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The what is clear: To allow the entire StackExchange network to be inherently a little bit more polite while remaining helpful.

The how is clear: To extend the Off-Topic Close Reasons by 112 characters.

The simple question is: What does it take to make this happen?

The long question:

At the moment, close reasons are limited to 400 characters. This makes it hard to write polite close reasons and results in rather brusque and curt messages that does alienate new users. For example, we would like to change the following close reason from AskUbuntu from this:

This question has been asked before and already has an answer.

To something like this:

We've searched AskUbuntu and found that your question already has an answer. Please check here: [link]. If this doesn't answer your question, please reword your question to explain in more depth.

So what does it take to increase the allowable responses from 400 to 512 characters?

Does it take:

  • a highly voted question on meta.StackExchange.com?
  • rallying all the users on all sites in the network?
  • me flying into NY and banging a magnum bottle of Champagne on Joel Spolsky's desk?

Thank you?

  • 8
    As far as system messages being slightly more polite, I agree. – blade19899 Jan 16 '15 at 8:56
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    Does the user whose post is flagged offensive actually see the flag description? My impression is that the description is only seen by the one raising the flag, as a description of what the flag is for. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 16 '15 at 9:41
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    Pictures please of you banging that bottle on the desk of Mr. Spolsky. – rene Jan 16 '15 at 9:41
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    @Fabby - yes, those are the comments from the review queues NOT from offensive flags. – ChrisF Jan 16 '15 at 10:02
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    I am confused. Could you make it more clear which particular system message you want to extend by which text? It is not clear to me which message "no service for you" is supposed to represent. And which additional 112 characters do you wish to add? – HugoRune Jan 16 '15 at 13:07
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    Which close reason looks like this? Do you mean the options I get when clicking on "flag"? Or the options I get when clicking on "flag"/"it should be closed..."? Neither one conveys to me anything like "no service for you". A screenshot with the text you refer to highlighted would really help here. Or even just a direct quote. – HugoRune Jan 16 '15 at 13:14
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    I get that you don't think they are polite, but I really actually do not know which messages you refer to (though I do have some guesses). I'm not trying to be coy here, could you just quote the text you are talking about? – HugoRune Jan 16 '15 at 13:18
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    "Dear Sir/Madam user123456789: We are very sorry to inform you that your question has been closed for being too awesome for Stack Exchange to handle. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience you may have experienced with respect to this. Looking forward to hearing from you. Sincerely yours, [close voters names]" – gnat Jan 16 '15 at 14:24
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    @Fabby, I'm 100% behind ways to make it feel better. As to what it'll take? All those things, especially the champagne. But start here: can you edit to be more specific about what specific messages you'd change (from what to what)? – Jaydles Jan 16 '15 at 15:39
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    @Fabby, I think editing the question is the best - your question implies a specific change would help, but isn't quite specific enough to consider it. Also, if you haven't seen it, check out this post: we do care a lot about this issue: blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/06/the-war-of-the-closes – Jaydles Jan 16 '15 at 18:21
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    Sorry, but I do not think a Q&A site should apologize to users who misuse it. Comments should be polite, not close banners. They should be short and to the point. – ShaWiz Jan 18 '15 at 13:22
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    I understand your point, but close banner starting with "We're sorry but..." sounds too... meekly to me. Users will think the veteran users owe them something, and it might just lead to more confusion in the long run. (plus, who are the "we" exactly? The users who closed the question?) – ShaWiz Jan 18 '15 at 13:39
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    @ShadowWizard I agree with Terdon. The question hadn't changed, it was just a lot more concise than the monster this thing mutated into. The existing answer still applies. – Oli Jan 18 '15 at 16:15
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    "12-yo native English speaker" ಠ_ಠ People of any given age will have a wide range of abilities in different areas. I don't think generalizing to say a group of people all have some level of skill or knowledge in a given area is fair, and when that is used to imply that many people's skill levels are poor it comes across to me as rude, or even dehumanizing. – bjb568 Jan 19 '15 at 2:55
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    Though it may be tangential to the actual point of your post, I have to agree with @bjb568 here; I hate to hinge on little things, but I think the vocabulary of an average 12-year-old native English speaker is a lot broader than you seem to assume here. Your point comes off a bit ad hominem with phrasing like that, and it's not doing your argument any favors. – AstroCB Jan 19 '15 at 3:16
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The best that you can hope for in a close reason is a neutral tone. No matter how much you try, you're not going to convince the author that the closure is a positive thing if it means that people can't post answers.

The primary goal, is to communicate to the author why the question is closed, and what they have to do to fix it.

That's about as welcoming as a close question can get. So long as you're not rude to askers their primary concern will be the fact that their question is closed. Not the tone of the close message.

What the askers actually want is to know what to do about it. They have a problem to solve, and even they just want the information. They probably don't feel like taking the time to read extra patronizing.

  • 1
    The difference is in how people feel about their closed question. – Aza Jan 16 '15 at 18:20
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    Personally when someone tries to tell me that I'm an idiot in what they think is being extremely "polite", it more often than not just comes off as insincere and even more offensive than dry facts. – Servy Jan 16 '15 at 18:21
  • @Emrakul So, judging by how differently people will feel about the closed question with extra patronizing tacked on, you're saying that there is no difference?> – Sam I am Jan 16 '15 at 18:21
  • @Emrakul In my experiences the vast majority of people don't even bother to read the (entire) close reason. They're upset that their question is closed, not because the specific wording of why their question was closed offended them. – Servy Jan 16 '15 at 18:21
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    @Sam There's a difference between patronizing and respectful. A distinct difference. Our options aren't "purely informative" or "patronizing." That's a false dichotomy. – Aza Jan 16 '15 at 18:22
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    @Servy It's not just about the close reason, but the tone of comments handling the question. – Aza Jan 16 '15 at 18:25
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    @Emrakul This particular feature request is in fact just about the close reason. – Servy Jan 16 '15 at 18:25
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    I agree that is shouldn't matter, but I think the reality is that "We can't help you. You did it wrong by doing [thing]." is a lot less likely to motivate another try than "We can help you just as soon as you can [do opposite of thing]." The info is the same, but one sounds like "I'm eager to help you - here's what to do" and one sounds like "I've judged you, and found you wanting." Humans are weird. – Jaydles Jan 16 '15 at 18:26
  • Let's agree to disagree: "You're fired" is neutral. However "Unfortunately, we're downsizing, but we're letting the people without children, unmarried, still living with their parents go first and we're paying for outplacement so that you can find another job as quickly as possible" is not. And what I'm trying to accomplish, is the latter. :-) – Fabby Jan 17 '15 at 23:26
  • @Emrakul: thank you! – Fabby Jan 17 '15 at 23:28
  • @Servy: yes and no. The real world out there doesn't come in shades of grey: it comes in full colour! ;-) – Fabby Jan 17 '15 at 23:30
  • @Jaydles: Thank you! Humans are not weird: they're alien! ;-) – Fabby Jan 17 '15 at 23:31
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    @Fabby but we're letting the people without children, unmarried, still living with their parents go first Yes, that's right, insult the more when you fire them. Shame on them for still living in their parents house and/or not getting married. and we're paying for outplacement so that you can find another job as quickly as possible There's not a debate over whether users find it more friendly if there's a substantive difference in how their question is closed. The difference between getting fired with and without outplacement is not an analogy for the question here – Sam I am Jan 18 '15 at 0:57
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    Like I said: Let's agree to disagree. It's not a black&white world out there: it's full colour and I'm yellow and you're purple! – Fabby Jan 18 '15 at 1:06

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