I think that a significant portion of the angst around closing questions is caused by forcing reviewers to select one reason that must cover why a question is unsuitable for a site or why answers to a question should be disabled until it can be improved and also provide relevant, actionable advice for how to fix the problem if it can even be fixed.

I would like an easier way to give authors more customized advice when I vote to close a question that I think could be improved, and I don't want to have to make up advice for questions that can't be salvaged. I think the first choice I should have to make when voting to close a question is whether I'm closing it because it is completely out of scope for the site (or otherwise unsalvageable), it is a duplicate, or it has issues that make it difficult to answer well.

Once I've indicated that I'm closing a question I think is unsalvageable, or it is a duplicate, I just follow the current workflow. If I've indicated I think a question could be brought on-topic, I tick one or more short bits of advice for improving the question from a list that contains the current "generic" reasons like "needs more focus" and may include items that have been customized for the site. The list should also include a box for leaving a comment. Only one item is required to be ticked, but more than one could be selected.

Often closed questions that are salvageable have multiple issues with them that, if corrected, would help the post get a better reception. Currently, we have to lump all related issues into one general close reason, and if there are issues that are in two different close reasons, we have to choose one or another. For example, on ELL we close a lot of questions with this reason:

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.

The "Details, Please" post covers a lot of general situations and it's not always clear to the author what part of the pages of advice in that link apply to their question. Sometimes we need to know the source of the text they're asking about (more context) and sometimes we need to know what the asker already knows about the meaning of a particular word (What did you find when you looked that word up in a dictionary, and why didn't that help?). Sometimes a question that got closed as "needs more focus" also "needs more details", and narrowing the focus so that it only asks one question isn't enough to make it on-topic. That one question also needs more context.

An added benefit is that some of the advice could cover things that will help a post be well-received by the community instead of just advice for how to bring the post on-topic.

Here are a few examples of the type of feedback I am imagining in addition to the more general "needs more focus", etc. feedback:

⧠ Word requests should include an example sentence showing how you would like to use the term.

⧠ Please don't post images of text without transcribing it. See this post for more information: Why are images of text, code and mathematical expressions discouraged?

⧠ Explain what you already know about the topic of your question and what you've already done to try to find an answer to your question. If you looked in a dictionary or did a search, what terms did you look for and why didn't that help?

⧠ Include the source of the text you are asking about or include more information about where you found that text. Some English questions are impossible to answer without knowing the context the word, phrase, or sentence appeared in.

⧠ Posts should be written to the best of your ability in standard English. Avoid slang, textspeak and emoticons. Do your best to use correct capitalization, punctuation and spelling.

Why not just leave a comment?

  1. Making it easy to provide specific constructive feedback may increase the likelihood it will be given.
  2. Comments are character limited, and formatting is very basic. A list of predefined advice for the most common problems a site sees could be refined by the community to be clear and easy to read.
  3. Comments are a maintenance problem. We have to go back and flag them as "no longer needed" once the author has addressed the issues they describe. If a comment covers more than one issue, it's got to hang around until they're all addressed.
  4. Comments are not anonymous and can be an invitation to engage in a discussion that the person providing the feedback might not want to have.
  5. We may want to make the advice given to an author on how to improve their post private.
  6. Giving advice in a comment takes effort, and sometimes I don't want to roll the dice on whether that effort will be wasted.
  • 9
    What prevents you from manually adding a comment on what you think should be improved on the post?
    – Luuklag
    Jul 1, 2021 at 19:42
  • 1
    This is only for off-topic reasons, but mods (with help of CM) can update to the new close reasons with personalized messages, like the currently proposed one on MSE. Jul 1, 2021 at 19:50
  • 2
    @Luuklag also manually writing comments does not generalize to other close voters that do not have a list of canned comments themselves and are not aware that there might be a meta question somewhere maintaining such a list (or a user script or something similar). If every close voter is automatically presented with such a list then the advice would become much more widespread.
    – Marijn
    Jul 1, 2021 at 19:55
  • 1
    @Luuklag I've updated the post with a list of issues with using comments for feedback - it's a reasonable question to ask and deserves better than a poorly formatted few characters of comment response :)
    – ColleenV
    Jul 1, 2021 at 19:58
  • @ColleenV thanks for the update to the question. It was more a rhetorical comment then anything else. I know that there are downsides, and requires maintenance by users, and has limited implementation. So I agree on having a better way to close question to be able to provide more guidance.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 1, 2021 at 20:01
  • CC @Marijn, see my comment above.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 1, 2021 at 20:01
  • 6
    Being forced to submit a comment, to add my feedback on what should be improved about a contribution, is a suggestion that does not scale. Once enough users have decided to close a question, there should be enough feedback to the author of that question, to get the question reopened. Besides once I submit a comment, I then open myself to targeted revenge voting, on that community website and any other community that the user might be a member of. My reputation history at Stack Overflow can prove that happens. I like the suggestions in this feature request.
    – Ramhound
    Jul 1, 2021 at 20:40
  • 1
    I had a similar suggestion before. I think having a list of specific points of improvement for post is much better than the overly general close reasons. Sometimes "unclear" means there is not enough information and more should be added. Sometimes there is too much information, so a post should be edited down. Leaving comments does not scale well. I don't want to just write the same style of comment 20+ times a day for every VTC. The other side is that if every close voter comments, that's information overload for OP. Feels intimidating.
    – VLAZ
    Jul 2, 2021 at 6:01
  • This post suggests nothing new or different. The idea of pre-formed notes is development work that adds nothing we can't already do with comments. You say the close reasons are too generic, but so are all the draft/example feedback notes. At what point do we stop creating template reasons and just have people use the system that already exists.
    – Nij
    Jul 2, 2021 at 10:29
  • 1
    @Nij There’s a list of reasons of why comments suck for this purpose at the end of the post. I can dig a hole with a spoon, but I’d rather do it with an augur. The twist is basically being able to suggest multiple canned comments and not having them limited to the reason why the post needs to be put on hold. The problem with the templated text up to this point is that you can only choose one.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 2, 2021 at 10:48
  • So what happens when your canned list is too limited? Add more canns? Eventually you have to accept that people communicate by writing, and the close reasons are not intended to convey specific details. That's what comments are for. Wasting development time on the construction of an entirely separate system instead of making improvements to what we have, isn't going to work out.
    – Nij
    Jul 2, 2021 at 11:10
  • @Nij This isn’t an entirely new system, it’s an extension to the existing system. We already have limited close reasons that are insufficient, and they haven’t spiraled into a giant list. You don’t like the idea; that’s fine. “I think it’s a waste of development time” is not a very compelling argument against it though. Why don’t we make people write out their reason for closing a question instead of having prewritten reasons if writing everything out free-form is so obviously the correct solution?
    – ColleenV
    Jul 2, 2021 at 11:25
  • 1
    I'm not gonna explain why closure reasons have a summary and why comments aren't mandatory to someone who's been around way too long to be seriously asking that, no.
    – Nij
    Jul 2, 2021 at 11:31
  • 2
    As for comments not being anonymous... Making them canned + anonymous has one major downside to me that I'd like to see any such feature address: It takes away the chance for the writer of the post to ask 'Did I do it right? Am I still missing something?' or request a bit more explanation before editing. It might not happen often, but the users that do this and actually improve their posts and understanding of the site this way, are the ones I really, really, really like to keep.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 2, 2021 at 12:17
  • @Tinkeringbell I think it’s important to keep “other” in the list for people who do want to engage with the author with a comment. I would like this to supplement the feedback already being given, not replace it. Can authors ping their close voters? I know editors can be pinged.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 6, 2021 at 17:52


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