The old "too localized" closing reason included "questions that are unlikely to help future visitors". It was generally agreed, that if a question resulted from a typo in the OP code those questions should be closed with "too localized" reason.

The current off-topic reason does not cover that.

Should these questions remain open now, as they do not really fall into any current closure category?


I marked this one for diamond moderator attention to be deleted as Robert Harvey hinted below, only to get the flag declined as "declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention".

Can you confidently tell me that this is a useful question that helps the goal of SE?

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    Somewhat related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/185102/…
    – PeeHaa
    Jun 26, 2013 at 22:59
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    As a mod, if the user says "never mind, it was just a typo" in a comment, I am just deleting those posts. There really isn't a close reason that fits anymore, and I'm loathe to request a replacement for "Too Localized," since I think SE proper would rather that close reason just go away anyway.
    – user102937
    Jun 26, 2013 at 23:05
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    Can probably close using off-topic->other : "this question does not belong here, because it's a typo question" or something like that Jun 26, 2013 at 23:40
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    @HugoDozois That was frowned upon by another mod today -- meta.stackexchange.com/questions/186026/…
    – Taryn
    Jun 26, 2013 at 23:59
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    There are ranges of typo questions. Some are useful to future visitors, some are not. I'll write an answer giving more detail after I get my daughter to bed, but simply: if we close every single typo question on Stack overflow, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and those who want to use stack overflow to learn. Jun 27, 2013 at 0:11
  • @GeorgeStocker I'm mostly asking about those that are not useful to future visitors as per links I cited. But I will gladly listen to any thoughts on adjacent topics as well. As my original question goes: what do we do with those questions that are not very useful? Jun 27, 2013 at 0:54
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    @zespri First is that there seems to be a misconception as to what's useful for future visitors. It was never spelled out very well; so recently we've had instances of people closing questions that shouldn't have been closed. I disagree with your premise "that if a question resulted from a typo in the OPs code those questions should be closed" Jun 27, 2013 at 0:59
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    @GeorgeStocker I'll wait for you detailed answer then, so we have a basis for discussion. As of now I'm not quite certain what you mean. Do you mean, that the answers to these three questions with all the upvotes I linked are wrong? Or do you mean something more narrow? Jun 27, 2013 at 1:03
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    @RobertHarvey Then what do we use for the rest of the too localized questions?
    – ɥʇǝS
    Jun 27, 2013 at 1:59

2 Answers 2


The essence of a typo question to my mind is one like this:

I have application hosted on CloudFoundry... I have a download controller to download an APK file that I have on Web Application/Apps folder.. but, I have an error 404. Please help me.

class DownloadController {
    def android() 
        def webRootDir = servletContext.getRealPath("/")
        def linkDir = "${webRootDir}/apss"
        def file = new File("${linkDir}".toString() + "/Xelapp.apk")                         
        response.setHeader("Content-Disposition", "attachment;filename=Xelapp.apk") 
        response.setHeader("Content-Length", "${file.size()}")  
        response.outputStream << file.newInputStream()  

The answer to which is:

Check for typos, this looks a little suspicious: def linkDir = "${webRootDir}/apss" ... you have 'apss', sure you didn't mean 'apps'?

The user's code doesn't work. They assume it's because of the complex/new part that they don't fully understand (which is why they're asking a question). They're wrong. The real problem is an elementary mistake that they didn't think to look for. When the real problem's pointed out they smack themselves on the forehead.

In this case the question is too localized because the problem described is totally separate from the actual problem. Anyone else looking for help with the complex part is actually hindered by questions like this that don't really have anything to do with it. Anyone at the level of making elementary mistakes isn't helped either because the whole question is a red herring.

Re: Robert Harvey
If the plan for all such posts is for regular users to flag them for mods to delete that's okay, but let's be very clear that that's the plan. My sense is that the community could be tasked with taking care of such things, but maybe not since 'Too localized' was apparently too difficult for the community to handle in the past.

  • @roberharvey Well this one is not deleted after being flagged for diamond mod attention, it was merely put [on hold]. stackoverflow.com/questions/17332855/… So I'm still confused as to how these questions are going to be handled generally. It seems so far there is no consensus. Jun 27, 2013 at 20:50
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    +1 for facepalm. Also, I wholly agree with this post. Users title these questions with crazy phrases and then outline their approach which they think is some major bug in some major framework. There is no way that anyone will possibly find this question for the actual problem at hand, which is I misspelled a namespace. If there was a question with a title "Misspelled namespace, what to do?" would that really be helpful? No. What also ends up happening (as you said) is others with legitimate bugs find these small mistake questions and waste time.
    – Travis J
    Jun 27, 2013 at 20:51

First, we have to decide what we mean by typo questions. Some have suggested that syntax error questions count as typo questions, while others believe it's really for questions where the OP forgot how to spell their own name.

Syntax errors as "typo questions"

Syntax error questions historically happen because the user did something wrong. This is often followed by a sometimes cryptic message from the compiler (seriously, SQL Server).

If you're really raring to close syntax error questions as too localized, good luck. There are only about 41,000 of them. I do not believe the ones that exhibit certain characteristics should be closed as too localized -- if they are duplicates, close them as such, but not as too localized.

Here's why.

