I believe this post solves the problems mentioned here to the degree that they are solvable. I wish I'd been around long enough to know the "old" design, but the current one isn't a steaming pile, like that question implies. It's workable, but it has issues:

  1. The "Duplicate" reason shows up in two places (top-level menu and Flagging > another reason > duplicate). When clicked, each leads to the same place (Flagging > Closing > Duplicate), where you must choose a duplicated question. This belongs in the top-level menu only.

  2. There are two flags for opinion-based questions: another reason > primarily opinion based and another reason > off-topic > recommendation. If a question is likely to attract opinion-based answers, is there a difference between on-topic and off-topic?

    This has the sole purpose of making a subtle distinction:

    • "This is on-topic, but opinion-based..."
    • "This is opinion-based and off-topic, since it's not about programming..."

      "...so it is not allowed on SO." What is the value of making that distinction? In fact, the first reason may even confuse new users a bit. Simplifying this to "opinion-based questions aren't allowed" will reduce menu size and, as a bonus, avoid any (unlikely, but) possible confusion.

  3. In Flagging > another reason > off-topic, "belongs on another site" (i.e. migration) is parallel to "ask on SU instead" and "ask on SF instead." Even worse, the flags aren't even grouped together by "reasoning":

    1. Ask elsewhere (SU)
    2. Improve question (Valid code, SSCCE)
    3. Improve question (Minimal understanding, attempts, expected result)
    4. Ask elsewhere (SF)
    5. Improve question (recommendations)
    6. Migrate

    Points 1 and 4 not only clutter the list, but they are utterly useless, and borderline harmful:

    • If the question was too bad to be migrated, closing it as "off-topic," but telling the asker "you may be able to get help on S[U/F]" implies that the question is high-enough quality to be asked elsewhere. If that's the case, it should be migrated instead of closed.
    • If the question was good enough to be migrated, (obviously) it would be migrated anyway.

  4. Perhaps more sites should be allowed as migration targets. Meta, SU, TeX, Database Administrators, and SharePoint. Not even SF? If SF is good enough to tell the asker they could get help there, why isn't it good enough to migrate to? Not every site has to be available, but that list is quite sparse.

    I suggest stealing the box from the newly-implemented StackExchange™ SingleCollider NormalDropdown™ for searching for a site; the difference is that the MigrationCollider would only include approved (by some process) sites.

  5. We use "off-topic" to mean something completely different - "needs improvement, and here they are." Indeed, each (necessary) flag option under that menu provides direction to make a question better. Most of the time it could be accompanied by "be more specific" and askers would have more useful information than "this is off-topic." This phrase should be all but dropped.

The Problem As Depicted In Paint: (redundant flags marked with minimally-obnoxious red arrows)

Image: all flags, with redundant flags linked

The Solution: [in text :( ]

Avoid any overlapping between the above scopes, and shuffle the hierarchy a little:

  1. another reason > duplicate is itself a duplicate. (burn)
  2. another reason > off-topic > [SU/SF/Recommendations] are essentially duplicates. (burn)
  3. another reason and another reason > off-topic shall be merged into "needs editing", since their options aren't necessarily about a question being off-topic; instead, they're about why the question needs improvement.
  4. Newly-spawned "needs editing" shall reside in the top-level menu.

The clean, duplicate-free result:

