Hi! Here's a link to my website. Something in the HTML/CSS/Javascript isn't working. Can you tell me what?

This type of question is obviously not useful, as once a fix has been provided, the website will presumably be updated to incorporate it. And then later it'll be completely redesigned. And at some point it'll die and the domain will be taken over by squatters. It happens.

Such questions should, then, be edited to include actual code. If you're feeling public-spirited, you should do it yourself. Alternatively, you could close till the asker edits and asks for a reopen. And, if the questions are old, and there's no way to access the original code, the question should be closed.

Clear enough. My question: What close reason applies to these questions? We used to have an SSCCE close reason, but it's disappeared. What applies now?


Leaving aside the case of old questions, for new questions where the question being a 'link-only' question is the sole or primary problem, I would always use a custom close reason now that the SSCCE reason is gone. Here, I'll make one up in case anyone wants to copy and paste it:

Questions regarding a problem with code on your website should always include the relevant sections of code, not just link to a page on your site. This ensures that your question will remain understandable to future readers once the problem has been fixed. See http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/254428 for more information.

The problem with Robert Harvey's approach is that while it may be technically valid to close these questions as "unclear what you're asking", it doesn't communicate to question asker - or anyone else who isn't already familiar with Stack Overflow's norms - what the specific problem with their question is. Given that such communication is the entire purpose of close reasons, I think that this point matters.

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    see Should we have a more specific close reason for vague debugging questions? at MSO - there is now an SO-specific custom close reason to cover this – gnat Jan 19 '15 at 9:09
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    @gnat yes indeed - the new close reason certainly contains this nicely within its scope, and is probably the best thing to use today. The reason I proposed in this answer a year ago is arguably slightly more precise for the particular case this question asks about, but the extra few seconds copying and pasting is more effort than most questions I'd want to use it on deserve. :) – Mark Amery Jan 19 '15 at 9:13

Refer to https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/126000/

It will nearly always be unclear what you're asking: the problem exists only on one page, at one point in time. It's unlikely anyone else will write the exact same code (even if they encounter the same underlying problem), and once a solution is devised and the page fixed, the link won't even serve to demonstrate the problem.

  • I think unclear fits best for new questions as well. If the details of the issue were included then the question could be viable. – Travis J Jan 14 '14 at 17:55
  • But what about for older questions? – Travis J Jan 14 '14 at 17:56
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    @TravisJ: "Can no longer be reproduced" works. The OP almost certainly fixed the problem with the page by then. – user102937 Jan 14 '14 at 17:57
  • Well, for an old question, where the problematic code is no longer available, @TravisJ, I'd say the question is definitely unclear. – TRiG Jan 14 '14 at 17:58
  • @MarkAmery: No, it doesn't. But it's all we have (none of the current close reasons are more specific than this). Post a detailed comment to the OP if you feel that they need further explanation. – user102937 Jan 15 '14 at 0:34
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    I am with @Mark on this one. It doesn't make any sense to me that we would make a weaker signal to the person who's question is getting closed when the whole goal of the close changes was originally to make the close reasons easier to understand for those same users. Either there needs to be a better blurb for these reasons with a linked page that explains all the cases it covers, or we should really get a better-fitting close reason back. If I was told my question was unclear in these cases, I would be quite miffed (if you click on the link, it is very clear after all). – jmac Jan 15 '14 at 1:58
  • @jmac: Then propose a new close reason in a [feature-request]. One that won't be abused by the community, or co-opted to mean something different that what the close reason actually says. – user102937 Jan 15 '14 at 3:38
  • @Robert, there are two issues. One is preventing people from abusing close reasons. One is properly informing users why their question was closed and how to get it reopened. Removing close reasons will not prevent people from what they want to close, it will just weaken the signal to the users who have closed questions. I would love to provide stats showing we just shifted the problem but they aren't available, and until we understand the problem it's premature to suggest a solution, no? – jmac Jan 15 '14 at 3:53

I assume you are you talking about what close reason applies to these types of questions after the website link has gone dark.

I think that if:

  • the website link is still active and relavent
  • and the OP has not abandoned the question
  • and the basic premise of the question is good

then other means should be used to try to improve the question before closing it.

Some 'bad' questions (within reason) have the potential to become a good question, with a good answer... A closed (bad) question helps no one.


There was a recent change to the close reasons, and I think the newly crafted one fits perfectly here in a few ways.

If the question was old and there is no way to tell what the original cause was then

"This question was caused by a problem that can't be reproduced"

fits that aspect. Moreover, it would also fall into the clause

"this one was solved in a manner unlikely to help future readers"

as the answer cannot really be confirmed. Mostly though, the last line of the close reason points out to the user that they should really include some sort of demo or reproducible issue.

"This can often be avoided by identifying and closely inspecting the shortest program necessary to reproduce the problem before posting."

I would suggest using this close reason for older questions. Off topic -> "This question was caused by a problem that can't be reproduced..."

For newer questions however, I don't think it would fit as well. Often these questions will overlap with other close reasons. If there is a link to a website, but no actual code is included, then that question is unclear or too broad. It would really benefit from having the problem code included in the question. Without it, users could speculate that all sorts of changes would need to be implemented. So too broad could fit

"There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs."

Unclear could also fit here, especially if the title is, "debug my website" (which would really benefit from some extra clarity). I think this might fit newer questions a little more accurately as the problem still exists, and if it were to be highlighted then perhaps it could be properly addressed.

"Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need..."

In the end, these types of questions definitely need to be closed. Choosing a close reason is important, but so is maintaining high quality content.

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