Too localized has commonly been used to address questions that just aren't helpful to future visitors. On their face, you may think that a syntax error question falls right into this bucket. After all, Who else will ever have a table named SAP, anyway?

But that's not why these questions are useful. Arguably, the syntax itself isn't, it's the conditions that cause that problem that are useful to future visitors. In the above example, the user's question exhibited those characteristics that make it a passable question:

  1. They included the code that caused the problem
  2. They included the error message in all its glory (good thing to search on)
  3. The title is actually better than most titles dealing with these sorts of problems in that doesn't say, "What's wrong with this code?"

In short, if it weren't for the fact that this is a syntax error, we could otherwise agree this question is much better than others we see (and better than others that stay open).

You may still believe this question doesn't provide value -- and you're right, by itself it does not -- but, it provides the foundation for value (it gives an answerer everything they need to knock everyone's socks off with a really good answer to an otherwise mediocre question), and that's important.

Take a look in the SQL Server question I linked to, there are the beginnings of really good answers, notably in the comment that says:

You might want to add some syntactic sugar and specitfy the joins as INNER JOINinstead of just Join. Won't make any difference, but it's arguably easier to read. -- jpw 10 hours ago

Besides that comment (which should really be fully fleshed out into an answer along with fixing the typo) you also have the ability to take what was provided and turn it into something teachable. For instance, what does the error message:

"Msg 4145, Level 15, State 1, Line 6 An expression of non-boolean type specified in a context where a condition is expected"

mean? There are several parts to it that we normally forget about, but "msg 4145, Level 15, State 1; those are all things that if there were an answer around, would teach future users something about SQL Server they probably didn't know -- and we haven't even gotten to the error message itself! If the answer also included what "an expression of non-boolean type specified in a context..." meant with examples, it would help future users understand something that is hard for a beginner to understand.

That's the value here, and it's really just sitting there, waiting to be answered.

Once we have that good answer that fully fleshes out these things, then you can start searching for other questions with that same error message, and see if the answer helps the other questions (undoubtedly it will help most of them, if it's fleshed out like I contend it should be).

Contrast that with what the claim for the desired endgoal is:

Close and delete all typo questions.

Is the contention that there should never be any IndentationBlock error questions on Stack Overflow? After all, that only happens in Python when the user does something stupid (the python equivalent of a syntax error). Tell me: If we close (and subsequently delete, or even just close all new ones) how will we ever give someone the opportunity to post that answer that really settles the issue? Then, users will be back to searching google for that error message, and coming up against (Uggh) Forums.

That's question I talked about above is the type of question I want to save. There are specific criteria for it being salvageable. If it's a duplicate, close it immediately.

I forgot my own name - typo question

When a user comes back and says "Hey, I forgot my name was Rob, and wrote Bob", in their question, and there's no answer that has upvotes, I'll close and delete the question. If there's a good answer (that teaches something outside of "your name is Rob, silly") then I won't delete the question.

If you're willing to concede there are typo questions that are salvageable, I'm willing to concede there are some that are not.

What to do about Questions that would have been closed as 'too localized'

Even though I'm against custom close reasons, I do believe some should be closed. They should not be closed as "typo question", because that just goes down the same hole we just dug ourselves out of. Rather, they should be closed as

"Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved."

This is an accurate close reason for what is coming across. I argue that if you misspelled your own name, you don't have a minimal understanding of the problem being solved.


Now that "Minimal Understanding" has been eradicated due to abuse; I would vote to close these questions as "Questions asking for debugging help must contain a useful problem statement." when there little chance the question as written will help anyone else.

All too often, these questions do not include information that a person searching the internet would search for to get help for their own problem.

  • I was hoping I would know what to do with this after reading your answer, but I don't. Any advice?
    – bfavaretto
    Jun 27, 2013 at 2:22
  • It falls into the latter category, although if the answer were expanded, that would be extra helpful. As it stands, I did learn something from that question and its answer, but not as much as I could have. Jun 27, 2013 at 2:54
  • You mean "Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved?" This sentence makes sense, but te further explanation ("whathaveyoutried?", doesn't) . It already has 3 custom "typo" close votes.
    – bfavaretto
    Jun 27, 2013 at 3:01
  • @bfavaretto I'm not a fan of the custom close reason, as I've mentioned before. I'd be all for a site-specific close reason; but for reasons I've mentioned, just closing all typo questions as 'typo question' is a bad idea. Some of them are useful. Jun 27, 2013 at 11:50
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    There are some things which I agree with on your answer, but mostly I don't. I can see the value on some of those questions, but I think that I don't share your basic premise about what some users want: "Close and delete all typo questions". I know that I don't want to delete those questions, but I'd like to close a lot of them. I mostly vote to close as too localized after I either comment with the solution, there already is a comment explaining the problem or there is an answer. So, the user solved his issue, future readers will, but the question doesn't let further answers
    – Lamak
    Jun 27, 2013 at 14:26
  • I think that if we were instead talking about a "sufficient understanding," then I would be fine with this close reason. The asker of a too-localized typo question has misunderstood the nature of their problem, but there's no need to disparage their knowledge more broadly (which is the insult I hear in "lacking a minimal understanding"). Also, some nitpicking: You don't actually "argue" for the last point at all; you just say "they should" ... and then "I argue" (and I don't really see the connection with your linked answer, either).
    – Frank
    Dec 10, 2013 at 21:21

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