When I flag a question as "doesn't belong here", the new 'off-topic' subcategories are great, but there's a little disconnect between the top-level blurb and the options actually displayed beneath. The headline is:

This question does not appear to be about programming, within the scope defined in the help center

and the options presented are:

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All those options are about questions that the OP might feasibly have thought would be ok on SO. There isn't currently an option for 'has nothing to do with programming at all and wouldn't even be on topic on another stackexchange'.

Could an option be added to cover plain 'off-topic' questions?

Or should we treat such posts as spam even without an 'advertising' aspect?

Edit: I didn't realise 'Other' is still available in the Close vote options, which changes things somewhat (I was under the impression one of these options would have to be picked for the close message). So I am happy with the options as-is, it's only a little confusing for <3k rep users who go to flag, not a problem as such.


If you're >= 3K, you should be able to use the Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong) option, and explain that it is completely off topic. You shouldn't need to use a flag in that case, though.

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If you're under 3K, I don't think you need to force a way for you to be the first person to directly affect the question. Questions that are completely off-topic are pretty obvious to all of the other users around you and you shouldn't be waiting long for the question to be closed (even if you don't do it). If you find one that is around longer than, say, 10 or 15 minutes, raise a custom flag: needs moderator attention > other and explain there, instead of trying to flag it or vote to close as off-topic > completely off-topic.

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As others have stated, these questions are pretty rare, and the ones that appear are already dealt with swiftly enough that I can't support changing the existing dialogs to accommodate that case.

  • Thanks, I didn't realise 'Other' was still there for closing. So a little confusing, but not really a problem then. – jam Jul 3 '13 at 14:55

While these questions do come up, they're less common than each of the other reasons already there. In order to keep the system usable and to limit confusion the community team felt it was important to limit SO to 5 site specific offtopic sub-reasons, so if you feel that this one should be added it would need to bump one of the others off of the list. I don't feel that there are any that should be bumped off to allow this to be added. Given that, you should simply use the "other" reason (for close votes only, not for flagging) to specifically state that the question is not related to programming.

If you don't have close vote privileges on the site and therefore can't supply a custom reason, then it's usually best to just not flag the post at all (as per Shog9's comment). In most cases questions like this will be closed by the community rather quickly. Only use a mod flag if the question has been around for a while and it seems clear to you that it won't be closed by the community; in such cases use the "other" flag reason to request mod intervention. The reason for this is that mod intervention should only be used when it's not possible for the community to deal with whatever the problem is; closing an offtopic question usually doesn't have that problem.

If, at some point in the future, the community notices that a lot of questions are closed for similar reasons using "other" that may end up being added as a new pre-defined reason.

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    That's what I suggested, but apparently it is not valid for < 3K. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 3 '13 at 14:34
  • @AaronBertrand Well, to be honest, if it's truly 100% offtopic I'm not to worried about needing it flagged; it will likely get the needed close votes quickly enough without needing flags. – Servy Jul 3 '13 at 14:36
  • Yes, agreed. If it's really off-topic any < 3K user can be relatively confident that it will be caught by other users without ever needing to raise a flag themselves. Even a comment might speed that along, but probably isn't necessary. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 3 '13 at 14:37
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  • @EsotericScreenName That's for migrating to another SE site not on the custom list, which is a bit of a special case. You need a moderator to make such a migration. You don't need a moderator to close a question as not belonging on any SE site. – Servy Jul 3 '13 at 14:54
  • Ok, I can see this argument. Thanks for explaining the reasoning of keeping the list short. – jam Jul 3 '13 at 14:55
  • @Servy No, it's not. It's about any off topic reason not covered by the canned reasons. Read the whole thread. – Esoteric Screen Name Jul 3 '13 at 14:58
  • @EsotericScreenName That thread is about all non-canned reasons. That one comment from Shog9 is specifically about migrating to a site not on the list of migration targets. He specifically stated that that situation is a special case, which is why it requires a moderator flag. – Servy Jul 3 '13 at 15:04
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    @Servy actually it seemed to answer all three: asking a question on SO which belongs on Programmers, is about licensing legalities rather than coding, requests Facebook end user support, etc.) is "unusual"? He just called out the "belongs on Programmers" one because that is a particularly tricky and contentious migration target, not because he meant that was the only case deserving of the flag. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 3 '13 at 15:12
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    @Esoteric: I've left several different comments on this in different places, but that one looks like I was addressing your concern over migration specifically. In general, you should flag blatantly off-topic questions if they're not already being closed, but avoid using mod-flags for borderline issues unless you're willing to explain in detail why it needs mod-action. – Shog9 Jul 3 '13 at 17:13
  • @Shog9 Well that's just plain confusing. I specified repeatedly that I was asking about all off topic items in general. – Esoteric Screen Name Jul 3 '13 at 17:40

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