we're all on the same planet.

But, while we do really like the idea of "too narrow," because it speaks to our belief that the best questions are those that benefit more people:

"Too narrow," is very, very hard to establish even a rough guideline for.

Which is why our top users are still interpreting it wildly differently, even within individual sites.

How do we retain all the good stuff

Too Localized was doing something important. It was being used, quite helpfully, to allow sites to cull the specific types of one-off questions that their experts didn't want. The most common of these, by far, was

  • "code dump"/"find my typo" questions on Stack Overflow - where the author provides a huge block of code, or a broken site's url, with little more than, "Why not working?"

They should be closed. But it's actually a lot easier to close them as a specific off-topic reason, because it eliminates all those silly debates about whether someone else might make the same typo, or how many helpees are required. Instead, we say, "our definition of our topic has explicitly excluded that". We're not debating anything, our store simply doesn't sell that thing:

We've refined our definition of what's on-topic here. The "headline" may be 'programming', but what we mean is:

  • Programming, but not Code dumps.
  • Programming, but not whiteboard problems.
  • Programming tools, yes.
  • Programming snacks, no.

It's really not all that different than the way other sites, over time, identified the specific question types they don't want, and made them off-topic:

  • Gaming, but not "name that game"
  • photography, but not "fix this picture"
  • cooking recipe replacements, yes
  • cooking recipe requests, no

Most of those could fall under Too Localized, but it actually makes more sense to make them part of the definition of the topic, because it makes their closure less subject to interpretation.

What now? Post any gaps as answers here.

We hope the above helps make some of you less worried, as we do think this will actually work better for the key good uses of TL.

But we're still a little worried about gaps.

If you find a question that previously fell under TL, but for some reason can't easily be dealt with through off-topic, post it as an answer here, so we can follow up and adjust as needed.

For sites other than SO, you may want to discuss it on your local meta first, to get community consensus, but that's up to you.

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    Is your title saying that concerns about "too localized" are ... too localized? #philosoraptor – Adam Lear Jun 19 '13 at 21:33
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    No one really agreed on what it meant, but we were very close to reaching consensus on this definition: "Too Localized - The question only makes sense to the OP, and that's only until they sober up". – yannis Jun 19 '13 at 21:37
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    The "specific moment in time" aspect was particularly applicable to questions that consisted primarily of a link to the asker's website. Once the target of the link was updated, the problem ceased to exist. Is there a close reason to address these? – George Cummins Jun 19 '13 at 21:38
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    @Jaydles Is that a close reason, or a comment on my moderation activities? ;P – yannis Jun 19 '13 at 21:40
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    @Jaydles: These posts of yours are sooooo loooong..... – juergen d Jun 19 '13 at 21:47
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    Is there any reason to be concerned that over time the list of things qualifying as Off Topic will grow excessively long, as more and more previously Too Localized special cases are added? – joran Jun 19 '13 at 21:48
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    I wouldn't worry too much, @joran - I suspect most of the long-tail of TL-reasons could be considered Too Localized to bother with... – Shog9 Jun 19 '13 at 22:03
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    @Shog9 Don't worry, I won't worry more than "slightly". ;) My minor reservations aside, I've been incredibly impressed with how you guys have been handling these changes. Clearly lots of careful thought has been put into all this. – joran Jun 19 '13 at 22:08
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    @Jaydles How can we search for closed as too localised ? – Mark Jun 19 '13 at 22:32
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    So, shall we close my question from some days ago as duplicate of this one? Because I think this question covers it way better then mine. – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 20 '13 at 12:03
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    Please introduce a new close reason, "Obsolete", as suggested below by various people. It covers most of the cases I see in the list of answers below where people think TL was needed, and is missed – Pëkka Jul 2 '13 at 22:27
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    @seth, pekka, I've been impressed with the idea of an obsolete/no longer relevant type addition. It'll take a little more time to ensure we've captured all the feedback, and then some more to implement anything, but I didn't want you guys to think we weren't seeing or responding to that idea - so far, it looks really good. – Jaydles Jul 5 '13 at 12:00
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    @MattBall, I'm thinking more along the lines of, "no longer relevant, or the only problem this could possibly solve has been addressed". Ideally, with fewer words, but the latter part covers, "you had a typo, now you found it, and it's insanely unlikely that someone else will have this exact same one." – Jaydles Jul 12 '13 at 20:31
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    @seth, no pocket veto being exercised here. Closing change follow-up just got punted while we dealt with some other near-term issues and gathered data. We'll be revisiting shortly, though! – Jaydles Sep 4 '13 at 13:25
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    I still don't know how I'm supposed to close "code dump" / "find my typo" questions on Stack Overflow, and I'm not the only one. I end up picking some reason almost at random. Please look into this. – Pëkka Nov 18 '13 at 22:54

14 Answers 14


I thought the real good use of Too Localized was for typographic errors and small, silly mistakes.

It doesn't make sense to call most of these off-topic because the user usually isn't thinking he has a typo, he doesn't know what the problem is. Therefore he is giving legitimate code, and then it's discovered that it's just a typo; so it won't really help anyone in the future, therefore too localized.

Off-topic should be for questions that anyone understanding the purpose of the site would know not to post.

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    "Too Trivial" would be a better description than Too Localized for this use-case, though. – CodeGnome Jun 19 '13 at 23:56
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    What about a variation on "ungoogleable"? – John Dvorak Jun 20 '13 at 10:19
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    yes the most obvious example is "oops you forgot a semicolon". How is that ever going to help anyone else in the future? – Jeff Atwood Jun 21 '13 at 0:12
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    @CodeGnome you really want to debate with someone that their question is "too trivial"? Jaydles seems to be proposing "obsolete", which is reasonable. It gets answered (just add a semicolon there!), and it is immediately rendered obsolete for everyone else in the world. – Jeff Atwood Jun 21 '13 at 0:19
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    @JeffAtwood Speaking of obsolete... – casperOne Jun 21 '13 at 16:53
  • I agree! I even posted a question about this very issue here some time back. – Karan Jun 26 '13 at 2:29
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    @JeffAtwood You'd be surprised how many people don't check for typos and other syntax errors before asking their questions. Something that reminds others that they should do so seems useful. – Michael Hampton Jul 2 '13 at 21:52
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    @JeffAtwood: If we find a question like "oops you forgot a semicolon", then how should we close it now? off-topic doesn't really seem right....? – lnafziger Jul 10 '13 at 20:43
  • I'm guessing Jeff wouldn't have wanted TL removed @Inafziger :P – Matthew Read Jul 18 '13 at 17:03

Questions where the problem was fixed, but no one knows how (and no one is interested, usually really narrow situations) For example:

enter image description here

OP posts a comment:

Nevermind, I have fixed the problem

OP never comes back to answer how. No one else really cares.. (like I said, it's usually a simple problem..).

This certainly doesn't fit under off-topic, the question is perfectly on-topic.

Other, related opinions.

The big reason you give for removing too localized is because it is misused. If we misuse a tool, I think, you should teach us the correct way to use it, not just pull it. I realize on huge sites like Stack Overflow this might not be possible, but from my experience (AU, SU, Chess, MSO) it's very, very easy to teach the smaller communities how to use a tool correctly. I understand pulling it from SO, but why make everyone suffer when it isn't hard to teach them?

TL's misuse also arises from it's (rather) confusing wording (as addressed in the question). Why not try rewording it before pulling it?

Questions where a problem can no longer be reproduced are not off-topic, and yet that's what the new system forces us to close them as:

enter image description here enter image description here

Now whether these questions should be closed at all is disputable..

Also, what happened with and ??

I recently ran across this question:

enter image description here

The OP found a solution in some thread and posted some vague comments, but no one really knows how he fixed it. Someone even asked him to post a full solution, but got no response. Now new users are posting "I have this problem too" answers instead of just asking new questions. Off-topic doesn't work here since the question is clearly on-topic. You can't argue that this is too narrow either, since someone else had the same problem.

This one shouldn't need words:

enter image description here

Here is another case. The problem all of a sudden just disappeared. This is neither off-topic, too broad nor unclear (well, OK, this particular question may be unclear, but we're talking about this case in general).

enter image description here

Here's another case:

enter image description here

Asked over 3 years ago. The OP is obviously not experiencing the problem anymore. He probably doesn't even have the same computer. Without talking directly to the person experiencing the problem we cannot troubleshoot or fix the issue. Another person posted an answer looking for the solution. If someone has the same problem they should ask a new question so that reputation, editing, notifications, etc all work properly, not take over an existing question. Thus this one needs to go, but the only logical reason closes it as "off-topic", which is obviously isn't.

I think an "obsolete" (for lack of a better name atm) close reason would cover the holes left by the other new reasons. Something along the lines of:

put on hold as obsolete by user1, user2, user3, Community ♦ 1 billion years ago

This question has become obsolete, been abandoned, or has been solved in a way that is unlikely to help feature users and is no longer relevant. If you have a similar question please ask it as a new question.

Now that's not perfect (I can see people misunderstanding and misusing "obsolete", so it needs a new name), but it's a starter.

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    Related: I recently asked a Meta question about what to do in this exact situation. The community's response was to close the question as too localised then delete it, provided the asker did not yield a solution following requests for it. – doppelgreener Jun 20 '13 at 4:34
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    If there is too little information to answer the question without additional input, then the question can be closed as unclear (formerly as NaRQ). – Gilles Jun 20 '13 at 12:05
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    @Gilles That only covers a few of the TL cases. The above question has plenty of detail to be answered. We might need to look at some files, but it certainly isn't "unclear" what he's asking, or what the problem is. – ɥʇǝS Jun 20 '13 at 15:21
  • I haven't looked at the question specifically. If there is enough information to answer, then the question is not too localized. – Gilles Jun 20 '13 at 15:47
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    @Seth "We might need to look at some files" fits with the "Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need." text in the unclear reason, although I admit unclear/incomplete is more what you're after here. – AndrewC Jun 20 '13 at 16:19
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    @AndrewC I disagree. Just because the OP does not include files he doesn't know we might want to see does NOT make the question unclear, nor incomplete necessarily (sometimes it does, sometimes not). You guys are grasping at straws. I knew when I posted this that people would tell me "if you turn it sideways and squint it will fit". That is just ridiculous. The new close reasons do not cover all of TL and trying to make them is silly. Who are we thinking about? How easy it is for us to close questions or how to help the OP understand and get his problem solved? – ɥʇǝS Jun 20 '13 at 17:25
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    Using bad close reasons certainly does not help the OP understand. TL could use a reword we all agree, but trying to remove it all together isn't the solution. – ɥʇǝS Jun 20 '13 at 17:28
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    I completely fail to see how your example question is too localized. In fact, despite only that screen shot, I know exactly what the problem is, and I know this because it's a common one. This question is in fact a duplicate (probably multi-duplicate) because it affects many people. The OP being lazy and not posting their solution has no bearing on the judgement of the question. – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 18:10
  • Just for an example of one question this is a duplicate of: superuser.com/questions/506079/… – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 18:11
  • And I just noticed the first comment on that answer agrees with what I just said above about it being a widely-applicable problem: "Oh boy, this is a bad (and fairly common) error." – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 18:12
  • @BenLee First, this is Ask Ubuntu not Super User, so it's not a duplicate of the question. I'm not sure we have.. (better look into that). If no one can find a duplicate of the question and no one answers it, it most certainly is TL. What else would it be?? – ɥʇǝS Jun 20 '13 at 18:49
  • @Seth, I honestly don't see how the site makes a difference at all, as long as it's on-topic on both. Okay, so what if it's not a duplicate? (it actually may be, I don't know, I haven't checked). That doesn't change my argument at all. It's still the same question, so the same number of people have this problem (i.e. it's a common problem whether people ask on SU or AskUbuntu), and the SU answer could just as well be given there. – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 19:28
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    As for your question, "What else could be?" -- um, why not just a regular question? – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 19:29
  • You should delete this question so that it doesn't stand as an annoyance to future visitors. – user7116 Jun 24 '13 at 15:22
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    @user7116 No, closing is the way to the wastebin. What other path is there? (besides downvoting) – ɥʇǝS Jun 26 '13 at 4:13

I have just been reminded of something that happens a LOT on travel. A person asks a question with a short shelf life that's perfect for the site when it's asked, but won't be in a few weeks or months. This can include updates on a natural disaster, or a significant closure like a major museum being closed for repairs or other indefinitely-long things. It accumulates good answers, everyone's happy and after a while we close it (but don't delete it) because new answers really are not possible.

Closing these as Too Localized seemed like a fine plan. Closing them as Off Topic tells others they shouldn't ask that sort of thing. Perhaps Obsolete would be a good reason - any chance that can be added?

