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This is a small administrative note.

For the past 3 years and 11 months, we've had an off-topic reason defined here for use on questions that are only relevant to a specific site:

This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated.

Now, this isn't even close to the most common close reason here; that'd be duplicate. Nor is it anywhere close to the most commonly-used off-topic reason; that'd be "This question does not appear to be about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network" A.K.A. "you asked a programming question here".

But it has still been used 95 times in the past 90 days, which is surprising for a reason that mostly exists because we needed to retrain folks who were used to coming here for questions specific to Stack Overflow. So I decided to take a look at how it's been used. Here's a random sample from the past 30 days:

  1. Dev story - specific to SO
  2. Code formatting - used on numerous sites NOT OT
  3. Specific flag declined - specific to Hinduism
  4. Answer wording - specific to Information Security
  5. Literally titled "Possible Network Bug" - NOT OT
  6. Dev story - specific to SO
  7. Question quality on SO - specific to SO
  8. Question rescuing on SO - specific to SO
  9. Getting links into the sidebar - common to all sites NOT OT
  10. Not seeing any questions when ignoring the tags all questions are in - yes, this does have "Stack Overflow" in the title, but the behavior is common to every site. NOT OT

So... That's 40% inaccurate. Not... great.

This is potentially a bigger problem than it sounds though: for most users, this is the only meta site they can post on. The rep requirement for asking a question here is 1; on Stack Overflow (and most other sites), it's 5. There's a loophole there if they happen to be asking about their own question, but if they're asking about tag filtering or suggesting edits... No dice. So this is a really critical bit of the support puzzle, even if it's not used that heavily: if you want to guarantee that someone can ask their question, you send 'em here.

After mulling on this for a bit, I've realized that perhaps the close reason itself is to blame; the emphasis starts on "pertains" when it should be on "only". There's some ambiguity in the rest of it as well; is MathJax part of the software that drives the network as a whole? The help center page doesn't really clarify that either.

So I'm switching it up:

This question's topic is only applicable to one specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should relate to features or policies that commonly apply to the network or the software that drives it, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated.

Goals:

  1. Focus on the topic of the question. This is an off-topic reason, after all.
  2. Explicit requirement that the topic be applicable to one specific site vs. the implication that anything that doesn't apply to every site is off-topic.

Please let me know if you see anything confusing or concerning in the new wording. I'll be monitoring its use as well.

Also... Please remember that there are now over eight years worth of questions on Meta Stack Exchange, and plenty of folks with gold-badge close abilities: many new questions can be closed as duplicates with little effort, thus saving time and frustration for both the asker and the close voters. Off-topic should be reserved for stuff that simply cannot be answered here, not stuff that perhaps could be answered elsewhere.

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  • 1
    A lot of those last 95 uses are because I issued a bunch of recommend closure flags against old retagging questions that were posted during the MSO era. Mar 21, 2018 at 21:01
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    That's not really a great use of time either, @Ano. Occasionally, one of those will crop up on MSO and it's worthwhile to migrate the older question over there to preserve some past discussion; otherwise, they aren't really doing much.
    – Shog9
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:04
  • 1
    That requires employee intervention, because the questions are older than 60 days, and even if they were young enough, there are no migration paths from here. Mar 21, 2018 at 21:07
  • 2
    That's why I said closing them en masse is kind of a waste of time, @Ano: we could've easily migrated all of them to MSO years ago, but it's usually better for the discussions to begin anew.
    – Shog9
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:08
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    I agree with your proposed wording, as one who normally immediately spots loopholes in things. Mar 21, 2018 at 21:10
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    Thanks, I admit my hand is sometimes too easy on the trigger with those. The new wording will hopefully restrain my hand better. Mar 21, 2018 at 23:28
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    @Ano I've noticed people (including but not limited to you) tickling ancient questions lately, both closing and editing. It feels like people are going hunting. If you come across an old question that should be closed or retagged, that's one thing, but it doesn't really help the community to stir up 8-year-old posts that long ago became irrelevant. Just a friendly suggestion. Mar 22, 2018 at 1:59
  • Great idea. The only thing that's wrong with it is that the order in the close dialog has changed, so if you have a dead-on muscle memory for voting or flagging to close blatantly off-topic questions, or a crude user script that selects the fourth option in the list, you'll have to reprogram it: the standard off-topic close reason is now the first option in the list, while this new option is the fourth option. Mar 22, 2018 at 22:58
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    That's by-design. Learned that lesson on SO: if you just replace one reason with another, folks keep using the new reason for the old purpose. Also, don't be crude with userscripts; there are plenty of easy ways to avoid breaking in that scenario.
    – Shog9
    Mar 22, 2018 at 23:00

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