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Historically, when encountering blatantly off-topic questions (usually programming questions) here on Meta.SE, I would raise a Close flag (usually off-topic: This question does not appear to be about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network, within the scope defined in the help center.).

With the recent "flood" of off-topic questions that suddenly seemed to pick up this fall, I started to wonder if I should be using the Very Low Quality (VLQ) flag instead. Guidance on Meta.SO indicates that VLQ is "for things that warrant immediate deletion". I noticed that off-topic questions here tend to get deleted rather quickly. George Stocker, a mod on SO, mentioned that:

By flagging something as very low quality, you're asking for a straight pass to moderator deletion. No editing, putting 'on hold' by 5 members of the community, deleted by 3, or voting allowed. You want a moderator to skip that entire process because the question is so terrible that there's no way it could ever be salvaged through that process.

This seems to describe the actual behavior I see here on Meta.SE - since off-topic questions get deleted quickly (within two or three hours), I began to wonder whether the speedy deletion is actually signaling to me that there is a real desire to get these questions gone from this site as quickly as possible, as opposed to leaving them around in a closed state waiting to be improved (or not), gathering further downvotes. In other words, off-topic questions on Meta.SE really are considered so "terrible" that they deserve a "straight pass" to deletion.

I'm not really concerned about declined flags - my helpful rate for flagging these kind of posts is very high, and doesn't seem to vary based on whether I raise Close or VLQ, so I'm really asking about best practices. What's the consensus here on Meta.SE? Are off-topic "omg my code no work" questions bad enough to warrant a VLQ flag, or should I use Close only? Which would be more efficient to the particular processes used on this site?

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    Here's a best practice: Get to 3k and close them yourself ;) || If you're looking for the speediest way to send people a message to have them gone, the Rene–Bart method is the most effective I've seen. Really, it doesn't matter what flag you use, and with the advent of new mods, we have too big an arsenal to deal with blatantly off-topic posts anyway. – M.A.R. Dec 20 '18 at 5:01
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Voting to close is good.

Up until our current crop of mods, myself included, the technique that seemed effective was to drop a message on the tavern on the meta with or some variant thereof, and downvote, sometime pairing it with delete requests.

With mods, it still happens, but often we handle it.

Basically treat it like an off topic question on any site at all. Flag or vote to close. VLQ seems inappropriate here, but it'll likely get it handled anyway.

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Either one is fine, however, there are some situations when one would be better than the other.

If a question is high quality but off topic, it would be better to flag for closing because it's not necessarily low quality, it's just on the wrong site and might be migrated to the correct site. However, if a question is off-topic and wouldn't be well received even on a site where it is on-topic, it would be better to flag as VLQ, since it it low quality and would have no lasting value anywhere. Also remember that flagging a post as VLQ sends it to the low quality posts queue.

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    That's what I suspect as well, but I've also seen that very few off-topic questions here ever get migrated elsewhere, so perhaps that criterion is really not relevant in practice - that "off-topic" effectively means "off-topic, delete immediately, nobody cares to put in the time and effort to do a proper migration". – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Dec 20 '18 at 5:04
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    @RobertColumbia A lot of people who ask off topic questions here are banned on the site they should be asking on which makes migration impossible. – Laurel Dec 20 '18 at 5:46
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    Migration can only be done by diamond moderators (on Meta SE). These have a slightly higher chance to notice the question when flagged as VLQ, but at the end of the day, neither the close nor the VLQ flag is very likely to effect migration. The best way to effect migration is a custom moderator flag. (Note that in the vast majority of cases it is better to ask the asker to ask an improved version of their question on the correct site.) – Wrzlprmft Dec 20 '18 at 6:24
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The two flags have the following effect (assuming that everybody agrees that the question in question is unsalvageably closeworthy):

  • Close sends the question to the close queue. It is removed from the queue as soon as the question is closed.

  • VLQ sends the question to the low-quality queue, where 3k users can vote to close and 2k users can recommend to close (both send the question to the close queue as well). Also, after some time, the question appears in the moderator queue, from which moderators can close or delete it immediately. Once the question is closed, it is removed from all queues, including the moderator queue (unless it also has custom moderator flags or similar).

Once closed, it doesn’t matter how the question got there.

Given that review queues do not grow very huge here on Meta, we can expect that all reviewers who go through the close queue also go through the low-quality queue, so here the distinction doesn’t matter. The main effect is that in the low-quality queue, questions are seen by 2k users who cannot do anything useful with them. Also, in case the question makes it to the moderator queue, it wastes a bit of moderator time with something that does not really need moderator invention.

Thus, I opt to flag for closure.

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