Graduated sites may have up to five standard off-topic reasons. Why are beta sites are limited to three?

Is it because "you ain't going to need it"? That is demonstrably false for Code Review — we have struggled to collapse our off-topic reasons into three categories. And that is confusing for users who have had their questions closed, because they often try to address the wrong issue or get offended for the wrong reason. We could use custom reasons instead, but we really try to encourage the use of standard reasons so that people don't just make up rules.

An important goal of the beta phase is to define the scope of the site. Codifying the rules into the standard off-topic reasons is an important part of that process. Why shouldn't beta sites have up to five reasons, just like the graduated sites that they hope to become?


2 Answers 2


That's not a beta site restriction. It's an all site restriction. A site starts with three and, if they can convince us that they need more, are given more. They don't automatically receive additional close reason slots just by graduating, and it doesn't always jump up to five.

As an example, Ask Ubuntu only has four reasons. Most graduated sites, even Super User, only have the default three custom close reasons.

  • And some only have two... like Sci-Fi. :)
    – Catija
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 23:56
  • @Catija That's just because they're only using two. They still have three slots available.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 23:58
  • Sorry, that was poorly worded... I was implying that not all graduated sites even use all three they get by default.
    – Catija
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 23:58

Nothing to do with graduated or beta. Everything to do with YAGNI.

The precursor to the built-in off-topic reasons was the site-editable FAQ page (now /help/on-topic), which started out succinctly describing the site's scope. We quickly observed a tendency for sites to turn this into a laundry list of topics, exhaustively describing every frustration anyone on the site might've ever had with a question.

This is understandable. It's also pointless; no one remembers that whole list, and so it mostly gets used as a convenient way for folks to quickly damn questions they don't like with a hand-wavy gesture in the direction of The Big List.

So the goal for the canned Off Topic reasons is to take the most commonly-used explanations for off-topic questions and put them somewhere convenient, thus ensuring that...

  1. ...Common mistakes are clearly explained.
  2. ...Folks don't have to keep wasting their time explaining why these topics aren't allowed.

When we were getting ready to roll this out, I went through every site's history of off-topic questions and categorized them... And it turned out that most sites do not actually get very many off-topic questions. So with that in mind (along with the past history of awful FAQs), we decided to limit the number of slots available to slightly more than what was necessary, with the goal of allowing sites to create new reasons as necessary without encouraging folks to fill in the slots until the lists became as unwieldy as the FAQs.

So, what if you do need more? As I wrote when this was rolled out,

Large lists make selection tedious and difficult. Fortunately, most sites do not attract an extremely high volume of off-topic questions, and those that are asked tend to be about a relatively small number of topics - therefore, we limit the number of active reasons to 3. A few sites do get a regular influx of off-topic questions in a larger number of distinct categories; if you find this to be the case on your site, post a feature-request on your meta site with examples of questions that would benefit from a predefined off-topic option - we'll verify the need for this and work with you to make more reasons available.

The fly in the ointment here is that it's actually rather difficult to analyze this. You can query SEDE, but the list excludes anything deleted. Oded is working this week on fixing that by adding a new page with detailed statistics on this.

See also: How do moderators make changes to the site-specific closed question reasons?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .