Related: No custom off topic message when flagging on SO

I recently noticed something: The off topic subreason chosen by flaggers doesn't make any difference at all. Specifically, the subreason chosen is not shown to close voters.

Besides, as the "other" reason is unavailable, a lot of cases that aren't covered by the custom off topic reasons aren't flaggable unless you use a moderator flag (which is less useful as it doesn't go into the review queues). This is a gap in the workflow, and not entirely intuitive for flaggers.

I propose that we give the flaggers one close off topic reason (and one migration reason)? It seems like the backend already treats custom close flags as the same.

The most obvious objection here (to me) is that it removes part of the usefulness of the close reasons -- the fact that, for flaggers and VTCers, it's much easier to determine whether or not the question should be closed.

However, this can be solved by nesting the close reasons under the description of a generic "Does not fit the topic" close reason.

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Alternatively, just give flaggers an extra default close reason "This question does not appear to be about $Topic, within the scope defined in the help center."


2 Answers 2


Changing the flag reasons as suggested in the question would be a significant step up from the current system, as it restores the missing generic off topic flagging workflow. Also, I presume it would be a relatively simple change.

I'd rather have the additional generic option than a single option with nested explanations, for the following reasons:

  • It would more closely match the close vote dialog, better preparing users for the transition to close voting when they reach 3000 reputation. Perhaps the text could include a hint that there's a custom option for close voting, which would replace the generic flagging option?
  • It makes the generic option explicit, rather than implied by "common reasons include", making it obvious that the missing workflow is restored.
  • Putting the option at the end suggests that it's the least important close reason and the option of last resort. This could also be made explicit by inclusion of text to that effect.

One downside of the extra option is that it maintains the current status of having the UI inconsistent with the back end behavior, by implying that the sub reason matters when it doesn't. Whether this is desirable is debatable, though; see the second bullet point below.

However, I think it would be much better to change the back end so that the sub reasons are shown, both to reviewing close voters and on the flagging summary page. This would no doubt be considerably more work, but offers the following benefits over the simple UI update:

  • User feedback and education improve greatly. Being able to see the specific reason chosen and how the close voters felt about it teaches users when the various options are appropriate. The system doesn't teach this to flaggers as it stands now.
  • This removes a rather sharp disconnect between two activities which generally appear synonymous to users. Now that I know the sub reasons don't matter, I might as well use the any of them when flagging an off topic question, even if none of them apply (and I'm sorely tempted to do so in that case). This is behavior which should be negatively reinforced, as some users might let it continue when they begin close voting.
  • Close voters receive a better suggestion of what's wrong with the post.
  • The reason I want nested explanations (even if they're not selectable) is this: the moment I saw the new close reasons on SO, I was much clearer on what is and isn't appropriate there. It's way easier to apply the new reasons as they're much more objective. Which is why the bullet points would be best kept, even as guidelines. Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 1:49
  • In addition to my feature request for improving the flagging dialog, I made similar request for the flagging summary page as well: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/186676/…
    – user213634
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 13:24
  • @Manishearth Agreed, the new reasons should be shown no matter what the selection functionality is. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 14:06
  • @EsotericScreenName I just re-read your answer. Do you have any documentation that the OT subreason isn't stored?
    – user213634
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 8:03
  • 1
    @AndersUP I don't know whether the flag subreason is stored or not, though I'm willing to guess that it is, given how close flags operate. My answer doesn't state whether it is or isn't; though if it's not, my suggested improvements would require storing it. Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 15:19
  • Specifically, the subreason chosen is not shown to close voters.

    The flag dialog now indicates if you have a pending flag, putting the message "this is the flag that you have raised" with the flag-reason the pending flga is for

  • Alternatively, just give flaggers an extra default close reason "This question does not appear to be about $Topic, within the scope defined in the help center."

    This is a default for meta sites. Not sure if that was already the case when this feature-request was originally posted.

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