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    Similarly on AskDifferent we have questions about iDrive a service that was shutdown 18 months ago so the answers are of no use to anyone - obselete would make sense here - SO does not have these as old versions of compilers are often still around – Mark Jun 20 '13 at 0:56
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    Hmm... Your travel questions, small typos that have been found, websites that got fixed, etc. could all fit under something like "obsolete - this question is either out of date, or the only possible problem it can address appears to be solved." We'll keep an eye on this type – Jaydles Jun 20 '13 at 2:21
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    How about not closing these questions? They have a historical interest, and they can be answered after the fact. Sure, very few people will care after the fact, but that makes the question drop from popular to obscure, not from popular to irrelevant. They can be revived too — the Sistine Chapel question would be of interest again when the next papal election takes place. – Gilles Jun 20 '13 at 12:05
  • It seems like travel.SE would be rendered useless by the requirement that places one might travel to stay the same year after year. – djechlin Jun 20 '13 at 19:31
  • @djechlin many questions are procedural: how do I change planes at LAX, how can I find out what my luggage allowance is, how do you sleep on a plane, so there is timeless material. But yes, we have a lot more time-sensitive questions than some sites do. – Kate Gregory Jun 20 '13 at 19:46
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    @jaydles obsolete would also cover the "oops you forgot a semicolon here" questions that too localized was designed for. Who else is that going to help, ever, other than the original author? – Jeff Atwood Jun 21 '13 at 0:13
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    @Jaydles: We used to have a close reason for that - "no longer relevant". I'm not sure about its description, or if close reasons had descriptions back then, but it seems like a good fit. Meanwhile it was converted to "off topic" instead when it was retired. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 21 '13 at 10:15
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    "Obsolete" sounds right – Balog Pal Jun 24 '13 at 15:27
  • On the other hand, TL was misused there and on the other sites, for example when asking about budget issues (travel/living costs etc.). And on Freelancers it was a disaster. Yes, things change. But we're running into absurd closing as too localized everything that is likely to change in 5-10 years. The questions you've cited are a perfect example of something that can coexist peacefully because it will appear in search only when you look it. Key words are ... hmmm.. the key – Danubian Sailor Jun 26 '13 at 9:16

I completely agree with and understand all the problems with "Too Localized", and I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to remove it. And I do think it makes sense to replace "Too Localized"'s previous legitimate uses with site-specific close reasons.

But I do not think the right solution is to lump these site-specific close reasons in with the "Off Topic" reasons. That's quite simply not what "Off Topic" means. And to someone new to Stack Exchange, that's really not what "Off Topic" means, and has the potential, I think, to be just as confusing to many people as "Not Constructive" used to be.

In fact, I don't really see a reason to put any site-specific close reasons in the "Off Topic" category. Why not just make a sixth top-level close reason that drills down into site-specific reasons? You could call it "Other Reasons" or "Specific Guidelines" or something like that. And all the site-specific close reasons as well as the generic "Other" could go under this umbrella, completely separate from the "Off Topic" close reasons.

I think that gives you the best of both worlds, and the cost is just one more close category, which I do not believe increases complexity very much -- I think the benefit of properly categorizing the close reasons outweighs the cost of having one more top-level close reason.

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    Ben, I'm intrigued, but I don't quite understand the distinction between site specific and off-topic. If Site specific covers all the nuanced narrowing in my examples, "off topic" is just left for head-smackingly misplaced (cats on SO). And in that case, why not call it "site specific off-topic reasons", so it can handle cats, etc? Or was I missing part of your splitting goal? – Jaydles Jun 19 '13 at 23:44
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    The distinction I see is that topic carries heavy connotations of generality. "Coding problems" is a topic. "Coding problems, but not X, Y, or Z" is a set of rules, not a topic. And I don't believe I'm the only one that sees this as an important distinction. It's not that I don't see the opposite viewpoint -- I do -- it's just that I think it's a much less common use of the word topic and likely to cause confusion. In any case, however this is resolved, I'm definitely happy about the close system overhaul in general -- this particular point is minor compared to all the major improvements. – Ben Lee Jun 20 '13 at 1:49
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    Thanks for the broader positive feedback, and for the clarification - helps me understand better that it's not the grouping you find illogical so much as that the semantics seem strained by it. – Jaydles Jun 20 '13 at 2:24
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    @Jaydles Easy fix: rename Off Topic to Site Rules or Question Guidelines or something not about topic. – AndrewC Jun 20 '13 at 16:01
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    @Jaydles I think it's simply about the SE-specific, site-specific interpretation of the phrase "off topic". Note that in the proposed SO off-topic list reasons 1,4,5 say off topic in the text, but 2,3 don't. This matches the everyday non-SE interpretation of the phrase off-topic. Ben is right that we might be inviting a whole bunch of culture clash between SE "Off Topic" and society "off-topic", where we could just rename it to avoid the slew of (not constructive!) meta arguments. – AndrewC Jun 20 '13 at 16:05
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    This is exactly the problem that I have when thinking about the "Off Topic" closure section. We already do a lot of "yes, that's what {constructive|real|closed} means IRL, but on SE we have hashed out our own definition". Of course any community with this size and history has its own culture that people need to learn to some extent, but a phrasing like "Off topic: subject that's on topic but that we've decided is not allowed" is just begging for Meta debate. We're trying to make closure more new-user friendly; the heading should be changed to not have an SE-specific meaning. @Jaydles – Josh Caswell Jun 21 '13 at 18:52
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    +1 To the point of "not the only one who sees the distinction" see e.g. New close reasons: selecting predefined 'off-topic' options. – Alan Munn Jun 26 '13 at 17:07
  • @AndrewC, wow, thanks for the bounty! Wasn't expecting that :). – Ben Lee Jun 28 '13 at 15:19
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    It's because it's a small UI change that could make a big difference to how well-used the new close reasons are in the long term. As far as I can tell, you were the first to point it out in writing as an answer on a relevant question, so thanks very much for that. – AndrewC Jun 28 '13 at 15:45
  • Personally I'm in favour of better educating users on an SE's scope and how we're different from the rest of the internet, rather than making semantic changes to avoid them having to confront that difference. It would be lovely if everyone could transition easily to our format, but I think putting it off from the initial experience is only going to result in more frustration later and more low-quality posts. – Matthew Read Jul 18 '13 at 16:58
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    @MatthewRead, this is not about making semantic changes to let users avoid confronting how SE differs from the rest of the internet. I'm not sure how you got that from what I wrote. This is about making the terminology clearer to match the natural language. Rather than redefining terms or using obscure senses of terms to get meaning across, we should be using the terms as people already understand them. In fact, I think using clearer terminology, as I suggest, is the best way to accomplish exactly your goal of educating users on scope and how the sites differ from non-SE sites. – Ben Lee Jul 18 '13 at 18:36

Are just some I can think of. I'm pretty sure when I open the main frontpage I can think of some more. Note this is only from the PHP tag. I don't even want to start thinking about JS. The above are either type / RTFM questions or just the 10000th dupe. I don't see how they will fit the off-topic reasons.

To expand on this:

Syntax / parse errors

Often the result of typo or a user error. I don't see how this fits off topic.

mysql_* expects x y give

This can have several causes. A query which fails. Now we could find a generic dupe (one of many) which may help OP get further, but in most cases it wouldn't answer OP, but instead help him find his localized problem.

Undefined offset

Basically the same as the first.

Blank page of death

OP doesn't have error reporting enabled and if enabled will identify OPs localized problem in his code.

Convert my code in language X to language Y

This may be a nice off topic candidate when the right reason is provided now I've given it some more thought.

The 100000th question about how to access an array value

Every array will be different. So every answer will be different, but only to OPs specific code. Hence too localized.

As you can see above the TL reason is used (and I often used legitimately imho). So when TL is going to be gone stuff like this should be addressed in some way or we will have this exact same thing all over again only for some other close reason.

Some questions that were closed as TL today (in the PHP room):

Feel free to point out how these questions can be closed in the future or whether you disagree and think these questions shouldn't be closed in the first place.

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    I find dupes obnoxious too, but shouldn't they just be closed as duplicates? – joran Jun 19 '13 at 22:47
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    The last 3 are Off Topic or Duplicate I would have though and RTFM is OK - I think I understand as the questions are repeated so much they won't help anyone else but strictly they are closable for another reason I should think Off topic for ""Large blocks of code with requests for debugging without meaningful supporting info" as a specific OT reason.' – Mark Jun 19 '13 at 22:48
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    Most of those are not off topic imho. And most of them are not "closable" with the reason "Large blocks of code with requests for debugging without meaningful supporting info". And yes some of them might be duplicates (of duplicates) but finding the correct duplicate for OP which may or may not perfectly fits his personal needs (TL) is a lot of work especially when the question should just be deleted because it is the 100th kind dupe I have seen that day. – PeeHaa Jun 19 '13 at 22:52
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    @joran I'm going to predict that people who post 'syntax error' questions are unlikely to accept that their syntax error is the same as someone else's syntax error, as the code in question may not resemble the other code. The only point of similarity will be the error. – Danack Jun 19 '13 at 23:17
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    They're probably not gonna "accept" that their question is too localized or off-topic either, @Danack. Some folks you just can't reach... – Shog9 Jun 19 '13 at 23:42
  • @Danack I was specifically referring to the examples listed that are not strictly syntax errors (missing commas, semicolons, and the like). – joran Jun 20 '13 at 0:16
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    +1. This question for example is a well explained question that is totally on topic, however the solution was he forgot to add [ and ] around the parameter. Normally I would close this as "Too localised" but now it doesn't fit any close reason. So it is a useless question that will never help anyone but will remain open. Maybe an "Obsolete" close reason would fix it. – Chris Latta Jun 26 '13 at 0:48
  • I get miffed when I find a question that closely matches what I am looking for, and it has been closed as a duplicate with no link to which question[s] it is a duplicate of. I mean, the SO search engine found the question, so in terms of findability, I would assert the closed question is superior to the one asserted as the original non-duplicate. I propose the duplicate-closing user should supply a link to the "original" as a matter of protocol. – Nicholas Jun 26 '13 at 13:14
  • @Nicholas I'm not sure what you mean? Every question that gets closed as dupe gets a link to the dupe. Also the dupe will have a link to the "original" in the linked list next to the question IIRC. Unless there are a lot of dupes already of the question in which case it should just be deleted – PeeHaa Jun 26 '13 at 17:07

I feel this solution is a regression. Under the new system, a "Too localized" would be

Off-Topic > Other

However while the comment box is available, it is not required so all the question-asker sees is


instead of

unlikely to help any future visitors... or an extraordinarily narrow situation
not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet



At Android Stack Exchange, we currently see another example for "too localized (in time)", which one could call "obsolete" or "no longer relevant": We've got a tag for Google Reader, and have corresponding questions. However, Google Reader closed its doors, and will no longer be available. Similarly, no new OTA updates are coming out for Android 2.x and 3.x; questions about them are now irrelevant.

  • those questions are not "off topic"
  • neither does any other of the closure reasons fit
  • while those questions might contain things useful in other context (and thus we don't want to delete them), new answers are making no sense there; those questions should simply be kept for reference

While there are different opinions on what we should do with those questions (or if any action is required at all, see What should we do with older questions that just aren't relevant any more?), something like "NLR" as replacement for "TL (in time)" would be quite useful, and might come in handy in similar situations.

  • For what it's worth, this exact same issue would apply at Web Applications. – ale Jul 8 '13 at 19:41

I will briefly summarize the case I made at greater length in the closing overhaul discussion.

Declaring a question "off-topic" implies it will be "on-topic" somewhere else

That is both the commonplace experience of the use of off-topic and pretty much the historical use on SE. Ask a question about Linux software on Ask Different and you will be told it's off-topic, and maybe you should ask it on SuperUser or Ubuntu. That's fine for good questions.

Historically (and I predict with greater frequency in the future if we don't head it off) people who ask crappy questions that no one wants to (or can) answer respond to having them closed as "off-topic" by looking for another SE site to ask the same question where it might be on-topic. Sometimes they even got the question migrated. This is a bad experience for everyone.

As some of the other answers here demonstrate, "unclear what you're asking" doesn't cover all the bases, either. We need something that stresses that the question in its current form is unlikely to help future visitors whether it is otherwise on-topic or not.

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    Declaring a question "off-topic" implies it will be "on-topic" somewhere else -- No, it does not. SE does not guarantee that there is a site somewhere on the Stack Exchange network where their question will be on-topic, and most questions that are posted to the wrong site are of insufficient quality to be migrated anyway. – Robert Harvey Jul 2 '13 at 22:19
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    @Robert, "somewhere else" !== SE. There is a big wide world outside of SE where people having discussions use the term "off-topic", and when they use it they mean to say that the primary reason we as a group are going to ignore what you just said is because it is not part of what we are currently discussing. It implies "I understand your question, your question is valid, it's just not appropriate at this time and/or in this forum." Maybe you do not take that inference, but many people do, as can be seen from the historical record of crappy questions getting migrated or reposted around SE. – Old Pro Jul 2 '13 at 22:40
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    I don't see how what you just said is relevant to my comment. Why should we be concerned about what the rest of the Internet is doing? We don't migrate questions to sites outside of the SE network, which means that any discussion about them being on-topic outside of it is irrelevant. – Robert Harvey Jul 2 '13 at 22:43
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    @Robert, well, how was your original comment relevant to my answer? You seem to be failing to grasp the central tenet of the overhaul, which is that we are trying to help ordinary people who visit our site (especially the people newest to SE) use our site more effectively and feel better about their experience in the process. In any case, just because we don't guarantee an off-topic question will be on-topic on another SE site does not guide the OP in a useful direction. The most natural response to being told a question is off-topic for one site is to try posting it on another site. – Old Pro Jul 2 '13 at 23:13
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    Users whose questions are put on hold for being off-topic are certainly free to do that. So what do you propose? That a question might have a better home somewhere else seems self-evident; it is certainly implied in the phrase "off-topic." But beyond that, what do you suggest we do about it? – Robert Harvey Jul 2 '13 at 23:22
  • @Robert, I proposed "too narrow" and didn't want to repeat the whole thing here. I'm open to other suggestions for what to call it, too, and I linked to several of the other answers on this question that make good proposals. The main purpose of my post was to counter the strong sentiments that had been voiced that there is no harm in declaring a crappy question "off-topic". We have evidence that it is harmful and I want us to avoid creating more of those problems. – Old Pro Jul 3 '13 at 5:29
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    Reading over Jaydles' original post more carefully, it seems like he's already covered "too narrow" pretty well. I'm not going to fight over "off-topic" anymore, except to say that if you remove that bucket, you'll just have to supply a new one; that's the bucket where we store all of the custom close reasons for each site. – Robert Harvey Jul 3 '13 at 5:36
  • @Robert, I am in no way suggesting we remove "off-topic". It is a great help in closing well-formed questions that are just not the sort we want to accept on the site where they were posted. All I'm saying is that the question should meet some standards to the point where we would say "if we had an SE site covering this topic and this kind of question (opinion, discussion, list, whatever), this question would be welcome on it" before we use off-topic as a reason to close the question. I don't want off-topic to become a dumping ground, I want to have a better option, whatever we call it. – Old Pro Jul 3 '13 at 19:48

