In Stack Exchange sites, the Help Center has a "What topics can I ask about here?" which lists the topics that are allowed in question, but also which topics are not allowed. For example, for Drupal Answers the list is the following.

  • Comparison between Drupal and other CMS's, blog software, or similar software
  • Requests for tutorials, and other online resources
  • Requests for writing code from scratch
  • Building a site from scratch
  • Implementing a functionality, or a layout seen in a site, for which only a screenshot or a site URL is provided
  • Issues found in existing modules/themes
  • Issues about drupal.org, or any of its sub-domains
  • Recommendations for hosting

Given those descriptions, it would be better for users who flag a question to close it to flag it as off-topic, without giving a sub-reason. This would allow to use the following workflow for questions flagged as off-topic. (It's the same workflow used for questions flagged as duplicates, unclear, too broad, or primarily opinion-based.)

  • The user flag the question
  • The question is added to the Close Votes review queue
  • Another user votes to close it
  • The flag is automatically handled, and marked as helpful

For off-topic questions for which a sub-reason doesn't apply, the user can only flag it for moderation attention and use a custom reason. It means only moderators can see the flag, and only them can decide whenever close it, or keep it open.

The alternatives for the users who can only flag would be:

  • Choose a sub-reason that really doesn't apply for that question; this would give the user the habit to choose a random closing reason, since the question gets closed in any case

  • Choose another reason that is not off-topic; also in this case, the user would get the habit to choose a random closing reason, with the effect that the user would be confused about why sometimes the question is closed, and sometimes it is not

I can understand why using a custom comment is left just for those users who can vote to close it, but I think that allowing those users who can only flag to flag a question as off-topic (without giving any sub-reason) is preferable to having the user using a random flagging reason or letting the moderators only decide about closing the question.

This change is probably indifferent for Stack Overflow, but for sites like Drupal Answers it could make a difference. IMO, it doesn't make sense that (for example) flags for duplicates can be handled from the community, but a flag for a question the Help Center defines as off-topic needs a moderator to handle it.

  • 2
    If I'm not mistaken, the previous implementation before the GUI change last month changed this from only being able to select "off-topic" without specifying a reason to being forced to select a reason. Personally, I prefer the old way if you have to choose one or the other. Both would be better though. Oct 1 '13 at 12:19
  • Not quite a dupe, but certainly related: Is an option missing in the new off-topic reasons?
    – user213634
    Oct 1 '13 at 16:32

First off, I'd have to dig for it a bit, but I recall reading shog9 mentioning that some information is being collected on the accuracy of close flags or something to that effect.

Secondly, keeping a consistent interface for flagging and close votes helps maintain, well, consistency for when someone who is flagging 'graduates' to having close votes. Think of close flags as training wheels for close votes. Familiarizing them with the close vote reasons does help.

Consider if flaggers could put 'other' and put their own text. Sometimes, people have some really strange off topic ideas (even when they have close votes).

I believe a better approach would be to have text (akin to a mod attention flag) that is presented to the /review queue reviewers for them to look.

Even just an 'other' option (with no entry) would be preferable to choosing a random reason. But choosing a random reason is possibly better than choosing no reason (and thus people still guessing about the reasons for off topic).

  • 1
    I wouldn't mind this approach, but first we'd need to build that into /review (which is another feature request floating around). Don't like the idea of a flag that just generates comments at all, for the reasons you state.
    – Shog9
    Oct 1 '13 at 19:37
  • To me, off-topic without any reason would mean "off-topic because what reported in the Help Center." Using the wrong reason sounds to me like flagging as spam something that is not spam: There would be users who invalidate the flag without seeing if there are other problems.
    – apaderno
    Oct 1 '13 at 21:02

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