I posted a question which, in a nutshell, has very few answers AFAIK and did not invite wordiness in answers. You can see it on christianity.stackexchange.com at Are there any parallel Russian / Slavonic – English prayer books for Orthodox Christians?

It was put on hold relatively quickly for reasons that were simply not true:

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.

When I started asking, the moderator who closed my question clarified that the close reason was entirely beside the point. The real reason my question was closed was that I solicited all books fitting XYZ narrow condition, and that ran afoul of the "all answers are equally valid" snare: as clarified by the moderator, who has left my question on hold after editing:

See christianity.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask. Key part: "All answers equally valid". If you can find a way to phrase it so that it's not likely to get equally valid answers if you get more than one, you're covered. I also answered more fully in the Meta post. Thank you for asking, by the way! I'm glad you cared enough to ask.

So I'd like to request...

If my question is being put on hold because it ran afoul of the "All answers are equally valid" litmus test, could the stated "on hold" reason be "You asked a question where all answers are equally valid and we don't allow that," and not give me a boilerplate assertion that either my question invites far too many answers, or that my question invites far too much verbosity in answers?

(In other words, could we move closer to a 1:1 relationship between "on hold" reasons and "on hold" messages, or ask moderators to explicitly comment what the "on hold" reason was if it is not the rubber-stamp message the user will see?)


Questions that ask for lists get closed. Partly this is because the SE mechanics just don't handle lists well. One person answers A, another B, someone else A, B and C, yet another person B and C, and it just spirals out of control. And partly because list questions cannot have a "best" answer, if everything proposed as an answer (what is a city in Canada?) is in fact a perfectly valid answer.

Some people get around this by asking "how can I find" whatever it is you're looking for. This often gets you truly useful advice, and in many cases also your list, as an example output of the process the answer is suggesting. You may also see "how can I make a decision about which X to use?" in place of the opinion based "what is the best X?"

Rather than complain that the boilerplate didn't (in your opinion) match the reasoning of the people who voted to put the question on hold, put your attention to improving it - by removing broadness, list-requesting, or opinion-requesting - so that it can come off hold.

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    But people might be more inclined to improve their question, or at least have some idea of what approach is needed, if the close reason was not "boilerplate" and was more accurate/informative. Some of the close reasons, and other pre-made messages around the site, are ideal for regular users who have become familiar with their meaning from seeing patterns and examples over time. But often not so useful for new users. The many debates about what "off topic" actually means showed this. – James Sep 7 '15 at 22:38
  • Agreed, and often the close voters leave more specific comments. It's great when they do, especially for a new user. But having more close reasons with more or less details in them isn't a solution to the issue. Commenting or asking on meta "Why?" and then editing the question to fix that (as this op seems to have done) works – Kate Gregory Sep 7 '15 at 23:04
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    If all new users on Stack Overflow came to MSO and posted when they had a close reason they did not understand, we'd be inundated with questions. – James Sep 7 '15 at 23:08
  • I did understand the stated close reason. It was patently false, by claiming that one of two false conditions held. I'm not requesting that a request for "Please list all XYZ" questions not be closed if "All answers are equally valid" is a close reason; I am asking that if my question is being closed because all answers are equally valid, please close with a stated close reason of All answers are equally valid, not a non sequitur. – Christos Hayward Sep 8 '15 at 22:16
  • @James, there's a difference between not understanding a close reason because the user does not know how to read, and not understanding a close reason because the user does not know that an apparent X is in fact code for a completely unrelated Y (as holds when "too broad" is code for "All answers to a list request are equally valid"). If it all new users [my SO rep is not stellar but not n00b] came to MSO and posted when they did not understand that an apparent X close reason is in fact code for a completely unrelated Y, you'd be inundated questions, we have a problem. – Christos Hayward Sep 8 '15 at 22:35
  • May I offer a rule of thumb? If the closer's actual, precise reason were such to be requested is a refinement of what the stated close reason means if taken literally, then a boilerplate close reason with its help link is doing its job. If (Venn diagram, but a Venn diagram of assertions rather than cases where assertions hold) the closer's actual reason overlaps but is not properly contained in the plain sense of the boilerplate text, that is reason to clarify instead of stating something partly true. If there is no Venn diagram overlap, then that is definitely a case to state the real reason. – Christos Hayward Sep 8 '15 at 23:32
  • And may I ask for a slight change in wording? Instead of saying, "We reject subjective questions, which include questions where all answers are equally valid, which include all requests for lists?" it would be better semantically to say "We also reject questions that do not provide a way to identify one answer as best, including both subjective questions and questions asking for a list of all XYZ." That preserves the boundaries of what is permitted, but offers better semantics, and clearer to learn, in that it does not place potentially objective requests for lists under a subjective umbrella. – Christos Hayward Sep 9 '15 at 0:10

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