If you remove Too Localized, then include something which handles Request For Work questions.

In my opinion, this question does not address the real use of Too Localized. I would also like to re-iterate my discomfort with calling everything off topic.

The real use of Too Localized is to remove request for work questions because they only apply to one person and will not help anyone else. As someone posted elsewhere, this is the same even on other exchanges although I primarily am talking about stackoverflow. The other person explains how on the travel exchange they get questions requesting that someone plan out a vacation for them.

Both of those scenarios are Requests For Work. They are the acts of a help vampire and we cannot feed them. I took literally 10 seconds and found this request for work question in the first page on stackoverflow: https://stackoverflow.com/q/17221264/1026459 . The OP wants some work done in the form of converting javascript to PHP. All the question contains is two links, and as the answerer, the community is supposed to just do all that work? No. This is the point I am making, we cannot feed these help vampires. I do not know how many different ways to put this because I have had to write it now 5 times.

Requests for work are what Too Localized shines for.

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    See the proposed SO offtopic subreasons specifically #3. That is actually specifically saying that a request for work is not allowed, unlike too localized, because not all requests for work are actually localized, and not all localized questions are requests for work. This makes the change far superior to improperly using TL to close all requests for work. – Servy Jun 20 '13 at 18:57
  • @Servy - It was not improper, it was the only mechanism available. We use what we can to improve the site. I actually had not seen that post since it was posted only 11 hours ago. As far as "off topic" goes for requesting work, let me ask you a question: Build me a paper airplane. Was my question off topic? Was it even a question? – Travis J Jun 20 '13 at 19:06
  • That's addressed in this question here. The "topic" of SO isn't just "programming". Just because something is about programming doesn't mean it's on topic. The topic of the site is whatever we say it is. If we say that the topic of our side is "programming questions that demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved" that's a valid topic to have for a site. As for whether a question needs to be grammatically phrased as a question is another issue. Does it make you feel much better for the question to be edited to "How do I build a paper airplane?" – Servy Jun 20 '13 at 19:57
  • @Servy - Many questions are better when improved. My question in the form of a statement was an example of a poor question. Your example is much improved from a simple grammar correction. Moreover, if there were some examples of attempts made to build the plane, the question might actually have some merit. When I posted this answer these situations still felt a little vaguely defined to me. I feel at this point there is strong consensus to use topicality for closing questions and so as long as the topicality is properly defined then hopefully the transition will go smoothly. – Travis J Jun 25 '13 at 20:00
  • I had a similar idea here: solicitation – Inbar Rose Jul 11 '13 at 15:01

There is a class of question that is beyond just a typo. For example (a sample just from today)




It's not just that the code provided contains a typo, but the question itself contains the error message provided by the compiler that clearly points out the typo.

In the past these would have been closed with the "too localized" reason.

Should there be a "solution too obvious" reason for closing?

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    I would say the first one was closed correctly: "Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved". – LittleBobbyTables Jul 3 '13 at 19:51
  • @LBT is right, use one of the new close reason instead of trying to single-handedly reinstate Too Localized. We got rid of Too Localized for several reasons. Of what possible help is your guidance "classically too localized"? The references to what too localized meant are gone from the help, so you just threw some meaningless jargon at a new user, one of whom has responded by deleting their account. – AndrewC Jul 4 '13 at 16:07
  • You can't blame me for a user deleting their account, that's their choice, not mine. As for throwing jargon at a new-user, at least before I said "classically too localised" I expalained that it was a typo in code, which is a bit more informative than the canned text of "tell us what you've done, what you expect…" which the questioner did actually do. – Abizern Jul 4 '13 at 16:26
  • A "You're too dumb and/or ignorant" close reason is going to have too much of a negative effect on users, even if correctly applied. Since the off-topic reason exists and is specific to this problem, a "Too Localized" or "Too Obvious" reason is inferior and unnecessary. – Matthew Read Jul 18 '13 at 16:46

If you find examples that TL used to cover, but that can't be addressed by the new "off-topic" reasons, post them as answers here.

I'm looking at this question currently: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/18329043/why-does-the-java-code-give-following-output

I feel this should be closed as it offers no lasting benefits to future readers. It's a piece of code that functions correctly, but has been so deliberately and unusually obfuscated that the OP is unable to read it. I can't find a closure reason that fits this, however.


The Problem

The "specific moment in time" aspect was applicable to code-free questions that consisted primarily of links to the asker's website. Such questions become obsolete as soon as the solution is applied to the linked website.

The Examples

This question contains no code and the textual description of the problem is insufficient to explain the problem to future site visitors. In the absence of code, the problem at the end of the link exists only at this one moment in time.

This example has the same problem: the question becomes obsolete when the asker updates the website.

The Question

Has a new close reason been created to address these types of questions?

The Bonus Suggestion

When using TL for this reason, it was common to leave a comment with a link to Something in my web site or project doesn't work. Can I just paste a link to it?. It would be ideal if a new close reason could include a link to a similar resource.

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    Personally, if I voted to close, I would have used the old NARQ for both of those examples (i.e. "incomplete"). In some cases it might be possible to edit the question yourself to include some code from the website, but I think many people will consider that the OP's responsibility, not the community's. – joran Jun 19 '13 at 22:27
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    The fact that those questions were only understandable for a limited period of time was of secondary importance to the fact that they could not be interpreted without an external resource. In most cases with external links, you should first evaluate the question as though the link were removed: in these cases, the questions would be NARQ/unclear what you're asking. This would be the case even if the asker created a test page that would be permanently available and the issue were not localized in time. – Guest Jun 19 '13 at 23:54

So far the only time I've felt a need for closing as "too localized" has been on per-site metas. A lot of questions there are about site policies that are in a state of flux. Should we allow this sort of question? Is this a good tag? Why did this question get downvoted? Does this answer really answer the question?

But after awhile the problem passes. Communities decide on policies or applications of policies that resolve the issue for most people. And when it's really clear that a policy has been established or a judgment has been made, it doesn't make sense to allow new answers. In the past, we've closed such questions as "too localized" in time. This morning, I closed a question as a duplicate of another question instead, but I was lucky such a question existed. (The first was a speculative question from a regular user and the second was the canonical answer from a community manager.)

If the question were a or we could add or whatnot. We could lock the question. Or the asker could mark one of the answers as "accepted". And for some questions these are valid options. But for others, particularly when there's been a consensus you want to close the question and if the use comes up again, start a new question. "Too localized" wasn't the perfect reason either, but it got across the idea that we're closing the question, not because the question was bad, but because it has been overtaken by events. Comments and voting on these question is fine (so no need for a lock), but new answers aren't: things have changed.


I woke up today and realized that this option was gone today when I found a perfect example. It is Qt style sheet background-color always showing black.

So the class of problems I think it is useful for are those where "Oops, I forgot a semicolon ... my bad". That is what it always meant to me.

So the point of my answer here is a follows ... The issue at hand is that people write questions first and then search later or debug later. This is why I believe TL was valuable. I see questions where the OP gives an answer 5 minutes after they ask a question with a silly reason like this that resolves the question. Because were are not a resource for common typing mistakes or fat-fingering and we are not a testing service for people who don't want to test their own code, these questions should be immediately zapped.

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    You can either close it as "Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved." or use a custom reason; "Too Localized" really isn't necessary anymore, and this is coming from a guy who used the reason a lot to close questions just like this. – LittleBobbyTables Sep 25 '13 at 18:24

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