Over at Worldbuilding we have what is very likely a unique problem. Many (if not most) of our questions are "primarily opinion-based" by definition when considering the wording used by Stack Exchange.

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

We admit it, pretty much nobody has "facts, references, or specific expertise" in magic. Regrettably, the current conditions that prohibit control over this (and other) VTC reasons means there's a constant argument over what it means to be POB and whether or not any particular question is POB. We're even working with redefinition proposals. But the reality is, this is all a complicated set of sommersaults because getting people to study a Meta post before they vote to close... well, it's difficult. The best solutions would be the ability to modify the VTC text and/or disable a VTC reason (e.g., POB) altogether.

  • I understand that there is considerable value in all VTC reasons being basically identical on all SE sites. Consistency is our friend. But as SE grows, there will be more sites that are creative in nature that don't fit easily in the POB definition.

  • I understand that changing SE's infrastructure to permit individual sites to control the text and/or display of any particular VTC reason is no small thing.

  • I understand that there we have some control that makes VTC somewhat unique by site, but that control doesn't apply to POB, which is a particular thorn in our side.

Is it reasonable to request an enhancement to Stack Exchange that permits individual sites to either modify the text for all VTC reasons or disable individual reasons entirely?

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    I'm not opposed to tweaking the wording if we can, but I don't agree that there's a big problem with the current wording. "References" includes to other systems and "expertise" includes logical analysis for consistency and underlying magical theory. I've seen some good answers to magic questions that were far from "primarily opinion-based". Dec 24 '18 at 18:03
  • @MonicaCellio, The POB discussion started years before I even joined the community. There's a dozen (at least) meta posts about it. I've grown tired of explaining to newcomers what POB means on our site and why a literal interpretation is too strict. What do you consider a "big problem?" Dec 24 '18 at 18:12
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    Newcomers to a site don't even have the reputation to vote to close. You need 3,000 rep for that. (Heck, newcomers can't even vote down.) Yes, they can flag, but so what; that doesn't do anything more than push things into the review queues. Yes, they can comment, but that doesn't affect the state of the question. Is the close reason phrasing as it is perfect specifically for Worldbuilding? I guess one could argue that it isn't. Is a user who has earned 3,000 rep on the site expected to have some idea of the site's scope? Yes, they are.
    – user
    Dec 24 '18 at 20:25
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    I agree with @MonicaCellio that good questions involving magic need not be primarily opinion-based, and bad questions involving magic typically have many other issues as well. See also e.g. where we hashed out the content of "what can I ask about here?" back in 2014; you may be particularly interested in revision 11 to that post.
    – user
    Dec 24 '18 at 20:25
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    @aCVn, please don't confuse the word "newcomers." It's obvious that I'm talking about people who can actually vote. The linked post has little in relation to what exists in our help center now and you want me to look at #11 out of 25 revisions? If anything, you're pointing out how much we could benefit from the enhancement I'm asking for. Finally, magic is simply an obvious example compared to the POB descriptive text. The problem has and does exist across the board. Dec 24 '18 at 20:38

What you’re asking for doesn’t exist currently. It was asked for on another site (Programming Puzzles and Code Golf) and that request has been for about two years.

So the answer to the implied feature request is maybe, but don’t hold your breath. It seems it’s unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

Here’s the relevant meta post: How could the default close reasons be improved?


I believe there is already precedence for at least customizing the detailed descriptions of some VTC text.

For example, both English Language Learners and English Language & Usage have the same main VTC options:

  • duplicate of . . .
  • off-topic because . . .
  • unclear what you're asking
  • too broad
  • primarily opinion-based

However, if you look at the specific text of the off-topic because option, you'll see the following difference:

ELL: "This question does not appear to be about learning the English language within the scope defined in the help center."

ELU: "This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.

Further, if you drill down to off-topic because, the difference between the two sites is very apparent.


  • Basic questions on spelling, meaning or pronunciation are off-topic as they should be answered using a dictionary. See: Policy for questions that are entirely answerable with a dictionary

  • This question should include more details than have been provided here. Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question, or provide more context. See: Details, Please.

  • Questions asking for someone to find and correct errors or improve the phrasing are considered requests for proofreading and are off-topic. Please edit your question to focus on something in particular that you are unsure about; if that's not possible, see websites for proofreading instead.

  • This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network

  • Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)


  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.

  • Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests

  • Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.

  • This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network

  • Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)

So, at least the detailed descriptions of some of the VTC options can already be customized.

Whether or not the detailed description of the POB option can be changed, I don't know. But if there's already programming in place to allow customization of other VTC option descriptions, it may not be as large an effort as you think to apply the same programming to POB if it isn't there already.

Even if there's nothing that would allow removing it in its entirety or changing the text of the option heading, at least you would be able to provide some better commentary.

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    This is a detailed explanation of my bullet #3 - and it doesn't solve the problem. The POB text exists and is immutable. Dec 24 '18 at 17:55
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    @JBH It may be immutable currently, but what I'm saying in my conclusion (as part of discussing this) is that changing it may not be as onerous as you are making it out to be (in your second point). Dec 24 '18 at 17:57
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    That's a good point, I lost the tree ("precedence") in the forest. Sorry about that. Dec 24 '18 at 17:59
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    The text of the choices under "Closing > Off-Topic" can be modified by site moderators, except for the last two (belongs elsewhere, and other). There are three custom active close reason slots available, and it's possible to request additional slots if a good case can be made for having them.
    – user
    Dec 24 '18 at 20:10

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