  • Spam
  • Offensive
  • Duplicate of...
    • Choose what it duplicates
  • Needs editing because...
    • Describe problem, valid code, SSCCE
    • Minimal understanding, attempts, expected results
    • Unclear what you're asking
    • Too broad
    • Primarily opinion-based
  • Low-quality ("beyond saving")
  • Belongs on another Stack Exchange site ("migration") (the new "off-topic")
  • Other (needs moderator attention)
  • 2
    For some reason it just seems wrong not to upvote this.
    – Bathsheba
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:16
  • Note that the SU and SF reasons are not migration targets. Rather, they are part of the custom OT reasons just for Stack Overflow, and result in outright closure, not migration. Use those for questions that are of too low quality to migrate. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:17
  • Same for the 'recommendation of off-site resources' OT reason; it is custom, a more explicit reason to close such questions. There are other questions that are opinion based that do not ask for external resources, but they are less common and the resource requests deserve a more explicit reason. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:18
  • The list of sites available for migration is based on popularity, successrate and the moderators of the target site also have a say. Automated migrations to SF have been rejected too often, so it was removed from the list again. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:27
  • @MartijnPieters I've already told the OP that these aren't migration options, which is one of the reasons he actually posted this question. The point is: even if the question were too low quality to migrate, why tell the OP to ask on SU/SF? That'd just result in them posting the same low quality crap again. Just get rid of the options and everyone will be happy.
    – slhck
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:47
  • 1
    @slhck: The OT reasons link to the About pages of the other sites; the asker is given another chance to learn about how to ask questions. I am all for giving them the benefit of the doubt, and you can still educate them further in the comments on the post. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:49
  • @MartijnPieters Unfortunately, from the quality of the questions I've seen, I don't have strong reason to believe that the majority of users who read the OT message will actually read and comprehend what they're linked to, but instead just post their question again—because hey, they've been told to, right? We eliminated these options from SU for the same reasons.
    – slhck
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 13:53
  • 2
    None of the changes you are proposing actually do anything to the flagging dialog. Everything you are proposing actually impacts the closing dialog which would impact every single site, not just Stack Overflow. So I don't see how this is even workable without another overhaul of the close system. Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 14:05
  • @psubsee2003. Low-rep users don't know about closing dialog. For them it's a branch of flagging dialog.
    – zch
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 16:10
  • @zch I realize that, but it doesn't change what he is proposing changed. Because of how it is designed, this is not just moving a few options around and would impact all 100 sites, not just Stack Overflow Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 16:12

1 Answer 1



I will agree with the fact that the current organization is not ideal, is not intuitive, and could be adjusted to be grouped a little better for specific sites, but there are 2 major flaws in your logic here:

  1. You are misunderstanding how the flagging and closing dialogs interact with each other and why they are currently designed they way they are.
  2. You are looking at the close reasons from the perspective of a single site (Stack Overflow) and not considering how such a change would impact other sites. As the close system is designed, it needs to be uniform for every single site, or you are going to have a mismash of different dialogs on every single site, which would be a maintenance nightmare (from a code perspective) since we're now well beyond 100 different SE sites.

So first, the flagging dialog

It is not nearly as complex as you think it is. Believe it or not, it is not a multi-level menu with different suboptions. It is a single dialog with 6 options (for most users).

  • It is Spam
  • It is offensive, abusive, or hate speech
  • It is low quality (and this only shows up when the post meets specific score criteria)
  • It is a duplicate
  • It should be closed for another reason
  • Other

That's it, that is all that there is to the flagging dialog. And changes to how you flag posts need to be confined to the 6 options here.

So you might now be asking what happens when I click "It is duplicate" or "It should be closed for another reason"?

Well, it is simple, you leave the flagging dialog and enter the closing dialog. This is one of the key changes to the massive close system overhaul from June 2013. Now users with <3K rep can have more of a say in closing questions. When you flag a post to close, your flag now behaves exactly like a close vote (except the "vote" doesn't count in the 5 needed to close), in that it sends the post to the close vote queue (and recent flags get a high priority so they are usually seen first) and even adds a "possible duplicate" auto-comment to the post if you flagged it as a duplicate.

When you get to the close dialog, there are only 5 close reasons, and these same 5 close reasons exist on every single site (from Stack Overflow, to Meta Stack Overflow, to Pets.SE, to Programmers.SE, to Cooking.SE). So these reasons were selected to be applicable to every single site.

  • Duplicate
  • Off-topic because....
  • Primarily Opinion-based
  • Too Broad
  • Unclear what you are asking

Any changes to this would impact every single site, so this also means you can't have any site specific reasons on this menu. Trying to put "minimal understanding" or "must describe a specific problem" here isn't appropriate because I don't think those reasons are appropriate on any non-programming site.

However, the SE team recognized that you need more than just these 5 close reasons on every site. On some sites, there are specific questions that are out of scope or are otherwise not good fits for the site, so they added site specific close reasons. Any they chose to group all of these close reasons under "off-topic because..". Now you have a valid argument that these are not necessarily off-topic. In fact that was already discussed in Shouldn't "off-topic" be only about... off-topic?, so I'm not going to rehash that discussion here.

So if you go to any site and click "flag > close for another reason > off-topic", you'll see a collection of different reasons. Some sites don't have any customized reasons yet and the only option you'll see is a generic "off-topic" reason and the migration option. But on many sites, you'll see 3 or 4 (or more) different options, plus the migration options. These options were picked specifically for each site to provide better feedback to the OP as to what might be wrong with the post and why it was closed.

So why is duplicate duplicated in the flagging and close dialog

That was a design decision that the SE team made. First, clicking duplicate from the flag dialog is just a short cut to clicking "flag > closed for another reason > duplicate". Both lead to the same place.

This has been mentioned several times, but all of the duplicates point to New flagging dialog has a duplicate for duplicate. There isn't an answer or even a [status-*] tag, but my belief is that they chose to give duplicates a special place in the flagging dialog to highlight the duplicate option because the current preference is posts should be closed as a duplicate if one exists before any other close reason is used.

And even though they added it to the flag dialog, they can't remove it from the close dialog as users who enter the close dialog directly won't have an option to close a post as a duplicate.

And to address your specific points...

...that I didn't address above.

There are two flags for opinion-based questions: another reason > primarily opinion based and another reason > off-topic > recommendation. If a question is likely to attract opinion-based answers, is there a difference between on-topic and off-topic?

Not really. There are 2 different close reasons on Stack Overflow that have some overlap but are used for different purposes.

  1. primarily opinion based - is a primary close reason for all sites. This is for questions that cannot be reasonably answered without excessive opinions or guessing.
  2. off-topic > Tool Recommendations - is a site specific close reason for Stack Overflow (and I believe Programmers and SU have similar reasons as well). The purpose of this reason is to highlight to the OP that tool recommendations are not on-topic. If we closed all of these as "primarily opinion based" the OP may be confused because they may not understand what specifically about the question is wrong. The Tool Recommendation reason provides very specific guidance.

In Flagging > another reason > off-topic, "belongs on another site" (i.e. migration) is parallel to "ask on SU instead" and "ask on SF instead." Even worse, the flags aren't even grouped together by "reasoning":

The Migration option is a specific migration option to allow regular users move a post to a new site. This is only for a very limited subset of sites in which there are a high rate of success of recent migrations. It is purposefully does not include every site, part of the reason is because the collective community has an awful success rate in migrating questions as they do not really understand the scopes of the target sites.

The two site specific close reasons, "Belongs on SU" and "Belongs on SF" are there to serve as non-migration pointers to the OP that there are other sites where their question might be better received. They specifically reference the help center of each site so the OP can supposedly check whether their question is on-topic on that site or not. I don't think this works as intended and may need to be rethought, but I think that's a separate discussion on revision the site-specific close reasons on SO.

  • I still don't agree with suggesting that askers move their not-good-enough-for-SO questions to another site; I'm skeptical that they'll read or improve their posts. But you have made me aware of another piece of the exchange, so thanks for that. I'll try to be correct in my assertions from now on. :)
    – Trojan
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 12:03
  • @trojansdestroy I do agree with that point. I was focusing specifically on why the existing dialog is structure in the way it was and not specifically trying to refute your proposal as I think the organization could be better. But for the SU/SF close reason, they are there to highlight to some users that other sites exist where their questions might be on-topic. There may be a better way to accomplish that goal. A smaller, more focused proposal might be a better way to start a discussion on that Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 12:11

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